Philosophy Workshop: The Philosophy of Friendship (January 2020)

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 explored 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 examined 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 started by building a precise understanding of what friendship is and why it’s valuable.  Some questions explored along the way included:

  • 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 applied this understanding of friendship to 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?



(Recommended Texts & Translations)

Click on the images below to view in pdf format and print out…

About the Workshop Leader...

David is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  A lover of philosophy and the great outdoors, David is currently building his own consulting practice and serves as a Philosophical Advisor and Consultant for Merlin CCC & Senior Mentor for scholars in the Merlin Fellowship Program.

David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & WestAsian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy; as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

A hermit by nature and by committed choice, he balances contemplative solitude with his active work in teaching, counseling, and the healing arts. We are elated to be collaborating with David on our philosophy in the community activities, fellowships, and other Merlin projects.

Thank You’s

Thank you to P.L.A.T.O. (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) for helping support our philosophy in the community programs and making events like this possible!  

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