How to Think About Friendship

I’ve never considered myself to have many friends. Just about every place I have lived, I have had just about 2-3 close friends. Friends who I would just come over and hangout on my couch. Friends who I shared values with. Friends who I felt a mutual love and appreciation for, and them for me.

I think a lot about friendship, because I think its salient for having a happy and full life. I think we find significant amounts about who we are as individuals through our relationships with others. We have friends to help shape who we are, and in turn, we help shape who they are.


Two years ago when I was living in Kenya, I read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and there was a particular section on friendship that suck with me. If you have 20 minutes, I would highly recommend reading it in the link above.


Aristotle explains that there are 3 types of friendships.

1. The first type of friendship is based on pleasure. This is the type of friendship children first have. They play with a child next to them as long as the other child is nice and shares his toys. But as soon as the other kid stops sharing his toys and the excitement wears out, there is no longer a friendship. This is why children’s friendships are evanescent and quick to come and go, because they are based on the fleeting feeling of pleasure.

2. The second type of friendship is based on utility. This could be a friendship based around a certain activity. For example, you and your friend both like to swim or drink wine together. Thus, you are friends with this person because you share a hobby together, but without this activity there is no friendship. This could also be a work friend, who you see everyday in the office and will maybe grab lunch together on occasion. But once you switch jobs, you no longer have that relationship.

3. The last type of friendship is based on goodness. This is the purest form of love and friendship. This relationship is based on respecting the other person’s goodness and wanting to support other person to be the best they can be. This  form of friendship that encompasses the other two, having both pleasure and usefulness in the relationship. A friendship grounded in goodness takes a long time to form, but is typically long-lasting.

Aristotle refers to this type of love as “philia” or “brotherly love”. This is the friendship that lasts a lifetime and is rooted in virtue. The friendship that endures years without seeing each other, but just a simple phone call or text brightens eachs’ life, because of the belief in the other person’s goodness.


I cherish deeply my friendships. My friends are my friends, because they are good people. We respect and love each other. We want the best for the other. We are friends, because yes, we enjoy doing similar things, and we get pleasure from being together, but we stay friends because we believe in each other as human beings and as uniquely special individuals.

To my dear friends, thank you. You make this protean world seem beautiful and manageable. We have each other, in our virtues and goodness. A million times thank you.


2 thoughts on “How to Think About Friendship

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