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Love Part 2: Aristotle
"When men are friends they have no need of justice." This summarizes what Aristotle means by love and friendship. Friends always improve each other; they never cross each other--no laws are needed.
The perfect love, for Aristotle, is the same thing as the perfect friendship; they have the same goal and purpose. The purpose is nothing less than perfection; two people perfecting each other in virtue and goodness:
“Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good in themselves…therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good—and goodness is an enduring thing.” (unfortunately, by "men" I don't think he means "mankind")
Similarly, the purpose of marriage need not be for the "sake of reproduction," but also "so they help each other by throwing their peculiar gifts into the common stock. "This friendship," he calls marriage, "may be based also on virtue, if the parties are good; for each has its own virtue and they will delight in the fact.”
But not all friendships and relationships are what Aristotle considers "good" and "virtuous." “Such friendships are infrequent, for such men are rare.” In fact, most are based on either pleasure or utility (what can you do for me), which are superficial and based on things that will change. And by the way, what does he even mean by virtue? Many have criticised Aristotle on this front, saying that, in his philosophizing, he imagines that the perfect human being is....(drumroll) a philosopher that contemplates virtue all day long. Himself in other words.
Aristotle is the king of distinctions; too many I think. Goodwill towards others, he says, is not friendship, but the beginning of it. One cannot love mankind (or even many people for that matter). There's no intimacy. Also, you should love people in proportion to how "good" they are. What? This means if they are better than you, you owe them more love than they owe you. Yeah, I don't know about that. Aristotle has this matter-of-fact way of talking that is cool and coldy rational. It is not terribly inspiring, but more like a discussion.
I like how he thinks about the question "should we love ourselves?" He asks a different question. It is not that we should love ourselves, but how we should love ourselves. I think this is the right way of looking at it. How should we? He repeats his mantra: it is giving yourself virtue; in a perfect world, “everyone would secure for himself the goods that are greatest, since virtue is the greatest of goods.” Loving yourself correctly is giving yourself the only thing that matters--good stuff. You never have to take virtue away from someone else for you to get it. It abounds. Loving yourself by filling yourself up with useless stuff is selfish and hurtful to others.
In sum, Aristotle has some good things to say, but he frames the disscussion largely as Plato did (and less inspiring). I'm excited to move on...
The Nicomachian Ethics