Twelve Philosophical Quotes on Friendship (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on friendship, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Quotes that begin with a section of bold text are my personal favourites. Without further ado, here are twelve philosophical quotes on friendship:


Real friendship is shown in times of trouble;
prosperity has friends galore.

– Euripides. Hecuba, 1227, trans. William Arrowsmith


Socrates: All people have their fancies; some desire horses, and others dogs; and some are fond of gold, and others of honour. Now, I have no violent desire of any of these things; but I have a passion for friends; and I would rather have a good friend than the best cock or quail in the world: I would even go further, and say the best horse or dog. Yea, by the dog of Egypt, I should greatly prefer a real friend to all the gold of Darius, or even to Darius himself: I am such a lover of friends as that. And when I see you and Lysis, at your early age, so easily possessed of this treasure, and so soon, he of you, and you of him, I am amazed and delighted, seeing that I myself, although I am now advanced in years, am so far from having made a similar acquisition, that I do not even know in what way a friend is acquired.

– Plato, Lysis, 211B, trans. Benjamin Jowett


Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends? Or how can prosperity be guarded and preserved without friends? The greater it is, the more exposed is it to risk. And in poverty and in other misfortunes men think friends are the only refuge. It helps the young, too, to keep from error; it aids older people by ministering to their needs and supplementing the activities that are failing from weakness; those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble actions . . . for with friends men are more able both to think and to act.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1155a5, trans. W. D. Ross


The good person is related to his friend as to himself (for his friend is another self).

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1166a, trans. W. D. Ross


Of all the means which are procured by wisdom to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.

– Epicurus as quoted by Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, X, 148, trans. Robert Drew Hicks


Did you never see little dogs caressing and playing with one another, so that you might say there is nothing more friendly? but, that you may know what friendship is, throw a bit of flesh among them, and you will learn.

– Epictetus, Discourses, II, 22, trans. George Long


Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow. For when I had them with me it was with the feeling that I was going to lose them, and now that I have lost them I keep the feeling that I have them with me still.

– Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, 63, trans. Robin Campbell


It redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves.

– Francis Bacon, Of Friendship


Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion.

Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and in regard to others. He does not wish any one to tell him the truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart. I set it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world.

– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, II, 100-101, trans. W. F. Trotter


However rare true love may be, true friendship is rarer.

– Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Maximes, 473, trans. Bund & Friswell


If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.

– Samuel Johnson as quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (April 8, 1755)


The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friendship


A highly embroiled quarter, a network of streets that I had avoided for years, was disentangled at a single stroke when one day a person dear to me moved there. It was as if a searchlight set up at this person’s window dissected the area with pencils of light.

– Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings, trans. E. Jephcott and K. Shorter, pg 69


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