Friendship has always been of interest to philosophers, and it has been dealt with by Plato, Aristotle and Kant to mention only the greatest. One of the problems with friendship is prejudice: we tend to view our friends through a biased positive filter, ignoring their negative qualities, as if it were the essence of friendship: thinking positively of the other.
For this type of friendship, it is not necessary to know or understand the other well, in fact, if we realize the bad qualities of the other, we will immediately feel like a bad friend.
Irish-British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (whose life was also filmed in 2001 starring Judi Dench and Kate Winslet) joins Cantic and explores another side of friendship. He deals with it in many of his literary and philosophical works, especially because he considered loneliness to be the greatest suffering of existence – as well as the uncertainty and chance of the world.
One of the most important British thinkers of the twentieth century considered love and affection to be inseparable from friendship as our most important emotional experience. His concept of friendship is based on honesty: he refuses to neglect negative qualities and stresses that understanding and acceptance of the other is very important, whether it is love or friendship. You have to know the other, you have to write down your mistakes, that is the only way we can love you deeply.
When do we get to know someone? Perhaps only after we realize the impossibility of perception, after we give up our desire for it, and finally no longer feel the need for it. But what we then achieve is no longer a realization, but a kind of symbiosis at most; It is also a manifestation of love.
He wrote in his first novel, under the windowat.
“Love is knowing the individual”
However, he emphasizes that getting to know and understanding the other is a difficult task. He points out to Freud: People are prone to fantasy, and are reluctant to face the truth because it would have a bad effect on their fragile selves. So it’s only natural that we imagine portraying our friends in a more positive color than they actually are. However, true friendship is patient, gentle, and accepts the negative qualities of the other as well.
Being a good friend also means looking at the other with loving interest, looking at him patiently, and always knowing his character as we know him.
Think about how the friendship developed: In the beginning, we know very few things about a later friend, such as what he likes to read, or say, scientific articles. Over time, we will not only know how much she loves science articles, but also exactly what kind of science articles she loves, why, and how important this is in her life. This better understanding of the other person leads to a deeper friendship.
Thus, Murdoch’s concept of friendship excludes the idea that good friendship requires positive – but false – beliefs about our friends. If friendship is the true knowledge of the other, we cannot believe or claim untrue things about it.
If we can get rid of false images and self-deception and really treat the other with acceptance and understanding, then our behavior towards them will be instinctively correct. So the next time a friend says or says something we disagree with, try to accept it too, because it belongs to him or her, and there is a good chance that the acceptance will strengthen the friendship.
(Cover image: Iris Murdoch. Photo: Sophie Bassols/Sigma/Sigma/Getty Images)