Summary and Analysis Book VIII: Chapter III



There are three varieties of friendship, corresponding to the three objects of affection. The varieties of friendship can be distinguished by determining what kind of good is the object of both parties.

  1. Friendships based on mutual utility (e.g., two men are friendly because each can be useful to the other in some way). This kind of friendship tends to be short-lived and is easily dissolved when the abilities or needs of one or both parties change.
  2. Friendships based on mutual pleasure (i.e., two people are friendly not for what either is or what either can do, but because of the pleasure which each provides the other, e.g., witty conversation). This kind of friendship is also easily dissolved and is most common in general social relationships and among the young.
  3. Friendship between good men of similar virtue or excellence who possess intrinsic rather than incidental goodness and who wish the good of each other for the other's sake and not for any lesser motive. The attitudes of each party in such a relationship are determined by what the other party is and not by any incidental consideration. This is the most perfect and stable kind of friendship, and may be considered friendship in the truest sense of the word. It includes the other kinds, since both parties, by being good in themselves, are also good for each other, and provide each other with that which is both useful and pleasant. Such friendships are beneficial to both parties, but are extremely rare. For such a friendship to develop, much time and intimacy are required as well as personal goodness, for it is easy to desire friendship but difficult to build or deserve a solid relationship of this kind.