I was recently inspired by an intelligent WSJ op-ed by former Facebook employee, Meghan McBride Kelly, entitled, “Aristotle Wouldn’t Friend You on Facebook.” It helped that she was writing about Aristotle’s conception of friendship, which I studied in great detail in grad school. His ideas are as apt as ever.
Aristotle defines three forms of friendship in which we all participate and that define the bulk of our social existence. Friendships of utility are those we pursue for mutual advantage. As the name suggests, the friends find each other useful in some way—be it for carpooling to school, business transactions, or any other utilitarian exchange where people provide a service. Assuming both parties gain, there is nothing wrong or unethical about useful friendships, but they don’t involve a concern for the friend in his own right so much as for the value he provides. [Read more…]