Nicomachean Ethics

by Aristotle

Start Free Trial

According to Nicomachean Ethics, what does it mean that a true friend is treated as an “end in themselves,” whereas someone less than a true friend is treated merely as a “means”?

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that true friendship is an "end in itself" while transactional friendship is merely a "means to an end."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to Nicomachean Ethics, true friendship has inherent value and cannot be exchanged for something with greater inherent value. This is opposed to a transactional friendship, where the value of the friendship lies not in the relationship itself but what you can extract from the relationship. This may be the case in relationships where one person is seeking financial gain or networking connections. Thus, the friendship is merely a means to an end rather than a self-fulfilling end in and of itself.

Aristotle's theory of means and ends highlights the teleological function of objects, that is to say it focuses on the purpose that the object serves. For example, money is a common motivator, but it does not have an end in and of itself; it is only as valuable as what you can purchase with that money. Money does not possess inherent value but can be exchanged for goods or services with inherent value, so rather than being classified as an end, it is classified by Aristotle as a means to an end.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team