Thursday, March 29, 2012

Impiety, Ancient and Modern

In the Plato course this morning, Prof. David Keyt tried to help the modern student understand the meaning of "pious" and "impious" as used in the context of Socrates and his trial for impiety and the dialogue on the meaning of impiety in the Euthyphro.  You should think of the Greek "to hosion" as "religious" or "reverent", he said.

But he left out the most obvious way in which modern students interact with the pious.  It's pretty obvious when you think about how Socrates got into trouble with the censors.  It was because he was corrupting the minds of the youth and "creating new gods while not believing in the old."

We tend to be rather patronizing when tut-tutting about the Greeks for putting Socrates to death for meddling with the young.  But, of course, every society sanctions people that want to dissent from orthodox ideas and teach the youth something new.  Our liberal friends bend our ears endlessly about the evils of putting witches to death and of censoring the noble Galileo for the impiety of  publishing an innovative science that had the earth revolving around the sun instead of the other way around.  They are outraged that fundamentalist Christians want to hand on to pre-evolutionary ideas about human origin.

But our age is the age of liberal piety.  Today's Euthyphro would tell students that piety is action or speech pleasing to liberal professors.  Violate the canons of liberal piety and watch the gods of the university administration fall on you.

Election time is a good time to watch for the dance of the pieties, and the 2012 election is shaping up as a dandy for the piety watcher.  In just the last month we have had the indictment, the graphe, of Rush Limbaugh for the impiety of calling a middle-aged female liberal activist by the s-word.  A casual watcher of the culture might have been surprised.  Isn't casual obscenity considered rather "edgy" and anti-establishment?  Not when the liberal pieties are involved.  Defenders of public decency rushed on the air and into print.  President Obama himself called the middle-aged woman in question because, he said, he thought of his daughters.  Hemlock was not required to bring Rush Limbaugh to heel; merely the threat of advertiser defection.

After the Sandra Fluke affair about sexual impiety had died down the Trayvon Martin case reared its head.  Here we have a case of racial impiety in which a white man allegedly shot a black teenager.  The man from Mars might be excused for not getting the point here as well.  Although there were 346 white-on-black homicides in 2005 there were 945 black-on-white homicides in 2005.  So black on white homicides are a big problem, especially when you consider that there is a pool of 230 million "whites" in the US available to commit racial homicides and only 34 million "blacks."  Yet the narrative is that the homicide of a young black by a white is a national outrage, and it is impious to suggest otherwise.

In the Euthyphro Plato makes clear through Socrates' ironic questioning of the young twerp Euthyphro that the definition of impiety is arbitrary.  It is what society says it is, and what society says is what its loudest voices and sharpest elbows insist.  In America today it is our liberal friends that have the biggest megaphones because of their power in education, the media and the culture.  And so American piety today is liberal piety.

So whatever Socrates and Euthyphro might have decided in their dialogue we can say, with our modern knowledge, that humans are social animals and cannot allow people to veer too far away from generally accepted ideas and behaviors.  We have a way of describing people on the wrong side of the line: impious.

So in America you better watch how you corrupt the youth when a liberal is listening.  And you better not suggest that you think that the liberal idols: Social Security, Medicare, the "common school" are all superstitions.  You could get indicted and tried for impiety.  Hate speech, I think they call it.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Euthyphro gets tangled in knots

What is the right way to live?  And what is the right thing to do next?  What duty to we have to bow to the nation's gods?  And what happens when your idea of the right conflicts with the rest of society?

That is Socrates' problem as he runs into the young Euthyphro (the name means "right-thinking" or "sincere") outside the very court where he is shortly to be tried for the impiety of corrupting the youth.  Fortunately, Euthyphro is an expert on piety, at least until Socrates start to interrogate him.

To start with, Euthyphro believes that natural law takes precedence over positive law for he asserts that he can prosecute his father for encompassing the death of a non-relative of Euthyphro, an action not allowed in Athenian law.  His action against his father implies that the just or prudent man has a duty of care--even with respect to murderers.

Socrates' legal problem is that he is accused of religious innovation, putting words into the mouth of the gods against the general consensus.  But it is clear that, from the point of view of Euthyphro, the law of the gods is whatever is revealed to him.  If Euthyphro decides to prosecute his father, it is because he is right and doing the pious thing.  So what is wrong with Socrates doing the same thing and expounding what is revealed to him?

But Socrates, still concerned about his own case, presses Euthyphro on the definition of piety, or righteousness.  Piety is what pleases the gods, says Euthyphro, or, as we might say, righteousness is following God's law.  But the gods often quarrel, says Socrates, citing the poets, (suggesting that we can obtain knowledge of the gods from epic poetry) pointing out that it is often difficult to determine what pleases the gods, since they disagree, as humans do.  So piety is what pleases all the gods, or, as we might say, justice is following God's law scrubbed of scriptural inconsistency.


Then Socrates raises a chicken and egg question.  Do  the gods like piety because it is pious, or is something pious because it is loved by the gods.  In the one case natural law is binding on God, in the other omnipotent God defines what is good and bad.


Socrates sets a new trap for Euthyphro.  He gets him to agree that piety is a part of justice, in fact that the pious part of justice is concerned with "the care of the gods" and the rest of it "the care of men."  But this raises the question of just what the point of serving the gods is.  "Sacrifice and prayer" says Euthyphro.  In other words, "piety would be a knowledge of how to give to, and beg from, the gods."  This is to say that humans have a personal relationship with God.  But there are difficulties with this, for how could the gods possibly be benefited by a gift from a human?

In fact, it seems that Euthyphro is confused.  We would say that he is like the Supreme Court Justice that knew pornography when he saw it.

Poor Socrates: he still doesn't know how to defend against the charges of impiety.  He wants a logically consistent rule to define piety and impiety, suggesting that the idea of the good should be logically consistent.

So let us rank the philosophical ideas that bubbled out of Socrates and Euthyphro.
  1. Natural law takes precedence over positive law
  2. The just or prudent man has a duty of care
  3. The highest good can be revealed to the seer
  4. Righteousness is following the highest law
  5. The idea of the good should be logically consistent

Friday, March 23, 2012

Aristotle and Justice

These days when we talk about "justice" we either mean the "Justice!" of the left, the overturning of oppression, or the equable workings of bourgeois justice, the disentangling of the mess of bankruptcy or the curbing of single young men with the criminal justice system.

But it is obvious from the Nichomachean Ethics that justice was a rather different concept back in ancient Greece.  For instance, Aristotle starts right off in Book V with his virtue-as-mean approach when he asks "what sort of mean justice is, and between what extremes the just act is intermediate."

These days, we don't talk about a "just act," except when discussing an Act of Congress.  But Aristotle says that by "justice" we mean "that kind of state of character which makes people disposed to do what is just and makes them act justly and wish for what is just".  What is he talking about?

He continues by defining the unjust man, as "grasping and unfair", as men that "pray for and pursue" the things they should not.  So on this argument we are talking about justice in relation to our neighbor.   Indeed he goes on to define justice as "another's good", doing "what is advantageous to another".  Thus the "worst man is he who exercises his wickedness both towards himself and towards his friends, and the best man is not he who exercises his virtue towards himself bu he who exercises it towards another; for this is a difficult task."

Then Aristotle goes on to discuss the two divisions of institutional justice: "in distributions of honor or money" and in "a rectifying part in transactions between man and man."  In distributive justice he calls for a distribution of equal when the parties are equal and unequal when the parties are unequal.  And the distribution must be "according to merit".  The only trouble is that people disagree about merit.  Democrats identify is "with the status of freeman", oligarchs with wealth or noble birth, and aristocrats with excellence.  Thus the just is "proportional; the unjust is what violates the proportion."

When we come to rectificatory justice, the idea of proportion is different.  Here we have an inequality created by a injury.  The job of a judge is to try to restore a damaged equality with a penalty.  The man who has committed the injury has made a gain, and the other party has suffered a loss.  The idea is to rebalance gain and loss, penalizing the man who has made an unjust gain: "therefore corrective justice will be the intermediate between loss and gain."

Some think that justice is "reciprocity," and Aristotle finds that the normal exchange of goods and services is inspired by this kind of justice.

But what about political justice, the relation of all this to men as citizens?  It requires, Aristotle says, "men who are free and... equal."  Given their propensity for injustice "we do not allow a man to rule, but rational principle, because a man behaves thus in his own interests and becomes a tyrant."  So in Aristotle's time as in our own, people wanted a government of laws, not of men.

The Marxists have made a big deal about "reification" the objectivification under capitalism of ideas and social relationships into things and commodities.  You can see their point.  Justice in our time is a much heavier and ponderous thing than it seemed to be for Aristotle.  And the blame for that must lie mostly with the Left, beginning with the Marxians, who want to make everything into a matter of justice and "reify" every issue into a monster government bureaucracy.  There is something in Aristotelian justice that is still ethereal and light as air.

That is a spirit that we should try to recapture for ourselves in the long journey to escape the ponderous mechanisms of justice under modern big government.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Change Starts with a Moral Movement

To conservatives, the Obama administration has been a smash-and-grab conquest of the American heartland.  The question that conservatives ask, after ObamaCare, Keynesian stimulus, Solyndra, czars in the White House, is whether ten thousand swords will indeed leap from their scabbards in November, or whether "the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory" of America is extinguished forever.

But for liberals the Obama administration is nothing of the sort.  For liberals ObamaCare is the culmination of a great and generous moral vision, that everyone would have access to health care, so that nobody would ever lack health care because of cost.  Green energy is a moral quest to save the planet from ruin in the wasteful burning of non-renewable fossil fuels.  It is well to remember that it is the ends of the liberal moral system that justifies the means of liberal politics.

To conservatives the whole story of Obamism is its trespass on the Constitution and its fallacious belief in the idea of government as a moral force.  Big government programs lead to big dependency and big time unintended consequences.  As liberals used to say, you cannot legislate morality, even environmental ethics and social justice.

Of course this is rubbish.  Legislation is always the legislation of morality, the enforcement of some vision of the good.

But liberals have an important point: just not the one they think they are making.  Liberals may strongly resist when conservatives try to legislate their morality, but they cheer on loudly their own liberal leaders when they try to legislate liberal morality.  They are in fact all in favor of legislating morality: their morality, or ethics, as they prefer to call it.  What is the movement for "gay marriage" after all but an attempt to legislate liberal ideas of the moral life--the idea that marriage is a partnership of love between two people, any two people--over the conservative idea of the moral life--the idea that marriage is a social institution to protect women and bind men to the support of their children.

No, the point about legislating morality is that legislating morality comes second, after you have established your morality in the first place.  You want to ban slavery?  First you must mount a moral crusade to make it into a scandal in the hearts of men and women.  You want civil rights for African Americans?  First you must mount a moral movement to make segregation into a revolting practice about as evil as the Peculiar Institution itself.

If conservatives want to roll back the welfare state and replace it with the opportunity state or the mutual-aid state or the charitable state or a combination of the three then conservatives must make the current welfare state into a scandal "not to be endured."  Conservatives must mount a moral movement to change the hearts and minds of the American people.

That is the argument of William G. McLoughlin in Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform.  He writes that
great awakenings are periods when the cultural system has had to be revitalized in order to overcome jarring disjunctions between norms and experience, old beliefs and new realities, dying patterns and emerging pattern of behavior.
In other words, politics begins with religion.  And that goes for secular religions as well.  You cannot understand the modern era without experiencing socialism and Communism as great secular religious Awakenings that moved men's minds long before they made revolutions and passed social legislation.

Loughlin's particular interest is the great religious awakenings in American history, beginning with the Puritan awakening in 1600.  Our current liberal culture and governance, he asserts, dates back to a great awakening that took place at the end of the 19th century and gave us the Social Gospel and the welfare state.

To conservatives the welfare state is a horrible disjunction between a supposed noble vision and its corrupt experience, between the visions of the anointed and the grubby failures of crony capitalism and "unintended consequences."  The clumsy programs of welfare and ObamaCare only make things worse.  To liberals, the welfare state has liberated the exploited and the traditionally marginalized from a life of subjection and want.  Whatever the minor faults of individual programs, we should never forget what the United States would look like without them.  It would be a mean and brutal place where the rich got richer and the poor went to the wall.

It is almost certain that liberals overreached in 2009 and 2010.  Americans don't want an America where liberals boss them around with an endless procession of 1,000 page bills.  But Americans do believe in Social Security and Medicare, as pollster Scott Rasmussen makes clear.
The two biggest entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare -- are seen by voters as trust funds they pay into during their working lives and then get back in their retirement years.
Want to reform Social Security and Medicare?  First you have to change the notion voters have that there is a "trust fund" out there with their money in it.  And clearing up that little misunderstanding will be nothing compared to the effort it will take to undermine and destroy the moral standing those two programs have in the hearts and minds of Americans.

In other words, if you want to change society, don't think about politics.  Not yet.  Think about a moral movement to make the current arrangements into a scandal and a moral outrage.  And then do something about it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Does a Happy Man Need Friends?

Can a solitary man be happy? Maybe. But if you are Aristotle, and you believe that "man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others" it would be strange for a happy man to live like a Hindu sadhu in solitary contemplation.

Some people, Aristotle notes, disagree. They say that the fortunate man doesn't need friends. But they are missing the point, at least in Aristotelian terms. For such a person measures other people by their usefulness. His friends are the second-class friends that are not founded on "goodwill" but pure utility or pleasure.  Enough of him!

That is not Aristotle's way. For him, happiness, eudaimonia, is full human flourishing, and full human flourishing must mean friends of the best kind: other virtuous men full of practical wisdom that do the right thing for the right reason in the right way at the right time. A happy, virtuous man needs friends, not for what they can do for him, but for what he can do for them. For a happy, virtuous man will want to spread the wealth around.

And besides, a solitary man would find it hard to be "continuously active," says Aristotle, and since activity is in itself pleasant, therefore friends are needed to provide the occasion for activity. Not only that, but "a certain training in virtue arises also from the company of the good." Even in Aristotle's time, people had to "use it or lose it." And that goes for virtue.

And besides (again?), just as life for animals is perception, life for man is defined "by the power of perception or thought". Thus to perceive and think and see that we perceive and think, and to perceive that one lives is in itself pleasant etc., etc., and since life is desirable and pleasant so then will be the perception of the life of a man's friend, because all the happiness and pleasure of considering one's own life will apply to the consideration of one's friend's life, "and this will be realized in their living together and sharing in discussion and thought".

Oh good. So that is settled. You can see, as so often in Aristotle, the charming hidden agenda. The purpose of life is to sit around and philosophize with a worthy friend. So therefore the happy man, reaching his full flourishing, is a man with the capability and the virtue to philosophize wisely--with a like-virtuous and happy friend. Q.E.D.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Goodwill and Friendship

Says Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics IX-5: "Goodwill is a friendly sort of relation". but not the same as friendship.  And the reason is simple.  In goodwill there is not the "intensity or desire"  that arises in "friendly feeling".  We would not necessarily "do anything with" people to whom we feel goodwill but not friendship.

You might say, he writes, that goodwill is "a beginning of friendship", for philia starts with delight in the "form of the beloved".  But delight does not mean love.  Love means a longing when the beloved is absent and a craving for his presence.  The feeling of goodwill does not encompass longing and craving.

Aristotle seems to suggest that goodwill comes close to his definition of his second-class friendship, that based on utility or pleasure, for he says "The man who has received a benefit bestows goodwill in return for what has been done to him".  Yet he denies it, saying that goodwill "does not arise on those terms", i.e., the friendship based on utility or pleasure.  That is because, he says, the exchange of benefits is "only doing what is just"; men are not friends if they cherish each other "for the sake of some use to be made of" the other.  No, Aristotle insists, "goodwill arises on account for some excellence or worth, when one man seems to another beautiful or brave".

If this is so, then Aristotle is proposing that goodwill is the flash of pleasure that, e.g., a man feels when he sees a beautiful woman across the room.  But he has already said that goodwill does not involve "intensity or desire" and that certainly gets involved in the feeling that a man has in the fleeting view of a beautiful woman.

What then does Aristotle mean?  He just wants to say that goodwill is a feeling, the precursor to friendship, a delight in the other.  But it is not, repeat not, to be dirtied with the second-class transactional friendships based on utility and pleasure.  The best friendship is about love, wanting to spend time, to live next to the other person, wanting good for the other person for their own sake, and not a utilitarian quid pro quo.

And yet surely a friendship based upon utility or pleasure could just as easily start with the goodwill that Aristotle approves of, the glance across the room, the good feeling at seeing the beautiful or brave.  We proceed to friendship, because today and tomorrow we could use a bit of beauty, or could enjoy the pleasure of being around a tasty piece of beautiful fluff.

On Aristotle's view of goodwill, his second-class friendship is not really a friendship.  Only the best kind, the friendship between equals, based on love and wanting the best for the other person on their own terms, only that is the real thing.  Goodwill is the precursor to real friendship, the frisson of attraction.  And it is not to be confused with mere pleasure or mere utility.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Is Aristotle Too Egoist?

It is the fashion today to privilege the notion of "altruism" over the notion of selfishness. Things done for another, in the right way at the right time for the right reasons, are considered worthy. Things done to liberate a group of victims of exploitation are beyond reproach. But things done for ourselves, particularly when performed by businessmen and patriarchs, is tainted with the stain of egoism. This Manichean system, stripped of its veil of illusion, is a system, naked, brutal and direct, to privilege government and political action over those of private citizens in the economic sector and civil society.

Thus some may criticize Aristotle's celebration of eudaimonia of the good man in a life of virtue to be "objectionably egoist."

But we should pause for a moment and consider what might be meant by "objectionable egoism." For when Aristotle speaks of "love of self" in Nichomachean Ethics IX-8 he opens the discussion only to differentiate between the self-loving man "who is grasping" with regard to "wealth, honours, and bodily pleasures" and the man who strives for the noblest deeds, and what "is best for itself" and who "does many acts for the sake of his friends and his country". The latter self-loving man is clearly a horse of a different color.

Perhaps we should extend Aristotle's distinctions in self-love further. Both his ideal types are egoists, but the former is clearly a crude egoist, driven merely by "the irrational element of the soul". The other is a rational egoist, who does things for himself according to practical wisdom, in the right way for the right reason at the right time. It is invidious to call the latter an "objectionable egoist" just as it is pointless to dignify the crude selfishness of the man of appetite with the epithet "objectionable."

Perhaps, in Aristotle's time, there were no objectionable egoists. Evidently, our time is different. So who is this "objectionable egoist?" He is not the man of simple appetite; we call him a selfish bastard, and so he is. Nor is he the naïve egoist, the seeker after a successful career in business or the libertarian follower, perhaps, of Ayn Rand. Anyway such a man at least follows a rational principle, and can justify his egoism with the philosophy of sentiment from the Scottish Enlightenment. No, in our time the "objectionable egoist" can be none other than the government university professor or the liberal NGO activist. For these are people that trumpet to the world their selfless altruism while living a life of utter egoism. Nothing can be more objectionable.

Aristotle has a notion of egoism (to the extent that egoism is possible before the separation of body and mind in Descartes) rather different in mind for his eudaimonia, the life of happiness, conducted as a pursuit of virtue adding up to practical wisdom, doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason at the right time. This individual eudaimonia, Aristotle makes clear, this life of happiness, does not occur in a selfish vacuum, but in a life of full social and political connection. The good man does not love himself as a narcissist might, but in the fullness of practical wisdom, acquiring his happiness through his social contribution. The Aristotelian virtues are not what we would now call strategic or instrumental; they are social virtues, and the good man, in acquiring excellence in these virtues—at an appropriate mean between defect and excess—acquires a social excellence, a facility to contribute to the happiness of his friends not for his sake but for their sake, and to his polis because the practice of political science, next to philosophy itself, is the final end and purpose of individual virtue.

In setting up his argument in Book 1 of Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle defines "happiness" as the one thing we choose for itself, for every other good we choose "for the sake of happiness." But this happiness does not exist in a vacuum, sufficient for a solitary man, but occurs in a social context, and includes "parents, children, wife, and in general... friends and fellow citizens, since man is born for citizenship." Thus "the function of man is activity of the soul which follows or implies a rational principle", in accordance with the best and most complete virtue. And that activity extends to "a complete life."

Aristotle does not require that this happiness, this activity of the soul in accordance with virtue over a complete life, occur in a state of self-denial. He looks for a happiness issuing from a complete human flourishing, He sees happiness identified with virtue and with virtuous activity, for "in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete". And this life is "pleasant," for "the lovers of what is noble find pleasant the things that are by nature pleasant." Virtue, as we say, is its own reward; it "has its pleasure in itself." Aristotle does not see the world as illusion, and practical activity meaningless. He sees happiness issuing from a real life virtuously led in a real family in a real society in accordance with practical wisdom.

Aristotle does not consider that happiness comes unearned, merely as a gift from the gods, although, he twinkles, if it were a gift of the gods, it would be appropriate, "inasmuch as it is the best." Happiness, he asserts, "comes as a result of virtue and some process of learning and training", the "prize and end of virtue". Happiness is not something that just comes to you; it is the reward of effort and practice.

The practical ethics of Aristotle, celebrating a life of practical wisdom at the virtuous mean between excess and defect, does not satisfy those who yearn for a more salvific meaning of life. From Plato's Republic to Buddha's enlightenment to the Christian idea of poverty to the modern secular religions that define themselves against ordinary human flourishing, Aristotle's eudaimonia represents at best a low bar to aim at and at worst an "objectionable egoism." Plato calls for the destruction of the family and the raising of children by the state. Buddhism calls for a radical departure from ordinary human flourishing as the only way to overcome suffering, and Siddhartha Gautama set the tone by dumping his noble inheritance, his wife and children for a life of contemplation and teaching. Christianity called for complete separation from worldly goods and pursuits, and has ever after wobbled on the edge of an extreme asceticism that rejects the workaday world. The modern secular religions set themselves against the bourgeois ambition and domesticity. They want to bury all egoism and mobilize the entire population in the service of the state, recreating the Prussia of which Mirabeau said it was "not a state with an army, but an army with a state." Even philosophers like William James have found themselves hankering after the moral equivalent of war, celebrating a suspension of normal domestic life in the cause and excitement of moral emergency.

Whatever may be the merits of these utopian fancies, they have not delivered on their promises except when implemented as shadows of themselves. Humans as social animals combine in a mysterious mixture the selfishness of egoism and the selflessness of altruism. They serve others to serve themselves, as Adam Smith declared. Everyone understands that untrammeled egoism is derisive, but not a few imagine that social cooperation means nothing unless it means altruism. Aristotle's life of practical wisdom is a healthy mean between the extremes of selfishness and selflessness. He takes the world as it is, a world of families, of activity, of friendship and politics, and proposes a method not to transform it but to shake a little of the slackness out of it.

It is natural that the good and happy man should "be a lover of self (for he will both himself profit by doing noble acts, and will benefit his fellows)". But he will not shirk his duties as a citizen in his bath of self-love. He does not live congratulating himself on his virtue, for his self-love is a consequence of his happiness, and his happiness a consequence of his living a life of practical wisdom, living the right way for the right reasons at the right time. He is consequently ready to sacrifice his equanimity "for the sake of his friends and his country", ready to "throw away both wealth and honors... gaining for himself nobility" in the activity of the soul following its rational principle.

A man of his times, Aristotle does not worry much about the happiness of women and slaves. But then what modern elitist worries that marriage is collapsing among the white working class and the minority underclass?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friendliness is Not Just For Friends

Aristotle's idea of friendship is a central idea of his Nichomachean Ethics.  One supposes that its importance lies in the central need of friendships that Aristotle desires in political affairs:  the citizens must be friends, based on an equality of virtue and power, if they are to govern their polis successfully: "Friendship seems too to hold states together".  We have seen in the United States recently how much that mistrust and the erosion of political friendships "across the aisle" have cost the nation.  When partisans only desire to score points on the opposition, the national interest gets thrown under the bus.

Aristotle perceives three kinds of friendship.  There are those who love for the sake of utility: the use the other person has for them.  There are those who love for the sake of pleasure.  But Aristotle is not much interested in that sort of friendship, for such friendships are focused on what is good for oneself, not for the other person.

"Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good in themselves."  That is the kind of friendship that Aristotle believes in.  As for the other kinds?  They are included anyway in the perfect friendship of good equals, because good friends are naturally useful to each other and pleasant too.

One may, however, be friendly to other people without being friends.  Aristotle praises friendliness as a mean of doing the right thing in the right way at the right time that lies between the extremes of obsequiousness and churlishness.  Although "no name has been assigned to it" it most resembles friendship.  But it is not actually friendship because "it implies no passion or affection."

It seems obvious that "in gatherings of men, in social life and the interchange of words" that a proper friendliness is appropriate.  Aristotle notes that this friendliness would adapt itself according to the situation.  Proper friendliness would differ: for intimates one style is appropriate, for strangers another.  And Aristotle recognizes, by his extremes, that proper friendliness avoids both rudeness and fawning while recognizing that normal intercourse must involve some level of disagreement and conflict.

The template that Aristotle proposes, as a mean to avoid both giving unnecessary harm and receiving it, it the behavior that a friend might use with a friend, the natural and sensitive behavior of the good man who wishes good for the other person as they would desire it.  Only, of course, in mere friendliness his virtuous man does not presume to love or hate the other.

However, Aristotle's perfect friendship is necessarily the love between equals, and the virtuous mean of friendliness applies to interactions also between unequals.  Friendliness will mean different behavior from superior to inferior than from inferior to superior.  In all cases, the mean of friendliness presumes behavior that is "befitting," a mean peculiar to each social situation that avoids the excess of churlishness or the defect of obsequiousness.