Augustine and Aristotle on Friendship.

Friends have a powerful role in shaping people. As social creatures who know to recognize their needs, people surround themselves with friends. Since human relationship and interaction is complex and very broad to define, philosophers and writers even from the very beginning constantly tried to broaden the circumference of their knowledge and wisdom towards friendship. In Aristotles book Nicomachean Ethics and Augustines book Confessions, both explore and discuss the deeper the meaning of friendship. From their observation and personal experience, they gave and provided the contemporary world their profound insights about friendship. 
    To confess during Augustines time, meant to both give an account of ones past faults or sins to God and to praise God. Augustines confessions narrates his life from sinfulness to faithfulness which he believes a story of Gods greatness and love. Augustine incorporated his philosophical and religious realizations from the story of his sinful life and redemption. He contributes wisdom and ideas about life and spirituality. Saint Augustine also has many valuable things to say about the meaning of true friendship. Apparently people are aware about Augustines relationshipfriendship towards her mother. During his sinful life, Augustines mother never stops praying for his liberation and redemption. His mother Monica is the one who always reminds him  that he should not fall into fornication, and above all that he should not commit adultery with someone elses wife  (Augustine 27). Looking back, Augustine realizes that his mothers warnings against sexual sins and exploitation were actually  God speaking her  (Augustine 28). His mother is used by God as a medium to warn him against sexual impurity. The genuine love and concern of a mother towards her son makes Augustine finally admits that his mother is one of her truest friend.
    However before Augustines redemption, Augustine allows the voice of his peers to become more powerful than the voice of the Almighty in his own life. The negative pressure from his peer group leads him to  pretend I had done things I had not done at all, so that my innocence should not lead my companions to scorn my lack of courage. (Augustine 89) Instead of lifting him up to goodness to be the best person he can be, Augustines friends effectively perverted his conscience. His true nature of goodness is misdirected and misguided due to peer pressure.
    In book II, Augustine narrates what it seems to be the most sinful period of his life. Aside from sexual escapades, Augustine with some of his friends the time when they courageously steal pears from a neighborhood orchard. Augustine deeply regrets this sin and offers his acquired insights from this experience. Augustine considers this conformity towards this teenage prank due to his to do wrong. He becomes a thief at that moment not because of the beauty, taste and nourishment that the pears may give, but he does it out of sheer mischief and his want for belongingness.  My pleasure was not in the pears  but rather   it was in the crime itself, done in association with a sinful group  (Augustine 92). In addition, Augustine also admits that, on his own, he will never have the inclination or the will to steal peers. But for the sake of friendship, he compromised his soul and denied someone elses human right to property. Investigating this point further, Augustine concludes that his action simply represents human perversion, twisting his God given goodness and attributes.  In the end of the book II, Augustine shares that  friendship can be a dangerous enemy, a seduction of the mind lying beyond the reach of imagination  (Augustine). Augustine later in his life, comes to believe that his group of friends at that point of his life is one his greatest downfalls since they are the primary reason for his sinful behavior. Peer pressure through their appealing persuasion led him to sinful thoughts, feelings and actions that Augustine would not do in his own will. In this book,  Augustine urges his followers to use careful scrutiny when choosing friends because unhealthy group of friends may lead to corruption of soul.
    Misdirected love is the primary reason when friendship becomes a dangerous enemy. Throughout the Confessions, Augustine portrays himself and all human beings as lovers. The book is apparently not just about his life but also about humanity. He illustrates that love is an essential part of peoples nature. Friendship like love must be subjected to reason it its truly good and genuine. It is real when the lover wants the best for the beloved. However when friendship destroys ones soul, Augustine says that one must be careful. Meanwhile, Augustine also examines this pointless act of theft and surmises that adolescents or teenagers want to do evil things because they do not understand the nature of beauty or goodness. Sins are committed for love or out of the desire for beautiful or good things. Those teenagers including Augustine that time does not yet understand that the material or tangible things are only part of the beauty and goodness of God. Augustine ends book II affirming that the higher things, the things of God, are what he desires not the sins of his youth.
    Augustine however affirms that there are many kinds and facets of friendship and many of these are not a bad thing. Aside from his friendship with his mom, his friendship with Thagaste is proved beneficial to Augustine. Augustine admires Thagastes courage and backbone to challenge Augustine when the latter went wrong. During Thagastes baptism Augustine,  attempted to joke with him, imagining that he too would laugh with me about the baptism and mocked one of the Churchs sacraments attempting that his friend will do the same, but Thagaste would not conform and tolerate it.
    Aristotle however has a broader scope in terms of defining friendship. If Augustine describes friendship according to his personal experience, Aristotle discusses friendship in a broader and general sense. Friendship for Aristotle consists of mutual feeling of goodwill between two individuals. According to Aristotle, when friendship is based on utility, where both people are together due to benefits, and when friendship is based on pleasure, where both people are drawn to the others pleasant qualities, then those friendship are short lived since needs and pleasures change overtime. But friendship according to Aristotle should be based on goodness, where both persons affirm the others goodness and help one another strive for goodness. Goodness is an enduring quality and is the highest form of obedience, so friendships based on goodness tend to be long lasting. Such kind of friendship however is rare and takes time to develop. Aristotle also goes on to say that the true mark of friendship is consists more of loving than of being loved. Friendship endure when each friend loves the other according to the others benefits and merit.
    Meanwhile, Aristotle also incorporated friendship with community or society. Friendship and community according to him is closely related. Aristotle goes on to say that it is far worse to abuse a family member and a close friend than to abuse a stranger. In addition Aristotle also believes that in political institutions where there is a master-slave relationship, there is no friendship that exists. Apparently friendship is impossible when there is no equal or mutual exchanges of goodness. In political institutions, someone always benefits better. For instance, a tyrant is a king who no longer cares for his subjects and so is no longer virtuous and worthy of his place. When the merit of the leader is greater than what the people receives, then friendship does not exist. Aristotle discusses friendship in a greater length with family relationships and political institutions. In his book  Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle in Book VIII and IX illustrates his conception of happiness and friendship by showing how satisfying are the relationships that a virtuous individual can normally expect to have. Aristotles model of ideal friendship is that which exists between two aristocratic men of great virtue. These men are not bonded together through need, utility, or familial duty, or through  wealth or popularity but rather through mutual respect and virtue. Virtuous friends spend quality time with each other and since they have the same set of virtues or moral standards, they make the same choices.
    Augustine in his definition of friendship is more intimate since his basis of definition is based from his faith and experience. Augustine and Aristotle however both believe that a real friend should be a good influence with each other. Augustine however explores deeper when is friendship becoming dangerous. Misguided desires and lack of obedience often lead to sin which may influence others. Apparently even if his friendship with his mother and Thagaste are not mutual, he still consider them as one of his truest friends even though he initially ignore them. Both his mother and Thagaste only want the best for Augustine in terms of goodness and virtues. Apparently Augustine friendship still exists even though the feelings is not mutual. As long the other wants and prays the best for you, then you in return recognizes it then friendship already exists. Aristotle however believes in mutual friendship, that is both parties should give equal respect and justice. On the whole for Aristotle, friendship should consists of equal exchanges, whether of utility, pleasantness, or goodness. When there great gap and differences between people, according to Aristotle friendship is impossible, and often two friends will grow apart if one becomes far more virtuous than the other. In case Augustine however even if his mother and Thagaste is more virtuous in their relationship, he still considers them as true friends. Meanwhile, Aristotle define friendship in a broader sense  which includes family and community. Friendship for Aristotle should provide happiness while Augustine believes that friendship should make us closer to goodness which is God. Meanwhile Augustine holds on to the Christian idea that one should others as you love yourself. Aristotle however, self-love is more important than friendship, since only individuals who treat themselves with appropriate care and respect can achieve proper virtue and happiness. Apparently Aristotle based his definition on friendship according to reason in terms of how to achieve happiness while Augustine based his definition in terms of Christian standards towards faith and goodness.


Unknown said...

HI. please help to come up a better thesis about friendship according to St. Augustine and Aristotle. I need some references, books, articles that are related to the said topic. thanks and more power.

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