Aristotle says that even the most blessed human life would be incomplete without friendship. And most of us will agree that friendship—having good friends, and being a good friend to others—is important. But what, exactly, is so special about friendship?
In this 2½-hour workshop led by David Nowakowski, we’ll explore some classic arguments about friendship offered by Aristotle, the Stoic philosophers Epictetus and Seneca, and the traditions of ancient commentaries on these philosophers’ work. We’ll examine the what-s and why-s of friendship, in order to find guidance on how to navigate the difficult, challenging, and perplexing situations that all-too-often arise among friends—or with those who falsely claim to be our friends!
We’ll start by building a precise understanding of what friendship is, and why it’s valuable. Here, important questions will include:
What, exactly, makes friendship unique? What makes friends different from the other important people in our lives, like parents, children, neighbors, or business partners?
What are the connections between friendship and love? What are the differences?
Can you be your own best friend?
Is it better to have only a few close friends, or a much larger group?
Then, we’ll apply this understanding of friendship to address some practical questions:
How can I tell who my true friends are?
What are my duties toward my friends?
How should I respond when a friend treats me badly?
When is it appropriate, or even necessary, to end a friendship?
You will leave the workshop with:
a deeper understanding, drawn from our conversation and discussion, of friendship;
practical suggestions, drawn from the ancient philosophers, for reflecting on and improving your own friendships; and
recommendations for books and other media, to allow you to take the next steps in exploring the philosophers (and their arguments) that we’ve discussed.
During January and February, Merlin’s Philosophy Read-In Group will be exploring friendship and love in two of Plato’s most moving and poetic dialogues: the Phaedrus and the Symposium. The workshop and the Read-In Group gatherings will complement each other, but each will stand alone: you do not need to come to either one in order to attend the other. But if you do choose to join us for both, you’ll come away with an even deeper understanding and appreciation: both for the arguments and insights of these ancient philosophers, and for the role of friendship and love in our own lives today.