Ten un-Aristotelian reasons for the instability of Aristotelian character friendships

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Aristotle claims that friendship of the highest kind – ‘character friendship’ – is stable and enduring, once established. He is sensitive to one limitation placed upon such friendships: that, owing to their extreme closeness, devotion and intimacy, they can only be actualised with a small number of people. However, Aristotle is otherwise surprisingly cavalier about the formation and sustaining of character friendship, as if those are relatively unproblematic from psycho‐moral and psycho‐social perspectives. The main aim of this article is to repair the dearth of attention paid to these problematic areas. More specifically, after a brief rehearsal of some Aristotelian essentials in Section 2, I address five potential problems attached to character friendships between ‘equals’ in Section 3 (of substitutability, self‐verification, mismatched developmental levels, divergent developmental paths, initiation and trust) and five problems between ‘unequals’ in Section 4 (of proportionality, the disciple's and the guru's conflicting motivations, paternalism, role inertia), closing with some summarising remarks in Section 5. My conclusion is that despite the attractiveness and plausibility of much of what Aristotle says, his account of character friendships cannot be endorsed without various caveats and qualifications.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Early online date7 Dec 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2018


  • Aristotle
  • character friendships
  • friendship problematics
  • psycho‐moral conflicts


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