Aristotle on the Good Man’s Desire for Pleasant Friends


  • Andreas Vakirtzis University of Cyprus



Aristotle, Pleasure, Friendship, politics


At EN 1158a22-27, Aristotle argues that the virtuous man will pursue friendships with pleasant people, but not with people who are useful to him. Ideally, he adds, these friends should, despite being pleasant, also be good, since then the good man would have all the goods of friendship.The dominant problem with this passage is that the good man desires his friends to be pleasant; or, put it otherwise, that he desires pleasant friends. This idea, however, stands on the opposite side of Aristotle’s axiological hierarchy where the virtuous man desires, first and foremost, the good both as a goal in his life as a whole and in his friends, in particular. Pleasure is valuable in Aristotle’s ethics, but it only comes second to virtue and the good.

In the present paper I will defend Aristotle by arguing that he may justify the argument of this passage without though jeopardizing his axiological hierarchy. To this purpose, I will provide the following reasons:

(1) Character friendship is ideal for the virtuous agent. But, character friendships take place extremely rarely. The reason for this is that it is unusual for two people to have reached the same level of highly developed moral goodness. Therefore, it is rather unlikely for a good man to meet and befriend another agent as good as he is.

(2) If (1) is true then if the good man does not want to remain friendless he must pursue friendships which are valuable, yet not the most valuable in Aristotle’s axiological hierarchy. In this section,  I will argue that this desire derives, largely, from the good man’s social and political nature. By this I mean that he desires, by nature, to share his life with others, and especially with friends. But this is merely the initial spark that impels the agent to pursue other forms of friendship than the one that occurs between good people.

(3) In this third section I will illustrate how it is likely for the good man to desire pleasant friends without this fact influencing his axiological hierarchy. I will suggest that the virtuous agent does not consider pleasant just anyone. He values others as pleasant only if he recognizes in them at least some good habits of character which are manifested by the activities  that they have chosen to take part in, such as athletic activities, music, theater, and other cultured activities.

The difference though between the VA and his friend rests on why each one of them values these activities, and, also, each one’s attitude towards these activities. On the one hand, the virtuous agent values them as being worthy of doing, and as being part of the good life and eudaimonia. But he does not deviate from attributing value to virtuous activity more highly than anything else. His friend, on the other hand, enjoys them for being what they are in that they fulfill his life as such, in the sense that he engages in one, or more, of these activities more devotedly than the good man. And this dissimilarity between the two friends with regard to the reason that they value these activities is also evident in their attitude towards them. Namely, while the VA will not engage in them with excess, his pleasant friend probably will; and this reflects the differences between them concerning their moral characters as well.  


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Andreas Vakirtzis, University of Cyprus

Department of Classical Studies and Philosophy.

Adjunct Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy


Annas, Julia. (1980). Aristotle on pleasure and goodness. Ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty.Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, 285-298.

Bostock, David. (1988). Pleasure and activity in Aristotle's ethics. Phronesis33 (3): 251-272.

Bostock, D. (2000). Aristotle’s Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Broadie, Sarah. (1991).Ethics with Aristotle.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Broadie, Sarah and Christopher J Rowe. (2002).Aristotle:Nicomachean Ethics.Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, J. M. (1990). “Political Animals and Civic Friendship.” In Günther Patzig (ed.) Aristoteles' ‘Politik’. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 221–41. Reprinted in Reason and Emotion, 356–376.

Cooper, J. M. (1999). Reason and emotion: Essays on ancient moral psychology and ethical theory. Princeton University Press.

Hadreas, P. (2004)‘The functions of pleasure in Nicomachean Ethics X 4–5’,Ancient Philosophy 24: 155–67.

Harte, Verity. (2014). The Nicomachen Ethics on pleasure. Ed. Ronald M. Polansky.The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics,288-319.

Hobbes, Thomas. (1994). Leviathan,ed., Edwin Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Hobbes, Thomas. (1983). De Cive: The English Version, edited by Howard Warrender. Oxford.

Irwin, T. (1985) Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

Kullmann, Wolfgang. (1991). “Man as a Political Animal in Aristotle.” In

David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.) A Companion to Aristotle's Politics. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 94–117.

Mulgan, R. G. (1974). Aristotle's doctrine that man is a political animal. Hermes, 102(H. 3), 438-445.

Nehamas, A. (2010) “Aristotelian Philia, Modern Friendship?” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 39: 213-247

Pakaluk, M. (2005). Aristotle's Nicomachean ethics: An introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Vakirtzis.A (2017). “Similarity, Pleasure, and the Explanation of our Choices of Friends”. (Unpublished manuscript).




How to Cite

Vakirtzis, A. (2018). Aristotle on the Good Man’s Desire for Pleasant Friends. Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 12(2), 74-88.