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Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    A central bond, a cherished value, a unique relationship, a profound human need, a type of love. What is the nature of friendship, and what is its significance in our lives? How has friendship changed since the ancient Greeks began to analyze it, and how has modern technology altered its very definition? In this fascinating exploration of friendship through the ages, one of the most thought-provoking philosophers of our time tracks historical ideas of friendship, gathers a diversity of friendship stories from the annals of myth and literature, and provides unexpected insights into our friends, ourselves, and the role of friendships in an ethical life.

    A. C. Grayling roves the rich traditions of friendship in literature, culture, art, and philosophy, bringing into his discussion familiar pairs as well as unfamiliar-Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Huck Finn and Jim. Grayling lays out major philosophical interpretations of friendship, then offers his own take, drawing on personal experiences and an acute awareness of vast cultural shifts that have occurred. With penetrating insight he addresses internet-based friendship, contemporary mixed gender friendships, how friendships may supersede family relationships, one's duty within friendship, the idea of friendship to humanity, and many other topics of universal interest.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19857-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. x-xii)
    Richard G. Newhauser and John Jeffries Martin

    It is altogether fitting that the series ‘Vices and Virtues’ should begin withFriendship. As A. C. Grayling’s inaugural volume amply demonstrates, friendship describes the finest of human relationships: a lasting bond that transcends whatever accidental or utilitarian reasons might have brought two people together in the first place. One can debate with a friend without quarrelling; one can argue with a friend as a matter of discussion, not dissension. This is, of course, the presupposition of Socratic dialogue; it underlies any idea of progress in politics as well. And opening this kind of reasoned debate on matters of contemporary...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The highest and finest of all human relationships is, arguably, friendship. Consider the fact that we regard it as a success if we become friends with our parents when we grow up, our children when they grow up, our classmates or workmates even as they remain classmates or workmates, for in every such case an additional bond comes to exist, which transcends the other reasons we entered into association with those people in the first place.

    And of course our friendships with people who do not fall into one of these categories – that is, our friendships with people who...

  6. PART I Ideas

    • CHAPTER 1 The Lysis and Symposium
      (pp. 19-30)

      Friendships existed long before anyone thought to analyse them, and even longer again before anyone thought to write philosophical treatises about them. But when the first serious discussions of friendship appeared – and it is no surprise that they did so in that fountainhead of Western civilisation, the classical period of antiquity in Greece – they laid the ground for almost all the debate that followed.

      As the first philosophical text directly to address the concept of friendship, Plato’s dialogueLysishas to stand at the head of the discussion. It must be introduced with a caveat, however; which is...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Classic Statement: Aristotle
      (pp. 31-41)

      The wordphiliais made to do express duty for the sentiment of friendship in Plato’sLysis, but it also – as noted in passing in the Introduction – meant much more, embracing family ties and even socio-political ones. Plato’s usage seems to have secured it to friendship for the philosophical debate, however, for in the eighth and ninth books of theNicomachean Ethicsit isphilia– and along with it an identification of the qualities that attract people into friendship with each other, ‘lovables’ orphileta– which is used to denote the sentiment of friendship. But in...

    • CHAPTER 3 Cicero De amicitia
      (pp. 42-60)

      There is a good reason why Erasmus and Hume, among many others, valued Cicero – and for more reasons than the famous beauty of his prose. It is that certain of his treatises are as valuable in content as in style. It is true that much of his philosophical writing is, as his critics say, derivative and superficial; but the essays ‘On Old Age’ (Cato Maior De senectute) and ‘Laelius: On Friendship’ (Laelius: De amicitia), and especially this last, belong in the first rank of discussions of their subject matter.

      The chapters on friendship in Aristotle’sNicomachean Ethicsare careful...

    • CHAPTER 4 Christianity and Friendship
      (pp. 61-75)

      One of the most influential works Cicero wrote in his years of maximum philosophical productivity was a dialogue calledHortensius, named for his friend Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. It was an introductory survey of philosophy, intended to lay before the Roman Republic the wealth of the Greek philosophical tradition. It is taken to be an adaptation and expansion of Aristotle’s own introduction to philosophy, known in Latin as theProtrepticus philosophiae, a work famous in antiquity as an invitation to philosophical life and thought.

      Both works, alas, are lost; only fragments of them remain. Some efforts have been made to reconstruct...

    • CHAPTER 5 Renaissance Friendship
      (pp. 76-94)

      In the face of entrenched historical labels we are bound to enter the usual disclaimers: that the three or more centuries lumped together as ‘The Renaissance’ were internally as diverse as any unlabelled three centuries could be, and that we obscure as much as illuminate by giving it a capitalised name. At the same time we are bound to notice contrasts with the preceding high medieval period, ‘medieval’ being the name chosen by Petrarch, one of the fathers of the Renaissance, to denote what he saw as the gulf separating his time from a world in which life in the...

    • CHAPTER 6 From Enlightenment back to the Roman Republic
      (pp. 95-120)

      More slices of history, more labels: but as before, there is something definite captured by the labels, for the Enlightenment and the distinctive counter-movements it inspired are personalities in their own right, and ones that have made large differences to the course of history.

      We would expect to find new elements in thinking about friendship in the Enlightenment, and indeed we do. What explains them is the change wrought by two major developments. The first is that the Enlightenment’s leaders – meaning the thinkers and writers who articulated its new sensibility: Diderot, Voltaire, Hume, Kant and others – wished to...

  7. PART II Legends

    • CHAPTER 7 Excursus: Friendship Illustrated
      (pp. 123-166)

      There have been many references to legendary friendships, fictional and otherwise, in the foregoing pages. It is of central interest to know what those who cited them intended to illustrate by their means. The assumption made in the references to them was that if you wish to know what a friend is, what friendship is, how friends behave towards one another, you go to the classical examples and learn from them.

      The first two examples in the world’s formative literature, standing as the pillars of the gate into this subject, are Achilles and Patroclus, and David and Jonathan. Both pairs...

  8. PART III Experiences

    • CHAPTER 8 Friendship Viewed
      (pp. 169-175)

      Consider these two claims: first, that friendship is one of the two most significant kinds of relationship that human individuals can have with each other – the other being intimate love, itself a various and multiple phenomenon – and secondly, that there are no rules setting out the rights and responsibilities of friendship. Between them these claims alert us to the complex nature of the relationship which is, second only to the bond of intimacy between lovers in the honeymoon of their love, the most important contributor to the possibility of good human lives. To say this is not to...

    • CHAPTER 9 Friendship Examined
      (pp. 176-184)

      Because this is an examination of theideaof friendship offered by the tradition of debate and portrayal in our sources, and because we have seen the consensus agree with reason that friendship is a great good, indeed one of the highest available to us, we must now set that claim to work. But before doing so, we have to try to answer some questions.

      We say that friendship is a great good, and both the philosophical and literary portrayals canvassed in earlier chapters give us lists of reasons why. Let us inspect them.

      We think we know what the...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Two Claims
      (pp. 185-202)

      At the beginning of Chapter 8 above it was said that a familiar pair of claims is made about friendship: first, that it ‘is one of the two most significant kinds of relationship that human individuals can have with each other – the other being intimate love, itself a various and multiple phenomenon – and secondly, that there are no rules setting out the rights and responsibilities of friendship’.

      Reflection on these claims suggests two surprising thoughts: that it is an ethical obligation actively to pursue friendship; and that friendship as the desired terminus of all relationships therefore trumps other...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 203-213)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 214-218)
  11. Index
    (pp. 219-230)