01-11-07

De l´amitié

"Il les laisse heritiers de cette sienne liberalité, qui consiste à leur mettre en main les moyens de luy bien-faire." Michel de Montaigne, Essais Livre 1 (Flammarion 1969), Chapitre XXVIII (amateuristic translation below).


I'm not sure I get it. It's not pure coincidence that I start with something I'm not sure of. A good quote is never a slam-dunk type of argument but always leads to an element of wonder. This element of wonder fuels your creativity, and hence your thought.

I did not reread the entire chapter. I guess it does not make a romantic plea for altruistic friendship of the kind that makes people forget themselves in an attempt to improve the fate of others. Friendship, as specifically human trait, cannot be a matter of a couple of individuals. Friendship, understood as pure reciprocal relationship, is nothing but a romanticized version of the economic quid pro quo. Human acts and feelings of friendship can therefore not be just - or mainly - a matter of reciprocal acts of benevolence. At heart we know for sure that friendship is of another kind than what makes economic sense.

At least, that much was the fruit of my first wonder. If somehow in the  right direction, we need not just look for a relationship between individuals but for a relationship tying befriended individuals to something they hold in common (do not take my words too literally, if one could mean things with an isolated sentence or word one would not experience wonder at them). Now, the only thing I can think of that individuals can really hold in common is an intention. If so friendship shows by commitment to a common intention rather than by a commitment to a friend. It then allows for quite some egotism, insofar such an intention has its source in a single individual. This may be the way to come to the quote above, he/she who creates an intention that can commonly be held creates friendship. Not just regardless of whether he/she benefits of it; but precisely because he/she allows for something where others can share in the creation of some benefit.

True, this is still a quite foggy notion. As all words, 'friendship' is also a messy word and it is a characteristic of pre-modern thought to rap on words without noticing that the wrap put around words is a clear show of the insuffiencies of the word itself. Modernity however doesn't rescue us from pre-modern reflex, we are not just language analyzed.

As per the above the easiest common intention is the well-being of a specific individual. People not interested in their own well-being are mostly just lousy friends, they tend to care little about anybody else's well-being and want to subjugate us to some overriding abstract concept. Not because they intend to reach something but because they believe (and want to make us believe) that we should humble ourselves in the light of Greater Things. It is the proud whom we love. From this simple intention it is not too difficult to generate the more complex actions and events of the social world - not that everything is friendship but it seems that at least a lot of social interaction rests on notion of friendship (at least it seems like that to me now).

Emotional friendship, material friendship based on intention of one's financial security, monogamy based on the intention of sexual security; those having  time and the virtue of lengthy undivided attention can analyze forever. We're misplaced to denounce as "false" friends those who help the rich feel well as long as that help originates before the economic advantage (economy is not something we will avoid here just as little as we can avoid nature elsewhere) that springs from it came to mind. We're as misplaced to denounce the rich to accept that help on the basis of friendship since friendship only degenerates to an economic concept when we demand reciprocity in the actions borne out by friendship.

A final note on a most special kind of friendship: intellectual friendship where the common intention is intellectial in nature. A creation, a thought, invention or whatever other fascination; not of the kind already described desiring us to be put under some abstract notion standing loftily outside of us (that's a religion and religions are never good in themselves but at best only good as far as they promote something good inside of us) but of the kind that springs from within someone of us. That friendship is the most difficult to attain, but the most beneficial to all of us because of the creative power it can unleash. Diificult to attain because this type of friendship is not just gift but also, and very explicitly, a service delivered towards an idea of somebody else. Pride is often an insurmountable hurdle for intellectual friendship. Intelligence is only possible in the proud but pride about one's ideas is for the weak enough not to assist in helping along somebody else's ideas.

Jealousy will be for another time but rest assured, jealousy is based on mere fallacy, to wit: the notion that the idea-space is finite and that the laws of our economy apply within that space.


"He makes them heirs to his liberalism, which consists in giving them a means to treat him well."

14:38 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: montaigne, intention, friendship |  Facebook |

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