This is the root of all those words ending in -phile, and is of course also part of philosophy – literally, the love of wisdom (sophia). Philia is the most general kind of love; it’s often translated as friendship. Aristotle talks about philia a lot in the Nicomachean Ethics, his best known work on ethics which explores how men should live (it was originally based on notes from his lectures to young men destined for Big Things in Athens). I’ll give this a whole post (or more) in its own right, as the Nicomachean Ethics is one of the most influential ethical works in the history of European thought. Yeah baby, this is the big guns. (I am an Aristotle fangirl. I want that on a tshirt.)
Anyway. The Nicomachean Ethics has lots of examples of philia – like lifelong friends, political contacts, fellow travellers, members of the same religious society or tribe, even ‘a cobbler and the person who buys from him’. Interestingly he also lists parents and children, which might suggest that more than one kind of love can exist in the same relationship – the love of a parent for a child seems to crop up regularly in all the forms of love except (obviously) eros. Philia is characterised by, again, wanting the best for someone for their own sake, and wanting to do things for them as much as is possible/reasonable. Though in that qualifier is a big distinction from agape, which is a self-sacrificing love. Another distinction is that – not always, but often – philia is characterised by a sense of equality, of meeting as equals, in the very nature of the Iove itself, not merely in the persons of those sharing the love.
As this refers to a much wider sense of friendship-love, there’s nothing – to me – that seems any more relevant to non-monogamous people than everyone else. We all need friends, and that comfortable companionable love of an old friendship is wonderful. I suppose the only thought here would be, even if you are conducting twenty romantic relationships at once, don’t neglect your friendships. Make the time for them too; don’t just fill up your Google Calendar with lovers.