With reference to Aristotle and/or Kant, explain the nature of friendship. How does the nature of friendship affect our moral obligations?
Friendship involves a relationship between two beings pertaining to the elements of freedom, choice and love; “an association of two persons through equal and mutual love and respect” (Kant 1965, p. 469). Friendships offer support, affection, companionship and a sense of connection with another being. Aristotle and Kant hold similar views on friendship and recognise that the notion plays a central role in a meaningful and happy life, and also has a profound effect on our moral obligations. As individuals, we experience three main types of ...view middle of the document...
The reasoning behind Aristotle’s conclusion is that the individuals involved are only party to the relation due to the pleasure they receive from it. “One does things intended to advance the wellbeing of the other, but only because he judges this to be a way of promoting his own interests. Such a relationship is not a friendship” (Alpern 1983, p.306). Thus there are no qualities present that are indicative of true friendship. Being absorbed by these superficial types of relationships can be harmful to one’s emotional and mental state as we are not nourished by the establishment of true connection with another being, rather we are overtaken by a hierarchical and superficial sense of connection (LaBreche 2010). We therefore begin not to concern ourselves with the wellbeing of the other party, and become somewhat incapable of forming meaningful connections which cement our personal morals (La Caze 2005).
Secondly the friendship of pleasure or taste references a reciprocal connection whereby one being supplements what the other is lacking and vice versa (Lynch 2005).
“These friendships are defective, and have a smaller claim to be called ‘friendships,’ because the individuals involved have little trust in each other, quarrel frequently, and are ready to break off their association abruptly” (Lynch 2005, p.78)
Aristotle does not mean to suggest that unequal relations based on the mutual recognition of good character are defective in these same ways. This type of friendship is exhibited mainly by people that are young as they are frequently concerned with their feelings in these developmental stages, and have a simple focus on the present moment (Aristotle 1997). In friendships of utility and pleasure the requisite affection will be insufficient to survive the demise of a friend’s usefulness or his pleasant qualities (LaBreche 2010). Friendship of pleasure is closely linked with that of utility as this type of friendship is based on gaining and feeling pleasure from the other person. As mentioned earlier, there are no real qualities present that represent a valued connection. This can only suggest that being involved in this friendship is only harmful for yourself and your moral obligations to yourself. Tastes, attitudes and feelings change, so people that are involved in this friendship are quick to make and break the friendship. Once they find no use for the other person, they can be disregarded.
The pinnacle of friendship for Kant is then the friendship of disposition; the most actualised form of connection with another individual which nourishes our sense of being and cements our morals and value systems.
“This friendship is the absolute sense in which we achieve complete communion with our friend and in which we are in agreement with regard to intellectual and moral principles. It is a disposition of feeling, rather than a disposition to actual service, and is typified by the confidence such friends have to reveal themselves...