Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

By A. W. Price | Go to book overview

I
FRIENDSHIP AND DESIRE IN THE

I

What is the topic of the Lysis, and what is its conclusion? As typically of those Platonic dialogues that may be presumed closest to the manner and method of the historical Socrates, there are apparently simple answers. The topic is friendship (philiā), and the conclusion failure: Socrates opens the main body of the discussion by remarking, 'I do not even know how one person becomes the friend of another' (212a5-6); he closes the whole dialogue by admitting, 'We have not yet been able to discover what a friend is' (223b7-8). And yet, to a closer scrutiny, the subject-matter is Protean, constantly changing and eluding our grasp, and its treatment, though inconclusive, already distinctive and suggestive in ways that intimate what kind of theory Socrates, or rather Plato, is after. In certain respects this turns out to be rather different from how we tend to talk abstractly about friendship; it rapidly becomes an issue, long before any theory has been achieved, whether, if friendship is their topic, they are approaching it rightly. If they are not, neither is Aristotle. In his two surviving treatments, in the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle effectively takes the Lysis as his starting-point; with no other Platonic dialogue does he show such a detailed, yet implicit, familiarity.1 He takes over from it not only points of detail, but general presuppositions that locate his own conclusions, which are not aporetic, in the same conceptual region. If Socrates' failure in the Lysis is wholly misconceived, so is Aristotle's success in his Ethics. My aim in this book is to display that their approach is reflective and fertile, wellconceived in theory and pregnant in practice; to respond to it briskly with the clichés of modern thought is to prefer the pleasures of the parrot to the pains of the philosopher.

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1
Comparable are only his explicit criticisms of the Republic and the Laws in Politics 2. 1-6.

-1-

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Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • NOTE TO THE READER x
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • 1 - Friendship and Desire in the Lysis 1
  • 2 - Love in the Symposium 15
  • 3 - Love in the Phaedrus 55
  • 4 - Perfect Friendship in Aristotle 103
  • 5 - Aristotle on the Varieties of Friendship 131
  • 6 - The Household 162
  • 7 - The City 179
  • Epilogue 206
  • Appendix 1 - Homogeneity and Beauty in the Symposium 207
  • Appendix 2 - Psychoanalysis Looks at the Phaedrus 215
  • Appendix 3 - Plato's Sexual Morality 223
  • Appendix 4 - Aristotle on Erotic Love 236
  • Afterword (1997) 250
  • List of Modern Works Cited 273
  • Index 281
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