Robust Friendship

•April 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Friendship: A summation of what I think.


What are my thoughts thus far?


Let me take it back to my favorite example: the triangle.


The universal account of the triangle is going to be something like “a three-sided plane figure whose interior angles equal 180 degrees.” This account of the triangle will be true of all things considered triangle: isosceles, equilateral, and scalene. It’s not the case, to me at least, that these triangles do not have a special status as THE TRIANGLE, but at the level of explanation, trying to capture what the true feature of all of these is what’s important for theory building.


Now, with the aforementioned explanation of my favorite example of the triangle, what can I say that’s highly influenced by Aristotle about friendship? What I take to be the features that underpin all of the relationships that we title ‘friend’ is what Aristotle states in Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics. He writes the following:


[T]o be friends, then, they must be mutually recognized as bearing goodwill and well-wish each other. [N.E. VII.2.1156a2-5]


On friendly feeling,


[W]ishing for him what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for his, and being inclined so far as you can, to bring these about [Rhetoric.II.41380b34-37,4381a1-4].


[Also, a friend is someone who brings this feeling about as well.]


A summation of both accounts is the following: the features that underpin friendship are reciprocating goodwill and well-wishing while recognizing that both are in this particular relationship. So, wishing good things for the other person, and doing what you can* to bring those things about.



With these features in mind, I turn now to the types of friendship that Aristotle details, and the kinds of friendship that I support, though I think that there should be a better treatment of the friendship of in-equals in a different blog post.


Pleasure, advantageous, and character friends are the three kinds of relationships that we can have with one another. If we look at the way the friendship begins, it may be in the context of one of these titles. It could also be the case that either the pleasure or advantageous could turn into a character friendship, but I will not argue that here.


Pleasure friendships arise on account of some perceived pleasure. An example I use in my large paper is something like being in a gaming group. The relationships formed there are based on pleasure. Another example that John Cooper provides is the kind of friends you go do fun things with like drinking, but in these cases, it’s not the case that you have a deep understanding of the person. The people could be hot mess disasters, but the reason that you enjoy the relationship is that you have fun with them, so it would not be problematic to claim that you both show some concern for each other.


The advantageous friendship is captured by thinking of friendships that start from business relations, study groups, or whatever can be captured as advantageous.


While these kinds of friendships seem selfishly motivated, you have to at least show some concern for these people that are mutually recognized. Otherwise, you’re not in a friendship, but rather a one-sided relationship. If the only thing that you can* do for a person is provide these particular services or participate in a shared activity, then these kinds of relationships can be captured within this kind of context.


While these are considered lesser friendships, I do not think it’s controversial to claim that these are not deep friendships. So, while at the level of particular (each individual person), I am prepared to call these types of relationships ‘friends,’ but I would not call these kinds of relationships deep in any relevant way nor would I expect these people to go above and beyond what the relationship entails. Moreover, it’s important to note that these kinds of friendships are not expected to last. The friendships of pleasure and advantage last in so far as the relationship is perceived as pleasurable or advantageous. If we think about these relationships in this way, being heartbroken over the end of them might be prevented. Though, I cannot speak for everyone. It might just be the case that one has an attachment and as people we get hurt about the breaking off of these attachments.



The most important kind of friendship is what Aristotle calls friendship ‘proper’ in Eudemian Ethics VII1241a10-15.


The account for this kind of friendship is loving the other person qua person, meaning that you love that person for their character. The person has to actually be pleasurable, helpful, and both have to recognize the mutual choice in loving one another. This friendship is supposed to be the most stable. A wish for a friend is quick, but working toward a character friendship takes experience with the other person. The kind of getting to know that I think about and what is supported in the text is understanding someone well enough to know what they would and wouldn’t do given a particular situation. The people involved in this friendship can defend each other from slander. Aristotle even mentions that this friendship is measured by particular choices we make and by possible tests. I imagine those tests would be something like going above and beyond for someone that both parties reciprocate.  It would be like caring enough about the other person’s good to let them know that what they’re doing seems problematic or even being clear enough to tell your friend all of the things you can and cannot do for them in any given temporal time splice.



So, given my characterization of friendships, how practical is it?



I am prepared to admit that even given the friendships that do not last long, I would now hesitate to call people that I am in relationships with ‘friends,’ even of the lesser sort. The reason is that it might take more than three days to figure out whether or not someone shows concern for you. In my youth, I handed out ‘friend’ to everyone without recognizing the ‘actual’ responsibility of ‘close’ friend. It’s not possible to be ‘close’ friends with everyone because we have only so much time, and a lot of us are busy. Granted, this characterization of friendship does not have to be taken, but I find that I have always been someone to take this relationship more seriously. So, this view fits for me.


Given my views, one might ask the question whether I think I am a good friend or not.


I would like to say that I have been a ‘good’ friend of whatever kind you want to attribute to the relationship to some people, and I have not been one to others.


I have made many mistakes as I am a fallible human being. I thought that by simply doing the ‘right’ thing that I would attract good people. I didn’t even have a clue about what ‘right’ even meant, so how could I have been said to be doing the right thing in the first place?


I have ignored the other person before, and I didn’t realize that the other person didn’t even want to be in the activity in which we were participating.


I thought that being a good friend meant remaining someone’s friend despite the vicious feedback I was receiving or ignoring problems that I thought were not right in the name of loyalty. By vicious, I do not mean truth. I mean something like the particular way of delivering particular claims about me, and assuming those claims about me were true in virtue of me thinking the other person had my best interest at heart.


The mistakes I have made can be summarized in the following way:


  1. Being too quick to call someone ‘friend’ and not understanding that being a decent human need not entail friendship. It’s not the case that I have to go above and beyond for everyone, and it’s not the case that everyone has to do that for me, either.


  1. I never recognized that just because someone showed the marks of friendship that did not mean that they considered me friend. I inflicted emotional harm on myself and others for not reciprocating some shared activity that the person was never in.


  1. I allowed people to treat me poorly because of the history between us. I think it’s important to let people know when something bothers you because it will probably continue to happen. Take care of things in the beginning so it doesn’t resurface later. I have been guilty of not expressing how I feel about certain things and letting it continue on and on. It’s not fair for the other person nor is it fair for me.


  1. I think the most important mistake I have made is not fully understanding who I was as a person. My inconsistent actions could be seen as confusing, and not understanding my own boundaries in turn allows other people to treat me in particular ways, thus leading to problems.


In summation, the game plan moving forward is something like the following:


I want to become a better person, but with that, it does not necessarily mean I have to be friends with everyone. Rather, showing human decency, I think, is enough in most occasions. Also, with graduate school, it’s near impossible to pay attention to everyone that I have called ‘close,’ and I have not respected my friendships in that way. The second plan is not handing out friendship labels as if it were Halloween because I find that there’s a particular kind of care that friendships require that I am just unable to give at this current moment. Further, I do not expect people to be my friend in the robust sense if they do not want my friendship in a particular way. Meaning, I imagine not everyone wants me to ‘mom’ them. I imagine that people just want others to do what they say they will.


None of these realizations about friendships would have been possible if I didn’t have people in my life that supported me throughout my school career. From those people, it was nice to be reassured that I was actually worth a damn.



Now, this is not to say that I am ending friendships, but moving forward, I find that I want to have a new attitude about the way I view relationships, and I hope that this new attitude will help me become better in my internal and external life. I want to sincerely apologize to everyone for not being the ‘friend’ that I was back home given my new context.


Still murmuring about friends

•April 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Goodwill seems, then, to be a beginning of friendship, as the pleasure of the eye is the beginning of love. For no one loves if he has not first been delighted by the form of the beloved, but he who delights in the form of another does not, for all that love him, but only does so when he also longs for him when absent and craves for his presence; so too it is not possible for people to be friends if they have not come to feel good will for each other, but those who feel goodwill are not for all that friends; for they only wish well to those for whom they feel goodwill, and would not do anything with them nor take trouble for them. And so one might by extension of the term say that goodwill is inactive friendship, though when it is prolonged and reaches the point of intimacy it becomes friendship. [nico.ethics. 1167a4-12]

Having goodwill toward another human being and wishing them well is not sufficient for an Aristotilean character friendship. One might wonder, ‘why not?’ The getting to that end is what matters for this kind of friendship. Choice is wrapped up in reason and desire. It is not something arbitrary like picking a garment or so Aristotle states. If you think about it, it’s not the case that you see someone and state “oh, we are friends” because that would be misguided in the Aro framework. Rather, it’s more something like the following example: Clara, on her way to virtue, is around Sophia a lot. Sophia shows generous actions and courageous actions. Clara admires the excercising of those actions in Sophia, so Clara decides to spend more time with Sophia. Sophia recognizes other features in Clara such as temperance, and Sophia, too, decides to spend more time with Sophia because she appreciates these features about Clara qua Clara. Here, the experience is what seems to be important for this kind of framework, and it does not seem counterintuitive.

In later books, Aristotle suggests that a friendship doesn’t really become one until both are tested, but I am more concerned with how -F becomes F. That is, the process that goes from not being a friend to being a friend. The ‘becoming’ a friend is a choice to make another persons ends your own in the most robust way possible. That is, when you decide to become someone’s friend after some time, the good for that person becomes your good too. Clara must take on Sophia’s ends as her own and vice versa. That, I argue, is what changes both people in the relevant way. It cannot be a change in character because Aristotle wants to claim that a stable character is necessary for choice, but I argue that the change is taking on the ends each other has. That is why, I think, he states that one cannot have many good friends.

Being a good friend is not easy because you have to dedicate some time to be there for one another in the relevant way. It’s not enough, according to Aristotle, to murmur that you’re going to be there for someone no matter what if you are not around to help that person. Now, this account of friendship is very demanding, but so is virtue ethics. I am not prescribing anything in this post, but I am rather highlighting the features that I think are relevant.

Artwork done by yours truly.

Philia and Eros

•March 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A syllogism in a demonstration
with a premise and a conclusion
Is what really turned the weekend
into a terrible dissolution.

Habituation and Disposition
Really ruined
What I imagined
Was a genuine

Of something that looked
as if virtue would be,
but I was wrong,
a consideration of fallibility.

There are times that commitment
calls for us to stand
by particular claims,
And is it wrong to robustly say,
that maybe the end
wasn’t the aim?

Eros and Philia, unfortunate friends
If reciprocity
does not align in the appropriate way
If how it comes to be
Isn’t in the right way

Our daily chats
Are still missed
If only something
Could remiss
Dispositions and states, geared toward this ending
Of Arete. -J.Gormley, March 2018



Oh, Lana

•March 24, 2018 • 2 Comments

It’s a strange feeling when you visit a place, looking at all the young people. What is super important in the moment is getting the next shot and chasing it with regret. Lana del Ray captured me for three hours, and for some reason, “Young and Beautiful” the remix moved me in an interesting way. When I think about the man she talks about in the song, and I compare it to the things that I have been learning about, of course, Aristotle, it reminds me of what it is that a person comes to love about you. There’s something vulnerable about the question, “will you love me when I am no longer young and beautiful” that elicits a strange reaction from me. It’s the following phrase, “I know that you will,” that doesn’t seem convincing to me. She’s not convinced that he’s going to love her. Nor, should she be. If the relationship begins in a particular kind of way, when what provides pleasure is not what provides pleasure (youth and beauty) then the relationship dissolves, and that relationship was never the prime one to be in in the first place. It’s haunting because I know that I have been in a position when I was younger asking the same questions. I find that as I get older, what is beautiful has changed. Beauty comes in the form of a friend that is sharing their life with you. Beauty comes in the form of watching someone smile after a long day. If someone has to ask whether you will be around, then it doesn’t seem to show that  you enough about the person to even ask the question. The song describes all the ways that he makes her feel, and basing a relationship primarily on these incidental features will not give her what she wants. That is not to diminish the feelings in the story, but it’s not reasonable to think the person will remain around.  IMG_0334

Sprang Brayke

•March 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Sprang Break

Something really caught my attention this spring break, and it was the statement, “you’re young, you’ve got no baggage,” and in some ways that statement has to be true, and in other ways, it’s absolutely false. This claim was made by someone who deoesn’t truly know me, so if you, dear reader, are that person that said this statement, know that I am not calling you out. I am, however, reflecting on the different ways that this claim could be true and not true.

The target reflection for this blog post is “what is baggage, and is it the kind of thing that someone carries” in the colloquial context.

A quick google search shows that the term ‘baggage’ is defined as “past experiences or long-held ideas regarded as burdens and impediments.”

The first question is resolved. Baggage is a past experience that someone carries with them independently or within. For example, I have heard someone saying that single parents have baggage. This case seems to suggest that baggage can be something independent of the person, but somewhat related. Another way that baggage is used could be in the form of trauma that still affects an individual. Consider an individual that goes through a traumatic experience. Certain events or people can trigger the individual, and this triggering can manifest in different ways such as extreme discomfort or anxiety. These side effects can be considered a burden or an impediment.

The second question I ask is whether baggage is some past experience or long-held belief one regarded as a burden or impediment. So, take the same person that goes through the traumatic experience, and the person survives the traumatic event without viewing the situation as either a burden or an impediment. Rather, the person doesn’t have the same effects as in the previous case. That is not to say that the person never has feelings about things or goes through normal life situations, but I am thinking of a person that can go through such a hard situation and coming out of the end of it without crippling depression or anxiety. If this is possible, then another component of baggage is whether the individual recognizes the traumatic experience as a burden or an impediment. If the person sees the traumatic experience as necessary for personal growth, then it seems as if the term doesn’t apply, but it cannot be the case that the past experience does not affect them. The past experiences do not seem like a burden in the relevant way as the definition above implies. “Baggage” is a strange term. The experiences that we all have, however similar, can be seen as either baggage or not depending on the type of disposition you have toward said past experience. Something about the term baggage doesn’t seem right. I wonder what other people think about this.

Some people have said that I have baggage, but if I don’t recognize the past traumas that have happened as burdensome, then it cannot be the case that I have “baggage” in the relevant sense, but I wouldn’t want to say that the traumatic things that have happened in my past hasn’t influenced some of the decisions I have made. Maybe this thought space can be developed into something later.

“There are three parts of excellence: intelligence, strength, and good fortune.”

᾿Αρετὴ τριὰς, σύνεσις καὶ κράτος καὶ τύχη

Apologies, Dominus

•December 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Why is reason a slave to the passions? Is it the case that reason is at the mercy of the emotions? (Thanks David Hume for this wonderful statement and question)

I often find myself in situations where a feeling washes over me, and I am attempting to justify whether my feelings should be acknowledged. The other day I called a good friend, and I felt really upset that someone I knew was being human, and I needed to know if how I was feeling was justified.

It made me think about how I come to justify a feeling. I assess an action, and I ask myself exactly what I feel.

For example, it was brought to my attention that I can be perceived in many ways.

Should I let other people’s perceptions affect the way I feel? Do I have a choice in the matter?

We can set determinism aside and grander metaphysical questions for another time.

In one sense, I should care about how the people I care about perceive me because I would not want to purposely offend or degrade anyone I love. In another sense, it depends on the people who I am around and whether the people are upset at who I am as a person or a specific action that I committed. I think the difference between particular actions and who I am is what makes how I come to justify a feeling make a little more sense.

If there is a group of people that I am associated with and I have some shared goal, there is clearly a time and a place for talking about certain things such as my work or my eyebrows.

But, if there are people that I give title “friend” to, then I do not want to have to keep apologizing for who I am as a person. I know who I am. I have always known that I am someone that needs some kind of attention to a certain extent. I don’t find that problematic, and I don’t understand why it would be the case that it is. I want to see comfort with the people that I know and trust. Being vulnerable is often scoffed at, but it’s something that makes us all a little human. I have been through a lot, and I am just so excited to share the things that I have learned with people that I thought were rooting for me. I don’t see myself changing the enthusiasm I have for life, nor do I see myself being any less passionate about philosophy. I am an easy person to talk to, and I would hope that if I am being confusing, the people that know me can ask me what I mean when I say something that seems off. Often, I find myself thinking through thoughts too quickly, and I know that not every one can keep up with my pace. I don’t think I should feel upset about how people perceive me because “objectively” it does seem strange that the topics of conversations went from light topics to really dense ones. I never felt the need to talk about school work that I was not confident about. Through reasoning, I have come to the conclusion that even if I tweak certain parts of my delivery, there will be people that do not like how I talk about things or the topics that I talk about.

If I am drama, too loud, too extra, too flighty, too much, then get a bigger cup.

How does this all tie in with how I feel and justifying how I feel?

I feel like I have reason to believe that people who know me would have no problem asking me what I mean when I say something, and I feel like that those who do not know me should get to know me. And, I feel like that people that would rather not are entitled to that choice as well.

I find that in 2018, I will try and apologize less for who I am, and I will try more to expect less from those that need to be left alone. Further, I will try to be a little more concise and clear with the points I am trying to make in conversation.

“To perceive is to suffer.”
― Aristotle


Eros and Lies

•December 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Every one that knows me, knows that I am absolutely obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. In my hometown, I bought tickets to see a cover band that I was apprehensive about because who can really emulate the angst, cocaine, alcohol, and devastation in the voices of Christine Mcvie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham?


I sat in the bar next door as the band did their sound check. The familiar melody of “little lies” started playing, and I sat up in my seat. There’s a difference between live and recorded music, obviously. But, the difference is that live shows sound so much more painful and real. The music carries the authors and musician’s soul to you. The cover-band did a good enough job; Good enough to where I was thinking deeply about the song that was used for their sound check. The song “Little Lies” begins with this riff that you think is the piano, but it’s really Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar. Christine Mcvie’s piano in the background, Lindsey’s touch with the electric guitar, and Stevie’s voice haunting you.


It’s a familiar sadness, but an understanding that the person who this song is dedicated to will never tell you the truth, but at least you know that they won’t. Just, come on, and tell me the lies that I want to hear, but not what I need to hear.


The whiskey, at this point, warmed my body as if a lover was embracing me. Holding me close and not wanting me to let go.


Later, when the show was in full swing, and the crowd was singing along, I swayed along to the music because I know this song will play for all those past and in the future that will tell me lies that are just too sweet to give up. The difference between then and now is that I know these are lies. I am not as gullible as I was once, but maybe that’s something that everyone says once they are no longer under lust’s influence. I was with some good friends, and it was great because you can see the power of Fleetwood Mac’s music. The way that Stevie’s lyrics and Christine’s piano can unite all of us who have been told the littlest of lies. Singing together and re-living the heart break and memory of each person the song reminds you of.


Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.


Please tell me the stories that I know are not true but sound oh so sweet.


You can’t disguise.


I know that you’re telling me stories, but I know that I still want to hear them because it sounds nice coming from your lips that makes my legs weak.



“You” is Eros. The love that doesn’t last, but the love that drags you into the passions. The kind of love that makes you lose your mind; the love that tells your stories about how everything will work out on its own.


The type lie that you would find comfort in because that’s all you really know.


The type of love that has you thinking about what it is to be a thing of its kind as you are walking up the steps to your friend’s house with black high heels instead of the gold ones you went out with.

“If I could turn the page
In time then I’d rearrange
Just a day or two
(Close my, close my, close my eyes)
But I couldn’t find a way
So I’ll settle for one day
To believe in you
(Tell me, tell me, tell me lies)” – Christine Mcvie