On True Friendship

True friendship is the happening where two equal humans meet and share their life with each other in love. It is a meeting where the one think of the other: “This human is beautiful. This human do I love”. In contrast to this, one have the relationship of the type where one thinks of the other: “What do I earn on this friendship?” or “Can I experience pleasure with this human?” True friendship is a relation in which the other is in focus because of his beauty and his qualities, as a mirror of one’s own beauty and qualities. It is a relation where equality rules, and not a relation where the other’s beauty and qualities become an extension to one self: a tool for one’s own existence that can be useful or give pleasure. The true friendship does not require the other to be anything more than he already is. It does not require the other to follow a given set of social rules. It is enough that the other mirror one’s own beauty and qualities, that the other give space for the love of oneself in the other. As such, the true friendship is a unique relation that gives space for a goodness only to be found in the goodness itself, a goodness that has been of huge influence on the society (Pangle, 2008).

The true friendship ask inherently about the need for other types of relations. If true friendship has both charity and goodness, what need does the human have for other types of relations that is not holding these qualities? A possible answer may be in what the other relations offers that not the true friendship has as a core quality or goal. In other words, a possible answer seems to require a walk through the world of relations, to cast light upon the qualities, possibilities and consequences of different relationships.

Keywords: Vera Amicitia, True Friendship, Aristotle, Philosophy.

The beauty of a boy

The true friendship is the result of another’s beauty and qualities, but not anyone other. The other’s beauty and qualities is a mirror of one’s own beauty and qualities. In its ideal form is it an equal relation in contrast to, in example, the relationship between a father and his son. In contrast to this relation, one have the utilitarian friendship and the erotic friendship, in which the primary goal is to earn something on the other or gain a pleasure. In these, the other’s beauty and qualities is of lesser importance, and the relation is not required to be equal. However, all these relationships has in common, in the end, that they seek to satisfy a given human need, and it is not to get away from, at least, that both the erotic friendship and the true friendship seeks the other’s beauty. Nevertheless, there is a crucial distinction between these different, but close, relations, both according to the need and to the beauty of the other (Pangle, 2008).

Once upon a time, there was a place where boys came together. Not only once was this place, it for sure has had a recurrence many a time, and maybe it even satisfy Nietzsche’s principle of eternal recurrence. Only time will show. Nevertheless, in this place with boys there is a moment where another boy, who has not been there, enter the place. This boy is beautiful, a beauty which is not to be mistaken by anyone in the place. A perfect body, by vision alone, and his qualities, as of noble family, not something everyone certainly have. This boy, with his beauty and qualities, make it no surprise that many of the other boys in the place wish to get to know him better, and even become a little desperate in it. Some make their way forward and try to convince the beautiful boy that they are willing to do everything for him if they get a sharing in his beauty and qualities. Others, actually only one, take a soft step forward, share his knowledge with the beautiful boy, and hope that his knowledge would enhance the beauty and qualities of the beautiful boy.

The intentions of the boys in this given place seems to be different, and in this inequality different kind of relations come to expression. The primary group of boys, that seems to have highest respect for the beautiful boy in the action of their kneeling for him and offer him all that he want in change with a closer relationship, emerges with a self-sacrificing intention. The other group, that counts only one boy, at first does not seems to show much of a respect for the beautiful boy through his focus on his own knowledge that he wish to share with the beautiful boy. It is, nevertheless, an action with an intention of enhancing the beauty and qualities that already is a part of the beautiful boy, and rather than as self-sacrificing it emerges as charity. The self-sacrificing group wish to get a specific part of the boy’s beauty and qualities, and is willing to offer all for it. In this way, they make themselves weak and without significance as long as their needs are satisfied. The other group, still one boy, emerges without a clear wish for the relation beyond the wish to share their own beauty and qualities with the beautiful boy with a hope that his beauty and qualities multiplies. They see in themselves the same as they see in the other, only in this way may the education of the other, the beautiful boy, multiply his beauty and qualities. They love themselves as their next (Bruell, 1999; Pangle, 2008).

The primary group see in the beautiful boy a possibility to satisfy their erotic or utilitarian needs. His perfect body makes him very attractive for an erotic friendship, and his noble qualities makes him fit for a utilitarian friendship. They are willing to weaken themselves in getting the pleasure or utility of having a friendship with the beautiful boy, and they seek him out because of their own egoistical needs for pleasure and utility. With no respect for themselves, they are not in a position to respect the other neither. The other group, which actually was one person and not anyone but a philosopher (Bruell, 1999), see in the beautiful boy himself. He see a possibility, through his noble sharing of knowledge, to enhance both his own beauty and qualities as well as the other’s, the beautiful boy’s, beauty and qualities. To himself the act of giving make him conscious of his quality to give for the sake of others. Moreover, it not only make him conscious in the moment, it become a memory that he always can rely on for accessing his qualities, and as such make him stronger. The other, the beautiful boy, receive the noble gift of knowledge and become stronger as the result of being able to understand his own beauty and qualities even better. The act of charity, where the love of oneself make one conscious of one’s own qualities to such an extent that both oneself, and the other, become stronger, is the core of the true friendship.

The human needs of pleasure and utility is the foundation of the way of the erotic and utilitarian friendships. They proceed by the egoistical actions of taking from the other to gain oneself, and need only an instinct to set forth the actions. The human needs of pleasure and utility is not any lesser in the sake of true friendship, but the true friendship does not proceed by egoistical action and it does need more than an instinct to be set forth. The true friendship is an act of education, which proceeds by the sharing of one’s own beauty and qualities for the sake of the mutual beauty and qualities of oneself and the equal other. In this process, the need for pleasure is naturally satisfied through the sharing of one’s equal beauty, and the need for utility is naturally satisfied through the sharing of one’s equal qualities. Moreover, in contrast to the erotic and utilitarian friendships, the needs are satisfied in such a way that they do not weaken oneself, but make oneself stronger (Pangle, 2008).

There is then no surprise that a philosopher as Aristotle (2004) has a higher vision for the true friendship than any other relationships. The rational relationships for an ancient philosopher is the one driven forward by charity, the one that have the best possibility of pushing a human toward the ultimate goodness. The other relationships, driven by instinct and being egoistical, then has an immature position and is something the human, to the extent one seek the ultimate goodness, should avoid. Despite the unfortunately position the erotic and utilitarian friendships stands in, necessary as they are for mere self-preservation, the choice to follow them and not seeking the higher goodness is legal and only, with some luck, to be prevented by the rather hidden education by a philosopher through the art of rhetoric. Thought, the opportunity to be guided away, through education, from the instinctive and egoistical friendships toward the true friendship will never be an awful experience, but rather give even more pleasure and utility than the erotic and utilitarian friendships can give. 

By education does Aristotle (2004) proceed to teach people to know their way to the ultimate goodness and away from the possible dreary condition of instinctive play. As education, he gives other an opportunity to seek the virtue of the true friendship. He does not expect all to follow him, and he does not excommunicate the other relationships because the fact is that a human never will have many true friends and is likely to need lesser friendships as well. His education is not, concerning relations, to release the humans from the instinctive chains, but to enlighten the humans about the ultimate goodness, a goodness that in the end, anyway, would be an actual release from all kind of relations, even true friendship (Pangle, 2008).

Heaven and sin

There has been a rumor that the ultimate goodness is a utopian idea (Berns, 2012), and that true friendships as such is the closest one can come to it. As such, the ultimate goodness has been pictured, sometimes, as residing between the stars in the heaven, as something that is unreachable. This picture is not beyond a historical vision, it is rather a great picture when it comes to the understanding of Christianity. Without it being the foundation of Christianity, the idea of the ultimate goodness as something unreachable in the human life that one, nevertheless, should seek to reach, make a good introduction to the heaven and hell of Christianity.

The ultimate goodness in Christianity is the eternal life in heaven. It is a life in the ultimate good city of God. To reach it is to become dead without seeking the dead. It is the afterlife for those who has striven to reach it the human life. As in the world of the philosophers, the key to reach the ultimate goodness is through the formation of true friendships. The difference from the philosophers is that the ultimate goodness is seen as something after life for those who has reached the state of true friendship in the human life for the Christians, whereas it for the philosophers is something that may be reached in human life, despite the many rumors of it being a utopia. Another difference concern the education of the human toward the true friendship. Since the Christian live in relation to his master, to his God, the choice of relationships is not so readily available. To not seeking the true friendship, the mean of reaching the ultimate goodness: the kingdom of God, is to turn away from God and as such something unfortunate, especially with respect to the ultimate goodness that become unavailable after life. For that reason a voluntary education is not really an alternative for the Christian, rather some sorts of law regulating the Christian life in accordance with the goal of reaching the ultimate goodness become the best practice (Augustine, 2003).

If man only were an animal, the instinct would have determined all his actions according to Augustine (2003). However, man is more than an animal; he is a rational animal with the skill of doing rational action. As such, he is also able to reach the ultimate goodness through the rational actions of true friendships. In contrast to this, if he proceeds as an animal, letting the self-preserving needs rule all his action, he will never have the possibility to reach the ultimate goodness. So when a beautiful boy enter one’s place, to proceed with an instinctive act of self-preservation instead of educating it with one’s own beauty and qualities, is to seek the opposite of the ultimate goodness, the kingdom of God. It is, for Augustine at least, an example of original sin.

To sin, despite it being a rather unfortunate act, is something particular common to humans. They are still animals and they are still in need of self-preservation. However, they are given an opportunity through the rational skill to proceed to something higher and more good than an erotic or utilitarian friendship can give.  For the philosophers it was not an ultimate end in the same way as it is for the Christian to use this skill and proceed with true friendships, the ultimate goodness as pictured by the philosophers have after all got a rumor of being a utopia. However, for the Christians, to use the rational skill and proceed with true friendships or not are the answer to a life in heaven or hell. It so becomes rather important, for the Christian, to avoid erotic and utilitarian friendships, and proceed with the true friendship based on charity.

Utopia and its solutions

When the options of the ultimate goodness is either a utopia or in afterlife, it is of no use for the man who wish to reach it in his human life or the man who is not a strict believer in God as such. Man is left with primary two solutions, which even may overlap in right circumstances. The first, with a starting point in the idea of the ancient utopia, is to lower the standards of the ultimate goodness such that it becomes reachable and no longer a utopia. The second, with a starting point in the idea of the Christian God, is to redefine at least this God, if not even the whole Christianity, so that the God becomes reachable in the human world.

To redefine the God seems like the simplest solution, and it is a question by itself if that was the case in the transition from the ancient Gods to the ancient utopia, or the other way around, from the ancient utopia to the Christian God, as the similarities between the ancient utopia and the monotheistic God are many. However, to redefine the God may actually end up in not only a redefinition but also a lowering of the standards, and as such be a solution of the former type. To redefine the God alone without making him a human utopia, which already exist, then seems like a rather impossible solution. Another solution is to redefine Christianity in such a way that a higher goodness may be reachable in the human world, without lowering the standards of the God. In this way the heavenly afterlife has to be closed in such a way that the ultimate goodness is not reachable by man in the human life, but a replacement for the ultimate goodness that fulfill the needs of the human life is available for the virtuous man. However, in the end, even this solution is a lowering of the standards, and as such make it hard to redefine Christianity alone. Despite this, both redefinitions of God, like placing the Kingdom of God inside the human self (Tolstoy, 2010), and redefinitions of Christianity, like the noble work done by Martin Luther (Forrester, 2012), has appeared in history.  Nevertheless, in summary, it comes down to an actually lowering of the standards rather than a simple redefinition, and the solution to the ancient utopia seems to be the solution to the afterlife as well.

The age of Enlightenment is the age of redefinitions done in such a way that it is a lowering of the standards as defined by ancient philosophers and original theology. As it imply great changes to the foundational quest of philosophy, the quest of ultimate goodness for the human, it is in need of a global politic that spread the message of the realizable solutions to the ancient utopia and the afterlife. This solution is not only apparent in the work done to Christianity by Martin Luther. It is rather even more apparent in the work done by the solvers of the ancient utopia, the pioneers of the Enlightenment. It is more apparent because it does not only involve a lowering of a goodness from the City of God, so that man can reach a goodness good enough for him in the human life, but it involves a lowering of the ultimate goodness itself to the human life (Strauss & Cropsey, 2012).

Nevertheless, the world remains, and society as well. The ultimate lowering of standards is not a change to the means, only to the goal. The world is still in need of a system that ensure the stability of society. However, the lowering of the standards make for a change in the social system as well since the goal no longer is a Kallipolis or other kind of utopia, nor the afterlife. The goal is to reach the ultimate goodness in human life, and what happens after it is a very different question. The new invention of the age of Enlightenment is a social system based upon the very mastery by the humans over the nature and ultimate goodness itself. This imply that man with his reasonable powers alone can master the nature and create an ultimate goodness for man to reach in his human life. To ensure the stability of the society and the relations involved, man is given precise standards to be used in connection with his reasonable powers (Strauss & Cropsey, 2012).

The invention of scientific methodology and the advancement of the possible ultimate goodness by scientific technology, did not only serve as a solution to the ancient utopia and the afterlife. It made it possible as well to master the human itself, and ensure his stability and peaceful relations in society (Strauss & Cropsey, 2012) and as such come to full terms with Augustine’s (2003) combination of peace with the ultimate goodness.

The beauty of a man

The core of modernism is to see the ultimate goodness as the fulfillment of one self, aided by reason and scientific method. In contrast to this, the ultimate goodness of the ancient was a philosophical fulfillment and of the Christianity the City of God, both aided by reason and the educational acts of true friendship. Modernism not only replace God with the self, and make Nietzsche’s famous expression ‘God is dead’ understandable, it also replace education with scientific method. As a self, the human being live by his passions striving to reach his authentic self through the inventions of science done by reasonable men. He is ultimately in the mode of self-preservation and seek to challenge this through a redefinition of his core self to a fulfilled and authentic self. His passions not only gives him a desire for erotic and utilitarian friendships, it gives him the power to claim his human rights for an ultimate goodness in the fulfillment of his authentic self, his identity (Strauss & Cropsey, 2012).

Once upon a time, there was a place where men came together. Not only once was this place, it for sure has had a recurrence many a time. Nevertheless, in this place with men there is a moment where another man, who has not been there, enter the place. This man is beautiful, a beauty which is not to be mistaken by anyone in the place. A perfect body, by vision alone, and his qualities, as defined by the partly fulfillment of his authentic self, not something everyone certainly have. This man, with his beauty and qualities, make it no surprise that many of the other men in the place wish to get to know him better, and even become a little desperate in it. Some, actually only one, make their way forward and try to convince the beautiful man that they are willing to do everything for him if they get a sharing in his beauty and qualities. Others take a soft step forward, share their knowledge with the beautiful man, and hope that their knowledge would enhance the beauty and qualities of the beautiful man.

The intentions of the men in this given place seems to be different, and in this inequality different kind of relations come to expression. The first group of men, who actually counts only one man, kneel for the beautiful man and offer him all that he want to in exchange with a closer relationship with him. This man cannot understand the beauty of the other, it seems rather artificial despite it being more authentically, and he wish to understand the process behind for what it is worth. The second group, the majority in this case, focus on their own knowledge and experiences that they wish to share with the beautiful man. They see themselves in his quest for the authentic self, and experience a group identity not so readily available. They have no need for his knowledge as such, but the sharing of the knowledge and experiences gives them both a possibility to advance their selves even further beyond the previously reached stage of the authentic self.

The first group, which actually was one person and not anyone but a philosopher, see in the beautiful man a possibility to satisfy his hunt for knowledge about the modern development of scientific technology and social relations. His perfect body make him attractive for the answer to a question about the consequences of the development of an authentic self, and his qualities as a performer of the development itself, make him fit for the answer to the foundations of the development of an authentic self. He is willing to weaken himself for the truth. The other group, the major group, see in the beautiful man themselves. They see a possibility, through their noble sharing of knowledge, to enhance both their own group identity and their authentic self as well as the other’s, the beautiful man’s, group identity and authentic self. To themselves their act of giving make them conscious of their group identity and the importance of including others in it as well. Moreover, it not only make them conscious in the moment, it becomes a memory that they always may rely on for accessing their contributions to a group, and as such make their authentic self even stronger. The other, the beautiful man, receive the noble gift of knowledge and become included in the group as he understand the similarities and gain for his authentic self.

Two events separated by some paragraphs, where a group of males is meeting each other, and by a distant observer seems alike. The possibility, for the observer unaided by time, to see these as similar events is presents. However, as these events are separated by time, first, they cannot be said to be similar. The first event was an event of boys, the second an event of men. Not a big difference, but a big difference enough from a given perspective. What is more, the first event was in an ancient time, whereas the second event was in a modern time. This, alone, neither may be enough to tell the truth of the differences, but is justified as understandable enough in a given perspective. The actually event, with all its happenings, is what mostly tell its difference. The first is a story of true friendship as the best way toward the ultimate goodness, the second a story of social relationship as the best way toward the ultimate goodness.

An act of education

To educate for relationships seems nowadays to be much about developing so-called social skills. These social skills make it possible for a human being to take part in a social group governed by a set of social rules. This kind of relationship seems to model the structure of a constitution, with rules that are so common as to be available in textbooks and be possible to teach. It seems, on the one hand, nowhere near the most basic human relationships that proceed by instinct alone, such as the erotic friendship. However, on the other hand it seems a bit like some of the features of the utilitarian friendship, as the rules seems defined on the basis on utility. The social rules have an intention much in the same way as the constitution have an intention. The social rules exist as a safeguard for the social relationship to work out with as few obstacles as possible. The responsibility, and maybe even the equality, of the human beings that is a part of the relationship seems to be, to some extent, overarching the human beings. This stands in stark contrast to the true friendship, which by the requirement of equality and charity, has a natural safeguard. The true friendship is by its principle exclusive and permanent, and rather than to be educated through a set of given skills, it is an educational act by itself: the act of sharing with the other one’s own beauty and qualities.

True friendship was originally a mean to a clearly defined ultimate goodness. At the time the ultimate goodness was lowered to be better available, it became a somewhat undefined ultimate goodness. It became dynamic through the standard of defining it by scientific advancement, and the means to reach it become as many as the freedom of scientific technology was able to produce. In this way, the relationships became as dynamically as well, and the true friendship could not any longer promise to be a mean to the ultimate goodness. However, the society was still in need of a stability in relationships. It was in need of something ensuring a peace without limiting the freedom made possible by scientific advancement. An overarching solution regulating the relationship between human beings, in the same way as a constitution regulate the relationship between the state and human, was a possible solution (Strauss & Cropsey, 2012).

Even if God is dead, true friendship is not. Even if true friendship has been included, by the means of authentic selves, in relations previously unrelated, true friendship is not dead. True friendship, as other relations like erotic and utilitarian friendship, social relationships etc. is an available option for all humans in the modern world. It is an alternative, making the student think of the other student: “This student is beautiful. This student do I love”, rather than thinking: “What do I earn on this friendship” or “Do this student follow the social rules?” It is an act of education founded on equality and charity.

Bibliography

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