Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Aristotle on Philosophy and Friends

I've been rereading Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (enjoying it, despite a lot of wooly thinking), and came across this rather nice quote:

B1Ch6: It will be thought better, indeed our duty, to do away with what is close to one's heart in order to preserve the truth, especially when one is a philosopher. For one might love both, but there is a sacred duty to prefer the truth to one's friends.

I've heard parallel phrases on this; do the right thing, and if your friends are worthwhile, they will stick with you, and if not, they are not worthy of you. I believe Aristotle was right above, but the parallel I mention is less right; there are some things we might say or believe that most people would reject, either because their value system differs strongly from ours, or because they fail in the above and prefer to approve of their friends than take positions that might be less than fully enthusiastic of friends.

I don't believe it is a duty of people or governments to be maximally validating. I don't think we should refrain from judging the world, and I believe we should do so in a way that does not grant favours to friends. Indeed, this would be the most self-demeaning favour to grant; sacrificing our integrity for the sake of someone else's comfort. Good thinkers have well developed categories for the things they tolerate, the things they accept, and the things they like. A well-adjusted thinking person tempers this by only rarely judging those around them by any single attribute. We like our friends despite their quirks, rough edges, and faults, and in liking them don't have to like everything about them. We collaborate with them up to the point where doing so will seriously compromise our own values.

Tags: philosophy

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