Aristotle on Self-Knowledge and FriendshipSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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In Nicomachean Ethics 10.7, Aristotle says that the contemplative wise person living the happiest and most self-sufficient life will need other people less than a person living a life of practical virtue. This seems to be in tension with Aristotle’s emphasis elsewhere on the political nature of human beings. I analyze in detail Aristotle’s most elaborate defense of the need for friends in the happy life in Nicomachean Ethics 9.9 to see whether and how he resolves the need for friends with the self-sufficiency of the happy life. The virtue-friendship described in the chapter does turn out to be more compatible with the self-contained unity of a happy life than other sorts of friendship, because collaboration in virtuous activities integrates the friend into one’s activities. This is true even for contemplative friendship, where, as Aristotle suggests in the ornate final argument of 9.9, the friends collaboratively contemplate human nature and take pleasure in the goodness of human life. The unity achieved in this kind of friendship is an imitation of God’s self-contemplative and self contained unity. Nonetheless, I conclude, there is no evidence that Aristotle did not think that friendship was conditioned on human failings and so that friends would be less necessary for those leading the most excellent contemplative lives.