PHIL 181: Ethics - Section 6
October 31, 2011
Nietzsche Response Paper
In Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, we learn that every one of our actions is influenced by a higher interest or objective, ultimately seeking personal fulfillment. Everything we do has a determined purpose that directs our life into a desired path. Aristotle portrays our actions as ends, and he believes that each end leads to a higher end until reaching a final end, eudaimonia. He believes that the only way to fulfill our life and attain complete happiness in life is to reach eudaimonia. Eudaimonia can only be reached once we have accomplished our personal goals, and practiced enough virtuous acts to develop excellence in character. Aristotle believes that developing virtue is the most important element for a fulfilling life. To be virtuous, we must have knowledge of what we are doing; we must know why it is important to do it; our actions must spring from a characteristic from our soul; and we must practice it with other people.
In Book VIII of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle talks about the importance of friendship. Aristotle believes that friendship is a kind of virtue that is necessary for a good life. He believes that we cannot attain true happiness without knowing the value of friendship, no matter how successful we may be. Therefore, Aristotle claims that we must reach eudaimonia by fulfilling our personal ends, and at the same time taking the effort to care about other people’s dreams and aspirations. But why is the development of friendship so important? If eudaimonia is the fulfillment of our personal lives, why should we care about other people? Are Aristotle’s thoughts about friendship egoist or altruist? After analyzing the text, we can interpret that even though friendship may sound like an altruistic concept, Aristotle depicts it as completely egoistic. The reason why Aristotle believes friendship is so significant is because of the personal benefits we gain from creating a good relationship with a friend. We don’t befriend people just because we care about others. Our desire to build friendships is selfishly motivated by our own personal interests. Aristotle states that there are three different types of friends: The pleasant, the useful, and the good. If we take a look at each type of friend, we can discover the underlying egoistic motives for wanting a friend. We benefit from the pleasant friend because we satisfy our own pleasures and desires; once the pleasure ends the friendship dies as well. We benefit from the useful friend because we use them to feed our personal needs; once they stop being useful the friendship loses its value and dies. Lastly, we take a look at good friends. Good friends share similar values and principles, and see each other as their second selves. Thus, good friends also usually have similar goals and interests which mean they have a similar eudaimonia. We choose to have good friends because we feel that we can help each other reach this similar eudainomia. But the reality is that we only wish good for our friends for our own sake, because their success means we succeed too. Building friendships helps us achieve a psychological state of satisfaction because we love the relationship we create. Developing the virtue of friendship does not imply that we develop a selfless character that looks after the welfare of others, but that we will build relationships with others in order to benefit from it through pleasure, utility, and success. We can see that in modern day society we live a more individualistic life. Friendship is not as important to us now as it was in Aristotle’s era. But the same egoistic mentality still remains. We try to fulfill our lives by accomplishing our personal goals, and fight for a higher social status. Everyone tries to fend for themselves in a survival of the fittest. Every moral choice we make is based on whether we believe it is beneficial to us, whether physically or psychologically. Virtue today is always dependent on whether we benefit from our actions, so I believe that the virtue of good friendship has lost its meaning.
Aristotle, and Martin Ostwald. Nicomachean Ethics. Indianapolis [Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962. Print.