Using Aristotle’s theory of friendship to classify online friendships: a critical counterview

Ethics and Information Technology 18 (2):65-79 (2016)
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In a special issue of “Ethics and Information Technology” (September 2012), various philosophers have discussed the notion of online friendship. The preferred framework of analysis was Aristotle’s theory of friendship: it was argued that online friendships face many obstacles that hinder them from ever reaching the highest form of Aristotelian friendship. In this article I aim to offer a different perspective by critically analyzing the arguments these philosophers use against online friendship. I begin by isolating the most common arguments these philosophers use against online friendship and proceed to debunk them one by one by pointing out inconsistencies and fallacies in their arguments and, where needed, offering empirical findings from media and communication studies that offer a more nuanced view on online friendships. I conclude my analysis by questioning the correctness of the application of the Aristotelian theory of friendship by the critics of online friendship: in my view, the critics are applying the Aristotelian theory to online friendships in a rather narrow and limited way. Finally, I conclude my thesis by proposing that in the rapidly changing online landscape, a one-size-fits-all application of the Aristotelian theory on friendship is not sufficient to accurately judge the multitude of relationships that can exist online and that the various positive and valuable elements of online friendships should also be acknowledged and analyzed.



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Sofia Kaliarnta
Delft University of Technology

References found in this work

Nicomachean Ethics.H. Aristotle & Rackham - 2014 - Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
Nicomachean Ethics.Terence Irwin & Aristotle of Stagira - 1999 - Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Excellent online friendships: an Aristotelian defense of social media.Alexis Elder - 2014 - Ethics and Information Technology 16 (4):287-297.
Real friends: How the internet can Foster friendship. [REVIEW]Adam Briggle - 2008 - Ethics and Information Technology 10 (1):71-79.
Why virtual friendship is no genuine friendship.Barbro Fröding & Martin Peterson - 2012 - Ethics and Information Technology 14 (3):201-207.

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