Contemplating Friendship in Aristotle's Ethics

By Ann Ward

Subjects: Aristotle, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Political Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438462660, 182 pages, July 2017
Hardcover : 9781438462677, 182 pages, November 2016

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. Contemplating Friendship in Aristotle’s Ethics

2. Teleology, Inequality, and Autonomy

3. Moral Virtue: Possibilities and Limits

4. Justice: Giving to Each What Is Owed

5. Intellectual Virtue, Akrasia, and Political Philosophy

6. Citizens, Friends, and Philosophers

7. Happiness and Maternal Contemplation


Examines how Aristotle posits political philosophy and the experience of friendship as a means to bind strictly intellectural virtue with morality.


In this book, Ann Ward explores Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, focusing on the progressive structure of the argument. Aristotle begins by giving an account of moral virtue from the perspective of the moral agent, only to find that the account itself highlights fundamental tensions within the virtues that push the moral agent into the realm of intellectual virtue. However, the existence of an intellectual realm separate from the moral realm can lead to lack of self-restraint. Aristotle, Ward argues, locates political philosophy and the experience of friendship as possible solutions to the problem of lack of self-restraint, since political philosophy thinks about the human things in a universal way, and friendship grounds the pursuit of the good which is happiness understood as contemplation. Ward concludes that Aristotle's philosophy of friendship points to the embodied intellect of timocratic friends and mothers in their activity of mothering as engaging in the highest form of contemplation and thus living the happiest life.

Ann Ward is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Politics and International Studies at Campion College at the University of Regina, Canada. She is the author and editor of several books, including Herodotus and the Philosophy of Empire and Socrates and Dionysus: Philosophy and Art in Dialogue.


"…Contemplating Friendship is a terrific work … Ward consistently provokes thought and prompts readers to turn to Aristotle's text time and again. " — Perspectives on Political Science

"In this short book on the Nicomachean Ethics, Ann Ward offers something for readers both new to and familiar with the text. For new readers, her book generally follows the path of the Ethics itself; there are clear, and often illuminating, treatments of many of the major themes, such as voluntary action, the possibility of akrasia, and the varieties of friendship … For readers more familiar with the text, Ward's book addresses a variety of puzzles therein, focusing on the debate between 'exclusive' interpretations of happiness that emphasize solely contemplation and 'inclusive' readings that call for moral, or ethical, virtue as well … Her book, generally well-written and largely free of arcane debates about secondary literature, is thus itself an act of friendship and contemplation. " — Polis

"Ward's book is not just about friendship: instead she ingeniously knits this topic into a discussion of wider Aristotelian themes such as happiness, moral and intellectual virtue, contemplation, metaphysics, wealth distribution, money, justice, and more … It is refreshing to see such attention to gender in studying friendship. Ward provides a close yet accessible reading of Aristotle, engaging many other scholars along the way. " — Review of Politics