Three Types of Friends

Friendship reflects the classical antiquity. It is a relationship that reflects man’s ability to care for other people, to take courage, to fight against injustice and tyranny, and republicanism. Friendship has been famously celebrated by the Greek poets. Some of their stories include the story of Heracles and Iolaus and Orestes and Pylades. Friendship is rich and complex. It brings happiness between persons. Some of the greatest philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero found friendship inspirational that is why they wrote various literature about it(Pangle, 2003).

            Friendship has been studied by many philosophers and thinkers. It is like another of discipline of study because it became an important concept. Plato and Cicero wrote dialogues about friendship. Epicurus, on the other hand, dedicated most of his time in studying friendship together. There are so many literary works about friendship. However, the one that Aristotle wrote is the most influential. He wrote it in his book Nichomachean Ethics. In this book, he said that friendship is connection between moral virtues and the higher philosophy (Pangle, 2003).

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Friendship is reflects the love of man for the other, but in different ways. At the early times, friendship was well studied and people like the idea of friendship. However, after Christianity was introduced, the idea of friendship was included under the type of love Christians have. Pangle (2002) said that Christianity has changed and weakened the bond of friendship. The family became the most important relationship elevated This caused the philosophy of friendship to be viewed lower than the relationship of (Pangle, 2003).

            During the Renaissance period, the relationship of friendship became interesting again. Some of the known writers said that friendship is good and an important relationship.  They even compared friendship to other relationships such as romantic love and family love. They said that friendship ties mature and good men. It seems that friendship is a higher kind of relationship among people, higher than love for the family (Pangle, 2003).

            According from one of the known writer, Montaigne, friendship is not the finest love in this world but it is able to make men use their abilities and care for other people. He also added that other relationships of people other than love can be limited in term of financial and support (Pangle, 2003).

            Friendship is an important relationship. We all have friends. Unfortunately, friendship as a philosophical discourse has gradually disappeared. One of the know thinkers even said that friendship is not a major concept that should be studied in philosophy. Another thinker even said that having a good friend is the same as having a good enemy(Pangle, 2003). How could that be possible? A good friend cares for you, helps you, and goes with you in almost every occasion. Other thinker has also made negative comments on friendship saying that friendship is very un-Christian.

            The positive write-ups on friendship inspire other people as well such as Rousseau. He said that friendship should not be viewed as a negative relationship. In addition with this, he connected friendship with romantic love and familial (Pangle, 2003)

The new perception on friendship because of Rousseau has misdirected friendship. It was supposed to be highlighting friendship but the other types of love were emphasized. The kind of love that friends have for each other is different from romantic or intimate love. There is nothing wrong for friends to have intimate feelings for each as long as there is no self-interest (Pangle, 2003).

Friendship is “altruistic” or that a friend cares for the welfare of the other friend. In friendship, friends are characterized as “more selfless”. It is selfless because one would think of the other first than the self. One would help the friend in getting his/her needs (Pangle, 2003).

We have different kinds of friends, friends that we know for a long time while others for just a short time. We have male and female friends. Some of our friends are older, younger, or same age as us. However, there are three known types of friends which are based from purpose. According from Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendship: (1) friendship for pleasure, (2) friendship for utility, and (3) friendship for the good (Halper, 1993).

Among the three types, friendship for good is considered to be the best and complete while the other two are described as incomplete.

Blum (1980) described friendship as complex experience. He said that there are two aspects of friendship: the personal importance of friends and the concern for a friend. The personal importance pertains to the enjoyment and comfort that one feels when he/she is with friends. We spend a lot of time with our friends. We eat lunch together, we go to parties, talk about many things we experience, and other tings that we are comfortable sharing with that friend. Friends are carefully chosen. They are dependable, reliable, and also trusted.

The other aspect of friendship is the genuine concern for the good of a friend. It refers to the person who wanted only the good for a friend. This kind of friendship becomes altruistic and any events that harm or are bad are disregarded. Friendship requires a us to treat our friends with personal importance such that there is trust, reliance, and mutual involvement (Blum, 1980).

            Going back to the types of friends, Aristotle described these three classifications of friends. In friendship for utility, both friends benefit from each other. Business partnership can be an example. In business, both benefit in financial aspect. In friendship for pleasure, pleasure interests are satisfied. Sex partners, for example, both friends gain sexual experience and they both enjoy it. In friendship for good, Aristotle said that it can be both useful and pleasurable at the same time (Halper, 1993).

However, Halper (1993) argued that friendship can only be ether pleasurable or useful but not both. Aristotle believes that friendship should be both. A friendship can be good that is useful and pleasurable at the same time. Friends help each other as much as possible whether in aspects of money, clothing, work, school, and others. It can be pleasurable also, say friends share the same hobby, music, food, and other enjoyable activities.

Carson (2007) also described Aristotle’s types of friendship. Friendship for utility exist between people who mutually benefit from each other such as relationships, business, among co-workers, and classmates.  Friendship for pleasure happens between individuals who seek each other either for affection, love, or similar hobbies. The most important of all is the friendship for good. There is mutual respect, admiration for personal virtues, and a desire to help one another for good.

            Friendship for utility and pleasure are more likely to end in a shorter period. In business for example, if there is financial crisis or competition, friends would rather save their business than their friendship. The second type, on the other, will not last for a long time. The affection one has for a partner and a friend has the tendency to fade and the friendship too stops  (Carson, 2007).

            Additionally, Aristotle believes that friendship is one of the human relationships that have moral significance. It becomes morally significant because of the goodwill friends have for each other. However, Kristjansson (2007) argued that the third type (i.e. friendship for good) can only satisfy that assumption. In the first two types of friendship, there are higher non-moral characteristics than the moral ones.

            Friendship requires equal independence according from. The unequal influence power, otherwise, would cause the other to rely and depend too much on the other. He also made an assumption that parents and children cannot have the best friendship type  (Kristjansson, 2007). It is his assumption but from what we have today, a lot of parents and their children get long very well. They act much like friends as if there is no difference in age.

            Kupfer added in his argument the third type of friendship that Aristotle classified has limitation. In order to achieve the best friendship, both friends should have the same virtue or moral attitudes. If they would possess it, that would only be the time that they could show total care for each other. Yes, Aristotle could have assumed that but he did not explicitly say that if friends have unequal level of moral attitudes and beliefs, they cannot be the best of friends (Kristjansson, 2007).

            The threefold category of Aristotle’s friendship on equal characteristics applies on unequals as well. Friendship can be “proportional” if one has a superior care for the other than he/she is being cared for. The assumption made by Kupfer restricts the friendship for good. If then Kuper’s assumption is true, how come that teachers and students become friends or managers and employees? Kupfer’s assumption then could mean that parents and their children cannot be friends because they do not the same intellect on virtue (Kristjansson, 2007).

            Aristotle said that virtues or good values are manifested in friendship. Both friends are unselfish and care for the welfare of the other. Friendship reflects common good and general justice. Aristotle described the best type of friendship as to justify justice. He too believes that justice is ‘another’ good but he did not explain further if justice  might cause negative things in friendship (Irwin, 2007)

            The best kind of friendship, friendship for good, has the concern for the welfare inherent in nature of humans. Unselfish concern however is not discussed by Aristotle. There may be other-directed concern such the character of the person. The love of the other for himself is a love for his won character. A person who would love others is virtuous and the person he will love only is another virtuous individual (Irwin, 2007).

            Friendship is about caring and goodwill. Sometimes, without moral duties, friends can benefit each other. Most culture believes that friends are treated with ‘special preference’. Nevertheless, one’s duty to help the other friend is greater than benefits. Also, we try our best to refrain or prevent ourselves from hurting our friends (Grunebaum, 2003).

            In friendship for utility, for example, when we need help we go to our friends. In times of trouble or crisis, we share it with friends and in good times as well. Friends do not have an official or direct obligation to help each other but because we are concern for them, we do so. There are still expectations that friends should help each other (Grunebaum, 2003). There is nothing wrong if our friends expect us to help them. Maybe they feel comfortable with us or that they trust us. Helping friends does not mean that we lost something but instead we gain something. We learn how to help and we feel better when we are able to help.

            Friendship is not a relationship between people who have disagreements. It is relationship between people with virtue and who understand each others need.  Friendship is also important among countries. For example, lawmakers are more concerned on befriending the other countries than imposing the laws that they prepare. Friendship needs agreement and if there is agreement, there is friendship. (King & Devere, 2000).

            Aristotle explored friendship as part of ethics where it is either a virtue or involving virtue. He said the virtue or morals bring happiness in friendship and in all humans. Friendship is the source of virtuous actions. These values help every one of us to have a balanced life, property, and political freedom. It is guide to young men, the weak, and the elderly and peace of mind that men needed to think and act(Pangle, 2003). It is a relationship that should be cherished and learned from.


Blum, L. A. (1980). Friendship, Altruism, and Morality. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from

Carson, T. (2007). Friends: you hace three types.   Retrieved 26 May, 2008, from

Grunebaum, J. O. (2003). Friendship: Liberty, Equality, and Utiliy. Retrieved 25 May 2008, from

Halper, E. (1993). Form and Reason: Essays in Metaphysics. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from

Irwin, T. (2007). The Development of Ethics. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from

King, P. T., & Devere, H. (2000). The Challenge to Friendship In Modernity. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from

Kristjansson, K. (2007). Aristotle, emotions, and education. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from

Pangle, L. S. (2003). Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship. Retrieved 26 May 2008, from


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Three Types of Friends. (2016, Sep 27). Retrieved from