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“How Does Philia Come to Be?”

Posted by Susan Jenkins on May 8, 2014

SANTA FE—Paul Ludwig, a tutor at St. John's College in Annapolis, will present a lecture Friday, May 9, on “How Does Philia Come to Be?” (Aristotle’s Ethics 8-9; Politics 7, 1327b-1328a).

One passage in the Nicomachean Ethics (9.7) explores how love increases and perhaps how it gets generated in the first place.  Benefactors love the people they help more than the latter love them back.  Doing good seems to generate friendly feelings, for Aristotle, because it makes benefactors part-owners of their beneficiaries: the beneficiary is like an artistic product, realizing or making concrete the benefactor's activity (energeia).  Some of the latter's own life and being now resides in the person he helped.  His self-love is extended to encompass another.  Even mothers' love can be explained this way, for Aristotle. 

The account of benefaction sheds light on a puzzle about Aristotelian friendship: in Politics 7, the thumos, i.e. the indignant and defensive part of the soul, is the faculty by which we love.  It is unclear how the Politics is supposed to fit together with the Ethics, where friendships are based on three good things: utility, pleasure, or virtue.  Benefaction seems to involve all three bases of friendship while also being thumoeidetic: pleasure and nobility (the aim of ethical virtue) form part of the account in 9.7.  And with the help of 8.6, I will argue that benefactors, unbeknownst to themselves, are users, or ought to be, finding friends "useful for the noble," even while despising as "for market hucksters" friendships based on a more crass or obvious utility.  We might surmise that the benefactor becomes protective of and defensive about the beneficiary (his extended or "second" self), just as thumos defends and protects the self.  Is benefaction, then, the paradigm for all loving?  Or can utility, pleasure, and virtue go together in an activity where both friends are more fully at-work, for example in contemplation?  If so, and if angry passion plays no role in contemplation, what then becomes of the Politics' account of philia—if thumos is not the faculty by which philosophic friends love?

“How Does Philia Come to Be?” (Aristotle’s Ethics 8-9; Politics 7, 1327b-1328a)
Paul Ludwig, tutor, St. John’s College Annapolis
Friday, May 9, 3:15 p.m. The Great Hall
St. John’s College
1160 Camino Cruz Blanca
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Free Admission