The Ethical Significance of Friendship

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1986)

Neera K. Badhwar
University of Oklahoma
Friendship is a cardinal human value, and requires both the "other-regarding" and the "self-regarding" virtues. Thus an analysis of friendship can illuminate the nature of morality, and provide a test of adequacy of rival moral theories. But even when it is recognized that friendship involves virtue, the role of justice is usually ignored, thanks to the idea that justice is an impersonal, "public" virtue. But justice is crucially important in friendship, and is connected as well with benevolence. The current attempt of certain philosophers to see justice as stemming from reason, and benevolence from sympathy, is an attempt to save something of Kantian rationalism, which sees all of morality as stemming from pure reason. But neither a partial, nor a consistent, rationalism is justified by the relevant facts: our moral consciousness, and our knowledge of moral development and behaviour. Morality must be explained in terms of both reason, and emotion and desire. And only then can the virtues of friendship be properly understood. ;These virtues are best displayed in the friendship that is an end in itself, where friends love each other as unique and irreplaceable persons. The end love of friendship is quite different from agapaic love, which ignores the person by ignoring her qualitative identity; and from Platonic love, which ignores the person by ignoring her numerical identity. A moral theory that cannot accommodate the end love of friendship as an intrinsically moral phenomenon, cannot accommodate the idea of a person as an end in herself. Utilitarianism and Kantian rationalism both suffer from this defect. Again, loving a friend as an end implies loving her as a part of one's own happiness or well-being. Morality too, then, can be an end in itself as well as a part of one's own well-being. This "Aristotelian view" challenges the standard distinction between deontological and teleological theories, where the former holds that morality is an end in itself, unrelated to human good, and the latter holds that it is not an end in itself, but related as a means to an independently definable human good
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