06 November 2006

Eric Brown on Philanthropia

The following communication from Eric Brown deserves a post of its own (posted with permission):

I was interested in your exchange with Jennifer Whiting about philanthropia in the Nicomachean Ethics, as I am finishing up an article that contrasts the Stoic ideal of cosmopolitan friendship with Aristotle's notion of philanthropia. I think that I agree with you, against Whiting, that philanthropia is not a matter of overcoming natural tendencies—does that accurately express her view?—although I agree with Whiting, against you, that in EN VIII 1 1155a16-22, Aristotle contrasts friendship arising tois homoethnesi with friendship arising tois anthropois.

I take your point, Michael, that the scope of ethnos (and so homoethnesi) can vary. But I disagree with you about the import of our passage. First, I divide it a bit differently from you:

fu&sei t' e0nupa&rxein e1oike [(a)] pro_j to_ gegennhme/non tw|~ gennh&santi kai pro_j to_ gennh~san tw|~ gennhqe/nti, ou) mo&non e0n a)nqrw&poij a)lla_ kai\ e0n o1rnisi kai\ toi=j plei/stoij tw~n zw|&wn, kai\ [(b)] toi=j o(moeqne/si pro_j a1llhla, kai\ ma&lista [(c)] toi=j a)nqrw&poij, o3qen tou_j filanqrw&pouj e0painou~men.

With the rendering by Ross, as revised by Urmson, I take Aristotle to distinguish three kinds of natural friendship: parent-offspring (in both directions), intra-stock, and human-human. Others, including Gauthier and Jolif, Irwin, Pakaluk, and Rowe, take Aristotle to distinguish just two kinds of natural friendship: parent-offspring and intra-stock friendship, the latter of which is understood as intra-species friendship and is exemplified by human-human friendship.

Gauthier and Jolif do not discuss the point in their commentary, nor does Broadie in the commentary that accompanies Rowe's translation. Fortunately, Irwin and Pakaluk give reasons. Having rendered toi=j o(moeqne/si as "members of the same species," Irwin notes (273) that "members of the same race" would be more literally apt, but he insists that "the rest of the paragraph shows that Aristotle has species in mind (i.e., friendship among dogs or human beings, rather than friendship among greyhounds or Greeks)." But this begs the question: it supposes that the rest of the paragraph pertains to the natural friendship of members of the same ethnos, which is exactly what is denied by those who, like me, take the rest of the paragraph to discuss the natural friendship of human beings with each other as something distinct from intra-ethnos friendship. Pakaluk argues that 'friendship seems to be present by nature' should not be understood before 'especially in human beings' because "Aristotle had already added 'not only among human beings' in relation to the idea that friendship arises by nature" (48). But Aristotle had already added 'not only among human beings' to the idea that parent-child and child-parent friendships arise by nature, and this says nothing about whether general human-human friendship arises by nature. So I see no good reason to recognize just two kinds of friendship here.

For the alternative reading I adopt, I offer the following reason. In 1155a16-19 Aristotle uses bare datives to pick out the possessors of a natural friendship (parents and children, members of the same stock) and datives preceded by e0n to pick out the kinds of beings among which the parent-child friendship is found (human beings, birds, and most other kinds of animals). So if he meant to say that intra-stock (understood as intra-species) friendship is found especially among human beings, he ought to have employed e0n before the dative toi=j a)nqrw&poij. By using the bare dative toi=j a)nqrw&poij, he puts "human beings" parallel to members of the same stock (and parents and children); in other words, he says that friendship naturally arises for humans with each other just as it arises for parents and children, on the one hand, and members of the same stock, on the other.

So, unlike Pakaluk, I think that this passage contrasts friendship that arises tois homoethnesi with friendship that arises tois anthropois, and, unlike Whiting (?), I think that it asserts that friendship tois anthropois arises naturally.

I thank Brown for his thoughtful and interesting comments. In the spirit of Dissoi Blogoi, I would reply as follows.

Brown takes (c) above to be marking out a third kind of natural friendship; in contrast I take (c) to be indicating a class subsumed under (b):

1) Brown's argument about the absence of
e0n before toi=j a)nqrw&poij is not decisive, as we could just as well interpret toi=j a)nqrw&poij as parallel to toi=j o(moeqne/si, as giving a special case of it.

Futhermore, there are two reasons for taking it in just that way:

2) The qualification of (c) with
ma&lista naturally suggests that (c) is presenting a more intense instance of something that is the same in kind as (b); and,

3) Clause (c) lacks a
pro/j clause, to indicate the relata of the friendshp (cp. pro_j to_ gegennhme/non, pro_j to_ gennh~san ); and surely pro_j a1llhla is meant to be carried over from (b), as would be natural if (c) were a special case of (b).

That is to say, both the presence of ma&lista and the absence of pro_j a1llhla connect (c) with (b) in the manner of a special instance to a more general class.

And perhaps a more general comment is in order also. The first part of VIII.1 serves not simply as a presentation of endoxa but also as something like a Table of Contents for VIII and IX (as I once heard David Konstan observe). One can map most of its sentences to later discussions. But is there a discussion of a distinct kind of 'natural friendship among members of the human race' later on, comparable to Aristotle's treatment of the other sorts of friendship by nature? But perhaps you answer this in your paper.


Eric Brown said...

Thanks, Michael, for posting my remarks and even more for your helpful replies. Permit me to be stubborn, and to test your patience with a long response.

With respect to the details of 1155a16-22, you make three points.

First, you counter the consideration I offer in favor of my reading: "The absence of en is not decisive, as we could just as well interpret tois anthropois as parallel to tois homoethnesi, as giving a special case of it." Of course, I want to take tois anthropois as parallel to tois homoethnesi, but I don't see why we should then take friendship that arises tois anthropois as a special case of friendship that arises tois homoethnesi. It could be just a third kind of friendship. Of course, the absence of en is not decisive, but it does count for something, it seems to me.

Of course, you go on to offer two of your own considerations in favor of taking friendship arising tois anthropois as a special case of friendship that arises tois homoethnesi. First, you say that malista "naturally suggests that (c) is presenting a more intense instance of something that is the same in kind as (b)." Fair enough, but there are two ways to understand this. On the one hand, friendship arising tois anthropois could be an especially intense instance of friendship that arises tois homoethnesi. On the other hand, it could be a more intense of naturally arising friendship than friendship that arises tois homoethnesi. On this latter reading, Aristotle is pulling out the rhetorical stops to make sure that philanthropia is not ignored in favor of the more obvious parent-child and intra-stock philiai. I don't think that anything forces one reading or the other of malista's import.

The second consideration you introduce involves the lack of a pros clause for the friendship that arises tois anthropois. I think that this does not tell either way at all. Both of us think that Aristotle is introducing friendship that arises naturally tois anthropois in relation to each other without actually invoking the clause "in relation to each other [pros allelous]". Both of us can take Aristotle to assume that this clause is carried over from the preceding sort of friendship, the one that arises tois homoethnesi pros allela. That the clause is carried over does not require or even suggest that human-human friendship is a special case of intra-stock friendship: this sort of linguistic borrowing is very common.

So, although I think that the considerations you offer now are stronger than those I've seen in print for the two-friendships reading of 1155a16-22, I don't think that they any more decisive than my point about en. We've got a judgment call here.

Which brings me to the second broad question you raise about the reading of the passage. If the passage serves as part of the introduction to EN VIII-IX, then each of the friendships adduced in it should be found later in VIII-IX. This does not work as neatly as one might like, I think, but it is worth taking seriously.

If we do so, the question is not whether EN VIII-IX discuss philanthropia. Both of us think that our passage introduces human-human friendship, and so we are on all fours concerning its presence or absence in the rest of EN VIII-IX. (I think, in fact, that it is one of the more interesting features of VIII-IX that Aristotle says so little about philanthropia, despite its big introduction in EN VIII 1. I see it lurking behind EN VIII 11 1161b6-8, but I don't see much elaboration. This is actually the extent of my essay's interest in Aristotle on philanthropia in EN VIII-IX; I am contrasting his rather limited concern for it with the Stoics' much more elaborate (I claim) notion of cosmopolitan friendship.)

Rather, the question concerns whether EN VIII-IX discuss intra-stock friendship that is something broader than parent-child friendship and short of human-human friendship. To be blunt, I think that he does this a lot. Again, as in the case of human-human friendship, the explicit point more often lurks in the background than it takes center stage. But to the extent that friendship builds on likeness and to the extent that political community involves a kind of friendship, Aristotle recognizes forms of friendship closer to intra-stock friendship than to either parent-child or human-human friendship. (As to the former point, note, e.g., the comparison of hetairike philia to the friendship of brothers in EN VIII 12. As to the latter, it is true that he treats political friendship as an "associative friendship" on the grounds that political friendship arises by agreement, and that this contrasts political friendship with "kin friendship" and "companion friendship" although he does not want to deny that "every friendship exists in association" [for these quotations, see EN VIII 12 1161b11-15]. But he does not deny that political friendship is a form of friendship, or that it arises naturally.)

More generally, I think that the intra-stock friendship rests on rather obvious observation just as human-human friendship does. Aristotle remarks on seeing a human readily help a lost stranger, and takes this to be evidence of natural human-human friendship. Surely he noticed the easy propensity of Greeks to ally with Greeks (as opposed to barbaroi). Why should he not take that to be evidence of natural intra-stock friendship? The observation is there, and the conclusion assumes nothing more than features of friendship that are all over his account.

A final consideration, still more speculative. If we think that Aristotle's account of friendship here is the root of Theophrastus' notion of oikeiotes that resembles in some respects the Stoic doctrine of (social) oikeiosis, then it would be surprising if Aristotle did not recognize limited intra-stock friendship that is short of human-human friendship.

I am not sure, at the end of the day, how much hangs on this disagreement, and I don't at the moment see anything like a decisive consideration for one reading or the other. As I said, my primary interest (at the moment) is in Aristotle's notion of philanthropia. Of course, if Aristotle is impressed by limited intra-stock friendship, then that would help to explain why philanthropia has such limited practical import in his work (just as the way in which he is impressed by parent-child friendship makes him skeptical about political friendship of the sort Socrates imagines in Plato's Republic). To that extent, I think that there is wisdom in Whiting's interpretation. As I would put it, philanthropia (though natural) competes with other natural friendships and loses. That's why Aristotle cannot find a role for it except in very limited contexts and to a limited degree. I suspect, though I don't think that I've got decisive evidence for this, that he recognizes a larger role for intra-stock friendship that comes up short of human-human friendship.


Michael Pakaluk said...


Are you suggesting that Aristotle regards friendship within the polis, 'civic friendship', as "intra-stock friendship that falls short of philanthropia"? That's an interesting suggestion, supported by his comparisons between the family and polis, and his remarks in the Politics about the importance of cross-connecting ties of marriage and family within the polis.

But could you say what you think hangs on the question of whether philanthropia for Aristotle is a distinct kind of friendship? Why is it important to maintain this?

(I should add-- a small point--that Aristotle seems to think of the friendship of parent and child as different, depending upon who is upholding the relationship, parent or child. So strictly I would say that he recognizes two kinds of friendship there, and also 'intra-stock' friendship, thus three kinds in total. I understand that you are treating parent-child friendship as a single kind.)

Eric Brown said...


I am not certain about what to say about either of the questions you ask.

I think that civic friendship is "closer" to intra-stock friendship than it is to either parent-child friendship or human-human friendship, but I am not convinced that he sees it as an instance of intra-stock friendship.

I also doubt that much hangs on the independence of human-human friendship as a kind of natural friendship, but for this possibility. This independence establishes as well the independence of intra-stock friendship as something short of philanthropia, and so signals a competition between limited intra-stock friendship and philanthropia. That competition explains Aristotle's, or at least later Peripatetics', views about philanthropic friendship because it sets up the defeat of philanthropia in all but the most trivial of circumstances (e.g., in which one gives directions to a lost stranger).