Kleshas and Tanhas

ethics morals faiths ideals

Aristotle Don’t Like No Gossip

with 3 comments

Moreover, the friendship of good people is the only one that is immune to slander. For it is not easy to trust anyone speaking against someone whom we ourselves have found reliable for a long time; and among good people there is trust, the belief he would never do injustice, and all other things expected in a true friendship. But in the other types of friendship [distrust] may easily arise. -Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Chapter 5: Friendship.

My philosophy course’s reading has come full circle as we are revisiting Aristotle. My first impression on reading the above lines was, “How true!” It’s a fair assumption to say that people don’t gossip behind their friends’ backs…hopefully. And then I thought about Peter denying Jesus three times:

As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18: 25-27.)

One of the more popularized examples of forgiveness, I thought that this passage went against Aristotle’s notion of no-gossiping. Peter freaks out like a lot of us would when under question. And maybe Aristotle didn’t think of our friendships being tested to that extent. But I still think there’s a strong contrast between the two instances. Peter’s mistake contradicts the notion of not “speaking against someone whom we ourselves have found reliable for a long time.” There was a deep sense of trust between Jesus and Simon before he is given the name Peter.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16: 18)

Not your everyday type of trust! Yet we see our human nature in Peter’s mistake. We are all prone to make bad decisions under various circumstances. In this instance, I believe that Peter’s betrayal can be seen as an example that proves Aristotle’s confinements of friendship. For, in the end, Jesus forgives Peter as he reinstates him.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15.)

So I’m left thinking, does this passage prove Aristotle’s point that virtuous friendship excludes slander and gossip? Or does this depict that friendship is not confined to these limits since we have the capacity to forgive one another?

Friendship and slander?! Oh my…



Written by Jack Viere

December 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm

3 Responses

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  1. great post JACK…..love the Seinfeld clip!

    Lisa Olko

    December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm

  2. Interesting write, jack. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that we all make mistakes and must forgive each other (or better yet, do not judge in the first place!) Acting from a position of love is always a safe bet. It is not always easy to do as sometimes we find another’s behavior so offensive, or we are afraid, as Peter was, or we just plain have lapse and fall into the trap of gossip. But when we realize this, we must forgive ourselves and try again. It is also good to let people know that you do not want to hear their gossip either, as that can help them lean to not be judgmental. Thanks for this reminder of an important lesson. Hugs, pat

    Pat Cegan

    December 3, 2011 at 5:49 am

    • “Acting from a position of love is always a safe bet.”
      I couldn’t agree more. In comparing religions, you can find that typically being the recommended course of action when interacting with others! The Five Precepts in Buddhism, Ten Commandments for Jews and Christians, and the Five Pillars of Islam aren’t constraints (necessarily) but guidelines to facilitate a better positioning of love in order for us to use a more fuller sense of love to start from when we reach out to others.

      Jack Viere

      December 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

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