“Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in excellence; for these wish well alike to each other.” – Aristotle
Aristotle seems to think that friendship is just short of being as important as a life of contemplation. Contemplation ultimately leads to Happiness and according to Aristotle, friendship is necessary in order to obtain happiness. Similarly in order to achieve true happiness, contemplation must be rooted in virtue, so too is a happy and authentic friendship grounded on an equal strive for virtue.
A year ago I took a course on Greek Mythology at Franciscan University. I received my list of assigned readings and there were many great books, but among them was a book entitled “Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle. The title itself made me yawn, it sounded boring and uninteresting but as any good English major would, I eventually picked it up and read it.
Aristotle speaks about “Good” being man’s ultimate aim, and the understanding that happiness is the greatest good we can aim for.
He then dips his feet into talk about virtue and its different dimensions. He goes on to connect the fruits of virtue with the attainment of happiness. Virtue is a habit not a decision but decisions can lead to virtue, and so we can desire happiness but we cannot acquire it by mere choice. In short, he focuses on the philosophy of virtue a loooottt. He even dips into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, although he would argue against it.
Anyway, what really caught my attention was his build up to Book 8 – where Aristotle hashes out his understanding of friendship. He speaks of friendship in connection to the different types of love. Our ability to love inanimate objects for the sake of the good they give within the context of their usefulness is not a bad thing. But when this utilitarian mindset spills over into our treatment of another person, it stains the friendship that otherwise could have been a virtuous one. Love of friend, according to Aristotle is a philial experience that transcends any joy that you can derive from the use of a mere object. That is good. Ultimately, this is the kind of friendship he equates to a life of contemplation, but why?
Because as we have come to understand it; a life of contemplation is a life of friendship with Jesus, who is our greatest good. A life lived in friendship with Christ is a mindboggling, transcendent, and unimaginable, yet attainable truth that will undoubtedly lead to the greatest happiness man has ever known. And this happiness is the ultimate Good that every human heart cant help but to desire.