Self Sufficiency

Aristotle recognizes that there is an apparent conflict between what he says about philia and what he says elsewhere (and what is widely held at the time) about the self-sufficient nature of the fulfilled life:

“it is said that the blessedly happy and self-sufficient people have no need of friends. For they already have [all] the goods, and hence, being self-sufficient, need nothing added.” (1169b4–6)

He offers various answers. The first is based on the inherent goodness of acting for and being concerned for others (“the excellent person labours for his friends and for his native country, and will die for them if he must” [1169a19–20]); thus, being a wholly virtuous and fulfilled person necessarily involves having others for whom one is concerned — without them, one’s life is incomplete:

“the solitary person’s life is hard, since it is not easy for him to be continuously active all by himself; but in relation to others and in their company it is easier.” (1170a6–8)

Aristotle’s second answer is: “good people’s life together allows the cultivation of virtue” (1170a12). Finally, he argues that one’s friend is “another oneself”, and so the pleasure that the virtuous person gets from his own life is also found in the life of another virtuous person. “Anyone who is to be happy, then, must have excellent friends” (1170b19).

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