Monday, October 20, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Friendship

Hi tapping,
Welcome back from your break. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, took some time off, and in the words of the author of this topic, "failed a little" at least in doing your schoolwork. Or maybe you even achieved a sense of boredom. If this was you, I am happy for you.

As always, we will meet for rides at 7:30 in Connelly, and at 8:00 in Yeats' brew pub in Ardmore, on THURSDAY

I also wanted to remind everyone that Dr. Carvalho is having a get together in the philosophy department lounge on Friday. Please do try to show up, it will be a lovely time.

And without further delay, by Rory Scanlon: FRIENDSHIP.

“Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.” - Nietzsche

What is friendship?

For the sake of alienation (to be as abstract as possible about something so near to us all) it could be understood as the intersection of two idea: “the personal” and “the limit”—or finitude. Friendship is something like a personal limit. It is always a matter of a direct, face to face, relation of some sort, which is limited. More than this… it presents its own limit as itself.

Thus family relations will not do for friendship for we are always our mother’s little boy or little girl. We are anticipated by the family such that if the relationship is limited, it never shows itself as such. And wider political relations (citizenship, being a student, being a camp councilor, “card-carrying” anything) will not do for they are essentially impersonal and thus can remain simply composed of limits (rules).

These relations are not mutually exclusive; they are perhaps becoming harder and harder to distinguish as the openness yet caring (if not involvement?) of friendship becomes the model for the political and familial. In fact many things we call friendship border on contradicting my definition (as hopelessly vague as it is!): friending and unfriending on facebook, mutual friends, friend of a friend, friends with benefits. The personal moment in a facebook friendship can be (and is structurally) reduced to a moment of choice—choice in a far from personal context. Similarly: is it inevitable that a friend of a friend will become your friend if you meet him or her? close to inevitable? If BFFs were already, at present, friends forever—would their friendship last? would it not become something else? And friends with benefits seem only to remain friends as long as the benefits are not quite spelled out—not entirely known.

Yet all of these examples are still examples of friendship (? Question 1). There is a core of friendship that still pertains to each of them making the limits of the relation potentially personal and the personal quality of the relation—one could almost say, its own personality—eminently limited: independence (? Question 2)—a bizarre relation of independence, mutual independence.

The (counter-)examples of new sorts of friendship may affirm the independence of the relation to triviality (friends with benefits—as if it were a business transaction) or deny it outright (BFF, as if the friendship is as necessary as blood), but they never escape this trait. So friendship is a relation that comes on top of independence as a sharing of independence. It is both gratuitous, and in some essential sense, superfluous.

There is something in the idea of “a facebook” that gets at this gratuity and superfluity very well. We can pick and put down our friendships; we can devise special sub-communities of friends; we can browse our memories of friendship; flip throw our friends; begin a friendship, and be finished with one. Yet I think “the facebook” idea is actually a reactionary impulse to the gratuity and superfluity of friendship that would exist on a deeper, more radical level, if we did not have a book to mark it by (? Question 3). With “a facebook” the book itself is gratuitous and superfluous but the reading of it need not be. The marks of friendship—in lovely dialectical contrast—however, are often the very opposite of free and open, precisely in that we are free to depend on our friends, open to sharing secrets with friends. The freedom and openness of friendship exists in its closure upon some content that makes the friendship happen; something needs to make the friendship happen—we need not make our citizenship or family ties happen. Friendship is not gratuitous and superfluous for us as individual participants, as “the facebook” makes it out to be—it is not so self-composed—rather it is the gratuity and superfluity of the relation. In other words, we only get to have this gratuity and superfluity in friendship. So friendships bind by way of being on a deeper level, in the process of the real, accidental. Friendship requires independence of us in order to give that independence back to us; we receive the image of our own freedom in another and thereby we are even freed from ourselves; the accidental play of independence is also the core of independence, gratuity and superfluity: a free gift with your purchase of existence: an extra prize.

Here we can speak of friendship in the wider sense, the Greek Philia. One can have a friendly disposition, or be friendly towards nature, politics can become the collective reasoning of friends (Aristotle), erotic love sublimated—or, if you will, deferred—by friendship (Plato).

Friendship could even be correlated with being; the thought that things exist at all could be called a friendship for things (? Question 4). Mere existence would not really be kinship with things for then this existence as such would not exist (i.e. for us, in mind) there would be only relations of kinship. Mere existence would not really be erotic love for then this mereness itself would be charged, excessive, tense. … And we do often see erotic love emerge from a tension in friendship; or inversely lovers at the end might often say but for Eros (--pretend they’re being poetic--) we would have been friends. … And friendships are always prefigured and predestined by the order of the family. Friendships inevitably simulate the originary links of childhood, etc. etc.

Thus we could have a transcendent understanding of love in those terms: Friendship and Being, Eros and Action (or Opposition), Family and Order. But here I have really gone too far.

Closing Consideration: Friendship is an independence that appears to itself and thus a void, an accident—the relationship of freedom because it can only be presumed, as an extra. …If this is true (useful, pleasurable or good, even) then friendship is the most paradoxical of relationships. For what would a relationship of independence look like!? (? Question 5) Friendship is even more paradoxical then erotic love (which could be understood as a dependence which appears to itself and yet desires itself, its own dependence)—it goes unthought! For where would one find the lever or tension with which to define or question friendship, if it is a relationship of independence? The family and the state invoke themselves in the relation; erotic love invokes itself ceaselessly (but also always on the edge of disappearance, in danger of mistake); but when do we invoke friendship? what could we say about it? Can one speak of friendship at all (and I mean in a particular case, “our” friendship) without negating it? Or is the possibility to be free with another, to not speak, at all, friendship already?

Here are some quotes that led me to link Friendship and Being –

Montaigne (free 400 year old e-text) -

“It is not in the power of the worlds discourse to remove me from the certaintie I have of his intentions and judgments of mine: no one of its actions might be presented unto me, under what shape soever, but I would presently linde the spring and motion of it. Our mindes have jumped so unitedly together, they have with so fervent an affection consideredof each other, and with like affection so discovered and sounded, even to the very bottome of each others heart and entrails, that I did not only know his, as well as mine owne, but would (verily) rather have trusted him concerning any matter of mine than my selfe.”

Simone Weil -

“For when two beings who are not friends are near each other there is no meeting, and when friends are far apart there is no separation.”

“Learn to reject friendship, or rather the dream of friendship. To want friendship is a great fault. Friendship ought to be a gratuitous joy, like the joys afforded by art, or life (like aesthetic joys). I must refuse it in order to be worthy to receive it”

Aristotle -

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies”

“O my friends, there is no perfect friend”

(or in Derrida, “O my friends, there is no friend”)

Francis Prior
Villanova Philosophy Club Website
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Minutes:
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Conference Website:

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