Friendship, justice and eudaimonia in the Nicomachean ethics

Mayor, Jennifer Louise (1983). Friendship, justice and eudaimonia in the Nicomachean ethics. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f7f1

Abstract

It is often claimed that Aristotle's ethical theory is founded upon selfishness and egoism, and that even in his account of friendship, self-interest is paramount. The aim of this dissertation is to examine the validity of these claims.

In chapter 1 , Aristotle's theory of friendship is examined in detail. The various kinds Of friendship are investigated, principally with a view to establishing whether any genuinely other-regarding features may be found within them. It is concluded that Aristotle makes provision for altruistic well-wishing and well-doing in virtue friendship (that kind of friendship in which the phronimos engages), but that is is impossible to state conclusively whether any measure of genuine goodwill exists in the two lesser friendships.

Chapter 2 aims to show that virtue friendship is centrally related to the cardinal virtue of complete justice, and the active virtuous life. It is shown that the phronimos aims to benefit fellow-citizens as well as close friends, and that he acts towards fellow-citizens in a spirit of friendship, and not of mere rectitude.

By displaying the connection between virtue friendship and complete justice, chapter 2 shows that genuinely other-regarding motivation is central to the active virtuous life, but it remains to be discovered whether this active virtuous life is supremely valuable for man. An examination of the various interpretations of Eudaimonia in chapter 3 reveals that while we may state positively that the theoretical life is supremely valuable for man, no such conclusion is possible in respect of the active virtuous life.

Chapter 4 aims to find a place for virtue friendship in the theoretical life. A distinction is drawn between intention and justification. It is concluded that while Aristotle intends that such friendship should have a place in the theoretical life, he cannot justify that intention satisfactorily.

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