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Between Advantage and Virtue: Aristotle's Theory of Political Friendship

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How can the Aristotelian account of friendship contribute to an understanding of the notion of politike philia? The aim of this paper is to sketch out a general description of political friendship in the light of Aristotle's well-known distinction between friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships between virtuous people drawn in Book VIII of the Nicomachean Ethics. I shall define the boundaries of political friendship through the analysis of resemblances to and differences from both friendship according ethical excellence and friendship grounded in mere utility. Political friendship seems to be a kind of advantage-friendship sui generis, where the search for utility does not prevent people from displaying other-regarding qualities like cooperation, trust and loyalty, that are typical of friendship according to ethical excellence. I will also show that activity according to justice replaces the form of mutual and intimate love that should subsist in a friendship based on ethical virtue.

Keywords: Benevolence; Friendship; Justice; Political Friendship; Utility-friendship; Virtue-friendship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Via Camposanto Vecchio 22/b, 60019 Senigallia (AN), Italy, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2005


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