Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Philosophy Phun: Friendship
Friendship is not a concept that most philosophers spend a lot of time writing about. It's not very surprising when you consider that the typical philosopher spends most of his (or her!) time sitting alone thinking about the world, while knowing he's smarter than everyone else. So who has time for friends?
When I was a wee little philosopher in high school, one of my first philosophical thoughts had to do with friendship. It was at the same time I took my first philosophy class that I had started to develop my first real and true friendships with a few high school chums (including the lovely Fair White). When I took my first philosophy class everything seemed new again and it gave me the opportunity to reexamine my relationship to the world. Now that probably sounds a bit highfalutin, but it really did change the way I looked at things.
So what was the thought I had about friendship? It struck me in high school that the majority of friendships I had were nothing more than hangout buddies--or as I learned much later, Aristotle referred to them as friendships based on utility or friendships based on pleasure. Everyone has these types of friendships and, in fact, most friendships will fall into one of those two categories. I realized that all of those relationships were lacking something--and that something was tension. It becomes clearer if you think of friends as two poles of a dialectic (A dialectic is comprised of: a thesis, an antithesis which negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis).
Think of A as friend 1, B as friend 2 and C as the resulting friendship. The synthesis is only possible if A and B pull on one another (tension) to make the relationship taught.
So what does this all mean? My point is that the goal of every friendship should be to improve the other. Too many people settle for boring friends or find friends that are too selfish. Friends need to push one another or as Aristotle puts it, "wish good to each other for each other’s own sake". The friendship cannot be one-sided. So, for example, if you were in a friendship with someone because they were older or cooler, that would not be a friendship that makes you a better person--it would be a utility friendship because it is one-sided. You must act both for your own sake and for the sake of your friend and in that way you will both become better people.
Keep those relationships taught.