Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

2 - Friendships from Utility and Activity

from Part I - Foundations of Friendship


Friends play functional roles in our lives, such as enhancing our ability to think and act. Sometimes the functionality remains at the level of business: trading partners often start liking each other. However, a deeper study reveals that Utility plays a critical role in “altruistic” activity. Aristotle says benefactors seek beneficiaries “useful for noble deeds” (sc. of generosity). Doing good for others creates love—not in the recipient but in the benefactor, according to Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Kant, who agree despite diverse metaphysical commitments. Benefactors are like artisans who love their own creations. By investing part of themselves in others, benefactors create a stake in others which they feel they own. Part of their identity is now wrapped up in the other person. Doing good thus extends our being to include another self or selves. The insight that utility is an ingredient in love has public policy implications for social security, health care, and civil society-building.