Varieties of friendship
Varieties of friendship
" Moralist Concepts of Friendship: An Interplay of Stability and Dynamism (S. 77-78)
In the concepts of friendship elaborated by French moralists such as Michel de Montaigne, FranÅois de La Rochefoucauld, and Nicolas de Chamfort, traditional and contemporary perspectives converge. On the one hand, they seek to position themselves within the tradition of philosophical reflection on the concept of friendship by deliberately adopting the fundamental principles of friendship developed, for instance, in antiquity.
But on the other hand, as this integration is always undertaken in a practical relation to the moralist's observations in his lifeworld, such traditional ideas of friendship are simultaneously modified and reinterpreted within the contemporary social framework. In other words, the tradition of reflecting on friendship finds itself truly revived through the moralist conceptions of friendship, as inherited elements are reconsidered in new contexts, giving constants a new dynamism. Thus, the notion of friendship itself experiences a peculiar process of renewal; it acquires a dynamic quality that may have influenced even recent theories on friendship, such as that by Michel Foucault.
When one observes the lines of tradition along which the modern understanding of friendship has developed, the philosophical and anthropological reflections of the early modern moralists, such as Michel de Montaigne, FranÅois de La Rochefoucauld, or Nicolas Chamfort, provide particularly fruitful material. By adopting characteristic features of conceptions founded as early as in antiquity, and by simultaneously reinterpreting them within their contemporary social framework, the moralists in their writings not only built a bridge of sorts between antiquity and modernity, they also established paradigms which continue to have an effect on modern concepts of friendship.
In this article I would like to attempt to substantiate these assumptions in three steps. In a first step, moralist thought will be outlined with regard to its main features as well as its points of reference to antiquity. In a second step, the moralist's specific way of reviving and modifying classical ideas concerning friendship will be illustrated. Finally, in a third step, Michel Foucault's concept of friendship will be presented as an exemplary radicalization of a structure that evolved in moralist reflection on friendship."