There are three reasons for friendship, just as there are three reasons for liking something: usefulness, pleasure, or goodness. In friendship based on usefulness or pleasure, the person is not liked in himself but because of the good or pleasure he can provide. Such friendships are easily dissolved.
Perfect friendship exists between good men who are alike in their virtuousness. Wishing a friend good for his own sake is the highest degree of friendship. These friendships tend to be longlasting because virtue is something stable. Because both friends are good their friendship is both beneficial and pleasant as well, and thus they unite all the three reasons for friendship. Such friendships are rare because few people have the capability for this sort of friendship and they require time and familiarity to form.
Friendships based on pleasure can vary in their duration. With regard to lovers, the friendship often fades away after the prime of youth is gone since the sight of the beloved no longer brings pleasure. Yet if the lovers are alike in character the friendship may last much longer. Love-affairs based in what is useful are even less-enduring than those based on pleasure. Only the friendship of good men is not harmed by slander. True friendship is that between good men just because they are good; all other friendships are only called friendship by analogy.
posted by 88Pro / Friday, February 02, 2007