Aristotle Says There Are 3 Types of Friends—but Only 1 Actually Adds Real Value to Your Life

Photo: Getty Images/Santiago Iñiguez and EyeEm
In middle school, a stint with skateboarding landed me a temporary group of friends with whom I practiced my nollies, kick flips, and (failed) grinds. I soon grew bored of the hobby and swapped it for knitting. As my skating squad and I grew distant, it occurred to me to wonder: had we ever really been friends? According to Aristotle, the answer is yes—but not the kind that really, really matters.

Sometime around 350 B.C., the Greek philosopher named three types of friendships: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, or friendships of the good, as described in Book VIII of The Nicomachean Ethics. The first type encompasses those who are convenient to your life. Think of the pal who signs up for the same yoga class as you and assists your handstand practice. Pleasure-based friendships help you stay light-hearted. You meet up with them on Friday nights for a spritz and casual gossip—but things never get too serious.

Finally, you have the ultimate goal: the friendships of the good that'll only come along a few times in the course of your lifespan. These BFFs embody a quote from Emily Brontë: "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." These people are down to talk about everything from the minutiae of life to the deepest depths of you soul.

"In a friendship of the good, you value who that friend actually is, strengths and weaknesses alike, and there is sufficient trust between the two that the relationship’s quality and depth outshine those of other types of friendship," explains Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, in Psychology Today

Making any friends, period, can be difficult in adulthood. "The good" variety are even more challenging to come along, but the search is definitely worth the effort. We all want to meet the Grace to our Frankie, the Lorelei to our Rory, or (in a more dramatic iteration) the Serena to our Blair.

Asking for my wallet: is being rich a requirement for maintaining friendships in 2019? Plus, what to do if BFF imposter syndrome is making you question you unbreakable bond. 

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