Types of Friendships
The Paradox of Community and Political Friendships
Anthony M. Wanjohi
According to Aristotle (a Medieval Greek Philosopher), people may become friends when they recognize virtues in one another. The reasons why people become friends are important in determining the nature of their friendship. Genuine friends take pleasure in each other’s company; they enjoy sharing life encounters with one another; they have a feeling of caring and affection for each other. They also share an understanding and appreciation of each other as well as a mutual concern for each other’s well-being (Ross, 1941).
Aristotle maintains that there are three types of friendships. These include friendship of utility, pleasure, and virtuous friendships. About friendship he says “it is most necessary for our life; for no one would choose to live without friends even if he had all other goods in life. Indeed rich people and holders of power, even more than other people seem to need friends.” (NE, 1155a10). Linking friendship with virtue, Aristotle argues that virtuous friendship is one of the most glorious attainments one can achieve. This is as if to say, through friendship, happiness is realized.
This article briefly examines two forms of friendships, namely community and political friendships. Aristotle says that friendship involves community. The community can be family level. However, the two differ in the sense that the community friendship involves people who have everything in common. However, in political community, the commonness is limited. Whichever the differences, Aristotle maintains that all communities are meant to enjoy some advantages. Aristotle regarded political community as the highest among other communities like dining clubs, music club among others. For him, these arise for the purpose of limited good. However, the community and political friendships appear to stand for a higher good, for the advantage of the whole society.
In regards to political friendship, Aristotle observes that political leaders and / or kings need friendship even more than ordinary people. However, leader-citizen friendship differs. According to Aristotle, a king’s friendship to his subjects involves superior beneficence, for he benefits his subjects, since he is good and attends to them to ensure that they do well, as a shepherd attends to his sheep” (NE, 1160b10).
This passage presents leaders as shepherds. Although the relationship between the ruler and the subject is that of a superior-subject, it benefits the subject. Ironically, the ruler becomes a servant of the subjects. This understanding has a deep message to political leadership which fails to grasp the full meaning of leadership as depicted by Aristotle.
Community and political friendships are all higher goods. Those who embrace true community and political friendships are on the path of attaining universal self, which embraces all without limitation; which goes beyond ones immediate needs. It is a self that sacrifices itself for others. These forms of friendships are within the society yet not many are able to meet their demands of self-sacrifice for the common good. Today, members of community and political systems have become more and more individualistic; only there to advance their own goals and objectives. This is where the paradox lies!
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Terence Irwin (Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1999).
Ross, D. The basic works of Aristotle: Ethica Nicomachea. (New York: RandomHouse, 1941).