Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Side by side

David J. Theroux writes about C.S. Lewis's view of friendship:
In The Four Loves, Lewis explores the nature, glories, and misuses of love in its four distinct forms: family affection (storge), friendship (philia), erotic love (eros), and charity or divine love (agape). He notes that “[a]s soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.” Yet, of the four loves, Lewis says that friendship is the least instinctive, or biological, and unnecessary from simply a survival basis. In contrast, the affection of parents for a child and the earthiness of erotic love are both directly connected organically to the natural world. ....

The modern world has often viewed friendship with suspicion and even derision. For many modern thinkers, friendship has appeared as superficial and insubstantial compared with the “organic loves” mentioned above. Freud discounts friendship as a separate love altogether, claiming it merely to be disguised heterosexual or homosexual eros. For such moderns, only metaphysical materialism can be true and evident, and thus friendship as mere carnal instinct must be true. However, Lewis refutes this claim by pointing out that “nothing is less like a friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.”

Lewis points out that friendship embodies a spiritual relationship that begins from the companionship among peers, when two or more individuals choose to break away as they discover and wish to share some common interest. As he notes, the development of friendship involves the question, “Do you see the same truth?—Or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’” Contrasted with mere companions or colleagues who pursue a common physical goal, friends share a common interest that is more introspective and nonmaterial. And seeking friends as a material goal is pointless: “The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends.... There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice.” (more)
C. S. Lewis Blog: Mere Friendship: C.S. Lewis on a Great Joy

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