Editorial. Friendship then and now

Editorial. Friendship then and now

The revered British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘What! You, too’? I thought I was the only one”. Lewis formula for friendship requires conversation, of the face-to-face type, which psychologists associate with engagement, empathy, and instant resonance of thought. The kind of friendship that Lewis referred is based on acceptance and freedom, which is why people would select their friends for their virtues, which included sensitivity to read each other’s mind. However, this type of friendship is now very rare due to the demise of face-to-face conversation, in an era when people prefer to communicate with one another electronically. Nowadays, people can have dozens of friends but friendship is flimsy, if not fulsome, for it is based on perceptions of the images people project of themselves. On top of that, maintaining numerous friends can be exhausting, as people are compelled to spend a lot of their time staring at some electronic device. This means that, unlike the old-fashioned type of friendship, the new type is not free, as people are imprisoned inside a vicious circle of reward-motivated behaviour.

Many sages of the ancient world recognized the importance of friendship, and the most noteworthy of them is Aristotle, to who treated friendship (philia) as a by-product of virtue. Aristotle’s view on friendships is the topic of a magnificent essay by the American philosophers Neera K. Badhwar and Russell E. Jones, presented here in Portuguese. Three other essays offered in this issue are about remarkable friendships of the old-fashioned type: Montagne and La Boetie, George Santayana and Frank Russell, and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka and Pope John Paul II.

The two books reviewed in this edition also relate to friendship. They are Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: the power of talk in a digital age (Penguin, 2015), and  Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Bodley Head; 2018). Both books highlight the unintended consequences of the technological wonders of the Digital Age such as social conditioning and mental manipulation. Turkle, a social scientist who has been studying digital culture for over thirty years, points out how we are constantly checking out smartphones and depriving ourselves of spontaneous interaction and from solitude. Lanier, a scientist and entrepreneur who pioneered virtual reality, tackles the insidious use of our personal data by the social media companies and points as a solution to change its business model from the current one which is based on advertising to a new one based on charging a fee to users.

In addition to the above, this edition also offers two items on George Santayana (1863-1952), a Spanish American philosopher, poet and humanist born in Avila, Spain, which I believe readers of PortVitoria would appreciate.

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

July 2019


How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Friendship then and now. PortVitoria, UK, v.19, Jul-Dec, 2019. ISSN 2044-8236.