Circles, Ladders and Stars: Nietzsche on friendship

One of the major purposes of this article is to show that friendship was one of Nietzsche's central concerns and that he shared Aristotle's belief that it takes higher and lower forms. Yet Nietzsche's interest in friendship is overlooked in much of the secondary literature. An important reason for this is that this interest is most evident in the works of his middle period, and these tend to be neglected in commentaries on Nietzsche. In the works of the middle period, Nietzsche suggests that there is a close connection between friendship and selfhood, contending that an individual's friendships reflect something about his or her identity. Following Aristotle, he believes that friendship can make a significant contribution to self-knowledge and self-improvement, which are both closely associated with his notion of self-overcoming. Nietzsche encourages individuals to adopt an aesthetic approach to the self: they should refashion themselves by consolidating their strengths, minimising their weaknesses and developing themselves in new directions. The works of the middle period suggest, however, that not only can friendship foster self-overcoming, but that the talent for friendship is one of the marks of a higher human being. Recognising this requires some reconsideration of Nietzsche's putative individualism and the belief that he holds great individuals to be utterly independent and indifferent to the judgements of others. It also requires a revision of the common interpretation that he is unremittingly sceptical about pity and other forms of fellow-feeling. Yet while Nietzsche generalises about friendship in the works of the middle period and contrasts its superior and inferior forms, he remains sensitive to its particularity. He never adopts a wholly formulaic approach to this relationship, but recognises that difference and responsiveness to particularity are among its central characteristics.
Keywords Nietzsche  friendship  Aristotle  middle period  Human, All too Human  Daybreak  Gay Science
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DOI 10.1080/13698239908403291
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Robert C. Miner (2010). Nietzsche on Friendship. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 40:47-69.

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