We all have friends. However, have you ever stopped to think about what friendship really is? This has been a recurring theme in philosophy, from antiquity to the present day. In this article, we’re going to explore some of the main philosophical concepts about friendship.
By doing so, we’ll be able to better understand this type of relationship that’s so fundamental for us, as human beings. Indeed, from childhood, we cultivate friendly ties with other people. However, as time goes by, their meaning tends to change and we develop different concepts about friendship.
Philosophy also has ideas to contribute to this particular subject.
Friendship according to classical philosophy
One of the ancient philosophers who reflected most on friendship was Aristotle. He believed that this type of relationship had an extremely important influence on the morale of all citizens. In effect, he suggested that through friendship, individual virtue could be achieved. These ideas suggest that other people are necessary to achieve ethical or character improvement.
This represents the importance of friendship in the field of philosophy, and for Aristotle in particular. The most important thing for him was to cultivate the virtue of the whole of society. It’s achieved through friendship as the individual gets to know themselves better which acts as a stimulus to perfect their ethical virtues.
Mutual love in friendship
Reciprocity is one of the backbones of friendship. It’s understood as a two-way relationship that involves giving and receiving. This means that an individual in a bond of friendship is an active participant in the relationship. If they aren’t, it’s extremely difficult for the relationship to be maintained.
In fact, friendship doesn’t exist if one of the parties isn’t committed to the relationship. It has to be a reciprocal and virtuous love between equals. Indeed, friendship involves the equality of both characters and their actions.
Equality in friendship
Equality is another important characteristic of friendship. Friends are equals. They see each other in their personalities and characters.
This similarity implies a series of common characteristics shared between friends. For example, codes, tastes, and ideologies. For example, you probably find you often measure friendship on the basis of the things you have in common with your friends.
In short, friendship is about reciprocity and equality. You require someone else, besides yourself, in whom you can see yourself reflected.
Feelings of friendship
The feelings associated with friendship can be diverse. That said, there are two emotions on which there’s complete agreement: love and joy. According to philosophy, they’re both concepts that further enrich the definition of friendship.
The concept of love in friendship
Love is understood as the engine that makes a friendship lasting. It allows the various forms of existence and maintains each person’s individuality. According to this perspective, you have certain traits in common with your friends, but there are also always differences. They’re what distinguish you from them.
The concept of love suggests that despite the differences there may be between you and your friends, friendship remains. This is so because of the existence of the feeling of love. You’re allowed to continue being individuals yet still be loved and respected by your friends. This is true friendship.
Joy as a concept of friendship
As for the feeling of joy, the field of philosophy considers that it unites individuals in friendship. It consists of the rewarding moments that you share with your friends, those that reinforce your friendships.
This joy requires that you both rejoice in each other. In other words, the happiness of your friend makes you feel joyous which you also share.
However, what about friendship in suffering? It’s usually considered that friendship in bad times is just as true as friendship in good times. But, despite this, some philosophical reflections maintain that it’s difficult not to be affected by the suffering and pain of others.
In effect, the grief of your friends is contagious because it’s difficult not to empathize with their suffering. To be able to bear it requires a strong character. However, in your relationships, the search for joy and not suffering should predominate. Consequently, love and joy are the most significant feelings of friendship.
Friendship as transformation
Sometimes, you don’t appreciate the transformative potential that makes you evolve as a person. In this respect, friendship plays a really important role. That’s because friendship produces the necessary stimulus for your personal growth via the figure of a friend as a challenge.
However, what does it mean for a friend to be a challenge? It’s about the difference that they represent, a difference founded on the individuality of each of you. In this particular sense, your friend is considered an enemy, since they, with their own ideals and tastes, collide with your own subjectivity.
Considering a friend both as a different person and an enemy allows you to maintain a distance from yourself and think about yourself. In this kind of self-thought, transformation takes place which allows you to grow as a person. In effect, your friend-enemy shows you other ways of being and acting.
The philosophy of friendship invites you to reflect on one of the most fundamental human relationships you’ll ever have. But, in everyday life, you might often overlook the fact that your friendships can bring love, joy, reciprocity, and transformation. For this reason, looking at friendship from a philosophical perspective will help you reflect on your own.