Ancient philosophy - especially after Aristotle - largely focused on how to achieve self-sufficiency on the one hand, and peace of mind on the other; it thus became fundamentally therapeutic, in nature and goal.Though ancient philosophers are generally known for their praise of friendship, there is an evident tension involved in these positions: the possession of friends seems almost unhelpful, nearly inimical, to self-sufficiency and peace of mind.

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Two schools of Hellenistic philosophy in particular, Stoicism and Epicureanism, struggled to find coherent positions on each of these three forms of human relationships, to draw clean lines around what is worth pursuing and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not; ultimately, both schools generally agree that those relationships based on natural feelings are healthy and should be fostered, and those which degenerate into reasonless passion or emotional dependency should be avoided.

The Epicureans divided all desires along two axial lines: some are natural, others unnatural; the fulfillment of some is necessary, of others unnecessary.

While Epicurus categorizes the former as natural though unnecessary, the latter - which we might loosely call sexual passion - is something different.

Sexual passion, like the desire for money, seems to be something that only gets worse and more mentally disturbing the more it is indulged and satisfied.

However, it is not the same as the need for water or shelter or food, other natural and necessary desires.

There are dangers involved in the desire for friendship that are reminiscent of the dangers involved in the pursuit of natural and unnecessary desires.

Mitchell writes: "To enjoy these unnecessary desires and to not make of them necessities, to take free pleasure in the unnecessary, this is the highest achievement." (9) Indeed, one thing separating the Epicureans from the Stoics in this area is that the former believe the more virtuous person will be able to sample natural but unnecessary desires while not allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by them.

It is almost easier, they would argue, to deny such physical pleasures entirely than it is to allow oneself to enjoy them but go no further.

The world can now show itself as something other than a workshop of tools for the satisfaction of needs." (7) Indeed, for Epicurus, the goal was not merely the satisfaction of desires.

Pleasure consists not merely in drinking water to satisfy thirst, but in drinking water Only liberated from this feeling of dependence and necessity can we view both friendship and the world in general as they each should respectively be viewed.

As fulfilling as friendships generally are, they often lead to mutual dependency and a loss of the tranquility thought to accompany solitude.