published on April 5, 2014
Daniel P. Maher
Friendship and Teaching Philosophy in Nicomachean Ethics IX.1
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the relation between teachers and students during his treatment of “non-uniform friends.” These friends exchange goods differing in kind (e.g., something useful is exchanged for pleasure). Such friendships depend on the needs of the friends, and we are invited to ask whether some need induces a philosopher to teach a not-yet-philosophical student. In this paper I argue that the philosophical teacher does not approach his pupil out of need nor as he would approach a contemplative friend who is an equal. The teacher chooses to benefit students as a morally virtuous human being would, although not as if his happiness depends upon their success in learning. A teacher is not an ordinary benefactor, intent upon seeing his power made actual in some other person. Aristotle’s philosophical teachers seem to be simultaneously more generous and less interested in their students.