Published on December 24, 2007
Love and Friendship: Love and Friendship question: question What distinguishes friends from lovers? Two questions: Is being x’s friend necessary for being x’s lover? Is being x’s friend sufficient for being x’s lover? It seems not: two people need not be friends in order to be lovers; likewise, two people need not be lovers in order to be friends. what is a lover? : what is a lover? First, it’s not necessary to love someone that one be his/her lover. It’s enough that one have a consensual sexual relationship – engage in regular sex – with him/her. Second, regularly engaging in sexual activity such as kissing with (or raping) someone is not sufficient to be his/her lover. Regular consensual sex with him/her is required. These observations suggest that: x and y are lovers iff x and y have a consensual sexual relationship (i.e., regularly engage in sex). Having a consensual sexual relationship is neither necessary nor sufficient for being friends – presumably this is what distinguishes friends from lovers. what is it to be friends?: what is it to be friends? The following seems uncontroversially true: x and y are friends iff x and y have a friendship. This raises the question: what is friendship? Helm’s discussion suggests that friendship: (i) is a distinctively interpersonal relationship (ii) is or requires a type of love, (iii) requires a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other's sake, (iv) requires some degree of intimacy, and (v) requires some degree of shared activity. interpersonal?: interpersonal? Is friendship a distinctively interpersonal relationship? Can non-human animals and other non-human animals be friends? If so, then friendship is not exclusively interpersonal. Can humans and non-human animals be friends? If so, then friendship is not exclusively interpersonal. Can a person be a friend to him/herself? If so, then friendship is not exclusively interpersonal. love?: love? Is friendship a type of (or does it require) love? There are a number of reasons to think that x’s loving y is not sufficient for x and y being friends, or having a friendship. First, friendship requires that the friends possess certain historical properties: x and y cannot be friends at time t if they have not heard of each other before t. But x can love y at t even if x has not heard of y before t. In other words, while there is “love at first sight”, there is no “friendship at first sight”. Second, friendship is symmetrical (reciprocal): x and y are friends, or have a friendship, if and only if y and x are friends, or have a friendship. But x can love y without y loving x. This does not show that friendship is not (or does not require) a type of love, however, for friendship could be (or require) a sort of reciprocal love which requires that the lovers possess certain historical properties. What sort? Slide7: Friendship is not (nor does it require) reciprocal eros: Friends need not have passionate desire for one another. The same goes for reciprocal agape: Two people cannot be friends if they have never heard of each other, though two people can have agape towards each other even if they have never heard of each other. And again for reciprocal romantic love: Not all friends are “in love”. Slide8: What exactly distinguishes friendship from reciprocal romantic love? Romantic love often involves a kind of sexual activity that mere friendship does not. But sometimes friends engage in sexual activities (“friends with benefits”). So, engaging in sexual activity is not sufficient for romantic love. Nor is sexual activity necessary for romantic love: Two people who have a reciprocal romantic love might not, for one reason or another, engage in sexual activity (e.g., Romeo and Juliet). For these reasons, engaging in sexual activity cannot distinguish friendship from reciprocal romantic love. What does? Slide9: Romantic love seems to somehow involve sexual desire – if not throughout the relationship, at least at one point or another: If x has never sexually desired y, then x cannot genuinely have romantic love for y. That is, x’s sexually desiring y at some point is necessary for romantic love. This requirement seems to help capture the romanticness of romantic love. Friendship, on the other hand, need not involve sexual desire: x need not ever sexually desire y in order to be y’s friend. Presumably this is the difference between friendship and reciprocal romantic love which requires that the lovers possess certain historical properties: the latter, but not the former, requires the presence (at some point) of sexual desire. the varieties of friendships: the varieties of friendships There is an important difference between being friends and being good friends. This means that even if a friend is not a good friend, he/she may still be a friend. Perhaps the existence of friends who are not good friends – rather, they are “just friends” – suggests that friendship is not a type of or does not require love. Also, what should we say about mere acquaintance friendships? Acquaintance friendships, if they are genuine friendships, pose a problem for any view which holds that friendship is a type of (or requires) love. concern?: concern? Does friendship require a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other's sake? What is such (robust) concern? Is such concern necessary for friendship? Must friends have such concern for each other for the other’s sake? Or could they have such concern for each other for some other (ulterior) motive? Is such concern sufficient for friendship? Again, what should we say about: friendships that are not good friendships? acquaintance friendships? intimacy?: intimacy? Does friendship require intimacy? What is intimacy? mutual self-disclosure (secrets view) mutual self-disclosure of what they care about solidarity – sharing interests, values, and a sense of what's important Are any (or a combination) of these necessary for friendship? Are any (or a combination) of these sufficient for friendship? Once more, what should we say about: friendships that are not good friendships? acquaintance friendships? shared activity?: shared activity? Does friendship require shared activity? It does seem true that, as Helm suggests, “never to share activity with someone and…to interact with him is not to have the kind of relationship with him that could be called friendship, even if you each care for the other for his sake. Rather, friends engage in joint pursuits….” Must such engagement be in part motivated by the friendship itself, as Helm suggests? Or is it possible simply to be motivated by the desire to help this person? letting go: letting go What counts as a good reason to “let go of” or “give up on” a friend or lover? As Helm points out, “we cannot just give up on our friends for no reason at all; nor, it seems, should our commitment be unconditional, binding on us come what may.” Is the same true for our lovers? What about for those we love?