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Ancient Philosophy 29 (2009) Mathesis Publications

Selves and Other Selves in Aristotles Eudemian Ethics vii 12

Catherine Osborne
Of the several texts about friendship in Aristotles corpus, the most famous are books 8 and 9 of the Nicomachean Ethics.1 The others are Eudemian Ethics vii (one of four books in EE that are not in NE) and Magna Moralia ii. My focus is on Eudemian Ethics vii 12. In all these texts Aristotle notices an apparent conflict between the value of self-sufficiency and the value of relationships with friends. I try to explain why relationships with friends are precious to us, using Aristotles discussion as a prompt. I then ask the same questions about what the good person gains from encountering fictional characters in literature, and what kinds of literature would be beneficial to the good life. I shall reject the fashionable view that Aristotle thinks that the good man gains self-knowledge from having friends, and argue instead that the value of friends lies in looking out together at a shared world of experience. A friend, I suggest, is an extended self, because he stands alongside me and together we become enlarged by appreciating what is good and suffering what is bad. In the course of my argument I also suggest that the very idea of knowing oneself is problematic, since the self in Aristotle is actualised only in the form of its thoughts and experiences, and not as a subject independent of the objects of attention. In Nicomachean Ethics viii-ix, Aristotle famously uses the idea that the friend is another self to address various issues about friendship, including (at NE ix 9) the question of why one needs friends at all.2 In the Eudemian Ethics too, this idea that the friend is another self figures in Aristotles discussion of why the good person needs friends. The relevant passage, EE vii 12.1244b1-1246a25, has drawn recent attention from scholars interested in self-knowledge and self awareness, because it appears to say something about how friends facilitate self-knowledge.3 This is the passage that I discuss here, but I reject the idea that it is about using our friends to get knowledge of ourselves, and suggest rather that it is attempting to explain why our lives are enriched by watching the world through
1 Although, in general, the term philia does not exactly match onto our notion of friendship (see Osborne 1994, 139-152), there is no significant misfit between them for the topic in EE vii 12. 2 Especially NE 1161b28-29; 1166a32; 1169b6-7; 1170b6-7. 3 Recent contributions on this material include Sorabji 2006, 233; Kosman 2004; McCabe forthcoming. Earlier contributions that pick up this theme include Stern-Gillet 1995, ch. 2, and Kahn 1981.

I. What was Aristotle talking about?

the eyes of a close friend, as we go through life together. The first task is to work out what Aristotle might have been trying to say in the Eudemian Ethics passage. There are two main problems here. One is the state of the text. There are undoubtedly errors in the transmission and many people have tried to improve the text. Some of this intervention, inevitably, reflects particular theories about what Aristotle ought to be trying to say. A second problem, common in reading Aristotle, is that it is hard to discern where Aristotle is reviewing the difficulties, or aporiai, in a way that is intended to problematise the issue but not solve it, and where exactly he turns to presenting his own view in propria persona. Unfortunately we cannot entirely disentangle these two problems, since our expectation about what Aristotle was trying to say will be affected by whether we think that he is offering a solution to a puzzle, or is still trying to set out the puzzles that require a solution. Let us begin, however, by explaining, in simple terms, what puzzle is to be addressed in EE vii 12. Basically, it is this. If the good person has friends, what does he have them for? For surely, if the good person is as near as possible to being like God, and God is a perfect and sufficient being who has no needs, then God will have no need of other people, and nor will the perfectly good person. What can friendship add to the perfect life of the perfect being? If it adds nothing, then the life with friends is no better than the life without friends. On the traditional reading of EE vii 12, Aristotle solves the puzzle by proposing that friends provide a way to acquire self-knowledge.4 There are parallels for this idea in Nicomachean Ethics 1170b5-14 and Magna Moralia 1213a20-24, both of which imply that it is only by looking at my other self, an external me in the form of my friend, that I can see myself. Obviously we should concede at the start that there is a prima facie case for expecting the same motif to appear in the EE.5 These passages about the need for friends have attracted attention because of what they imply about Aristotles approach to the mind and to the idea of reflexive self-awareness. Scholars have found here what appears to be a rather uncartesian model of the mind, in which one does not have privileged knowledge of the self by introspection, but rather one can see oneself only in a glass darkly.6 As

4 No recent commentator presents the crude form of this reading. Stern-Gillet 1995, 37-58 offers a sophisticated account of how self-knowledge is enhanced by seeing excellence in ones friend. Her reading already recognises the importance of Aristotles idea that actualisation of the known object and of the knower are the same thing (on which see further below). The crude reading is best represented by Williams 1981, 15-16. 5 Consequently, the reader who wants (as I do) to deny that the idea of self-knowledge figures centrally in the EE solution has an uphill struggle. In principle, I ought to be able to explain why the other two texts do focus on that idea. All I can say is that I would like to give it a comparably reduced role in the other two texts as well, or if not in both, then at least in the NE (and then blame the author of the Magna Moralia for whatever strange prominence it acquires in that text). Perhaps that is a task for another article. 6 When I say that this model of the mind is un-cartesian with a small c, I do not mean to attribute to Descartes the contrasting caricature, of a mind transparent to itself, but only to suggest

that such a view of introspective transparency is what commonly passes for cartesian. In fact Descartes probably did not hold that view. This is a point that Ron Polansky has helpfully urged upon me, citing Descartess Discourse on Method part 1 in support. 7 1213a20-24. Since the Magna Moralia is probably not written by Aristotle himself, it may make the Aristotelian position rather too simple-minded, even if some Aristotelian source underlies it. 8 See Williams 1981, 15, against intersubstitutability, and Vlastos 1981, n100. Aristotle thinks that the perfect friend must be a good person and like myself, so the idea that anyone will do is limited by those conditions. Yet however strict we make this condition it still means that I need either you or someone else who meets the criteria. It still appears to fail Vlastoss requirement that one should value ones friend as the individual he is, rather than for some feature he has (assuming that we can make sense of this). On the other hand, even if Aristotle thinks that self knowledge is all that we actually gain from having friends, it need not follow that our subjective reason for having friends is a lucid perception of their value in that enterprise. Nor does it preclude the possibility that (in our personal relationships) we might treat friends as intrinsic objects of attention, while ignoring altogether the question of what benefit they bring to us. Would this help to answer the worries? Yes, providing one rejects either (1) the assumption that rational interests must be self-interest, or (2) the assumption that rational behaviour must not be based on a mistake about value. I am not sure whether Vlastos and Williams subscribe to these assumptions.

the Magna Moralia puts it, in its rather clunky version, we use our friends as mirrors, because we cannot look directly at ourselves.7 Besides the interesting hints of a strange model of the mind, the potential ethical implications of finding such a view in Aristotle have also featured in the literature. If Aristotle meant that friends were valuable only in order to help us to see ourselves better, this might look offensive to post-Kantian sensibilities, since the other person seems to be serving merely as a means to ones own ends. The idea also generates anxiety around the importance of the individual as object of love, if we suppose that a friend must be appreciated as an individual, not as a member of a class, bearer of a property or, in this case, as a kind of tool, of which we each need one, though any one would do equally well.8 However, there seem to me to be several prima facie reasons against supposing that Aristotle is trying to solve the self-sufficiency problem in the Eudemian Ethics by invoking our inability to obtain self-knowledge without a friend. One reason is philosophical; for (we might think) surely the proposed solution will not work, since it implies that we cannot, after all, be self-sufficient. It effectively concedes that there is a crucial part of knowledge, knowledge of oneself, which one cannot obtain by oneself. This does not seem to solve the stated problem, which was how the perfectly self-sufficient person, the truly godlike person, can still need or enjoy friends, for it turns out that there is no godlike perspective for us, and if there were, there would indeed be no point in having friends. That seems rather to endorse the problem, instead of rejecting it. Perhaps, instead, we should say that such a solution dissolves the puzzle, not by showing that a selfsufficient person can indeed value his friends, but by showing that there is no perfectly self-sufficient person without friends. After all, then, (on this construal) we would all benefit from a friend, because without a friend we are not self-sufficient as regards knowledge of ourselves. Self-sufficiencyor an approximation

to itcan be achieved only with the help of friends, so there is never a state in which we have no need of a friend. In fact, I think something like this probably is the form that Aristotles eventual solution (or dissolution) of the problem does take, as we shall see in due course (see 1245b13-19). Still it does not make the friend a tool for self-knowledge, or not in the simple way that the mirror analogy suggests. A second prima facie problem (for those who worry about such things) is that the question remains unsolved in the case of God. For if God is genuinely selfsufficient, unlike us, he will still have no use for friends. Aristotle seems to bite the bullet in this case (see 1245b13-19), but it might seem potentially uncomfortable for us. Few thinkers today would be satisfied with such a distant and friendless model for imitation as Aristotle describes under the concept god. Thirdly we should noteagainst the idea Aristotle answers the puzzle of the value of friends by appealing solely to their contribution to self-awarenessthat our passage in the Eudemian Ethics refers several times to shared feeling and other shared experiences in a situation of living together with a friend.9 These motifs of shared experience do not seem very relevant to the idea that friendship is a way of turning our attention onto ourselves. Rather they seem to allude to situations in which you and your friend are looking out together at something else, and obtaining mutual enjoyment and appreciation of the same object, oblivious, presumably, of the self. If these passages are part of Aristotles proposed solution to the puzzle, or if they are elucidations that he would himself endorse, then they can hardly be supposed to contribute to that account of the value of friends, as valuable for self-perception. Evidently at the very least there ought also to be something else to add, something about shared perception. So let us take a closer look at what Aristotle is really saying in the Eudemian Ethics passage. Aristotle begins Eudemian Ethics vii 12 by saying that we need to investigate how self-sufficiency and friendship relate to one another. For, says he, Someone might puzzle over whether, if someone were self-sufficient in relation to everything, hell haveany friends, supposing that friends are sought on the basis of need.10 The two premisses offered here seem straightforwardly to yield the answer no (for if (a) to have friends one must have needs and (b) there is someone who has no needs, then evidently, (c) that person will have no friends). Aristotle proceeds to problematise the conclusion a bit more: Or will it be the most self-sufficient person that will be good, if
9 I translate the verb aisthanesthai by feeling, and the verb gnorizein by observing. They are usually rendered perceiving and knowing respectively. Aristotles point is about the sharing of experiences and sharing of impressions of the world in the context of a shared life together. 10 EE 1244b2-4. On the lacuna in the mss see n31. All otherwise unidentified translations are my own (for the complete translation see the appendix at the end). I translate what I take to be plausible reconstructions of the text, occasionally dissenting from the OCT text by Walzer and Mingay. Notes on these textual matters are given in the appendix.

II. A detour into the nitty gritty, 1244b1-29

the virtuous person is happy?11 What need would he have of friends, <then>? For its not part of being self-sufficient to need the useful kind of friends, nor the fun kind, nor the shared life. For this person is good enough to share his existence himself with himself. (EE 1244b4-7) There are too many textual problems with this passage to be sure exactly what Aristotle has in mind. But the general gist seems clear: he thinks there is some reason to suppose that virtue (or being a good person) involves self-sufficiency; but then virtue will be incompatible with friendship. So if happiness is linked to virtue, it will be incompatible with friendship. This is counter-intuitive. Aristotle proceeds to a brief discussion of God. This may be partly to motivate the idea that self-sufficiency is part of the ideal of human success; for if God is a being without needs, and the ideal life for humans is one that approximates to the divine life, then surely a genuinely happy person will be one who comes as close as is humanly possible to this ideal of divine needlessness. This tempting thought has two obvious exit routes, namely (a) to affirm that although self-sufficiency is an ideal, in practice it is an unattainable one, for the closest we can come to selfsufficiency is never very close, and (b) to deny that the self-sufficiency aspect of that divine life is one that humans should or could aspire to, even if it is desirable for gods.12 Both these routes would grant that in a good human life we do need friends, but at the expense of conceding that we are not self-sufficient when in that condition. But there is a third, less obvious, exit route that I think we ought to be finding in this passage, namely, (c) to say that self-sufficiency is indeed part of our goal, and that we can and do attain it, but we attain it together, in partnerships that provide an extension of ourselves, so that it is a larger self that attains it, not a solitary unextended individual self.13 To start with, however, in setting up the problem, Aristotle just presents the divine model and asks about his need for friends: This is especially obvious in the case of God. For its clear that since he doesnt have any need of anyone [or, anything] he wont have need of a friend either. And a thing of which he
11 On my emendation of the received text at this point, see n32. I am using the term happy to translate eudaimon in the conventional way. 12 Sorabji 2006, 233 takes this line, dissenting from Aristotles suggestion that happiness or virtue involves self-sufficiency. Compare the hostility to self-sufficiency in Williams, 1981. This is close to what I take to be Aristotles own solution, though I shall argue that Aristotle thinks that the life with friends is a kind of self-sufficiency, by extension of the self to include the friends. 13 This is somewhat similar to certain claims in McCabe forthcoming, especially her comparison with Aristophanes speech in the Symposium. Because my interest is in this aspect of friendship, notably the idea of broadening our subjectivity beyond the single viewpoint, I shall give less attention to the points at which Aristotle alludes to the emergent awareness of oneself as perceiver, e.g., 1245a5-10, a34-37, 1245b1. But since having a friend gives one an external self who is subject to the same experiences and feelings, and he is known to me as subject and I am known to him as subject, the idea is a natural extension of the one I am concerned with.

never has any need will not exist for him.14 So it follows that the happiest human being too will need a friend least of all, except just in so far as it is impossible for him to be self-sufficient. So it follows necessarily that the person who lives the best will have the fewest friends, and that they should become fewer, and he shouldnt make an effort to ensure that he has friends, and he should set very little store by not just the useful sort of friends but by those that are worth choosing for the shared life too. (1244b7-15) The thought experiment is clearly not intended to be attractive, at least in the case of human friendship. So we may read this argument as something of a reductio ad absurdum. Aristotles next remark rather suggests that he intends it that way. Indeed his next comment appears to be a hint at some sort of (slightly premature) solution to the problem: But, in fact at that point it would seem to be obvious that a friend is not for the sake of utility or advantage, but for the sake of what makes him a friend by virtue alone.15 Whatever the status of this remark, we are clearly still supposed to find it quite implausible that a good man has fewer and fewer friends the better he is, and that he does not value those whom he has, in any way, and certainly not as much as someone who is less virtuous. Still, this is not the end of Aristotles enquiry into the problem. In a new section, 1244b21-1245a26, he suggests that we should investigate it. As Kosman has suggested, Aristotle does not immediately begin solving the problem at this point, but rather unpacks its assumptions.16 What he does is to consider whether we have been too quick to take the god model as convincing; for although there is some truth in what it says about God, it turns out to be misleading in some way with regard to human life. This seems to be what he thinks when he eventually does offer what he explicitly marks as the attempt at a solution to the puzzle, at 1245b28 and then again at 1245b13-19. The result is that while God may indeed be such as to need no friends, we are not; for just as we are not sufficient in our thinking by merely thinking of ourselves, in the way that God is self-sufficient when he thinks just of himself, so also we are not sufficient in our lives if we live
14 15

On the textual decisions, see n33. 1244b15-17. On the textual decisions see n34. One way of reading this remark is as a potential solution (even those with no needs can have virtue friends, though they cannot have any other kind of friends, so good people and god etc. can have one kind of friend, and our initial worry is at least diminished). Another way of reading it is as a further problem, because any solution on these lines would eliminate some kinds of useful and amusing friends, and hence rather undermines Aristotles otherwise plausible account of the many benefits of a life with all kinds of friends (the OCT text has chosen a reading on these lines). The remarks that follow in the text (1244b17-21) suggest that Aristotle meant the former, although it is surely not meant to be a considered solution but rather part of the setting up of the puzzles. 16 Kosman 2004, 136 thinks that the aporia continues until 1245a28 where it is summed up, prior to a solution beginning at 1245a29. McCabe forthcoming suggests that 1245a11-26 reformulates the problems, a solution begins to appear at 1245a26-b9, and explanation of how it resolves the problems occupies 1245b9-25. By contrast Stern-Gillet 1995, 54-55, and Whiting forthcoming think the solution already begins here at 1244b21.

1244b21-4. On the textual decisions see n35. The combination of aisthanesthai and gnorizein gives us two aspects of our contact with the outside world, one more sensuous, the other more intellectual. I have chosen to translate feeling and observing, but I mean the feelings to be understood as responses to what is outside (for instance the experience of watching a play). I think part of the important point here is that human life involves awareness of what is outside oneself (unlike gods life in which the object of awareness is himself). So these verbs of cognition are about being in touch with the environment: to be alive is to be aware of the surroundings, to perceive and observe. Shared life is doing these things together with someone else, and the question is why it should be better if we do it together. 19 Kosman, 2004 translates co-living is co-perceiving and co-knowing.
17 18

alone, even though God is (1245b14-19). For us, our good is located outside ourselves; it involves others, whereas that is not so for God. So after all it will turn out that there is no such thing as a solitary self-sufficient life for human beings. The puzzle, it seems, was wrongly set up in the first place: we were tempted into it by thinking that the perfect human life is like the perfect divine life, which is true in a way. But it is achieved with friends in the human case; it is not first achieved without them and then the friends added on top, as we had supposed. Still, however attractive this solution might be, Aristotle must flesh it out with some account of what the good persons friends are for and how they make a good life achievable, in terms of the human goal, and the best kind of human life. Otherwise we shall still be mystified as to why human beings cannot live the solitary life, as God can, and be happy that way. So what are friends for, and why are we not happy unless we have them? Let us return to Aristotles statement of the puzzle at 1244b21. But we should investigate this puzzle, lest there is something right about it, and something else that weve lost sight of as a result of this analogy (sc. with God), but which is clear to those who have a grip on what it is to live in actuality, and how its the persons goal.17 Although (as Kosman noted) we are still elaborating what is tempting about the puzzle, this last mention of how something might be clear to those who have a grip on what human living is all about looks like a hint towards the solution, and to that extent those who see Aristotle as moving towards a solution here are not entirely wrong. It leads into a positive suggestion, namely, that life is a matter of consciousness of things outside ourselves (that is, feeling and observation),18 and hence that living together is going to be a matter of shared feeling and shared observation: what it is to live in actuality, and how its the persons goal. Well, its obvious that its feeling and observing so it follows that shared living is shared feeling and shared observation (1244b24-25).19 The terms for shared living, shared feeling and shared observation are all one-word compounds composed by adding sun to the front of the verbs that have just been mentioned as the activities constitutive of life. So the reasoning goes something like this: life is a matter of engagement in active awareness of the environment. Life with friends will be the same activities but done together with others. So the question

is, what is the point of doing these things with others and not by yourself? Despite the appearance of progress, we have just got a restatement of the difficulty, but now it has been formulated to suggest that the puzzle is going to be answered (or needs to be answered) with reference to some kind of cognitive goal. What is it, in the way of cognitive achievements, that we cannot do adequately by ourselves but can do better in company? We need to remember this reference to shared feeling and shared observation, because (at least at first glance) these verbs seem to imply that we look out together with our friends, at objects in the world, and perceive them alongside our friends. What is it to live a shared life? It is to share something of the same perspective on the world: to observe the same things and respond to the same experiences, it seems. We should remember this, because the next bit of text is badly corrupted and hard to reconstruct, and we need to find some grip to hold onto, in deciding how to reconstruct it. There are two existing interpretations of the next part, 1244b26-1245a10, available. According to one interpretation, the more traditional one, Aristotle begins to talk about the most desirable activity being getting to know yourself and perceive yourself, leading to the idea that the usefulness of friends is to be found in assisting us to come to know ourselves. According to this reading, Aristotle has a notion of the mind that isaccording to those who favour this readingdistinctly un-cartesian (again using un-cartesian here in the popular sense explained above in n6). That is, according to this interpretation, we have no access to self-awareness except in the mirror of our friend.20 If we adopt this interpretation we need to go back and re-read the sentence just gone, which we took to be about shared feeling and shared observation, so as to reinterpret the reference to shared feeling as a reference to apperception, and the reference to shared observation as a reference to reflexive self-awareness, and not to a shared activity at all. We can achieve this if we read sunaisthanesthai as meaning not jointly feel but be self-conscious (which is a recognised sense of the word, at least in the later period of Greek philosophy, though one might wonder whether the use did not originate in this passage, and the parallel passages in the Nicomachean Ethics). Thus we might suppose that Aristotle has equivocated on sunaisthanesthai so as to move, by sleight of hand, from jointly feeling and jointly living (one sense of sunaisthanesthai and suzen) to apperception and self-awareness (the other sense of sunaisthanesthai, though there is not an equivalent reflexive sense of the jointly living verb). On such a reading Aristotle was illicitly suggesting, but not proving, that self-consciousness is a result of friendship with another self. According to this interpretation, the next sentence, 1244b26-29, reads: But for each person, the most choice-worthy thing is to perceive himself and to know himself, and this is what gives us all the innate appetite for living. For one must
20 This reading still assumes that Aristotle thinks that there is a hidden self that we badly need to perceive, and in this I would say it was deeply Cartesian and rather unlike the Aristotle that I shall go on to describe.

suppose that living is a kind of knowledge.21 To yield this sense, a number of corrections have had to be made to the text, to make it talk about perceiving oneself. We shall come back in due course to look at what the manuscript readings are before correction. But do we want it to be about perceiving oneself? To my mind, it is not actually at all obvious why we, or Aristotle, or any of Aristotles readers should be disposed to assent to the idea that knowing oneself is the most desirable thing, nor why that should explain our appetite for life (and especially so if life is about looking out at the world, as we have just been persuaded). It is particularly not obvious if you do not have a Cartesian notion of the self as the object of introspective knowledge, for it is not obvious what self there is to know, as the object of self-knowledge. It would be more plausible, it seems to me, to claim that perception and knowledge (that is, normal knowledge of external objects) are key parts of what makes life choiceworthy, and that if living is to be equated with being perceptually aware of your surroundings (rather than of yourself), this desire to know about what is around you might indeed explain our unanimous desire for life. A rival interpretation of this part of the text is offered by Kosman 2004, 138, who suggests (along these very lines that I have just sketched) that the issue is not about self-perception but about oneself as subject of the activity of perceiving. On his view, what is most choice-worthy is that one should oneself be doing the perceiving, not someone else. We might translate as follows: But for each person, the most choice-worthy thing is that he be perceiving, and that he be knowing, and this is what gives us all the innate appetite for living. For one must suppose that living is a kind of knowledge (1244b26-29, reading t atn asynesyai, t atn gnvrzein and de tiynai). This thought leads Kosman to suggest that this sentence is still problematising the issue, not solving it. For Aristotles puzzle is not resolved in any way by this proposal because there is, after all, still no role for joint perceiving, or shared understanding, or any situation in which someone else is perceiving, and so there is still no point in having a friend, if the most important thing in life is to be the subject of ones own (solitary) awareness. So according to Kosman, the puzzle about why we need a friend is not addressed or resolved until 1245a30-35, which is where the idea of another self is introduced. Still, when the solution comes, the role for this other self now appears to have very little to do with the idea canvassed at 1244b24-28 that the desire for living is a desire for personal subjectivity and awareness, although 1244b23 had implied that this was the key to the problem. Kosmans account of the solution at 1245a30-35 is rather peculiar. He puts a lot of weight on the idea of another Herakles, invoking a passage in Plutarch to suggest that this refers to collaborative action, although to my mind it is not clear that the Plutarch passage does actually support this idea. But in any case, we might ask, what has collaborative action
1244b26-29, reading the text as given in Walzer and Mingays OCT, with t ato asynesyai, t atn gnvrzein, and de tiynai.

got to do with anything worth having in life (once we truly understand what is worth having)? Given that collaborative action does not pick up on the value of ones own personal subjectivity, Kosman is obliged to say is that this elaboration of the puzzle at 1244b21, which introduces the idea that our desire for life is actually a desire for subjectivity, contains not even the germ of a solution to it. Rather it raises only further problems, since the desirability of being the subject of perceiving does not in any way give us a need for friends, but rather counts strongly against it. The consequence seems to be that friends do not assist us with anything that is mentioned here as making life desirable. Instead we have to look for the need for friends in their contribution to action, as help in times when we are not self-sufficient in a practical way. Thus it emerges (on Kosmans account) that the other self is nothing to do with cognition or personal identity, but just about ordinary helpfulness. So, although Kosmans interpretation of this preliminary passage, looks more attractive than the one that takes it to be about self-knowledge, in the end the reading seems to yield no genuine or satisfying answer to the puzzle, or at least not one that makes any use of this idea of perceiving for oneself. And perhaps this is right, for after all why should the justification of friendship have anything to do with being the subject of ones own perceptions? According to Kosman, that was part of the problem, not part of the solution. McCabe forthcoming follows Sorabji 2006, 236 in finding a third way through this chapter that helps itself to both alternatives, by suggesting that self-awareness is not merely perception of oneself (so McCabe), or not merely perception of the object of shared attention (so Sorabji), but includes both. According to these authors, Kosman is right that ones own subjectivity comes into it, and on the other hand the self-awareness reading is right because awareness of oneself also comes into it. So the fact that the chapter talks about both self-awareness and shared outlooks is compatible with the idea that Aristotle has quite a rich understanding of what shared attention is, and it involves both self-awarenessawareness that one is perceivingand awareness of an object perceived. Together these are supposed to yield some reason why it is better to share ones life with a friend (although exactly how that follows remains somewhat opaque in both cases). I want to suggest that there is a fourth route that is not identical to any of these, although it takes as highly pertinent the comments that Sorabji 2006, 25-26 and 236 makes about the importance of the phenomenon of shared attention in human psychology. Unlike Sorabji, I want to suggest that Aristotle does not think that there is a determinate but hidden self there to be discovered by some means. Rather, I am suggesting, the self becomes actual and determinate only when the agent or subject actualises their agency or subjectivity. The subject of attention cannot become determinate in perceiving itself, since there is nothing determinate there to be perceived, but it becomes determinate in the perception of a determinate object, a perceptible object (or object of thought) that is itself actualised in being perceived. To perceive that one sees is not to perceive an act of seeing, or to perceive a self doing some seeing, or anything like that: it is to per-


22 Some considerations in favour of this position can be found in Osborne 1983, although more could be said. In the parallel passage at EN 1170a29 Aristotle does speak of the one who sees or hears being aware in a more generic sense, not seeing, that he is seeing or hearing or walking, but this still need not mean that there is a generic sense that takes self as its object, as opposed to a sense that has actualities such as the seen object, or a heard sound, or a walking agent, as its objects. 23 1244b26-29, retaining t at asynesyai, t at gnvrzein, and retaining diatiynai at b28.

ceive the object of sight, the whiteness, the largeness, actualised at the time of seeing. It is for this reason that Aristotle always speaks of seeing that one sees, for what one sees is not a self but the seen object actualised as seen.22 So it is not that we are aware both of ourselves and of the object of attention, as though subject and object were two separate things, for the actuality of subject and object are just the same thing. There is no such thing as awareness of oneself that is not constituted by awareness of what we are aware of. Then shared attention to something outside ourselves is awareness of a sort of self, namely, the actualised agency that is actually constituted by the determinate objects that I, and the external parts of myself that are my friends, are jointly perceiving. If these are fine things, then our perceiving selves will, in the process, be actualised as fine things. On my reading, then, unlike the other rival readings just surveyed, we should retain the reading t at that appears in the vast majority of manuscripts at the problematic point we have reached, namely, 1244b26-29, and reckon that here, a moment after mentioning the idea that shared living is shared attention (shared feeling and shared observation, 1244b25) Aristotle is talking about how precious it is when those who live together direct their shared attention at the same thing. This is not (not at this point) anything to do with knowing oneself, nor self-consciousness. The idea then leads directly to a solution that involves the idea that there is, after all, still something cognitive that can only be achieved with friends. We should translate this tricky passage as follows, I suggest (starting from 1244b24): Well, its obvious that its feeling and observing, so it follows that shared living is shared feeling and shared observation; and feeling the same and observing the same is what is most choice-worthy for each, and due to this the appetite for living is innate in all; for living is organising some knowledge.23 The solution, which emerges in due course at 1245a29 onwards, building on 1245a18-26, will take seriously the idea that we are oriented towards objects of attention outside ourselves, and fulfilment comes that way, not in contemplation of the self alone as in the case of God. And this is because the object of attention is what determines the quality of your thinking, and in our case the best objects (including God himself, but also all other fine things such as music, plays and philosophical truths) are to be found in directing the attention to what is external to ourselves. Sufficiency, then is achieved (whether alone or in company) by attention to fine things in the environment. But why do it in company rather than


alone? The value of the shared life with friends, I suggest, is that it enlarges the self: it enlarges the subject of attention (the self that looks out) so that we can have more of those experiences and occasions of agency that constitute our engagement with what is good. To borrow the image from Aristophanes speech in Platos Symposium 189c-193d, especially 190a, which McCabe uses to good effect in her treatment of this passage, by looking out with a friend I can look out from the eyes of the other half of myself and see (so to speak) both ways, not just forwards. Or, to borrow an image from Xenophanes, we can get closer to being in that ideal godlike condition in which all of him sees, all of him thinks and all of him hears.24 In addition, because our actual perceiving self is constituted by its objects of attention (both perceptual and intellectual) and becomes determinate in that way, the effect of viewing fine things is that one becomes a fine self that is worth noticing, one one that can be noticed with profit by ones companions.25 Having got this far, it would evidently be good to see how such a reading might make sense of the rest of EE vii 12 and the surrounding context. Yet to pursue such a project now, in this kind of detail, for such a difficult text, would be both tedious and fiddly. Instead I have attempted a sketch of how that project might look, in the form of an annotated translation of the whole text in the appendix. At this point, instead, I propose to broaden the discussion, first to consider in its own right the idea that I have been attributing to Aristotle, that the value of friendship might lie in the shared perception of a shared world, and in the extension of oneself to another sympathetic outlook, in such a way that ones perspective is both broadened and yet not divided or frustrated. And secondly to look at how this might help us to understand the value of fiction. Aristotles reflections on the value of friends are interesting not just as history, but also as contributions to a debate that should still matter to us now. What I want to suggest is that the view that I have attempted to diagnose in the Eudemian Ethics is attractive in certain respects as a contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind, because it provides an explanation for why the life with friends is a richer and more enjoyable life, while retaining the sense that friends are not merely instrumental tools for our own betterment. My thought is that rather than think that the friend helps us to see ourselves as objects of attention, by turning our gaze back to our own virtue and knowledge, we should think of the self as the subject of attention and of judgement. On this view, what I am is a way of seeing the world, a perspective on the world, an agent in the world, and one who makes value judgements and discriminates. Life, as
24 25


III. The value of friends

Xenophanes fragment 24 as quoted by Sextus Empiricus Adv Math. ix 144. That is, the only actual self we have is the actualised objects of our attention, but if these are good and determinate our friend sees us engaged with those, and we see our friend engaged with those same things, and we thereby have and notice our shared self engaged in fine and determinate things (see 1245a1-5 and a5-10).

Aristotle suggests, consists in perceiving and making discriminations (as well as some other things).26 I, as a perceiver and discriminator, consist of that way of seeing things. Now, we might ask, how can I become a virtuous person? If we follow the line that I have been exploring, the answer will be something like this: You become a virtuous person by bringing your outlook on the world into line with the ideal way of seeing things, so that your judgements and discriminations are correct and sound. In Aristotelian ethics such an alignment is achieved by habituating yourself to do what a virtuous person does and to see as the virtuous person sees. Once I have done that and become a virtuous perspective on the world, what would be the use of a friend?27 For I would not choose to have friends if they had no genuine value, either for me or in themselves. What value can they have? The next thought is that just as I am one outlook on the world, so the friend is another outlook, from another perspectiveanother way of seeing the world, and one whose perspective I can come to share. If to be a self is to be a point of view upon the world, then that is also what another self is. If, as I have suggested, Aristotle thinks of the self as what is actualised as the perceived object, or the object of thought, so that seeing oneself would be seeing the actuality of the perceived object, and thinking of oneself as thinker would have no other content than thinking of the thought that is currently (or perhaps has been) the object of attention, then the self is not an additional part of the world that stands apart from the objects of our awareness. We might compare the remarks of Wittgenstein at Tractatus 5.633 and 5.641, The philosophical self is not the human being, not the human body, or the human soul, with which psychology deals, but rather the metaphysical subject, the limit of the worldnot a part of it (see also Wittgenstein 1975, 47). Here Wittgenstein refers to this subject as metaphysical, by contrast with the object of psychologists study. But I think it would be better to say that he is precisely not saying that there is some metaphysical self or soul of the Cartesian sort. There is just the world as perceived from where I stand. What he calls the metaphysical self is nothing more than that. Wittgenstein borrowed this idea that the eye is not part of its visual field from Schopenhauer, but whereas Schopenhauer inferred that there is an eye that is the subject of the seeing (Mounce 1997), Wittgenstein said that there is just the limit of the seeing. It seems to me that in Aristotle, similarly, we can think of the subject as nothing over and above what is seen. The actual self is constituted in the actualisation of the object seen. Similarly in thought there is no extra subject, over and above the object of thought.28
26 Although it is the cognitive attention to the world that interests Aristotle particularly and has the highest value in his eyes, he does mention mutual practical agency as a second best (1245b7). 27 We might want to reject the question, on the grounds that it takes a utilitarian approach to friendship. But the point remains: why would I choose to have friends if, ex hypothesi, I am making sound judgements of what has genuine value, all by myself? 28 When I say there is nothing apart from the actual objects, I do not mean that there is no potentiality. Aristotle holds that objects of perception are potential until perceived, and so too our senses


So if this is all that the self is, when it comes to friends, your friend will not be someone who looks at you in particular, nor someone who looks at himself in particular, but someone who looks out with you on the same shared world of things and peoplesomeone who perceives, judges and discriminates with you, standing alongside as it were, and becoming, like you, actualised in the shared experience of the very same set of objects in such a way as to become just like you. So real friends will be real people who stand alongside us and share our values and our virtues. They extend ourselves, by enabling us to see more of the world and to see it through anothers sympathetic eyes. As regards fictional people, of course Aristotle does not ask, here in the Ethics, about our reasons for finding value in the people we encounter in literature. Nor does his account of the value of literature in the Poetics invoke the idea of friendship. He does not make that connection. Still, it seems to me that we might try doing so. For it seems that when we read a novel or see a film we are invited to inhabit a world seen from another persons perspective. It is tempting to say that the author gives us a window into another persons mind. But, I suggest, a window into their mind is not a way of looking into that person, but a way of getting to look out at the world from that perspective, in the way that we take a shared view of the world with the friends. For in that case too, it is just this that we mean when we talk of seeing into our friends mind. We mean that we can see how things look to them. In fact, literature does this more obviously than real friends, because what seems private in ordinary life is often deliberately exposed by the author. The author sets out to lay it bare for the reader. For there would be no story to read if what the characters were thinking and the judgements that they were making remained in their non-existent heads. So we find it relatively easy to relate to the character in the fiction as intimately as we do to our closest friends. This allows us to see the world from a perspective adjacent to our own, or one to which, in our imagination, we manage to come alongside. In many cases it is a window onto a world that is quite unfamiliar to us, a world of experiences we have not ourselves encountered, a world full of people we dont know among our own acquaintance. So the book gives us more to see, and a way to see it as through the eyes of a friend. We become enlarged. The new perspective becomes our own. It is like another self, and we enjoy it for all those reasons, though this does not mean that we value it for its utility. Rather, IV. Literature


are potential until they are actualised as perceiving some actual sensory input. Once the actualisation occurs there are then not two things, but one. Subject and object are only potentially separate, but there is not actually a subject distinct from its thoughts and perceptions. Additional complexity can be added by distinguishing first and second actualities: the difference between a blind eye and a closed one for example, or the babys capacity to do geometry versus the sleeping mathematicians capacity. But the main point remains the same: that the actual exercise of perceiving just is the occurrence of the actual object of perception.

besides its usefulness in enlarging our experience, we also value it (as we value our life with friends) for the intrinsic joy of perceiving more of the world, a world lived through and with the other person. By telling a story, by narrating the thoughts of another character, by describing a scene as viewed through the eyes of a well-drawn character, the author gives the reader a new take on a part of the shared world, inviting her into someone elses way of seeing it. It is like acquiring a new friend, and one whom perhaps we could not have known personally because, say, she belongs to another time or another country, or she is purely imaginary, even a creation of mere fantasy. But now, we might ask, would such a fictional friend be more valuable if her way of seeing things were very different from the readers existing take on the world? Is there any reason to think that her outlook needs to be similar to my own? Aristotles assumption is that we like our friends to be like ourselves, that we enjoy the company of those whose values are similar to our own, and the virtuous person needs only virtuous friends. Yet if the aim is to enlarge our vision of the world, would it not be better if the friends were coming from a very different point of view, and enabling us to see things that we were not yet seeing, from where we are currently placed? And then, in literature, would it not be better if the author created a character who was quite unlike us, perhaps even an evil character, through whose eyes we could come to experience the world in a very different way? Would variety not be an improvement? This thought might seem plausible (in a way it did not seem plausible to Aristotle) if we thought (unlike Aristotle) that it was beneficial to see things in the way other people with very different values see themfor instance if we believed there were other standards of value that were both different from our own and also valid. If we supposed that to be a virtuous person one should be open to alternative points of view, then we could and should find value in friendships that enable us to step outside our own narrow take on the world (the view that currently constitutes my self), and to engage in a broader outlook, in which various different kinds of value and various different kinds of interest would present the world under various different descriptions. Such a model of virtue would indeed value the place of strange and different characters (though perhaps not evil ones) in literature. Such a model of virtue might well seem attractive to some. But that is not the model of virtue that Aristotle is working with, because he does not have a pluralistic or relativist model of value. For Aristotle, things are not valuable because the virtuous person perceives them as valuable. Rather the virtuous person perceives them as valuable because they are valuable. So on Aristotles view, presumably we would not benefit by viewing things through the distorting spectacles of a non-virtuous evaluation. If our human view is too limited, it is presumably not because it is just one view among many equally good ones; it can only be because it is only part of the fuller view of the world and of the best things in the world, that is the best available self for human perceivers. On such a view, we could not enhance it by adding false or distorted


29 That Plato presents an argument, in the mouth of the Socrates in the Republic, for such censorship in his imaginary polis is undeniable. However, we can only infer that Plato himself recommends this policy if we suppose that the Republic is intended, without irony, to recommend a blueprint for social policy, and not just to explore the (potentially problematic and unattractive) consequences that follow from a certain hypothesis. I am here gesturing at work I have not yet published, but see Osborne 1993 and (recognising that Platos rejection of poetry presupposes that it would have to be valued as knowledge) Geuss, 2003. 30 Leo Tolstoys What is Art argues courageously against certain fashionable aesthetic attitudes of his time, and defends the idea that art that should have something worthwhile to say. His work is often misread, both in respect of its idea that effective art infects the reader with a certain lively response, and in respect of its condemnation of art that is merely designed to titillate or display the decadent tastes of its owners. For a sympathetic assessment of what Tolstoy really meant, see Mounce 2001.

perceptions, though we might enhance it by adding an intimate relationship with someone else whose sympathetic outlook on their world is as sensitive to truth and goodness as our own is (or indeed more so). This suggests that for Aristotle, there could be no value to literature that gives an inviting picture of a non-virtuous character. And we might think that to be satisfying, an account of the value of literature would need to make space for works that give an utterly compelling rendering of the world as seen by a non-virtuous character. Aristotles view might look too much like Platos notorious argument for censoring the dramatic portrayal of bad characters,29 or the views on literature often unfairly associated with Tolstoy.30 So what, if anything, are we to do with it? Shall we retain the idea that literature, like friendship, can be a way of looking at the world through another persons eyes, but accept that we risk finding that our literary friends give us a less good view of the world, as do our more unsavoury companions, and are of dubious moral value as a result? Shall we look for some other account of the value of fine portraits of quirky and evil characters whom we find engaging in our literary encounters? Aristotles own account, in the Poetics, offers one solution, though we need to be cautious about what we attribute to Aristotle there toofor Aristotle says very little about what the point of literature is, and much has been hung on his one passing mention of catharsis at 1449b27. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that he has a theory, and that catharsis is supposed to explain why the representation of tragic emotions in a character on stage, which engages our fear and our pity, is beneficial and ennobling for us, and not harmful and weakening as Plato seems to suggest. Then it might seem that Aristotle could say that identifying with the emotions and responses of a character who is not wholly good, and who is not wholly in sympathy with our own emotions and responses, could be valuable, because it yields some purgative effect, some way of cleaning up our emotions (whether that be by ridding us of them, or by giving us an outlet in which to exercise them in a noble and purified way). This has been a popular reading of what Aristotle means, especially among those who think that he provides an answer to Plato, so as to rescue a role for works of art that engender emotion or encourage vicarious suffering on behalf of a character on stage or in


the narrative. Yet this still does not make use of the idea that we need to extend our perception and discernment of the world. If friendship is important for what it offers in that way, as I have suggested, it does not seem that Aristotle himself saw how literature or drama might do the same. Perhaps we might say instead that his notion of catharsis appeals, in an analogous way, to the idea of an extension of our emotional self, rather than our perceiving self. Drama, he might say, provides a second self through whom we can experience vicarious emotions. Although not identical to the idea in the Eudemian Ethics of a second self that provides vicarious experiences and observations, whose view of the world we are able to enter by living a shared life of joint perceiving and joint evaluation, this would be a close parallel, especially in so far as emotions are closely related to evaluation and discernment of the good. Yet we might still feel (with Tolstoy perhaps) that the vicarious emotions would need to be true to the world and appropriately measured if they are to be of value in providing a richer form of life than we can live by ourselves. So we might want to extend Aristotles account of what living is ( EE 1244b23-24), to add the idea that it includes feelings in the sense of emotional responses to events and disasters and not just cognitive discernment of things in the world. But we shall still conclude that the best friends will be ones who extend our sympathies in ways that are both enriching and genuine. Still there will be no use for friends, whether real or literary, who have nothing to contribute to our deeper understanding of what genuinely matters and how the virtuous participant ought to respond. Is this a problem? I think not. For surely it is true that a great work of literature will not be one that provides only trivial or repulsive characters, whose take on the world is merely superficial; there needs to be someone there who engages more deeply with the mysteries and horrors of life, and who prompts us to engage with them in the lives they are living. And if the novelist needs to portray some superficial or rebarbative characters as a foil for those perceptive ideals, those will not be the ones who take the role of friends in our lives. So, I think we might want to say that there is indeed no value in poetry, plays or novels that are merely, trivially, imitative of the world we already know, especially of shallow or unedifying aspects of the world we know. Literature will be life-enhancing if it enables us to see through the eyes of another good and interesting person. And if that is true of literature, perhaps it is true of friendship too. Perhaps, if we think about it, those close friends with whom we love to do and see things, are wonderful for us just in so far as they are another perceiving subject, but at the same time one into whose mind we can begin to looknot by looking into it, so to speak, but by looking out with it and seeing another persons world, and finding thereby a deepening and enrichment of the integrity of our own vision. And is it not the case that when we do that, we feel just a little closer to being like God: to being ecstatic in the literal sense.



31 Both the main families of manuscripts collated for Walzer and Mingays OCT text contain a space where I have inserted dots here, roughly 12 letters length (C and L) or nineteen letters length in P. There is no clue as to what (if anything) might be missing. The sense seems satisfactory without any supplement. Von Fragsteins conjecture, t atarkestt, is no more secure than anything else it seems to me. See Von Fragstein 1974, 344. 32 I am reading atarkstatow at line 1244b4-5, which obviates the need to supply a definite article () as in the OCT, and linking this clause to the conditional in the next clause by a comma rather than a full stop. As far as I am aware no one has suggested this before. It does not do much to improve the sense, but I am assuming that the thought is this: if the virtuous person is the happiest person he will also be the most sufficient person (since one cannot be happy if one is dependent). But then it seems he needs no friends, and as we know virtuous people have good friends and value them too, so this creates a puzzle. There are several other problems with this passage, including an instance of asyndeton regardless of where we punctuate. The translation given here is not the only possible reconstruction, but renders something of the apparent sense. 33 The text translated here is an emendation by the editors and is almost certainly wrong. Jen Whiting has forcefully pointed out that the editors have unanimously edited out what appears to be a reference to the master-slave relationship. Still, it is hard to see why a master of slaves, archetypically someone who is not self-sufficient as an individual, should be used as a comparator for God or for the person with no need for others. It is not clear how to restore good sense (Whiting forthcoming, criticising, e.g., Von Fragstein 1974, 344). 34 Reading o di retn flow at 1244b16-17. The text is somewhat uncertain.

1244b1-4: We ought also to investigate questions regarding self-sufficiency and friendship, how they stand to one another in respect of what they can do. For someone might puzzle over whether, if someone were self-sufficient in relation to everything, hell haveany friends, supposing that friends are sought on the basis of need.31 1244b4-7: Or will it be the most self-sufficient person that will be good, if the virtuous person is happy?32 What need would he have of friends, <then>? For its not part of being self-sufficient to need the useful kind of friends, nor the fun kind, nor the shared life. For this person is good enough to share his existence himself with himself. 1244b7-15: This is especially obvious in the case of God. For its clear that since he doesnt have any need of anyone [or, anything] he wont have need of a friend either. And a thing of which he never has any need will not exist for him.33 So it follows that the happiest human being too will need a friend least of all, except just in so far as it is impossible for him to be self-sufficient. So it follows necessarily that the person who lives the best will have the fewest friends, and that they should become fewer, and he shouldnt make an effort to ensure that he has friends, and he should set very little store by not just the useful sort of friends but by those that are worth choosing for the shared life too. 1244b15-17: But, in fact at that point it would seem to be obvious that a friend is not for the sake of utility or advantage, but for the sake of what makes him a friend by virtue alone.34 1244b17-21: For whenever we are not in need of anything, then we all seek out those with whom we will find shared fulfilment, and particularly people who

V. Appendix: Aristotle EE vii 12, A Translation with textual notes

stand to benefit rather than those who do us good. And we make a better choice when we are self sufficient than when in need, which is when we most lack friends who are good enough for the shared life. 1244b21-24: But we should investigate this puzzle, lest there is something right about it, and something else that weve lost sight of as a result of this analogy (sc. with God), but which is clear to those who have a grip on what it is to live in actuality (kat energeian) and how its the persons goal.35 1244b24-25 Well, its obvious that its feeling and observing, so it follows that shared living is shared feeling and shared observation;36 1244b26-29: and feeling the same and observing the same is what is most choice-worthy for each, and due to this the appetite for living is innate in all; for living is organising some knowledge.37 1244b29-32: So if someone were to slice off the knowing and make it a thing in itself [and not]38 (but you dont noticethats how its written in the story, though in practice it is such that you would notice), it wouldnt be any different from someone else knowing instead of him.39 1244b32-34: And the same for someone else living in place of yourself. But reasonably enough, your own feeling and observing is more choice-worthy.40 1244b34-35: What we have to do is combine two things in the story: (a) that living is [both] choice-worthy and (b) that the good (sc. is choiceworthy);41 1244b35-1245a1: and out of these we have to draw the consequence that such a nature (sc. being choice-worthy) applies to them both in virtue of the same thing. 1245a1-5: So if, in a table of this kind,42 one of the two is always in the column of the choice-worthy, both what can be observed and what can be felt are in the column of the choice-worthy in virtue of their participation in the determinate nature (generally speaking);43 whence wanting to feel it is wanting it to be of
I have taken this as a single sentence in which there is a contrast between the point that we miss (in lanynei) at b22, and what is clear (dlon) in b23. 36 Kosman 2004 translates co-living is co-perceiving and co-knowing. 37 Retaining t at asynesyai, t at gnvrzein, and in b28 diatiynai. 38 Something is missing in the text here. It is hard to determine exactly what has gone wrong. 39 Reading ny ato. The text seems to refer to some science fiction example that is not available to us, but may be a kind of brain transplant, or alternatively a thought experiment about out of the body existence (e.g., immortal souls). It is not clear whether the subject himself is unaware of having been displaced from the body, or the observers are unaware. 40 Taking auto in attributive position to be a possessive, not the object of the perceiving. 41 Alternatively, that living is also good (as well as choice worthy). The premises are to serve as the basis for the conclusion that is to follow. I think the form of the argument is Living is choiceworthy. What is choice-worthy is what is good (expressed as The good is <identical with> what is choice worthy). Therefore living is choice-worthy for the very same reason as the good is choiceworthy. 42 Aristotle evidently points to the Pythagorean table of opposites on the wall of the lecture room. 43 Reading t in 45a3 with Fritzsche and the OCT.


Reading atn twice in 45a4 with the mss. This section appears to be about awareness of ones own perceptual actualities in virtue of being aware of the objects of those actualities as the objects that they are. One becomes an object of the same faculty as one is exercising because one is aware of exercising that faculty, in virtue of being aware of an object of a determinate kind. Because objects of knowledge fall into the desirable class, which is the class of the good, this is something we want to be: we want to be an object of knowledge, to ourselves if not to anyone else. 46 Reading suzn with the OCT. The mss have e zn, which would mean for the good life. 47 Reading atw with the OCT. Mss apart from one of the Latin versions read otow (render as another this man). 48 Reading pnta with Richards and the OCT.
44 45

such and such a kind.44 1245a5-10: Since, then, we are not each of these things by ourselves, but by partaking of the faculties, in virtue of feeling or observation (for in feeling one becomes an object of feeling in just this respect, and in virtue of this very thing, in just the way that one first feels, both how and of what, and one becomes an object of observation by observing).45 So its for this reason that one wants to live for ever, because one wants to go on observing for ever, and one wants this because one wants to be an object of observation oneself. 1245a11-16: Yet choosing the shared life might look somehow foolish when you consider it, firstly in respect of those things that are common to other animals too, like eating together and drinking together. What difference does it make whether these things happen when youre close together, or apart, if you exclude language? But then sharing in any old language is another thing of the same sort. 1245a16-18: At the same time its not possible for self-sufficient friends to teach or to learn; for on the one hand the learner isnt himself in the state he should be in, and in the case of the teacher his friend isnt; but friendship is the similarity. 1245a18-22: Yet, it does appear soand all of us enjoy sharing good things more with our friends, to the extent that each of us gets a chance to do so, and of the best he can get, but for one of us it will be the best of bodily pleasure, for another the best of watching artistic performances, for another the best of philosophy. 1245a22-26: And it has to be together with the friend. Thats why they say Far away friends are a pain. So they mustnt be apart when this is going on. Hence love seems similar to friendship; for the lover longs for the shared life,46 but not in the way that one most ought, but in respect of feeling. 1245a26-29: Well, the story presents the first set of considerations as difficulties. But in actual fact the second set of considerations is how things evidently turn out. So its clear that the presentation of the difficulties must have led us astray in some way. We should start our investigation of the truth from this point. 1245a29-34: For, in the words of the proverb, the friend is supposed to be another Heracles, another self.47 But things are scattered and its hard to find everything48 concentrated in one individual, but rather its the one thats most akin in respect of natureyet on the other hand one person is similar in respect


of body, another in respect of soul, and among these they differ from one another part by part.49 1245a34-37: But none the less the friend is supposed to be something like a separable self. So being aware of ones friend necessarily (seems to) amount to being aware of oneself in some way, and observing oneself in some way. 1245a37-b2: So it makes sense that one shares pleasure even in crude things, and that the shared life is pleasant to the friend (for awareness of that friend always comes at the same time)50 but even more so when one is enjoying the more divine pleasures. The reason for that is that it is always more pleasant to regard oneself in the superior pleasure. This is sometimes an experience, sometimes an action, sometimes something else. 1245b2-7: And if it is well for the person himself to live, and so also for the friend, and for them to cooperate in their shared life, then the fellowship is especially among the things that are included in the goal.51 Thats why we (should) go to the theatre together and dine together. For such convivialities do not seem to be for the sake of food and the necessaries,52 but are rather the fulfilment. But each person seeks a shared life within the goal that he is able to attain. If that is not available, then they choose (a life of) mutual beneficence between friends above all. 1245b9-13: So it is evident both that we ought to live together, and that everyone wants that most of all, and that the happiest and best person approximates most nearly to this ideal. But the fact that this wasnt evident from that story,53 that was something that emerged for good reason from something that was telling the truth. 1245b13-19: For the solution depends upon the integration of the analogy, which is a true one. Because God is not such as to need friends, one might think the same applies to someone who is like God too, even though on this story the perfect man wont be thinking either; for thats not the way God flourishes, but hes better than to think of anything else besides himself. And the explanation is that for us, flourishing is extrinsic, but for God flourishing is intrinsic. 1245b19-25: Looking and praying for lots of friends, and at the same time saying that no one who has lots of friends is a friendboth these are correctly said. For supposing it were possible to have a shared life and shared feeling with lots of people, as many as possible would be the top choice. But since that is extremely hard, the actualising of shared feeling has to be among fewer, so that its not just difficult to acquire many friends (that requires experience), but its
Punctuated with a comma not a colon after gnesyai. Reading kenou with the manuscripts. 51 There seems to be something wrong or elliptical here, but it is hard to see how to emend the text. I have translated by treating e as shorthand for it is well, with the complement being an accusative and infinitive, though this does not seem good Greek. I think it is impossible to be sure what it really means, but it must be something about the good life and oneself and ones friend. 52 Reading gr at 1245a5 with Collingwood 53 Sc. the story spun at 1244b1-21 and recapitulated at 1244b31 and at 1245a27.
49 50


also difficult to use them when you have got them. 1245b26-31: And sometimes we want our friend to be away and flourishing, sometimes we want to take part in the same things, and wanting to be together is friendly. For if its possible to be together and flourishing, thats what everyone chooses; but if it isnt possible togetherlike Heracless mother would perhaps have chosen for him to be a god rather than be with her and in serfdom to Eurystheus. 1245b31-33: And likewise what the Spartan said in the joke, when someone ordered him to call upon the Dioscuri in a storm. 1245b33-38: But it seems to be typical of one who cares to forbid you to take part in difficult things, and typical of one you care for to want to take part, and both these things follow for good reason. For nothing should be as painful to a friend as his friend is sweet to him. But it is thought that one should not choose what is ones own. 1245b38-1246a2: Hence they prevent them from taking part, on the grounds that they are having a bad enough time themselves, lest they turn out to be looking to their own interests, and choosing to have a good time on account of their friends pain. Also theres the fact that they are relieved not to have to bear the evils alone. 1246a2-10: But since success and togetherness are choice-worthy, its clear that being together accompanied by a lesser good is preferable in a way to being apart accompanied by a greater good. But since it is unclear how much the togetherness is worth, there are differences of opinion and (they) think that it is friendly to take part in everything together, just as they say that shared dining is more pleasant, though they get the same things.54 The others, on the other hand, dont want that, since, if one takes the extreme case, they are agreeing on doing extremely badly together rather than extremely well apart. 1246a10-12: Theres something similar to this in the case of misfortune. For sometimes we want our friends not to be present and not to suffer pain, whenever theyre not in a position to do anything further. But sometimes its most pleasant for them to be there. 1246a13-19: Theres actually a good reason for this inconsistency. This occurs because of the things we said before, and it is that on the one hand we completely avoid looking at our friend when he is in pain or in some shameful condition, exactly as at ourselves,55 but then on the other hand seeing ones friend is pleasant, like any other of the most pleasant things, for the reason given, even if he is not in distress, if one is in distress oneself (?). So that whichever of these things is more pleasant, thats what tips the balance of wanting him to be there or not. 1246a20-25: And this happens in the case of inferior people too, and occurs for the same reason. For they are particularly jealous that their friends should not be
54 This sentence seems to me to be corrupt since there should be a reference to the one lot thinking one way, as antecedent to the description of what the others think in the next sentence. 55 This probably means we dont like looking at him just as we dont like looking at ourselves, or alternatively we avoid looking at him as if indeed he were ourselves.


doing well or be, if they are doing badly themselves. Thats why they sometimes kill their beloved along with themselves. For one feels ones own trouble more, just as one would if one recalled that one had once fared better, than if one thought one had always fared badly.56 School of Philosophy University of East Anglia Norwich, UK NR4 7TJ


Geuss, R. 2003. Poetry and Knowledge Arion 11: 1-31. Kahn, C. 1981. Aristotle and altruism Mind 90: 20-40. Kosman, A. 2004. Aristotle on the desirability of friends Ancient Philosophy 24: 135-154. McCabe, M.M. forthcoming. With mirrors or without: self-perception in EE 7.12 in R. Heinaman ed. Proceedings of the 2006 Keeling Colloquium. Leiden: Brill. Mounce, H.O. 1997. Philosophy, solipsism and thought Philosophical Quarterly 47: 1-18. Mounce, H.O. 2001. Tolstoy on Aesthetics: What is art? Aldershot: Ashgate. Osborne, C. 1983. Aristotle De anima 3.2: How do we perceive that we see and hear? Classical Quarterly 33: 401-411. Osborne, C. 1993. A dangerous opponent of Democracy? Platos views in the Republic Omnibus 26: 8-10. Osborne, C. 1994. Eros Unveiled: Plato and the God of Love. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sorabji, R. 2006. Self: ancient and modern insights about individuality, life and death. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stern-Gillet, S. 1995. Aristotles Philosophy of Friendship. Albany: SUNY Press. Vlastos, G. 1981. The individual as object of love in Plato Platonic Studies. 2nd edn. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Von Fragstein, A. 1974. Studien zur Ethik des Aristoteles. Amsterdam: B.R. Grner. Whiting, J. forthcoming. Keeling talk in R. Heinaman ed. Proceedings of the 2006 Keeling Colloquium. Leiden: Brill. Williams, B.A.O. 1981. Persons, character and morality in Moral Luck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wittgenstein, L. 1975. Philosophical Remarks. R. Rhees and R. Hargreaves edd. Oxford: Blackwell.


56 That is, if ones other self continues and is happy, then ones own loss feels worse. I am grateful for input from the audience at a conference on literature and other minds, in memory of Dick Beardsmore, in 2007. I would also like to thank MM McCabe for letting me see two drafts of her forthcoming paper on the Eudemian Ethics passage, and Jen Whiting for a glimpse of her unpublished paper on the same text. I have also benefited from helpful comments and suggestions from Ron Polansky and Larry Jost.