View Poll Results: How many friends do you have?

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  • I can count my friends on the fingers of my hand.

    46 79.31%
  • between 5 and 10

    7 12.07%
  • between 10 and 20

    2 3.45%
  • between 20 and 30

    1 1.72%
  • between 30 and 50

    2 3.45%
  • more than 50

    0 0%
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Thread: The Nature and Value of Friendship

  1. #1

    Post Close friends make longer life more likely

    Close friends make longer life more likely

    16 June 2005 news service
    Emma Young

    Friends, not family, are the key to a longer life, a new study suggests.

    While previous research has found that strong social networks help older people live longer, the work had not distinguished between contact with friends or relatives.

    The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival.

    The reasons are not entirely clear. Friends and confidantes might help with coping in times of stress and difficulty, the team suggests. They might also encourage healthy behaviours, such as seeking help for new medical symptoms.

    “And friends are perhaps less likely to be a source of negative stress, which, for some older people, their children can be,” says Lynne Giles of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, who led the work.

    It is possible that close connections with friends might have a positive physiological effect on the body, in contrast to the negative effect caused by stress, adds Carlos Mendes de Leon of the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, US, in an editorial accompanying the paper.

    Journal reference: Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health (vol 59, p 538)

  2. #2

  3. #3


    Aristotle on Friendship

    By Russell McNeil

    This is a short reflection on an important Aristotelian concept, friendship. What I want to focus on mainly is what appears to me to be
    the critical mechanism that gives rise to friendship in the "best" sense, and how the need for friendship arises of necessity from love of self. The mechanism is important because it seats "friendship" and "love" in intellect, and shows how friendship and love work.

    We tend to seat friendship and love in "heart" or see these ideas as part of our irrational, hormonal, or biological nature. While Aristotle does not deny "heart," friendship and love in its purest form is an intellectual concern and critical for living well, individually and in community. In a nutshell, this mechanism, in lay terms, works something like this: When we love ourselves--properly--we are our own best friend. When we are our own best friends, we recognize in others qualities which mirror that which we love in ourselves. We see others as other selves.

    The affinity, affection or love that arises from this profound commonalty expresses itself necessarily as friendship. So, it is this mechanism I want to examine.

    First of all, what is friendship? For the Greeks and for Aristotle, friendship has a wider meaning than for us. The Oxford dictionary defines a friend as "one joined to another in intimacy and mutual benevolence independently of sexual or family love." This is a narrower definition than Aristotle intends.

    Friendship in the Ethics, or philia, includes those Oxford relationships, but also embraces both more and less intimate bonds. On the more intimate side, the bonds between parent and child or husband and wife, and on the less intimate side many other looser relationships: civic connections, business partnerships, religious ties, political bonds, social clubs, neighbourhood connections. These bonds of friendship can emerge from within an endless variety of potential fraternal groupings.

    Modern possibilities could include: members of unions, student communities, college communities, civic, provincial, national communities, stamp collectors, sailors, men, women, or any number of combinations of groupings where people find common cause. Aristotle would have no problem seeing the bonds that tie us, instructors and students in Liberal Studies 301, as bonds of friendship. For Aristotle the social and political considerations of friendship are as wide as the definition of friendship is broad, which is why Aristotle devotes as much attention to the subject as he does.

    The possibilities for bonding in friendship are not restricted to communities of equals. They include relationships between rulers and ruled, young and old, rich and poor, master and apprentice, student and teacher. And while parties in such unequal relationships may hold vastly different positions in terms of age, power, wealth, learning, or experience, the bonds of friendship are real, even though the things they give each other are different.

    Aristotle devotes two books to the topic, roughly 20 percent of the Ethics. Yet, the material in these two chapters is largely neglected by scholars. This is strange because for Aristotle friendship is considered as necessary for a flourishing life. Happiness requires it and the moral excellence Aristotle defines as justice is impossible without it.

    What then is so important about friends for Aristotle? The short answer: "Friends enhance our ability to think and to act (p. 215)." But, "to think," or "to act," as we learn from the Ethics, are to be understood "teleologically" or, in other words, towards ultimate or final purposes. Acting isn't just acting. Thinking isn't just thinking. "The aim of action," in fact, is "the good (p.3)," which he later identifies with "happiness." and, "happiness is the end of our actions (p.16)." Well, if action (right action) brings us to the good, what then about that other activity that friendship enhances, namely thinking (right thinking)?

    Near the end of the Ethics Aristotle identifies thinking, or the "activity of intelligence" (the highest order of thinking) with "the complete happiness of man (p. 290)." The goal and gold of life's project is to be happy and friends help us get there.

    But how does this work and why are friends somehow indispensable to a full life? The key to understanding the mechanism of friendship -- how friendship enhances our teleological purpose--how friends help us get to the gold--happiness--the good--arises from Aristotle's notion of "self-love."

    To understand how friendship works, we need first to understand how we relate to ourselves. Aristotle arrives at this point by noting that anything we wish or might wish from our friends we also wish for ourselves. So, let's check that out first by asking what we wish from others. He suggests five points.

    Let's try them on in both senses by applying each statement first to a friend and then to our selves.

    1: (A friend is) (I am) someone who wishes for and does what is good for me. (T or F)

    2: (A friend is) (I am) someone who actively wishes for your my existence and life. (T or F)

    3: (A friend is) (I am) someone who spends time with me (myself). (T or F)

    4. (A friend is) (I am) someone who desires what I desire. (T or F)

    5. (A friend is) (I am) someone who shares my sorrows and joys. (T or F)

    Turning these on ourselves produces some interesting ideas. Negative responses to any of these answers serve as a test of internal harmony. They suggest also ways in which we can regard ourselves (psyches or souls) as consisting of various elements.

    These five characteristics or sentiments can--in a good individual--one whose internal soul or psyche is not divided against itself--reflect with as much truth on self as on a friend and to the extent that a friend might share these five characteristics in common with me, the friend can be regarded as another "self."

    The sentiment, affection, or affinity that arises in us for a friend who shares these five characteristics with us, might be called love. We love those who possess these characteristics. Then, is it not reasonable to turn that sentiment back onto ourselves if we answered in the affirmative to those qualities about ourselves.

    In other words is there such a thing as self love? Does charity (another word for love) begin at home? Or, to use the lovely equivalent Greek proverb in footnote 26 on p.260, is the "knee closer than the shin?" What does it mean to be our own best friend in the best sense?

    Here Aristotle differentiates between self love directed towards the irrational parts of the psyche or soul versus self love directed towards the rational parts of the psyches or soul. Irrationally directed self-love--the gratification of emotion or appetite is base. However, the self love that comes from the gratification of the rational or the most "sovereign" element in us, our ruling "intelligence," is noble and good. This then is where the mechanism for friendship kicks in.

    This ruling element, or intelligence, is actually identical with what we truly are. A good person should be a self lover. Why? Because in loving ourselves, we perform noble actions. More importantly, we will benefit others. Why? Because intelligence always chooses what is best for itself. A good man always obeys his intelligence, and the actions of such men are performed in the interests of friends, community and country.

    The good deeds, or the right actions that follow from self love must be directed somewhere and that generally means directed to others. In plain words we need others to do good deeds to. Reciprocally, in misfortune we need those who will direct good to us. Consequently a happy man needs society and friends.

    Does that make sense? Friends emerge as a consequence of right inwards identification with self--identification with intelligence--that
    which is unequivocally directed towards the good. Intelligence in turn is necessarily direct outwards and usually toward others. Love of self reflects necessarily as love of others.

    Aristotle puts more substance around this argument by reminding us that those others to whom we are now of necessity directing our good deeds are to a greater or lesser degree other "selves." Now, our very "existence" is pleasant and desirable because we perceive it as good. These other selves to whom our reflected intelligence is directed, are desirable and pleasant too. Friends enhance our pleasure and happiness--because, to return to the initial claim, they enhance our ability to think and to act.

    The key in this mechanism is the claim that "intelligence," that which is truly us, is somehow infallible. But what guarantee is there that the sovereign in us is not a tyrant? What makes intelligence so good? After all, if intelligence was not good, friends might not enhance our happiness.

    For Aristotle, "intelligence" is that which apprehends fundamental principles, and is "always truthful." (note 23, from posterior analytics,
    II 19 100b5-14, p.155). So, "intelligence" for Aristotle, is an intellectual characteristic which reigns like a pope within us, and can
    never err when it speaks "ex cathedra." Another way of putting it is that if intelligence speaks falsely, it is not intelligence that speaks?

    In Book X (p.289) Aristotle claims that "intelligence" is the "highest possession we have and its objects the highest objects of knowledge." Interestingly, Aristotle suggests that a wise man--one who presumably has identified completely with intelligence--is self sufficient! Such a man would presumably need no friends at all! This apparent contradiction is partially resolved where he notes that such a life is however "more than human."

    Humans, Aristotle, notes are composites of soul and body, and far from able to identify completely with intelligence. Friends come in handy, it seems, even for those absorbed in purely theoretical pursuits.


  4. #4

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    Re: Aristotle on Friendship

    Well good text, but I'll put my opinion over this:

    Aristotles was a greek. The germanics that were to populate europe after the fall of the roman empire understood friendship as a bound of allegiance, that is, the followers of the king (or clan chief) are all his friends and friends of each other. To break this bound was considered high treason, and the traitor was to be exiled.
    You can see the fact that was more easy for a mediterranean to turn down a emperor, and usurpe the throne, than for a germanic to do the same to his clan chief. This ocurred because the structure of the roman empire was more secure than living in a area full of barbarian tribes in warfare with each other.
    Because the bounds were more harder, the germanic understood that a more rigid selection was needed for his friendships, as they involved a more intensive allegiance than the one of mediterraneans to his emperors. This concept of allegiance, when mingled with the old republican idea, generated the idea of federation (foederati), a contract between some kings. These kings, then, were not considered "friends", they were considered "associates", bounded by the contract. The first foederati were mercenaries working for Rome.
    The european-dominated world was to absorve this concept of selective and more intensive friendship, and the less selective and less intensive was to be considered "coleages", or "associates", not "real" friends.
    This was applied for "love" too. The woman to be chosen were to be of the same clan, or of the same tribe. When the idea of federation came, the dinastic marriages turned common between the germanics, and you see, for example, the Hapsburgs with spanish and austrian nobles within its structure.

  5. #5

  6. #6

  7. #7

    Michele E. Doyle and Mark K. Smith

    When approaching the notion of friendship, our first problem is, as Graham Allan (1996: 85) has commented, that there is a lack of firmly agreed and socially acknowledged criteria for what makes a person a friend. In one setting we may describe someone as a friend, in another the label may seem less appropriate. We may have a very thin understanding of what friendship entails. For example, Bellah et. al. (1996: 115), drawing upon Aristotle, suggest that the traditional idea of friendship has three components: 'Friends must enjoy each other's company, they must be useful to one another, and they must share a common commitment to the good'. In contemporary western societies, it is suggested, we tend to define friendship in terms of the first component, and find the notion of utility a difficult to place within friendship.
    What we least understand is the third component, shared commitment to the good, which seems to us quite extraneous to the idea of friendship. In a culture dominated by expressive and utilitarian individualism, it is easy for us to understand the components of pleasure and usefulness, but we have difficulty seeing the point of considering friendship in terms of common moral commitments. (op. cit.)
    Many contemporary writers in the west tend to present friendship as private, voluntary, and happening between autonomous individuals. According to this view 'friendship becomes a special relationship between two equal individuals involved in a uniquely constituted dyad' (Bell and Coleman 1999: 8). This contrasts in key respects with the classical view, and, as we will see, derives from a particular view of
    selfhood. Furthermore, as Graham Allan (1989) has argued, relationships that are often presented as voluntary, informal and personal, still operate within the constraints of class, gender, age, ethnicity and geography - and this places a considerable question against the idea that friendship is a matter of choice.

    (...)Friendship can be viewed as personal and freely entered into - but it is formed in particular social, economic and cultural circumstances and this has a very significant impact upon the people we meet, and our ability to engage in different activities. It is of profound social as well as individual significance. Through friendship we gain practical and emotional support, and an important contribution to our personal identities. Friendship also helps us to integrate us into the public realm and 'act as a resource for managing some of the mundane and exceptional events' that confront us in our lives.

    Read further:
    Doyle, M. E. and Smith, M. K. (2002) 'Friendship: theory and experience', the encyclopaedia of informal education, Last update: January 28, 2005

  8. #8

    Domingo Ivan Casañas

    Friendship is the key ingredient in a happy and complete life. Without it, daily existence becomes bland, dull and monotonous. “The only way to have a good friend is to be one”, is what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. This means taking the first step and initiating deeper contact with the other person.
    Nothing bonds two individuals more closely than self-revelation and vulnerability. When you risk sharing with another person what brings you joy and pain, the friendship deepens considerably. One must be open with their feeling in order to allow the other person to see what is in their hearts. Many of us have many acquaintances but true friends can usually be counted in one hand.

    Remember there can be great unity within diversity. The finest friendships can cross religious, political, and social boundaries. You’ve got to have enough in common so that you understand each other, and enough differences so that there is something to exchange. I have several friends that fall in this category.

    A true friend is someone who can always be counted on when life gets rough. A true friend suspends judgments and provides a continuous flow of love and support to allow the other person time to heal and recover. “Friendship provides security”. The qualities in a friendship include loyalty and true devotion to each other. You can tell when you find a true friend because when a crisis happens and he or she will be there for you with a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

    Remember this; a friend’s moods may change. A friend may make decisions you do not feel are wise. And a friend may act in ways that you would not. Nevertheless, strong and true friendships do not have a high perfectionist impulse attached to them. A true friend will be the first one to admit his/her mistake directly to you.
    Sometimes friends hurt us, thru a word, a deed, that person will sense the hurt and come to you with an explanation or an apology. A friend does know how to forgive and forget, and reminds us that love not time heals all wounds.

    We must listen to each other with our hearts. Always be sincere and generous with any praise and compliments. A positive atmosphere will train your mind to search for the positive things about your friend. You can confide in a true friend.
    Friendships take time, energy and commitment, keeping once word is also an essential part of a true friend. To live a full life one must find that special friend to share it with. True friendship is what a real relationship is all about. As I enjoy my time with my true friend I wish you all a great week full of laughter, love and friendship. May God Bless you all.


  9. #9
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    Nature and value of friendship

    I have always thought that Aristotle's "friendship of utility" is no friendship at all. It is mere exploitation. If a friend is useful to me, this is utterly incidental to the friendship; a total stranger could be just as useful.... One aspect of friendship which seems not to have been given sufficient emphasis in this discussion is the possession of common interests. I cannot imagine that a friendship could ever start unless the two individuals had some interest(s) in common. Certainly, all of my friends share one or more of my numerous interests with me. If this were not so, we'd have no more to talk about than strangers at a cocktail party....Friendship is more egalitarian than most human relationships. Dominance and submission play little or no role in a true friendship. If one of the members of a relationship between two individuals is domineering and demanding of the other but does not reciprocate ,
    this is no friendship, but a degrading relationship....Friends are, or ought to be loyal to each other. I expect loyalty of my friends and give loyalty to them. We make allowances for each other. "They came and told your faults to me. They named them to me o'er and o'er. The fools ! They were too blind to see, Your faults had made me love you more."

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    Re: Friendship

    Friendship seems like a very complex topic. However IMHO Friendship is always based on similiarity. We are naturally drawn to those, who admire us and if we admire them in return they become our friends.

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