The word friendship as it is used today carries a broad semantic range with dozens of definitions. C.S. Lewis coined the term “verbicide” to define the degradation of word meaning over time. The term friendship is no stranger to verbicide. Today, it can mean anything from a Facebook friend that one barely knows to the friendship between two inseparable companions. So what exactly is friendship? In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle attempts to construct working definition of three types of friendship, the most important being the Friendship based on goodness. In this Friendship, the individuals put the other’s needs before their own. He describes this Friendship as having the greatest potential for longevity and Happiness. C.S. Lewis has also developed a working definition of Friendship in his book The Four Loves, in which true Friendship is equally selfless and puts the other’s needs first. Lewis, however, makes Friendship one of four categories of love. Aristotle and Lewis have many similarities in their definition of Friendship. However, there are several critical differences that are rooted in two separate worldviews. It is necessary to determine which of the two views on Friendship is the most accurate. Through analyzing their respective philosophies, it becomes apparent that Aristotle’s view of Friendship lacks a key eternal element that Lewis includes: God, the ultimate love. Lewis describes the ultimate love as Charity, which God has allowed us to experience, mainly through the cross. Charity then is both the origin of Friendship and its ultimate goal. Aristotle’s understanding of Friendship lacks proper definition due to his understanding of the highest good, or self-actualization. He relies on man and his ability to reason in order to find the highest good. True Friendship, therefore, cannot be found in Aristotle’s definition, for it lacks the foundational eternal God and His ultimate love.
In order to better grasp the importance of Aristotle’s need for God and Charity in his argument, he and C.S. Lewis need to be placed in side-by-side comparison. First, Both men recognize an innate need for companionship within the human race, but their means to that end are different. Second, Friendship allows additional opportunity for virtuous actions, and Friends will aid each other in growth towards a common goal. However, the two men differ on what the common goal is. Third, a selfless friendship is the only type of relationship that can ultimately be considered Friendship. However, while Aristotle refers to the other types as failures and not good things, Lewis argues that the other types of friendship or love can be used to boost the Friendship. Finally, the main difference between the two views is the aforementioned Charity, introduced by Lewis. This concept causes both men to come to two very different conclusions on the origin and purpose of Friendship.
The Need For Friendship
Can Man Be Alone?
Within man, there is an innate need for friendship. In Genesis 2:18, God states “It is not good for man to be alone.” Both Lewis and Aristotle felt the same way. Aristotle argues, “having Friends seems to be the greatest external good.” He further asserts that even the good man would not choose to live in solitude, because it is in human nature to congregate with others. Lewis supports the statement that man should not live alone, but his approach is slightly different. In The Four Loves, he quotes the aforesaid Scripture and claims that for man to desire to be alone is a bad spiritual symptom. Lewis compares this bad spiritual symptom to a medical one in which a person does not ever feel hunger. This is problematic because man must eat to live. His lack of hunger points to a deeper, internal problem. Lewis claims then that man needs Friendship, and if he says that he does not, there is an underlying spiritual problem causing him to operate against Scripture. Both Lewis and Aristotle use the word...