Sunday, January 23, 2011


Passages from Lorraine Smith Pangle’s book Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

In friendship, Plato and Aristotle both suggest, “we can best see the true character and extent of our desire to live with others when that desire is shorn of all considerations of necessity and utility. Likewise, Aristotle assumes neither the possibility nor the impossibility of what we would call altruism, but instead offers a sustained and sympathetic exploration of what is really at work in the human heart when an individual seems to disregard his own good to pursue the good of others.”

“Aristotle does not assume that the concern for a friend is necessarily tainted by partiality; he argues that friendship can be rooted on a true assessment of the friend’s worth as a person, and as such, friendship can give us the noblest expression of our sociability.”

The naturalness of friendship (that is, the tendency toward friendship as an essential dimension of human nature), the possibility of selflessness in friendship, and the relationship of friendship to justice, are the three central themes of all major philosophical studies of friendship.
Professor Smith Pangle articulates and proposes keen insights on friendship. She presents her insights first as questions, which she then answers in the affirmative with sustainable arguments throughout her book:

"What are the roots of friendship in human nature? How central to human
happiness is loving and being loved? To what extent is the desire for
affection and friendship reducible to other causes, to our defects and
vulnerabilities and needs for things in themselves altogether extraneous
to friendship, and to what extent is friendship itself a necessary or
central component of the happiness of the healthiest human beings?

"How truly can and do human beings care for others for their own sakes and
promote the good of others as an end in itself? Do they do this at all?
Do they do it when the good of the other conflicts with their own deepest
good? Or is every apparent selfless sacrifice in fact, in some complicated
or disguised way, a pursuit of a greater good for oneself?

"To what extent can friendship answer the longing for a just community with
others that political life invariably fails to answer perfectly? And what
light does an examination of the problems of justice within friendship
shed on the problem of justice as a whole?"

In psychoanalysis and psychotherapy we can benefit much from contributions such as this one from our colleagues in philosophy.
Ernesto Vasquez, MD

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