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The moral value of Aristotelian friendships for utility

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Kristjánsson. K. (2021) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2021) 7:1, 1-22. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/33


Can (Aristotelian) friendships for utility have moral value? There is an assumption in much of the literature on Aristotelian friendships that his ‘lower forms’ of friendship, especially friendship for utility, do not merit the label ‘genuine friendship’ and thus do not ‘qualify as morally valuable’. Rather, friendships for utility are just considered to be about taking advantage of one another in amoral or immoral ways. I offer counter-arguments, going beyond the letter if not necessarily the spirit of Aristotle’s own texts, based on delineating two different levels of utility friendships and showing that the higher one (with non-instrumental while extrinsic value) can have moral worth in combatting moral despondency, incontinence and even vice. A personal illustration is given from the moral utility value of friendships in Facebook support groups for patients with a rare disorder.