Thursday, July 26, 2007


One of the few lessons I remember from 16 units worth of Ateneo Philosophy classes is Aristotle's discourse on friendship. According to the Nicomachean Ethics, a "perfect" friendship is between individuals of equal virtue who wish the best for each other's welfare, and is based on mutual pleasure (i.e. the pleasure they derive from each other) and mutual utility (i.e. the usefulness of one friend to the other, and v.v.).

The latter characteristic has always impressed me, due to its pragmatism. Friendships of convenience tend to be viewed negatively, wherein the friends in question are labeled "users" or "leeches". However, I believe this only applies when one friend takes advantage of the other, without being "useful" in return. If there is give-and-take, tit-for-tat, then there's nothing wrong with benefiting from something a friend is able to provide. Indeed, all friendships SHOULD be friendships of convenience. What's the point of being friends with someone who can't help you with anything or return favors? That's not a friend, that's a pet.

To illustrate, there's my friendship with Yang. Thanks to her being a lawyer and me being an ex-English teacher (and thanks to YM), whenever I need assistance with matters of the law (usually concerning contracts and labor issues), instant (and free!) legal advice is a mouse click away, and in turn, whenever she needs assistance with matters of vocabulary and grammar (for legal documents and lawyerly correspondence), linguistic and editorial services are readily available to her. I'm not saying Yang and I wouldn't be friends if she weren't knowledgeable in the Labor Code, or if I weren't a human shift+F7. But the fact that we are "useful" to each other strengthens and contributes to our "perfect" friendship, as opposed to if we couldn't help each other out at all.

I count myself fortunate that I share many similarly "perfect" friendships, and it makes me feel gratified, not only because I have people in my life who are "useful", "pleasing", and "virtuous", but also because I somehow also fulfill the other half of the utility, pleasure and virtue required. I've always prided myself on being a good friend, and if the quality of my friendships (and Aristotle) is any indication, then I'm doing more than a decent job. We deserve the kind of friends we keep, and mine are pretty darn amazing, legal know-how and all. :)


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