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Friday, July 7, 2006 - 5:11amSanction this postReply
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As I noted in "Houseguests from Hell," my exposure to Objectivism has led me, over many years, to re-think the very concept of "friendship."  The writings of Ayn Rand led me to read The Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle.  As I explained in "Roles and Rational Egoism," from that work I learned that the role of Friend can lead to three forms of friendship:

There are three kinds of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and friendship based on goodness of character. The first two kinds of friendship are based on superficial qualities, so these sorts of friendship are not generally long lasting. Friendship based on goodness of character is the best kind of friendship, because these friends love one another for who they are and not for what they stand to gain from one another.
 
I have yet another article in mind -- I know, I keep saying that, so maybe I should put some of them in writing -- called "Corruption of a Concept."  That article would address how the influence of John Dewey on modern education has distorted the meaning of friend.  Because of Dewey's insistence on social conditioning as the ultimate purpose of education, helpless children can learn that the term "friend" means, not someone of utility or pleasure or character, but simply anyone in whose company you happen to find yourself.  The idea that the child can have no solitude, i.e. that ultimately his life belongs to the collective of classmates and not to himself, further erodes any valid meaning of friend.

I can identify with Howard Roark and John Galt, both of whom openly stated that they had no true friends until adulthood.  In retrospect, I cannot honestly say I had "friendships of character" until my senior year in high school.  Perhaps that amounts to a maturity issue.  In any case, I have learned the pleasure of being my own best friend and the utility of self-reliance.  I have a handful of close friends, but even with them I do not spend that much time -- except my wife, with whom I spend most of my time outside work.

Thanks to my efforts with Objectivism locally and globally, I have made new friends who share my core values.  This result has left me puzzling over this article in which a young lady new to Objectivism stated:

In spite of our similar interests, our values differed greatly.  Through our political discussions, I soon discovered that Billy was a self-proclaimed Communist.  I wasnít shocked, but rather intrigued; many long debates were sparked over socialism versus capitalism.  In addition, he was a vehement Christian while I was happily atheist, and he refused the existence of an objective reality.  Our differing opinions made our discussions long and interesting; we took great delight in our debates, and we often earned strange looks from people overhearing our conversations.

Obviously she garnered some values from that interaction that I could never generate.  "What?  You are a Communist Christian?  You are outta here, mister!  End of discussion!  I do not need you."  I will attribute this difference of responses to basic personality traits and leave it at that.

So, getting back to the poll, I have to answer, "Yes and No."  Yes, I have higher quality friendships.  No, it has not improved all the friendships I had prior to Objectivism nor some of the ones I formed since my first exposure to Ayn Rand.  In the name of my own self-respect, I have had to terminate some friendships without mercy.  It remains an ongoing planting, fertilizing, trimming and weeding process similar to maintaining a garden.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 7/07, 5:43am)


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Friday, July 7, 2006 - 6:11amSanction this postReply
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Surprising, perhaps, much of my understanding of friendship was gained thru literature - all the multitude of classics dramas and fictions.  Yes, like most, I was raised in a Deweyesque educational system - and yet, perhaps because of it during my time not being so consolidated and centralized as it is today, and because traveled widely during my formulative years, there was always a distinction made between those who were my 'acquaintances' and those who were my friend - a distinction re-inforced by that mentioned literature.  My friends are few, but they are of quality - the content of character being the prime means of finding them worthy of retention as friends, trading value for value.   And, I have to say, being a 'child of Rand', having been influenced by her thru the movie "The Fountainhead" when little, it has been a way of life for me, crystalizing more sharply as the understanding increased - even as it was in opposition to much else socially. 

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Friday, July 7, 2006 - 10:45amSanction this postReply
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Objectivism, by showing me what a real friend is (ie. one with shared values), improved my friendships.

Rand said that true love is not possible to the irrational and the unselfish, and neither is true friendship.

I have only a few friends left. Some of my former "friends" have been excommunicated now (because they didn't share core values). This opened up room for "real" friends to enter into my life. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this is an "improvement" in my friendships.

It's better to have one good friend, than 10 bad ones.

;-)

Ed

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Friday, July 7, 2006 - 11:02amSanction this postReply
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As my life has become more about objective reality, I have found myself having less to talk about with people whose lives arenít.  It may sound cynical, but I come to believe that what passes for friendship is often a conspiracy of mutual denial, the utility of which is no longer a factor when reality is accepted and embraced.

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Friday, July 7, 2006 - 6:19pmSanction this postReply
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I have a few more friends now because of the common interest in Oism, but I also made some friends recently among some grad students at Berkeley who weren't Oist. I have the ability to connect with many different people. Oism is not a requirement for being friends with me.

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Saturday, July 8, 2006 - 6:15pmSanction this postReply
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I have the same freinds I had before Objectivism. But now they understand me better. I have no problem going out and buying books on the subject of Objectivism for any who want to understand me.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 9:55amSanction this postReply
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Very nice comments.  I've just recently registered, after having finished some of Rand's books, and commentary for and against it.  You'll probably see me around here a lot, seeking further understanding and clarity.
I do have some very close friends, who I have known since elementary school, one of which introduced me to Oism.

This is actually a topic that has concerned me since reading Atlas Shrugged.  It is made very clear in the book that we are under no obligation to be friends with people, even out own family, if they do not have similar values, or we see in them none of the things which we value.  Not only do we have no obligation, but we should avoid them,  am I correct?

Am I then to understand that I shouldn't even hang around such people?  I imagine I am more cynical than most, and have a harder time seeing the value in people I do not know - how am I to get to know them?  If I don't give them a chance, it appears that I would face a very isolated life.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - 4:55pmSanction this postReply
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Not only do we have no obligation, but we should avoid them,  am I correct?
No where will you find "rules" like this in Rand's writing.  They simply don't exist.

No, you're incorrect.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - 7:52amSanction this postReply
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Nonea, you can have plenty of friends who do not embrace Objectivism but who still enrich your life in various ways.  Your own self-interest needs to guide you in the selection of friends.  If you have a Christian friend who accepts you as you are for your redeeming virtues, and you accept her for hers, that is fine.  As I have said elsewhere on this site, The Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle describes three types of friendship:

1. Character
2. Pleasure
3. Utility

Use these standards as a guide to building and maintaining friendships.

Conversely, not everyone who labels himself an Objectivist will necessarily serve as a good friend.  As you can see from some of the transactions here, Objectivists still come to irreconcilable differences that lead to hard feelings.  So again, set the labels aside and judge the quality of the relationship by how well you serve each other's needs for bonding and psychological visibility.

Friendship has deep evolutionary roots in the human need for survival.  Having someone watching your back helps you while spending time with someone who could stab you in the back harms you.  Your own life always stands as your own ultimate value.  Honor that value by spending time only with those whom you value and who value you.


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