One of the things I’ve realized over the course of the last few years is that while it is possible to experience friendship and have a deep, spiritual connection with another person, it is quite hard to describe the concept of friendship with the help of written or oral modes of representation. In other words, friendship is a form of social experience that is resistant to a summative account which presupposes some kind of generalization. Despite the fact that this form of “social knowing” (Throop, 2014, p. 67) precludes typification of mutuality between two individuals because it is likely to remove its essential core, in this paper I will try to provide an account of my own experience of friendship in the framework of various ethical dimensions.
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No one would deny that friendship is a form of social intimacy that is influenced to a significant degree by upbringing, environment, shifting perspectives and inherent asymmetries of individuals. I understand that what can and cannot be revealed between two friends also constitutes an important part of the fabric of friendship. Knowing a person intimately, anticipating their thoughts and concerns, and having an approximate understanding of how they would behave in different situations is another part of the social phenomenon. Such understanding of another human being is only possible through having a set of shared experiences immersion in which shapes both people’s views while simultaneously reducing some of their asymmetries.
Virtue is an ethical dimension of friendship that can only be achieved if two individuals are actively striving to “embody the character-building qualities of beneficence and care” (Throop, 2014, p. 68). Therefore, virtuous friendship is one that can flourish only if people are willing to forsake their myopically oriented views of themselves and try to become immersed in feelings and experiences of others.
The ever-growing use of the Internet necessitates the reflection on how it affects a person’s experience of friendship. According to an Aristotelian theory, there are four ethical dimensions of friendship: reciprocity, empathy, self-knowledge, and the shared life (Vallor, 2012; Ward, 2016). Numerous scholars agree that human capacity for reciprocity is significantly enhanced by Facebook and other social media (Vallor, 2012). Therefore, it can be argued that the intensification of reciprocal activities between people facilitated by the Internet creates many avenues for developing a friendship. Empathy is another dimension of friendship that can flourish online (Vallor, 2012). Self-knowledge is a dimension of friendship that is often facilitated by the practice of mirroring and “access to a diversity of experience and perspectives” (Vallor, 2012, p. 187) provided by the Internet. However, it is important to note that new forms of social media can also prevent people from exploring other people’s views and instead allow them to stay within their narrow social circles. The Internet is a place that can facilitate the fourth dimension in the Aristotelian framework of friendship—shared life. By allowing people to easily pursue common activities, form grass-roots organizations and coordinate their daily efforts, the medium strengthens existing friendships and gives rise to new ones.
Rory O’Shea Was Here
The beautiful story of friendship masterfully portrayed in the movie Rory O’Shea Was Here necessitates a careful consideration of the phenomenon of friendship as it is experienced by disabled people. Even though a presence of a disability is often regarded as something that precludes people from experiencing various joyful aspects of day-to-day life that are known to nondisabled people, the movie shows that it is not a case. Exuberant and extremely verbal Rory proves that disability is not a condition that can prevent someone from having a life they want to have. Both Hutchinson’s idea and the message of the movie can be encapsulated in the words of a prominent movie critic, Roger Ebert (2005), “if you want to be a punk and you’re in a wheelchair, you can be a punk in a wheelchair” (para. 9). Therefore, there is nothing that can stop differently able people from experiencing a spark of a deep and meaningful friendship. Of course, there are obvious challenges to having a genuine friendship such as limited access to a pool of potential companions and a prejudiced view of disability that is present in many societies. Nonetheless, if people are truly willing to become friends with individuals who are differently abled, there is a great chance that they will soon experience the blurring of boundaries of impairment.
My friendship with a person who is differently abled has taught me that to care for another human being is to accept them in all their complexity in order to have an understanding of their experiences and feelings. The friendship has helped me to engage in self-reflection which has provided me with an opportunity to cultivate my own virtues. I believe that same can be said about Jane who despite her vulnerability and openness has been able to reach down into my heart and understand my own believes and anxieties carefully guarded against the scrutiny of other people.
Ebert, R. (2005). Rory O’Shea was Here. Web
Throop, J. (2014). Friendship as moral experience: Ethnographic dimensions and ethical reflections. Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 39(1), 64-81.
Vallor, S. (2012). Flourishing on Facebook: Virtue friendship & new social media. Ethics and Information Technology, 14(3), 185-199.
Ward, A. (2016). Contemplating friendship in Aristotle’s ethics. New York, NY: SUNY Press.