Chapter 10 – Eleanor, Aristotle, and the Importance of Friends

One of the central themes of Chapters 8-10, and in fact the entire series, is the importance of friendship for moral development.  In Chapter 8, we have a flashback of Eleanor with a horrible roommate.  Eleanor then behaves badly as a person and a roommate.  In Chapter 9, we have flashbacks of Eleanor refusing to belong to any groups in high school.  Rather, she prefers to be alone.  Later in her life, we see that a boss offers to move her from a temporary to permanent fulltime position.  She turns it down because she does not want to be part of a team and hangout with them after work.  Instead, she takes a new job selling fake medicine where she does not have to socialize.  We also see Eleanor pointing out that being good is much easier if one’s parents are not dirt bags who divorce when you are 8.

While the previous episodes point out how being around bad people and being isolated can make one bad, in Chapter 10, we get a succinct statement about the importance of friends.  In Chapter 10, Eleanor tells Chidi, Tahani, and the Other Eleanor that if she had known them while alive, she could have earned her way into The Good Place.  Eleanor is realizing that it is important to have friends and, more importantly, for the people you are friends with to be good people.  This is a point that Aristotle makes in the Nicomachean Ethics.

Aristotle claims there are three types of friends based on the types of motivations we have.  There are friends we have for pleasure and friends we have because they are useful.  In both cases, we do not care about the other person for that person’s own sake.  Instead, we only care about them because of what they can do for us.  We see this in many of Eleanor’s flashbacks.  She spends time with people because of the pleasure she gets from being around them, or for their usefulness.

Perfect friendship, what we may call true friends, exists between peoples who wish from their friends good for their friends own sake.  We see this exhibited by Eleanor with Chidi and Tahani.  The reason why Eleanor confesses is that she does not want Chidi to be in pain.  In Chapter 10, we see Eleanor work at sustaining her friendship with Tahani after Tahani learns that Eleanor knew Jianyu was not her soulmate.  Eleanor cares about maintaining the friendship and making Tahani feel better.

Aristotle lists multiple reasons why we need friends; but the important one for this discussion is that it helps us become better people.  According to Aristotle, “the friendship of base people becomes wicked, because unsteady as they are, they share in base pursuits, and by becoming like one another, they become wicked.  But, the friendship of good men is good, and it increases with the frequency of their meetings.  Also, it seems, they become better as they are active together and correct one another.”

In other words, if you are friends with bad people, you will become bad.  On the other hand, if you are friends with good people, you will become good.  In reality, it may not be as simple as that.  However, that does seem to be the message the writers are trying to convey.  Eleanor is bad because of who she is around.  She has gotten better in the afterlife because she is around better people.  At the very least, they have taught her to care about something other than herself, which has helped her become a better person.