Planning for the Virtue of Friendship

Planning for the Virtue of Friendship
My local Kookaburra Family
Friends Indeed

I know I promised I’d get into planning for friendship with creatures in this post, but as I got going I realised I had to talk about what friendship is before I could talk about how that relates to things that are not people (as shown in the revised virtues table shown below.)


I trust and treat other beings as well as I want to be treated.


Establishing a safe and fun space for my dogs that includes safe haven for native creatures


Maintaining and improving relationship with significant other.


Maintaining and improving relationships international and e- friends, making new friends, especially local.


Managing and constraining relationships with family.


Giving something back to the community and the planet.

The virtue of friendship relates to the development of excellence in relationships, and this combines aspects of household, relationships result of the values rethink.  As to what makes you an excellent friend, I think that depends a great deal on your authentic self.  My authentic self thinks it can be friends with creatures, and even the planet.  I think the planet might need friends.

For our Ancient Greek philosopher friends, once you had your food, water and shelter sorted, friendship was the very next necessary thing. Having recently watched Spartacus: War of the Damned, I can easily see why that might be.

However, they drew a line between a healthy and independent friendship (good) and an unhealthy and dependent one (bad). They recognised that it is easy to slip from good to bad, and noted that you must not permit yourself to be carried away by the pleasure of the friendship. Having said that, you need an element of trust that the benefits of the friendship will continue. I know as a youngster I had some intense and obsessive friendships implode at the end of the school term. And then there are those all-consuming love affairs that end in acrimony…

Interestingly, Dr Jonica Newby recently examined the nature of friendship [1].  The documentary suggests that a good friend actually sees your authentic self, and likes you anyway!  They know when to lie to us, and more importantly, when to tell the truth.  Curiously, it seems that the more friends you have, the bigger your brain is, but that we can really only manage about 150 “proper” mutual friendships with people who we have actual trusting relationships built over time.  Coincidentally, while this is about the number that would have the police at your party telling you to keep the noise down, it is also about the number you might need for protection when the predators start picking off the old and infirm.  But those guys aren’t our special friends so that’s ok – most of us only have about 15 special friends we really rely on.  (Thanks Katy!  Thanks Toseland!)

So, leaving aside all the brain chemicals and habit reinforcement,  for the modern amateur philosopher, friendship is still important.  And not just with people.

I have mutual relationships with my dogs – we give each other pleasure, I give them food and they give me protection and an early morning wake up call.  The local wildlife also gives me pleasure, but it controls the insect population and I supplement their food in winter (and plan to set up relevant habitats for them).  And to go back to the spiders, we have a relationship too.  They eat pests and I give them spaces to do it in, and somehow seem to funnel the pests through to them.  I have been leaving small puddles of water on the bathroom bench, and I can confirm I don’t have spiders stranded in the tub anymore.  It works both ways.

As I proudly declare myself a Feminist, it becomes apparent that I believe that all people should receive equal consideration, and because of this, I must  extend the same level of care and consideration to people I don’t know as to people I do.  And if I extend that level of care, then I must also extend my care to the planet because we all live on it – some of us better than others.  And if I extend my care to the planet, I must extend that care to all creatures on the planet because we are all interdependent.

No mean feat to be friends with everything.


What does your authentic self think about this?  Does it think mine has missed something important?  Or does it think that I am taking things a bit far?  Will it lie or tell me the truth?


Next time the creatures – I promise!

[1] on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s science show Catalyst

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