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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Philosophy of Friendship MSc (PHIL11220)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFriendship seems to be an indispensable part of a good life. We will discuss whether friendship is indeed necessary for a good life or whether it is possible for a solitary life to be a good life as well. If it is part of a good life, what precisely is its value? In addition to its value, we will discuss the nature of friendship. One crucial feature of friendship is the fact that it unites some, but not all, people and thus brings about a distinction between friends and non-friends. The partiality of friendship in this sense leads to problems with regard to the impartiality of rationality and of morality: We will discuss epistemic and practical tensions between friendship and rationality. We will also consider how moral theories that require impartiality deal with the partiality of friendship and ask whether conflicts between friendship and morality can be resolved by deontologists and by consequentialists.
Course description In this course, we will explore a number of key issues in the philosophy of friendship. Typical topics will include: the nature of friendship; the unity and partiality of friendship; the relation between friendship and reason; the relation between friendship and morality. We will ask what role friendship has in a good life and whether it is necessary for a good life or whether it is possible for a solitary life to be a good life as well.

Typical topics
1. The nature of friendship
Aristotle famously distinguishes between three kinds of friendship: friendship based on virtue, on usefulness, and on pleasure. Modern accounts find the foundation of friendship in such things as trust (Thomas 2013) or plural agency and interpersonal emotion (Helm 2009). We will discuss a number of competing accounts of what friendship is.

2. The unity of friendship
What unites friends? According to Aristotle, a friend is another self; Montaigne goes further by claiming that a perfect friendship is kind of fusion where friends become one in a much stronger sense: The friend is no longer another self. Plato (Lysis and Republic V) and Helm (2009) think that the unity consists in common action and emotion.

3. Friendship and reason
Since friends are united and since we cannot be friends with everyone, friendship brings about a distinction between friends and non-friends. Some philosophers see a tension between friendship and reason. One of these debates concerns the epistemic partiality of friendship. In certain circumstances, we tend to evaluate the same evidence differently depending on whether it concerns a friend or a non-friend. Some scholars argue that this sort of epistemic partiality is irrational (Slote (2013)) while others consider it rationally justifiable (Brown (2013)).

4. Friendship and morality
Moral theories tend to demand impartiality. This leads to problems of the following sorts: First, from a moral point of view, we ought to treat our friends no different from our non-friends, but often giving preference to friends seems to be the right thing to do. Second, there is, as Williams (1981) points out, a problem of motivation. If I visit a friend in the hospital (as I ought to), wouldn't it be wrong to motivated by obeying a moral law or maximising goodness instead of just doing it because I care? Wouldn't being morally motivated be 'one thought too many'? We will discuss answers that defenders of the major moral theories give to such challenges.

5. Friendship and the good life
What is it that makes friendship good? Is this good necessary for a good life? Is there a specific value to friendship or is friendship valuable because it provides us with other generic goods (e.g. pleasure, virtue, or knowledge)? We will look at different theories of the value of friendship (e.g. Stoics, Hurka (2013)). We will also discuss whether there is an aesthetic value to friendship.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Grasp and analyse central concepts of the philosophy of friendship.
  2. Demonstrate core philosophical skills, in particular engage with philosophical texts, evaluate arguments and develop original counter-arguments.
  3. Connect topics in the philosophy of friendship to other areas of philosophy.
  4. Critically reflect on the role of friendship in their lives.
Reading List
The following list is only indicative as new research is being publish and other aspects of friendship may be emphasised in future instantiations of this course. The core reading will consist of the chapters in Caluori (2013). Of the other books listed, we will often read only some chapters.

Aristotle (2014), Nicomachean Ethics, translated and edited by Crisp, Cambridge: CUP.
Baier (1991), Trust. Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
Brown (2013), 'Friendships: Epistemically Dangerous Lliaisons?' in Caluori (2013).
Caluori (ed.) (2013), Thinking about Friendship. Historical and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan (core reading).
Cooper (1976/7), 'Aristotle on the Forms of Friendship', Review of Metaphysics 30.
Denis (2001), 'From Friendship to Marriage: Revising Kant', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63.
Helm (2009) Love, Friendship, and the Self, Oxford: OUP.
Hurka (2013), 'The Goods of Friendship', in Caluori (2013).
Kant (1996) Practical Philosophy, ed. Gregor, Cambridge: CUP.
Kant (1997) Lectures on Ethics, ed. Heath, Cambridge: CUP.
Langer (2013), 'Montaigne's Perfect Friendship', in Caluori (2013).
Lintott (2013), 'Aesthetics and the Art of Friendship', in Caluori (2013).
Long (2013), 'Friendship and Friends in the Stoic Theory of the Good Life, in Caluori (2013).
Long and Sedley (eds.) (1987), The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1, Cambridge: CUP.
Montaigne (2003), The Complete Essays, London: Penguin Books.
Norcross (2013), 'Consequentialism and Friendship', in Caluori (2013).
Plato (1997), Lysis, in Cooper (ed.), Plato. Complete Works, Indianapolis: Hackett.
Plato (1997), Republic, in Cooper (ed.), Plato. Complete Works, Indianapolis: Hackett.
Railton (1984), 'Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality', Philosophy and Public Affairs 13
Seidman (2013), 'How to be a non-Reductionist about Reasons of Friendship' in Caluori (2013).
Sensen (2013), 'Friendship in Kant¿s Moral Thought', in Caluori (2013).
Slote (2013), 'Relationships and Emotions', in Caluori (2013).
Thomas (2013), 'The Character of Friendship', in Caluori (2013).
Williams (1981), Moral Luck, Cambridge: CUP.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will enhance their skills at critical and reflective thinking about a phenomenon that they are seemingly familiar with. They will improve their written communication skills. Through reflection on a crucial phenomenon in their lives, they will be able to make a positive difference in the world by improving not only their own lives but also those of their friends.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Damian Caluori
Tel: (0131 6)50 3484
Course secretaryMiss Sabina Ali
Tel: (0131 6) 50 4400
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