The puzzles and problems of Chapter 3

I’ve been poking about with Chapter 3. The central question is whether people should feel some moral obligation to individuals that surround them, and why, and whether those obligations are distinct from those of “citizen” or “human being.” This latter point is the bigger worry, at least to me, as there are some very good arguments in cosmpolitanism’s corner. On a childish note, I’ve always like the word cosmopolitanism. It is a very good word (κοσμοπολίτης) with its root in (κοσμοs), readily recognizable to us as “world” or “universe.”

These troubles are what sent me to my special study of Aristitole, which continues, and it was with some relief that I read through Suzanne Stern-Gillet‘s very nice contribution Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship. It was a nice book to read right when I did so, following the E.N., because I have to admit I don’t get the same ideas about civic friendship that other writers seem to have obtained; that is, in reading through the E.N. and even more so, the E.E., I got the sense that Aristotle does not expect much at all from civic friendships, only a tacit agreement for co-existence for mutual advantage–and even that agreement being troubled subject to squabbling over advantage.

Sten-Gillet’s last substantive chapter on friendships and justice come much to the same conclusion as I did. For higher forms of friendship, there seems little contraction in Aristotle between self-love and other-regard, and particular justice will obtain among individuals in primary friendships, even if that requires self-sacrifice, because the individuals involved and their selves recognize that sacrifices made based on virtue ultimately serve the self as well as the other. Very nice stuff, that. Left to the friendships of utility, like civic friendship, is distributional justice.