Reading Questions: History Seminar on Friendship



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A) First Week: Plato’s Lysis


1)  Do you agree with Socrates’ claim, “in things which we know, everyone will trust us”?  Why or why not?


2) Why do you think Socrates asks the two questions of “Who is the elder?” and “Who is the more noble?”, when he first speaks to Menexenus?


3)  Why do you think the discussion of friendship is so inconclusive in this dialogue?



B) Second Week: Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics


1) How is friendship a type of justice?


2) Why is friendship a form of goodness?


3) Explain what is meant by Aristotle’s claim that a friend is another self.



C) Third Week: Articles on Aristotle


1) Discuss the tension for Thomas between choice and surprise in deep relationships.  Do you agree with Thomas's claim that there is not a deep formal difference between romantic love and friendship?  Why or why not?


2) For Sherman is acting out of friendship a higher good than that of acting out of altruism?  Why or why not?


3)  Does the “sex part” make friendships more difficult between men and women?  Should it?



D)  Fourth Week: Seneca, Epictetus, Cicero and Plutarch 


1.  What do you think of Cicero’s recommendation for breaking off a friendship by making it seem it has died a natural death (p. 94)?  Is that an action you would recommend as virtuous or condemn as hypocritical?


2.  What arguments could be offered for Epictetus’ recommendation against the pleasures of the world, including friendship.  Why or why not would you find these arguments convincing?


3.  Consider the following quote from Seneca and argue for whether you agree or disagree with his conclusion and the argument he would give for it: “You have buried one whom you loved: look about for someone to love.  It is better to replace your friend than to weep for him” (p. 74).


4)  How does flattery undermine friendship?


E) Fifth Week: Augustine, Aelred of Rievaulx and Aquinas  


1)  How does Augustine’s account of mourning his friend(s) differ from that of Seneca?


2) How is it that for Aelred intimacy rather than love becomes the distinctive mark of friendship (sects. 20, 32, 45, 57-59)? What are the strengths or weaknesses of his position?


3) Why does Aquinas, in contradistinction to Aelred, argue that charity (i.e. love) is friendship (pp. 146-152)?  In doing so, how does he disagree with Aristotle about the nature of friendship?


4) Aquinas argue we cannot hold a friendship (in charity) for animals (pp. 144-145).  Why does he make this argument and do you agree or disagree with his conclusions.


F) Sixth Week: Adams and Lewis  


1)  Describe what Adams terms "the problem of total devotion."


2)  How does Adams solve this problem?  Do you agree with his solution?


3)  Discuss what Lewis considers the inherent danger of friendship.  Do you agree with his analysis of this danger?  Why or why not?


G) Seventh Week: Montaigne, Bacon, Hobbes and Hume  


1)  Would you wish to be a friend of Montainge's?  Why or why not?


2)  Which quality of the true friend mentioned by Bacon do you find the most important and why?


3)  Locke argues for an innate selfishness in human nature, whereas Hume argues for an innate benevolence.  Which argument do you find the more convincing and why?


H) Eighth Week: Kant  


1)  If we can’t force a friendship to occur, does it make sense to claim, as Kant does that we have a duty of friendship?  Why or why not?


2)  Explain the dynamic at work in friendship between love and respect (Badhwar, 150-51).  Do you feel comfortable with the distinction Kant makes in working out this dynamic between moral and emotional friendship (Badhwar,152-53)?  Why or why not?              


3)  According to Paton, in what manner for Kant might our emotions aid or detract from our friendships?  Also read and consider the question from the introduction (Badhwar, 20-23) of whether Kant's argument that "emotions merely facilitate right action do[es] justice to the role of the emotion, especially love, in morality? (Badhwar, 23)


I) Ninth Week: Kant


1)      What does Blum mean by "conditional alturism" and how does it function in his notion of moral friendship?  Again attentiveness to the introduction (Badhwar, 25-28) will be helpful.

2)      What are some of the psychological issues Kant raises in regard to friendship?  Discuss one of them in some depth.



J) Tenth Week: Mill


1) In what manner is marriage a master/slave relationship?  How are men corrupted by this relationship?  Do you agree with Mill's analysis?


2)  For Mill, how might marriage become a relationship of friendship?  Is he realistic?


3)  Do you approve of Mill's notion of friendship, regardless of his argument about men and women?  Does his notion emphasize too much, as the Introduction states, "the liberal conception of the atomistic self"?  (Badhwar, p. 33).


And keep in mind another quote from the Introduction (Badhwar, p. 32): "Mill made a "significant break" with previous writers, who had held that women were incapable of the highest kind of friendship."  In this regard, you might want to look at Kierkegaard on the subject of women.  Also, if you have time before class look at Marilyn Friedman's article (it is just after the one on Mill) and see what she has to say about communitarian notions of the self and friendship.


K) Eleventh Week Transcendentalist          Emerson (BLOSSER, 257-272)


1)  Using Emerson's aphoristic style, reflect on three to five important issues in his notion of friendship.


2)  Discuss in depth the various ways Emerson's essay might suggest how we could escape solipsism through our relationship with a friend.  Do you think the question of solipsism is an mportant one?


L) Twelfth Week: Post Hegelian      Kierkegaard (BLOSSER, 243-256)


1)      Do you agree with Kierkegaard's thesis that friendship is implicitly selfish?  Why or why not?

2)      What are the qualities of the aesthetic versus those of the ethical? 

3)      Would you assent to being Kierkegaard’s friend?  Why or why not?


M) Thirteenth Week: Contemporary           Dr. Clement’s Paper on Friendship and Animals/ Gray (BLOSSER, 319-333) and Arendt (BLOSSER, 335-360)




Assignment #1 DUE TUESDAY:


      1)   Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Clement’s central thesis about friendship and animals?  Why or why not?  (Write 3 paragraphs!)


Assignment #2 DUE THURSDAY:


Answer the following two questions:


1)      Discuss how war might prove a context in which friends discover more deeply the meaning of their friendship.  Do you agree with Gray’s conclusion that the true domain of friendship is not in war but in peace?  Why or why not?

2)      How does Lessing’s notion of friendship illuminate for Arendt a “dark time”?


N)  Fourteenth Week:  IRIS