Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie
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Aristotle on the Utility and Choiceworthiness of Friends
Aristotle’s views on the choiceworthiness of friends might seem both internally inconsistent and objectionably instrumentalizing. On the one hand, Aristotle maintains that perfect friends or virtue friends are choiceworthy and lovable for their own sake, and not merely for the sake of further ends. On the other hand, in Nicomachean Ethics IX.9, Aristotle appears somehow to account for the choiceworthiness of such friends by reference to their utility as sources of a virtuous agent’s robust self-awareness. I examine Aristotle’s views on the utility and choiceworthiness of friends, and offer a novel reading of Nicomachean Ethics IX.9. On this reading, Aristotle accepts a version of instrumental conditionalism about final value, that is, the thesis that goods (including friends) can be choiceworthy for their own sake (i.e., possess final or end value) at least partly on account of their instrumental properties. In articulating what sort of instrumental conditionalism it is reasonable to attribute to Aristotle, I argue that Aristotle appeals to the utility of perfect friends as part of a broadly material causal account of why such friends are choiceworthy for their own sake. On this reading, perfect friends are not choiceworthy for the sake of their utility in eliciting self-awareness; rather, their choiceworthiness for their own sake is (at least partly) realized in, or constituted by, their conduciveness to the virtuous agent’s self-awareness. This reading, I argue, frees Aristotle from the charge of inconsistency: Aristotle can appeal to the conduciveness of perfect friends to the virtuous agent’s self-awareness as a way of explaining why such friends are choiceworthy for their own sake.
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