An Eminent Philosopher Reflects On The Nature Of Friendship, Past And PresentFriends Are A Constant Feature Of Our Lives, Yet Friendship Itself Is Difficult To Define Even Michel De Montaigne, Author Of The Seminal Essay Of Friendship, Found It Nearly Impossible To Account For The Great Friendship Of His Life Why Is Something So Commonplace And Universal So Hard To Grasp What Is It About The Nature Of Friendship That Proves So Elusive In On Friendship, The Acclaimed Philosopher Alexander Nehamas Launches An Original And Far Ranging Investigation Of Friendship Exploring The Long History Of Philosophical Thinking On The Subject, From Aristotle To Emerson And Beyond, And Drawing On Examples From Literature, Art, Drama, And His Own Life, Nehamas Shows That For Centuries, Friendship Was As Much A Public Relationship As It Was A Private One Inseparable From Politics And Commerce, Favors And Perks Now That It Is Firmly In The Private Realm, Nehamas Holds, Close Friendship Is Central To The Good LifeProfound And Affecting, On Friendship Sheds Light On Why We Love Our Friends And How They Determine Who We Are, And Who We Might Become A book that begs for a second and third read Lovely. He was easy to read and made the philosophy easy to understand The chapter on why we love our friends cut right through me I loved that The remaining two chapters were a bit of a disappointment after that I had hoped to readabout why friendships fall apart The example he used was right on the head except, the friendship seemed to continue, which seemed to not be the point of the chapter The first part of the book and most of the second part were fantastic. I really liked a lot of what Nehamas had to say about friendship, and find myself agreeing with a large portion of the sort of phenomenological structure of friendship he describes That said, I am uncertain whether I agree with him about all the phenomenological aspects of friendship I suspect I have a less intimate or emotional feeling towards my friends than he does However, I may certainly be wrong and will consider his arguments further I will additionally note that this book was written extremely accessibly and was pleasant to read. This book topic intrigued me possibly because I find the idea of friendship as one that is hard to pin down, why two people click with each other when with others you might never feel a close connection I think it helps me understand the spiritual a little , because a close friendship seems like one that forms connections in a somewhat spiritual way Alexander Nehamas explores the ideas in this book from a series of lectures that he gave on the topic He uses ancient history and different works of art from books, movies, plays and the visual arts to explore the topic I found some chapters had quite a bit of insight, while others, especially on the falling apart of friendships, to not really work at all When I taught a Child Development class, I always enjoyed discussing this theme within Social Emotional Development This might be a good book to pair up with one by a psychologist to get acomplete picture of this theme. 3.5 5 This is a pleasant and thoughtful meditation on friendship Nehamas briefly discusses Aristotle, Montaigne, and the way that friendship has been generally characterized by philosophers and writers over the centuries and the shortcomings there namely, that friendship by nature requires partiality, and that therefore it cannot really be moral plus, there are strong friendships that are predicated on immorality He then turns to the depiction of friendship across various art forms and offers a theory of friendship as an aesthetic rather than a moral good He says we appreciate friends in the way we appreciate art they are necessary for self definition and ultimately for constructing meaning, and we interact with them in ways that may change us in ways we cannot anticipate He likens the problem of describing friends to that of describing metaphor our efforts will always fall short because a friend, like a metaphor, is a living breathing thing and we can never completely know it, and same goes for the friendship Aesthetics offers a lovely way to think about love. This book changed how I view my friendships Drawing from personal experience, art, and philosophy, Nehamas tackles the question, why are our friends our friends What draws us to them Why do we consider a person worthy of our friendship At what point do we consider a toxic friendship toxic Can a person who we consider a bad person, be a good friend After reading this book, I became fascinated by my own friendships, and what they reflect about my personal values Definitely worth your time, though it was dense at times which is why it only received three stars out of five. I wanted to love this book I heard an interview with him on NPR and did something I rarely do Buy a book instead of waiting for the libry to get it It took me over a year to slog thru this If you love Greek philosophythan current scientific studies this book IS for you It was not for me It was dry, mundane and too haughty There were a handful of decent takeaways in a sentence or two The NPR interview was 1000 timesinteresting in my opinion Listen to that and skip this. Nehamas deserves credit for writing as well as he does on so many different philosophers and subjects, which is a rare thing among academic philosophers, but this book isn t about friendship.This book is actually about how aesthetic theories of life that move beyond morality, especially Aristotle s type of morality, better explain this subjective love called friendship Nehamas hopes to take down Aristotle and larger the tradition that sees friendship as which Aristotle represents This larger tradition is practically all of Greco Roman philosophy Big task.To this end, Nehemas relies on Nietzche, Foucault, and Montaigne The Montaigne famous for his inability to describe why he loved his friendIf you press me to say why I loved him, I can say nothan because he was he, and I was INehemas argues that Montaigne s unwillingness to explain his love is good, it is actual the truest expression of love Because, after all, all explanations of why we love something will always be unsatisfactory in the most complete sense.I m not convinced by this, perhaps because I lack the mystic inclination to see language as a prison from which we must escape in order to know the true Platonic forms of things, such as friendship Why say, as Nehemas does, that a love like friendship is impossible to truly describe, but still go on to describe it anyway And so only the vigor, strength, and clarity of Nehemas s prose kept me reading as he strayed from what friendship is in practice into what art means in theory.I have no interest in learning how to see my friends as art, only to then discover that neither art nor friendship are moral, but simply amoral I intend to learn how to lead a good life with my friends, for my own sake, and for theirs.Finally, what baffled me the most about Nehemas s work was he thinks we can ignore the love lives and friendships of philosophers when discussing their practical views on love and friendship.I think Nietzche, Foucault, and Montaigne s love lives and friendships were something we should think about when we read their advice on love and friendship And from what I ve read about these men, by their own hand or others, they were abnormally individualistic, moody, and suspicious people This matters.But it doesn t mean we should ignore their views either If you, like me, think what mattersare your actual friendships and social relationships, rather than your words and thoughts about them, then we must notice and seriously consider what the socially suspicious side of Nietzche, Foucault, and Montaigne means when we read them on love and friendship At the end of the day, I guess I just think an overpowering hermenetuics of suspicion is the wrong way to approach friendship if we actually want to say something constructive about friendship, or actually become a better friend Suspicion is great, but unless counterbalanced with a hermeneutics of respect, you just end up a misanthrope with few good friends Platoor less say this himself.To paraphrase part of Plato s PhaedoSOCRATES We must not become haters of reason as people become haters of humanity There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse A hatred of reason and a hatred of humanity arise in the same way.A hatred of humanity comes when someone without knowledge or skill has placed great trust in someone else and believes him to be altogether truthful, sound and trustworthy.Then a short time afterwards, they find him to be wicked and unreliable Then this happens in another case When this happens enough, especially with those you believed to be close friends, then in the end, after many such blows, people come to hate all humanity and to believe that no one is sound in any way at all.Such a hatred of humanity comes most easily to those that have little experience and skill in social relationships For great experience would lead one to believe what is in fact true that the very good and the very wicked are both quite rare, and that most people are between these two extremes In conclusion, I am not convinced by much of what Nehemas says about friendship, though he does have many interesting things to say, particularly about art theory For me at least, we can t ignore someone s conduct when we read them on the subject of friendship Relying so heavily on Nietzche, Foucault, and Montaigne strikes me as mistaken But a reader who, like Nehemas, is comfortable approving of or idealizing their social lives and relationships will likely disagree with me And I have no rancor for such a reader, read whatever best suits your own growth as a friend and person This work of Nehemas s just doesn t suit mine If I sound too uncharitable or suspicious myself, it s because I think this book just isn t about the everyday practice of becoming a better friend, or the lived experience of the social relationship Nehemas book is a kind of skeptical art theory repackaged as a book about friendship. A simply written book for an easy read Unlike most other philosophy books that requires you to read a sentence twice to figure out what exactly the author meant, Nehamas has made it light but insightful enough so that it does not become too watered down nor too heavy for an afternoon read.
Alexander Nehamas Greek born 1946 is Professor of philosophy and Edmund N Carpenter, II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts Sciences He works on Greek philosophy, aesthetics, Nietzsche, Foucault, and literary theory.He was born in Athens, Greece in 1946 In 1964, he enrolled to Swarth Coll
- 304 pages
- On Friendship
- Alexander Nehamas
- 13 January 2019 Alexander Nehamas