The opening question of Ethics book IX is whether a person should love himself most or someone else. Does the view of friendship that emerges in book IX allow that a person can both love himself most and someone else? How is this so?  

In book IX, Aristotle explains that a person can love himself and others if he has virtuous self-love. This kind of self-love goes beyond seeking pleasure for oneself and involves having admiration for one’s personal characteristics. This type of self-love allows a person to also have authentic friendships in which they admire their friends’ personal qualities. If a person has both virtuous self-love and virtuous friendships, they can be truly happy.

Expert Answers

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

In book IX of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle explains that the ideal form of self-love is virtuous self-love and that this kind of self-love allows for a person to love both himself and someone else.

At first, Aristotle’s discussion of self-love seems to suggest that if a person truly loves himself most, then there is no need for friends. However, as Aristotle continues, he suggests that friendships can help cultivate self-love and that self-love can help cultivate authentic friendships. He discusses that this relationship shows how loving oneself and one’s friends is not just allowed, but necessary for a virtuous society.

Consider how Aristotle writes in section four of this book that self-love is “the basis of friendship.” He goes on to explain that this is because the characteristics of ourselves that we love tend to be similar to the characteristics we love in our friends. Admiring such characteristics is the basis of authentic friendships. This is important to note because Aristotle specifies that good self-love goes beyond just seeking self-pleasure. Good, virtuous self-love means having a sense of respect for one’s character. If a person has this kind of virtuous love of self, then he can have virtuous friendships in which he admires his friends for who they are and not what pleasure they can provide. Ultimately this explanation shows how true happiness consists of both virtuous self-love and virtuous friendships.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on August 10, 2020
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial