Aristotle’s philosophy outlines three particular forms of friendship, based on either utility, pleasure, or goodness. The first illustrates a relationship in which participants are able to attain something from each other. In the second, friendship allows both parties to enjoy the presence and interaction with one another. In the third, both strive to elevate themselves and each other in some form. Similarly, Aristotle believed that friendships had to be voluntary in order to be categorized as such. As such, this poses a complex problem for the relationship between children and their parents. The nature of the relationship is not voluntary, as the child had no say in its existence and also has no ability to repay their parents for the care that was provided to them at an early age.
Observing the relationship between children and parents are friendships can be done both through Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and a modern perspective on moral or structural barriers. A relationship between a child and a parent can incorporate some if not all of Aristotle’s modes of friendships including utility, pleasure, and goodness. While researching, Kristjan Kristjansson (2006) observed a number of models that analyze the nature of friendships and found that many are too restricting and formulaic to be truly practical in the real world.
By extension, the relationship between a parent and a child can meet certain expectations of a friendship and fail in others just like a relationship between people in the same age group with no blood relations. To an extent, Aristotle’s own views support this notion through the following statement he made: “good people’s life together allows the cultivation of virtue.” (Brown & Brown 2009). Essentially, children do not benefit from the relationship between them and their parents purely through the replication of value, but by building on their foundation and allowing for their evolution.
Kristjansson, Kristjan. 2006. “Parents and Children as Friends.” Journal of Social Philosophy 37(2): 250-265.
Ross, Brown and Lesley Brown. 2009. The Nicomachean ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.