Article

Reviewing the Idea of Friendship

-By Shantaraj Debbarma

Who are the friends? When someone is in problem, where will he go? He will go to his friends. Whenever any man faces any kind of trouble, he first goes to his friend for shelter. Friends are such kind of person, whom we need when we are free as well as when we are bound by the problems. [i] But before going to his friend people always on their own judge whether he will really benefit by going to him. If he thinks that there will be no benefit in going to him, he won’t go. Suppose someone needs money he will go to whomever he gets money, he may not go to his friend. We cannot say that people go to his friends every times when he gets in troubles.  

Many thinkers give different views regarding friendship, Homer in his Illiad said, ‘when two together go’. Friends are who stay always together in pleasure, in pain, in every kind situation they do not leave to each other. Even if they have to accept death, they will accept it together. If the meaning of friendship is this then it is sad to say that the relation between most of the husbands and wives is not a friendly one. News of domestic violence we read in the newspapers all the time. It will be very difficult to find such friends practically. May be it is possible only ideally. If there is such attitude (‘even if they have to accept death, they will accept it together’) between the two, definitely we can say that the relation between the two is a relation of real friendship. 

 Plato said in his Lysis that the good men and the friends are the same. The friends are always good, and who are the good person? The answer is friends. Looks like a cycle arguments. The precondition of good person is friends. Again friends are good. He said that when we say that this man is good, it means that there are qualities of friendship in that person. The qualities which inhere in the friendship are also present in the good men. Now the question is what are the qualities of friendship? Everyone is not good for everyone that means everyone is not friends of everyone. Anything which is good for one may not be good for another one. My friend is my friend because s/he is good for me. And s/he may be not good for someone so s/he is not friend of that someone. 

Some said that it is a matter of likeness, similarities, like to like i.e. my friends are like me. Our friends are those whose behavior, tastes, feelings, willing, interests, thinking, principles, and attitude everything are like me. And whose presence is most essential for our pleasant life. But there is a counter view that each and everyone are unique in nature. We each are born with a personality of our own. Yes, there may be the same taste, feeling, interest… etc. but the amount, the quantity of the taste; feeling… may differ from person to person.  We think that we cannot live without a person who is near and dear one, but in reality when that near and dear one leaves us we actually survive. 

Euripedes has said, 

‘Earth like a lover longs for rain’

 And 

‘The holy heaven, too, being filled with rain, yearns on the earth to fall’.[ii]

The willingness or the desire for meeting is the essential element of friendship. However there is not as much enthusiasm after the reunion as there is before the reunion. Again the desire for reunion is for one or some reason, so after meeting and fulfilling the desire does the amount of friendship decrease?

Heraclitus said ‘all things come from strife’. Friendship is a relation of coordination where two different characters are united. We know that each person has their own uniqueness, keeping that uniqueness, when two person stay together with harmony, coordination and unity then it can be called friendship. In the friendship harmony is necessary and this harmony is come from the conflict of two opposite things. 

Aristotle has classified the friendship into three kind viz. utility, pleasure and goodness based friendship. Friendship is impossible without reciprocal feelings, recognition of each other good will and disposition towards each other.  Friendship is a kind of political skill; because utility is one of the most essential elements of the friendship. ‘If you give I will also give you’ – this is the principle. If you give me pleasure I will also give you pleasure, this is the kind of business buying pleasure with pleasure or buying pleasure with money. Again it is said that Friends are lovable, good and usefulness or any one of them. Here useful means who produce good or pleasure. So friends are he who brings joy, pleasure, good, love in our life.[iii]  Sometimes the enemy gives us joy, pleasure so they are also friends, they fall into friendship.   

Thy friendship oft has made my heart to ake

Do be my enemy for friendships sake

                                                        ~ Black[iv]

  All the relations such as family relations, office relations, civic relations etc. are one side and the relation of friendship is another side. The relation of friendship is purely depending on us, we are the main selector of our friends, whereas the other relationships are somehow depend on or determined by the law and customs. It is the friends to whom we willingly want to spend our times. 


References 

[i] For more see Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by JAK Thomson, p.200

[ii] Euripiedes (480-406 BC) was a tragedian of ancient Greek.  See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, p.201  

[iii] See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by JAK Thomson, p.203

[iv] Line taken from the book The Politics of Friendship by Jacques Derrida, p. 26

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