The study of the philosophy of friendship provides us with an opportunity to examine the distinctions between romance and friendship.
Plato believed that eros, or intimate love, can inform both our friendships and romantic relationships. Indeed, he believed that it was possible to enjoy a deeper friendship, through a romantic partnership, as long as one did not allow the sexual component to overshadow the friendship. This takes both great effort, and the passage of time, to redirect eros into higher pursuits. Nietzsche was more skeptical that this type of friendship was achievable. He shares:
Here and there on earth we may encounter a kind of continuation of love in which this possessive craving of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and lust for possession—a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them. But who knows such love? Who has experienced it? Its right name is friendship (p. 60).
In today’s world, there is a growing focus on friendship in marriage, although there is also the belief that the two kinds of relationships possess very different properties. Your text summarizes this in the following:
It might be said that friendship is calm, reasonable, harmonious and sober, whereas erotic love is spontaneous, irrational, wild and orgiastic. Or that friendship tends towards the mind, conversation and the spiritual, whereas erotic love is nothing without the body, touch and lust….friendship tends to be reasonable, whereas erotic love is irrational; friendship warms to the mind, whereas sexual attraction wants the body; friendship must be reciprocated to make sense, love need not; and friendship is mostly virtuous, whereas eros can be murderous (p. 51).
In this week’s reading material, the following philosophers discuss their views on this topic: Aristotle, Camus, Plato, Mill, Nietzsche and Russell. Make sure to incorporate their views as you answer each discussion question. Think about how their views may be similar or different from your own.
- Discuss whether you agree or disagree with this contrast between friendship and romance. Do you believe that this distinction between friendship and romance is accurate?
- How does one reconcile this distinction between the contemporary notion that marriage should be based on friendship first? Is that possible or is it more feasible to think of them separately?