In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is found:

Not a few things about friendship are matters of debate. Some define it as a kind of likeness and say like people are friends, whence come the sayings 'like to like', 'birds of a feather flock together', and so on... (Book 8, 1155a32)

Elsewhere (e.g., Wiktionary) the phrase is attributed allegedly to Plato. Why is it attributed allegedly to Plato if it can be attributed certainly to Aristotle? ("Attributed", not in the sense of the earliest ever use of the phrase, but in the sense of the oldest surviving instance.)

  • 3
    Who is attributing it to Aristotle? Just because he uses it does mean it should be attributed it to him, especially as he says it is a 'saying'. This proverb also appears (worded in various ways depending on the translation) in Plato's Republic. Plato does not claim credit for it; he says it is an old proverb. I'm not sure I understand your question. Feb 16 at 12:33
  • Words, even words strung together in sayings, are not one-time use. For most of history, people lacked the sort of internet access needed - not to mention the pettiness - to check every sentence someone wrote to see if someone had used it before.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 16 at 17:50
  • @LarsBosteen That answers my question; please re submit as an answer. I did not realize that Plato also uses the phrase. Since Plato predates Aristotle, the earliest surviving use of the phrase belongs to Plato.
    – Doubt
    Feb 17 at 11:36
  • Unfortunately, it's not that simple, and I should have been clearer in my comment. There is some controversy over the translations of Plato and Aristotle. The one I cited for Plato was Jowett's translation (from 1856, I think), but other translations use phrasing which is quite different. Likewise for Aristotle. In short, I doubt if we can attribute this to anyone from ancient times and this site gives it a much more recent attribution (William Turner, 1545). Feb 17 at 12:34

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