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“Anyone who has good friends is a success”

by Tim Delaney

It is no hyperbole to say that having friends, especially good friends, is a sure sign of success. The value of friendship is immense. Having friends is one of the most fundamental aspects of finding and achieving happiness. So it is safe to say we are all better off if we have a number of close friends and if we can find activities that bring us happiness that we can share with others.

Friends come in a variety of types and categories, but they’re generally described as those with whom we are attached by feelings of affection or personal regard; those who provide assistance and support; those on good terms with one another; and those who may share certain core attributes such religious and cultural affiliations, or a common interest such as travel, music, a favorite sports team, or an appreciate for fine dining or the fine arts. Best friends – the apex of the friendship hierarchy – possess a multitude of virtues, including being reliable, sympathetic, trustworthy, easy-going, respectful, dependable, generous, understanding, fun to be with, passionate, caring, tolerant, considerate, loving, accepting, and honest.

The meaning of ‘friendship’ can vary a great deal depending upon the type of friendship. Some friendships are based on utility, while others are characterized by a connection so strong that the friends feel a need to keep in regular contact. Some friendships involve a simple trust that the other will not hurt you; some are designed for normal companionship; and others involve unconditional love, support, and/or commitment. Friendships are rarely one-sided, as it takes at least two willing individuals to negotiate the boundaries to really participate in such a relationship. When friends have a positive experience they are more likely to maintain the friendship, but when the association no longer brings happiness to all the friends, it is likely to end.

Traditionally, friendships have relied on face-to-face encounters with others; however, with the rise of the internet, friendship has expanded to the electronic and even virtual worlds. In these worlds it is possible to forge and maintain friendships without ever having met your friend face-to-face. Still, if they are real friends (not just Facebook ‘friends’), these friendships are based on the same basic characteristics of friendships found throughout history: trust, loyalty, dependability, and so on.

We can only venture to guess about the nature of friendships in the future. Face-to-face friendships will always exist, at least for as long as we possess physical bodies. But if technology continues to advance, we may all eventually reside in a Matrix-type world where all our connections will be electronically mediated. Nonetheless, it is a safe bet that friendships will always be a key component of humanity.

The articles in this issue address the topic of friendship from the time of Aristotle through to the current variations of friendships, including electronic friendships, also taking a look at the application of friendship to a particular social institution (education), and an analysis of what Thomas Aquinas thought about amiability. Tim Madigan and Daria Gorlova begin with a quote from Aristotle that emphasizes the important of friendship: “For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” They go on to describe Aristotle’s three types of friendships: friends of utility, friends of pleasure, and friends of the good, focusing especially on the latter. Anastasia Malakhova and yours truly together describe how the categorization of friendships has evolved since the time of Aristotle to the point now where far more than just three types of friendships need to be identified, including friendships that are established and maintained via electronic interactions rather than the traditional face-to-face associations. Robert Ruehl’s article on the importance of friendship for education is a fascinating read and will be appreciated by all, but especially by those in academia, students and teachers alike. Ruehl describes the works of ancient Greek and Roman social thinkers, then applies their ideas on friendship to the social institution of education. Séan Moran provides an intriguing look at friendship by analyzing Aquinas’s three key effects of friendship, and also considers the implications of an afterlife where all those who make it to Heaven will be friends with God.

Friendship is a quite fascinating topic. On the one hand, most of us have a working knowledge of its meaning and already value friendship; on the other hand there is always so much more we can learn about it. I hope the friendly articles in this friendly issue of Philosophy Now will enhance your understanding of friendship as the authors’ perspectives expand the knowledge each of us already have about it. It is also my hope that I have gained some new friends as a result of editing this issue!

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