What are some good metaphors for friendship

The friendship question

Of course, you can still make new friends in adulthood - but apparently many find it harder as they get older. The philosopher Alexander Nehamas, who teaches at Princeton University, suspects that this is also due to the fact that we are less adaptable in old age than in youth. We find it harder to adjust to new people in life. In addition, we cannot make friends indefinitely. Aristotle also emphasized this: Friendship can only be made with a select few. You just don't have enough time, and maybe not enough mental and emotional capacity, to be friends with everyone you come across.

Friendship is essentially selective and limited to a small group of people who are given special status. "The relationship between friendship and modern ethics remains an uncomfortable one, which is why friendship always plays a subordinate role in moral philosophy," writes Nehamas. If one had to decide in a moral thought experiment whether four strangers or three friends should die, most of them would probably save the friends.

"The relationship between friendship and modern ethics remains an uncomfortable one, which is why friendship always plays a subordinate role in moral philosophy" Alexander Nehamas, philosopher

Friendship is an emotional bond that undermines ethical ideals. We would do many things for friends - lend them money, lie for them, accept a disadvantage for ourselves in order to help them. Friendship makes us so partial that it is not useful as a guide for rational decisions, as moral philosophers like to postulate.

For us, our friends are the best and most unique people in the world. All luck belongs to you. Seen rightly, friendship does not necessarily make us more moral, but can even encourage immorality. And yet we consider friendship in itself to be a great good, without which, in Aristotle's words, no one would want to live, even if they had everything else.

The fact that there are toxic friendships that do us more harm than good does not detract from this. Unfortunately, we often only recognize such connections afterwards. Those who enter into a friendship are willing to trust a person to the extent that they are allowed to change their own life and personality - and vice versa. So we always take a risk with friendship. “To love our friends 'for their own sake',” says Nehamas, “means that we also love what becomes of ourselves because of our relationship with them.” As a rule, friends do us good - that's why we have them. So you could say against Aristotle that friends always give us pleasure and use it. The question is rather what is in the foreground of the respective relationship.

Today we practice a friendly division of labor

On Facebook we are just as “friends” with our closest friends as we are with family members, ex-partners, old schoolmates or colleagues. You can even "make friends" there with superiors. Facebook has therefore created a whole new type of friendship: the friend who isn't, but a digital marker. The Facebook friendship opens up a new communication channel, but it doesn't necessarily mean much beyond that. Some send out friend requests to people they've only met once. Some inquiries are only accepted for tactical reasons, for example because they are from an industry colleague.

In the new world of work, it is said that nothing works without contacts. You have to network, connect with valuable influencers, always be open to new people and stay relaxed as possible. In general, with the change in the world of work and the tendency towards flatter hierarchies and a more relaxed working atmosphere, a new amalgamation of work and friendship seems to be emerging: You talk to each other, play together at the table during breaks or go on trips to the climbing park.

If the colleagues become "fellow colleagues", ie a mixture of friends and colleagues, this can lead to a better working atmosphere - on the other hand, the boundaries between work and private life dissolve even further. Networks, especially job platforms, are a good example of the Aristotelian friendship. It's not about the people themselves, but about what they work, who they know, what they can possibly make possible. Unlike Aristotle, we would probably not call such a profit-making relationship a friendship, but rather a business contact.

In other cases it is less clear what connects us with someone else because it is almost impossible to say exactly what it is that we like about a friend - and which of them is "self" or "just" accidental Properties are. If we like to play sports with a friend, get on very well on this level and less well on another, that doesn't have to mean that we don't like the friend for himself, but only because he gives us the pleasure of being together Sports prepares. It can still be about doing sports with this person because he is him and no one else. Alexander Nehamas compares friends with living metaphors: You can forever explain what you like about them without getting to the heart of what a friend means to you.

It seems to be part of our current culture of friendship that we have friends for certain matters - that is, we share a friendly division of labor. With one friend we can talk particularly well about problems, with the other we can have a good party or go to the theater. Friendship doesn't mean doing everything together. Unlike in a partnership, it is socially very acceptable to have several friends. Every friendship can have its own dynamic, and it can produce different sides to us.

Friendships turn out to be amazingly permanent

We expect something from friends, for example loyalty, honesty or that they help us out of a tight spot when we are in need. But the expectations are not nearly as high as those we have of our steadfast partner, says sociologist Eva Illouz. In romantic love, one person has to cover everything, you have to be able to laugh and cry together, trust each other and have hot sex, organize everyday life, share each other's passions, go on vacation together, like the same series. Romantic, erotic love lives not least from desire, it usually begins with a bang and often ends that way. A friend, on the other hand, according to Illouz, is "more in the background of our lives", we are "not obsessed with him."

That's why friendships last longer and we should appreciate that kind of connection a lot more, says Illouz. In some cases, this is already happening: For some years now, "co-parenting" has become increasingly popular, a family model

where romantic love is not the basis for starting a family, but friendship. It is becoming more and more normal that you don't necessarily have to live together with your partner and his small family, celebrate Christmas or plan your retirement, but can do so with friends. Especially where family is associated with pain and bad experiences, friends can be a good substitute.

It would do romantic love good to orientate itself a little more towards friendship. We do not claim that friends are responsible for our happiness in life, and we do not regard them as property. Friends give each other more freedom. Nevertheless, friendship lives on stability even in the fast-moving age of digitization. This is what makes it so special: it is actually completely free and indeterminate, and yet it proves to be more formative and binding than many other types of relationships. In the love affair, sooner or later one talks about "what it is now between us", friendships arise from tacit consent. Perhaps it is precisely the absence of coercion that makes friendship as a connection so attractive and timely.

But friends can also learn from lovers. While word has got around in recent years that relationships can be made better by talking about yourself and especially about problems, that is exactly what has not yet arrived in friendships. You rarely do relationship work among friends. But that might not be a bad idea. After all, patterns can creep in among friends, arguments can arise, people have different needs for closeness, and one changes over time. Friendships - just like partnerships - need care.

A great challenge for friendships today is the distance. It has become almost unlikely that you will stay in the same country as your friends your whole life, let alone in the same city. It is difficult to have a friendship from afar - even though you somehow managed to do it in the stagecoach days. My grandmother and her friend also live far away from each other; for years they have only maintained their friendship over the phone.

The social networks like Facebook or Instagram are finally doing their job very well: They make it much easier for us to participate in the lives of our friends, to stay up to date and not to forget each other. In the long run, however, Facebook will not be able to save a friendship that has actually come to an end - especially if you take note of each other, ie look at photos and posts, but no longer communicate directly with one another. Friendship does not suddenly only take place in the digital world. The digital only makes it easier to stay connected, no matter how much else you have on your mind. We can also feel close, supported and loved through chats, the exchange of pictures and emojis.

Friendship alone is not political, but it can be something like solidarity on a small scale. A network of friends who strengthen and support each other can be of great relevance, for example for people who are offended and discriminated against in society. In feminist circles, for example, it is said "Form gangs": together you can achieve more, you can take care of one another, and you can stand up for one another. In any case, friendship is something that has only recently appeared in cultural assets, for example in the bestsellers by Italian author Elena Ferrante. With Aristotle, true friendship was still reserved for adult men.