“…they have little taste for conversation, which especially seems to be the mark and cause of friendship.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

One of the most notable aspects of Aristotle’s understanding of true friendship is just how much it requires of a person. In this quotations he is speaking of those who are not really fit for friendship.

Thomas Aquinas, in explaining Aristotle’s words, offers the following assessment: “They have little taste for conversation with others both because they are intent on themselves and because they are suspicious of others.” He adds: “presuming on themselves, they follow their own way.”

These clauses especially jump out: “they are intent on themselves,” and “they follow their own way.”

I am ashamed to say that when I read these clauses, I immediately think of people I know: other than myself. We can all think of a person with whom we’ve had a conversation, wherein it starts to dawn on us that he has no real interest in what we have to say. He is intent on himself. At the end of the day, he follows his own way.

The more pertinent question is: how often am I guilty of this?

How often is my conversation an exercise in hearing myself think out loud, or a seeking to make a certain impression on others? How often in conversation am I primarily focused on being heard, and thus am I really just intent on myself?

Yes, we all need to be heard. But nonetheless real conversation requires that I not be intent on myself. Indeed, if each of us is to be heard, each of us needs to be intent on the other.

Not only does true conversation—the conversation that is most characteristic of true friends—require that we carve out a special space in our overly busy and noisy days. Even more, it requires an elusive and only hard-won interior disposition of being intent on the good of others.

I think I will examine my conversations this week, asking myself: on what am I intent? I will begin with my conversations with my wife, and others to whom I am closest.

~ ~ ~

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his major ethical work.

Image: Enoch Wood Perry (1831-1915), Talking it Over

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:

Living as a Household of One

Living as a Household of One

“…and the association of living beings who have this sense—of good and evil—make a household…” Aristotle, Politics The fact is that many people today end up living in a house alone. Sometimes it is by choice. Other times it is surely not, and the house has echoes of...

read more
Restoring Respect for Elders

Restoring Respect for Elders

“Might we not say that filial piety and respect for elders constitute the root of Goodness.” Confucius, The Analects The alienation between young and old is at times palpable. It’s not usually open disdain or hostility. Rather there is a real disconnect, as each group...

read more
The Amazing Gift of Gratitude

The Amazing Gift of Gratitude

‘Do you wish to repay a favor? Receive it graciously.’ Seneca, De Beneficiis There is usually more than meets the eye in the wonderful realm of benefaction-- doing favors or good deeds for others. In any benefaction freely given there is the possibility of a unique...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest