“Like-minded people do not fight.”

“Like-mindedness (homonoia) occurs among good people; base people, at any rate, both decide on and have an appetite for the same things but still harm each other. And it seems that like-mindedness is not univocal any more than friendship is. Rather, the primary and natural kind is excellent, which is why it is not possible for base people to be like-minded; but there is another kind according to which even base people can be like-minded whenever they both decide on and have an appetite for the same things. They have to desire the same things in such a way that it is possible for both to get what they desire; if they desire the sort of thing which both cannot have, then they fight.  But like-minded people do not fight.” — Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1241a

Aristotle distinguishes two kinds of like-mindedness (homonoia) in this passage, one version among the virtuous and one among the base, although really only the former type is like-mindedness in the fullest sense. The passage ends with the astonishing claim that “like-minded people do not fight.”

Is this so? Or better, assume that it is so, and ask what could Aristotle mean by “like-mindedness” such that it precludes fighting. Any thoughts?


See this link to an earlier discussion of the importance of commonality.

9 thoughts on ““Like-minded people do not fight.”

  1. I think it comes down to the object of desire. Base people desire what is finite: the satisfaction of one person’s desire precludes the satisfaction of the other. But philosophers desire the Good, which is infinite.

    I don’t know if the Good can be “acquired” in any true sense. But not only is it inexhaustible, one person’s journey towards the Good aids that of his friends. So by seeking what I want, not only do I not hinder my friend from doing the same, but my desire encourages his and vice versa.

  2. So in the first case, it’s plain mimetic rivalry. But in the second, it’s mimetic, but not rivalry. Thoughts?

  3. Quay, I think what you say is basically right. I also think the difference between a rivalrous good and a nonrivalrous good is fundamental. But there must be an additional difference between homonoia and its base imitators besides a difference between types of goods. Some desirable goods can be situationally scarce (like food or shelter) and I assume that the homonoetic friends still wouldn’t fight over them.

  4. The root of homonoia is nous, which means variably “mind,” “understanding,” or “insight.” But no single person *has* nous, if I am understanding Aristotle correctly. Nous is not in our heads, but that to which our minds may relate. There is one nous, not many, and knowing beings participate in this common reality in the same way that perceptive being participate in a common world. So nous, by its very essence, must be able to be held in common. (I wrote an earlier post about the importance of commonality — I will add a link to my post above.)

    Homonoia is based on ethical knowledge, which has two main features — (1) multiple knowers know the same thing to the extent they know it and not different versions of it. For Aristotle the knowing and the known are the same. (2) Ethical knowledge is always a benefit to the knower and the object of its true application. For example, I can’t *know* justice in the Socratic/ethical sense and wish another harm — justice is always a benefit.

  5. Can you elaborate on how for Aristotle “the knowing and the known are the same?” It seems to me that one is an activity and the other an object.

    • Sure, I’ll try. Aristotle writes in De Anima, 431b, that “the intellect (noesis) in its being-at-work (energeia) *is* the thing it thinks (noeton).”
      What is thought is form, that which makes a thing what it is. The active form of an earthworm, say, is that which makes an earthworm what it is. The earthworm is the form-at-work, its material being the chemical stuff that is the substrate of its living. To know an earthworm is to think the same form — thinking is the being-at-work of the same form in different material. One knows not the representation of an earthworm, but the knowing mind in a precise sense *becomes* the earthworm — same active form, different material substrate.

      This is all the more true and evident in the case of virtue. To know the virtue is to be virtuous, since one must bring into activity the same form that can recognize virtue in another.

  6. I’m reminded of a wonderful fantasy story I read in which everything had a referential name and a true name. I would be referred to as David, and I could choose to respond or ignore anyone who called me by that name. But my true name had power over me and if you knew it I would be unable to ignore you.

  7. So the forms exist in the shared Nous, which is what the knowing mind relates to. Got it.

    • In Aristotle’s philosophy that is correct, Quay — that the forms exist in a shared Nous. For Aristotle, energeia/activity is ontologically prior to dynamis/capability. So possibilities, to the extent that they can be said to exist, can only exist in an agent mind actively maintaining them. The locus classicus is De Anima, Book III, Chapter 5, where the following is written:

      “Mind in this sense of it is separable, impassible, unmixed, since it is in its essential nature activity (for always the active is superior to the passive factor, the originating force to the matter which it forms). **Actual knowledge is identical with its object: in the individual, potential knowledge is in time prior to actual knowledge, but in the universe as a whole it is not prior even in time. Mind/Nous is not at one time knowing and at another not.** When Mind/Nous is set free from its present conditions it appears as just what it is and nothing more: this alone is immortal and eternal (we do not, however, remember its former activity because, while Mind/Nous in this sense is impassible, mind/nous as passive is destructible), and without it nothing thinks.”

      A cryptic passage, I know, but the key lines are the ones I framed with double asterisks (**).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s