The study of the philosophy of friendship provides us with an opportunity to explore the concept of dissimulation and its vital role in friendship.
Novelist Marcel Proust believed that friendship was only bearable if we wear masks of good manners. This makes a deep and honest friendship very challenging. He believed that the greatest honesty meant acknowledging that real friendship could never really be fully given or received. Similarly, Immanuel Kant noted:
“For everyone has his weaknesses, and these must be kept hidden even from our friends’ so that humanity should not be offended thereby. Even to our best friend, we must not discover ourselves as we naturally are and know ourselves to be, for that would be a nasty business” (p. 85).
Yet, some philosophers believe that when we do experience those powerful moments of truth and honesty between close friends, and completely let our guards down, it is a moment of great clarity and insight. In those honest moments, a friend becomes another self. One may feel as close to a friend as one does to oneself. Most philosophers recognize this phenomenon, including the French writer Michel de Montaigne, who described this friendship as becoming ‘one soul in two bodies.
Aristotle took it further to mean that only in friendship can we truly discover ourselves. Similarly, philosopher Giorgio Agamben shares, “The friend is not another I, but an otherness immanent in self-ness, a becoming other of the self.” Vernon adds: “It’s implying that a close friend is another part of you and that you can only fully become who you are in who they are too” (p. 87).
In this week’s reading material, the following philosophers discuss their views on this topic: Aristotle, Kant, Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. Make sure to incorporate their views as you answer each discussion question. Think about how their views may be similar or different from your own. With two seemingly dichotomous understandings of the nature of friendship, how exactly can both conceptions be true? Is a certain amount of feigning actually necessary in order to achieve a meaningful connection in a friendship? What are the ethical implications of such behavior in friendship?