Friendship: An Unanswered Question

Introduction by Graham M Smith

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Smith, G.M. (2013) Friendship: An Unanswered Question. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 1:1, pp. 1-4. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/1

Abstract

What is friendship and why is it important? If an individual were to come to a point of sincerely posing such a question to another in the course of their personal relations it would be a cause for concern. To do so is certainly something regrettable; it is perhaps even a sign of the tragic. In this context the posing of such a question indicates that something has gone awry in the life of the enquirer. The question is a symptom of a deeper malaise. The questioner might well be suffering from some personal loss, betrayal, crisis of faith, or psychological illness. The question betrays a fundamental disconnection from the world of mutuality, recognition, sympathy, and sharing. In other words, it indicates a disruption in the experience of that which binds others and sustains their communion and meaning. Clearly such an enquirer is lacking something important in their life. They have lost the connection to the world that others hold in common. They strike us as somehow alienated from what makes life meaningful, and maybe even lacking something that could complete their existence. Yet this unusual and extreme case – a case where we see a life distorted by being devoid of the understanding and experience of friendship – also points to something else of significance: the experience of friendship is an ubiquitous one. Moreover, it draws our attention to the fact that friendship of some variety is necessary not only for a successful life, but for the common life of human beings to be sustained at all. For what would human life be without friendship? How could we sustain not only all that is practical, but also the very moral and affective fabric which makes us human? Thus, the extreme case of a person posing a question about the very meaning and value of friendship is not just an illustration of a private tragedy: taken more widely, it also points to a concern with a much more pressing and encompassing perspective.

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