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.