Sunday, January 23, 2011


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

“Friendship was a great subject of stories and of philosophical reflection in classical antiquity”---Unshakable loyalty and mutual trust made friendship a most impressive and most appealing classical virtue. Courage is another example of what the ancients considered a virtue. The “special charm and fascination of a great friendship seem to make it at once so noble and so delightfully desirable.”

The “richness and complexity of friendship, its ability to support but also at times to undercut virtue, and the promise it holds of bringing together in one happy union so much of what is highest and so much of what is sweet in life, formed a fruitful topic of philosophical inquiry for the ancients.”

Friendships were to be cultivated and “counted on as one of life's chief good”[s]. In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote about friendship more extensively than about any other virtue. He also offered friendship as a “bridge between the virtues and the highest life of philosophy.” In classical Greek and Roman cultures, philosophy was not the study of abstract concepts - aesthetics, ethics, and logic. Rather, it was a form of practice, the practice of aesthetics, ethics, and logic, which fostered the most desirable way of being in the world, the most rewarding form of life, the good life. In that sense, friendship was the practice of, among other things, reciprocity, and it is here that friendship for a woman and a man can get tricky, challenging.

“The study of friendship in classical authors is in many ways a study of human love altogether”, since the Greek word for friendship “can cover all bonds of affection, from the closet erotic and familial ties, to political loyalties, humanitarian sympathies, business relationships, even love for inanimate things.” But the Greek word for friendship ”means first and foremost friendship, for it is precisely in friendships of mature and virtuous individuals that we do see human love not only at its most revealing, but at its richest and highest.”
Ernesto Vasquez, MD

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