Volume 21, Issue 2, Spring 2017
Friendship and the Divine Wish
Re-Reading Nicomachean Ethics 1159a5–12
According to Aristotle’s reply to what I call the divine wish aporia (NE VIII.7 1159a5–12), perfect friendship entails wishing many great goods for one’s friend, but precludes wishing that one’s friend become a god—“the greatest of goods”—for the realization of this wish would destroy the friendship. Counter both to this reply and to the slim body of existing commentary, which appeals to the external criterion of equalizable reciprocation, I demonstrate how the perspective internal to the virtuous activity of perfect friendship affords properly Aristotelian grounds for retaining the divine wish as its constitutive limit. While the practicable scope of perfect friendship remains circumscribed within human limits, its characteristic wishing at once reaches beyond the human—and the friendship.