A couple of days ago, I wrote a post highlighting a quote by Greek philosopher Epictetus:
The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
This reminded me of a concept we discussed (and also used) in the MAPP classes at Penn. Aristotelian Friendship. While the concept of Platonic Friendship/Love (a non-sexual relationship that is pursued because the other person inspires the mind and the soul) has entered everyday speech, Aristotelian Friendship seems more uncommon.
The ancient Greeks knew four kinds of love: Eros (sexual desire), Storge (parental/familial love), Agape (divine love, also: charity/compassion), and Philia. Now Philia is closest to our modern understanding of friendship. Aristotle described three kinds of Philia: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of the good.
Friendships of utility are of a shallow kind; today, I guess we would call that networking – it´s more about being acquainted (and potentially useful reciprocally) in the future. Friendships of pleasure take place on a deeper level. Nowadays, we would speak of drinking buddies, or people who share a passion with regard to the same hobby.
Now, the deepest kind of Philia is a friendship for the good. This means that two people enjoy each other´s company because of a mutual admiration for each other´s characters and personalities. And it can also mean not only admiring, but caring about and strengthening the other person´s character and well-being. Therefore, an Aristotelian friend (for the good) will:
- listen actively when you have to share something good and advise you on how to get more of that into your life;
- give you frequent feedback on your strengths and “what´s right with you”;
- but is also honest with you pertaining to your weak spots. Today, we would say: that friend does not let you get away with your sh.t.
Do you have someone like that in your life? Good for you. And if you don´t? Go and find somebody. Now!