Volume 90, 2016
Justice: Then and Now
Why Friendship Justifies Becoming
In his discussions of justice and of friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle appeals frequently—without much explanation—to temporal considerations. I take these indications as a key for sorting out the systematic significance of Aristotle’s claim that “when people are friends, there is no need for justice” (NE VIII.1.1155a26). Anaximander’s fragmentary claim that coming-to-be is itself an injustice serves as a touchstone for the analysis; I ask whether and how Aristotle might agree with such a claim. I first isolate some problems, especially those involving time, that underlie Aristotle’s various dialectical articulations of justice in NE V and show that friendship addresses them more beautifully than does justice. Then I try to establish that the ultimate work of friendship is to alter human temporality, interweaving multiple particular lives into a whole that both imitates and fits into the cosmic whole.