The first thing that comes to mind regarding friendship is that Aristotle said some stuff about it. So I did some research.
Aristotle said that there are 3 kinds of friendship: based on utility, based on pleasure, based on goodwill.
A friendship based on utility is a friendship based on status: ‘I am friends with you because it benefits me.’Think a pick-up artist hanging out with a better pick-up artist, a politician having drinks with another politician, a young man empathically taking care of a rich, old and dying man. Common kind of friendship. Of course, also a fleeting kind of friendship, for it is not the person you care about most, but the utility, and the utility (or the need for that utility) is rarely permanent.
A friendship of the 2nd kind, based on pleasure, is a friendship based on common interests: think gamers, drinkers, drug users, hobbyists, womanizers… Also very common. More durable than utility-based friendship, but dependent on the durability of the shared interest. If your shared interest is drinking, you won’t have much to do when one of you stops drinking, in fact you run the predictable risk that your old ‘friend’ tries to persuade you to return to your old vices. However, if your shared interest is bird-watching, you’ll likely always have something to talk about for the rest of your life. Good stuff.
Friendship based on –mutual!- goodwill is a friendship based on shared values. Both friends agree on what is good in the world, what is bad, and work together to achieve good for themselves and their friends, bad for their enemies. According to Aristotle this kind of friendship is the best kind: it is least likely to change, it is durable, it is the only kind of friendship in which men care primarily about each other as a person instead of a means to status or pleasure.
Funny thing. I intended to write this post as a critique of Aristotle, in that I remember him saying some cheesy stuff about true friendship all around us, whereas I find true friendship pretty hard to find. But, upon research, I find myself agreeing with him. It’s a good categorization.
It explains why I find true friendship to be so rarely found; not only are most friendships by logic based on utility and pleasure, but even the friendships I feel should be based upon mutual goodwill are not really based on mutual goodwill, because the modern definition of ‘good’ is the exact opposite of the Darkly Enlightened definition of good. Classic morality is dead and the only place it is being revived is in obscure internet places.
Consider that when Aristotle quipped that women have smaller brains than men, his friends probably never responded: ‘well that’s very interesting but my woman disagrees so I disagree with you and in fact this all makes me rather uncomfortable.’
You can’t have true friendship if you take your woman’s intellectual opinion more serious than your friend’s, yet that is the world we live in.
The final problem is that geographical proximity is a requirement of friendship. It is not an unbreakable requirement, (sure you can be pen buddies with someone on the internet) but for a solid friendship you need to spend time in teh IRL, and the closer you live together, the easier to spend time together (this is in fact a no-brainer if it weren’t for the false promises of technology, even if technology those make long distance friendships feasible).
It would be nice to have more friends, not just based on utility and/or pleasure, but on goodwill. But, you work with the tools you have. I’m out.