Friendship And Politics Essays In Political Thought

They understood that it could be corrosive of civic life. Rather than putting all their efforts into upholding universal ideals that tend to sideline and undermine friendship, they sought to promote ideals for friendship too. For Aristotle, friendship schools the greatest virtues. Is it not time for us to do likewise and re-establish a high place for friendship?

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It aims to solve their problems according to a depersonalised conception of fairness.

Or, when friends can no longer "hold things in common", as one Greek saying defined friendship, they ask the courts to divide their possessions and rule over them.

Some argue that the freedom of the press is the determining issue; others, the probity of its politicians; others again, its citizens' happiness. It has not, to my knowledge, been much considered by think-tanks and modern commentators, though for ancient Greek and Roman political thinkers it was central.

Neither does it feature in the cost-benefit analyses of economists, though most people would say it was essential to the good life.

The downside of idealising justice in this way is the speed with which people turn to the law when resolving personal disputes.

Hence, perhaps, the fact that the most mature democracies are highly litigious.

And friendship, without which the good life is simply impossible according to Aristotle, suffers.

For ancient philosophers friendship was a political problem too.

Mark Vernon is the author of (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

His website is here However, friendship is a more interesting test because some of democracy's highest values are actually at odds with it.


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