The Good, the Bad, and the Perfect

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The Good, the Bad, and the Perfect



In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle tells us that there are three types of friendships; the useful, the pleasurable, and the perfect. In this paper, I am going to try to show why the pleasurable friendship is the worst kind to have, and of course why the perfect friendship would be the best.

"Now those who love each other for their utility do not love each other for themselves but in virtue of some good which they get form each other." (Nic. Ethics Bk.8:3) Among my extremes of the pleasurable and the perfect, utility is definitely the middle ground. In a friendship of utility (usefulness) both parties mutually benefit off of one another, and, "the friendship is dissolved, inasmuch as it existed only for the ends in question." (Bk.8:3) The feeling of being used is okay when you know of the usage and are also getting something out of it. Example: A beautician knows she is being used to make a client look good, but she is okay because she is getting money out of it. Bad usage occurs when the usage is unknown to one of the parties. Example: When a woman flirts with a bartender every night just to get a free drink, the bartender may start to think that she likes him. Only to have him find out that he was being used, his feelings get hurt. Thus we have the "evil" pleasurable friendship coming into play.

The woman flirting for a drink was her working for the desire of what was pleasurable to herself. Sometimes pleasure seekers can hurt themselves and others. The pursuit of pleasure is more often than not a reckless acquisition. Take for instance the thrill seekers who go on dangerous roller coasters, or go rock climbing; up mountains, or even those who simply jump out of planes. I consider "pleasure only" seekers to be flaky and irresponsible. Wholeheartedly I agree that, "This is why they quickly become friends [with people] and quickly cease to be so; their friendship changes with the object that is found pleasant, and such pleasure alters quickly." (Bk.8:3 lns 34-37) Pleasure seekers are just as quick to pick you up as they are to let you down.

Having a friend who is a pleasure seeker is setting yourself up for disappointment and possibly heartache, "for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them;" (Bk. 8:3 lns. 32-34) That friend will use you and make you feel good, then dump you leaving feeling used and abused. Pleasurable friendships sometimes have the facade of being perfect, but the end result is always negative.


Now the perfect friendship. I do disagree with Aristotle when he says that it can exist in only, "men who are good, and alike in virtue" (Bk.8:3 lns.6-7).
Two totally different people from different walks of life, for instance a convict and a Christian can be very good friends, simply because that despite their variances, they were able to find a common thread to link them together. From personal experience I can say that opposites do attract, my very best friends and I  are extremely opposites, and I like that they have the attributes that I dont because that makes them and our relationship special. I wish them good and I know that they wish me the same. Different people are able to bring to the friendship something that the other has not. Besides, friends of the same lot would be boring to have.

Perfection of the friendship combines the useful with the profitable part of the pleasurable. Aristotles argument that, "these two kinds of friendship are not often united, nor do the same people become friends for the sake of utility and of pleasure; for things that are only incidentally connected are not often coupled together." (bk. 8:4 lns. 34-36) was a weak one. It is not an accident that a friend who is good and wishes you happiness through good is useful to you in some kind of way and brings you pleasure; most often in their company and well wishes, just to name only a few of the things that such a