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Is obedience necessary for friendship?

Aristotle doesn't speak of obedience in his discussion of friendship in Ethics bk. 9, but he does speak of a sort of friendship: concord, which St. Thomas says is a "union of wills not of opinions" (Summa Theologica II-II q. 37 a. 1 co.). Now, obedience is to do the will of another, so it seems obedience is necessary for concord and thus for friendship.

What prompted my question is John 15:14: "You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you."

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    Reading 15:14 without the immediate context will give a very distorted sentiment. "This is my commandment, that you [selflessly] love one another[...]. You are my friends if you do what I command you." That doesn't sound to me like "You are my friends if you obey my arbitrary whims."
    – g s
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:19
  • What is obedience? this? to do the will of another, so it seems obedience is necessary for concord and thus for friendship? Commented May 26, 2023 at 21:33
  • It's a "union" of wills, not a subordination of one will to the other. That means that two people have similar enough interests (wills) to give them common cause.
    – causative
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 23:01
  • My question is somewhat related to the difference between God-man and man-man friendships, discussed in the question "Why did Aristotle claim we can't wish our friends be gods?"
    – Geremia
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 23:08
  • Obedience is a one sided relationship. If Bob is obedient to Alice it is difficult to imagine that Alice is also obedient to Bob. Who's to take the leadership in such a situation?
    – armand
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 23:45

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"You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you." Surely friendship implies partnership and not the hierarchical relationship implied by issuing commands. So issuing commands is not appropriate, because it suggests that the friendship will be at least threatened if one does not obey. That's not compatible with friendship. So obedience is also not appropriate. (I'm not commenting on the significance of the context of your quote.)

I would think that a partnership is one form of a "union of wills". It certainly implies concord, if that means harmony, not conflict.

Aristotle says in the NE that a friend is another self. Quite what this means is not really clear and the question of translation complicates matters. But can one issue commands to oneself? In a sense, yes, but, just because they are issued to oneself, they are more like exhortations than commands. I suggest that applies also to another self.

I'm assuming that a command implies a hierarchical relationship, in which disobedience is followed by some form of punishment. That's certainly not compatible with friendship.

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