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74 f i v e Philosophy: Wise about Friendship? In memory of André Schuwer To broach a discussion about the relationships between philosophy and friendship, I begin by asking: to what extent should friendship play a role in philosophy, and to what extent can philosophy play a role in friendship? If friendship is a topic of ethics, and if a reflection on the practice and theory of philosophy constitutes a metaphilosophy, a meditation on the relations between philosophy and friendship belongs to the ethical part of metaphilosophy or the metaethical part of ethics. As Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel are still teaching us, ethical considerations remain too abstract if they are not preceded and followed by (1) an analysis of the social and political situation from which ethical questions emerge and (2) an examination of the connections that bind our virtues to the various dimensions of philia. Let’s therefore begin with a brief description of philosophy as a social practice that has its own political conditions, in order thereafter to focus on some ethical aspects of the more or less friendly kinds of exchange between philosophers. F5547.indb 74 F5547.indb 74 1/18/12 10:18:42 AM 1/18/12 10:18:42 AM Philosophy: Wise about Friendship? 75 philosophy According to the Histörisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (vol. 7, col. 573– 576), the words philosophos and philosophein originally expressed the philia (friendship or love) characteristic of those who enjoy the presence of sophia. The meaning of sophia in this context encompassed several kinds of knowing, from technical expertise to wisdom. Early on, philosophia was not restricted to the sort of investigation practiced by Plato or Aristotle and certainly not to the type of argumentation that modern philosophers have privileged over other paths to knowledge or wisdom . The ancient love of wisdom has changed into the modern pursuit of demonstrable truth, but this redirection of philosophical inquiry has been frustrated by so many contradictions and disappointments that many philosophers now see uncontaminated truth as unattainable for mortal minds. Those of us who are convinced that truth seldom shows up in full glory, without however falling into complete despair, might prefer to replace the words “love” and “friendship” (philia) in our translations of philosophia by “desire.” This would bring us closer to its Dutch translation: wijsbegeerte (desire of becoming wise)—even if pure and perfect wisdom turns out to be an impossibility. Notwithstanding the imperfect and constantly deferring character of philosophy, however, desire has involved us in a historical search for the truth itself, which testifies to our very deep interest in it. Passion for truth has inducted us into a world where we are simultaneously at home and still underway. Though not yet wise, we are already affected, even wounded, by the truth, whose promising proximity remains distant, while seducing us by showing glimpses of its blinding purity. Desire has the eschatological structure of an unfulfillable but productive promise.1 It instigates a time of growing familiarization with partial appearances of the truth, but it does not guarantee any full apocalypse. If we were absolutely separated from the truth, we could not be at home in philosophy or even underway. An almost blind trust and the hope that thinking and rethinking, even without resulting in final proofs, will make us wiser and guide our search. Hence, F5547.indb 75 F5547.indb 75 1/18/12 10:18:42 AM 1/18/12 10:18:42 AM 76 Philosophy: Wise about Friendship? we rely on our inchoative and eschatological “being-in-the-(as-yethidden )-truth” through endlessly renewed attempts at encountering its embrace. The social structure of our being-toward-and-already-in-the-truth might perhaps be described in the following way. As philosophers, we participate in a worldwide endeavor shared by many travelers who learn, repeat, and modify the practices of a community with the history and actual unfolding of which we are more or less acquainted. This community encompasses a great variety of subcommunities, associations , schools, and styles, but all are held together by a certain affinity, even if we cannot detect a uniform system or some basic principles that are common to all philosophers. As members of the philosophical republic, we are heirs to a huge heritage, of which we know no more than some fragments and decisive events. The tradition through which we remain connected with a generous past has its own heroes, documents, discoveries and inventions, wars...


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