Editorial. Friendship—Around Michael H. Mitias’ Friendship: A Central Moral Value
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The main theme of this Dialogue and Universalism issue is friendship. The object of investigations and/or inspiration the here presented papers on friendship is Michael H. Mitias’ book Friendship: A Central Moral Value.1 In this very modest way Dialogue and Universalism would like to honour Professor Mitias—by paying attention to one of his many, though interrelated, fields of research. We have decided to follow Mitias’ interest in friendship also because this virtue plays such a significant role in human life—in its individual as well as in social scale—that it repeatedly must be given attention it merits. Although— as one of the authors, Ruth Abbey, informs—some books on friendship have been published in the last years friendship is still a neglected issue, mainly because philosophy has rarely addressed the alarming condition of friendship in recent times. And it is Mitias who restores friendship in the variant that has been rooted in the human world over the centuries, reactivates it and postulates to assign it the role of a founding item of postmodern morality; Necip Fikri Alican elucidates this in detail in his paper. This recent period has abandoned many basic traditional values apparently “for the sake of modernization” as many ideologies try to convince us, in fact imposing or sanctioning our world order run by economic interests and benefits. The Dialogue and Universalism editorial team is pleased to present here three extensive essays on Mitias’ conception of friendship and his deep-going deliberations on this subject. The essays include analyses, discussions and trace the grounding of Mitias’ conception in philosophical traditions. Also, the collection includes two other studies that do not refer directly to Mitias’ book but are thematically closely related to it. Following Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Book VIII), in philosophy friendship is commonly treated as an ethical issue and as lying in the individual subject’s sphere. However, like the majority of ethical issues, also the question of friendship inevitably extends to philosophical anthropology, especially to the problems of human being’s nature, natural, primitive features, needs and aspirations as well as those imposed from outside, issues of individual identity, freedom and autonomy in the face of friendship, and individualistic tendencies versus togetherness. Today the necessary extension of the scope of friendship goes farther on, namely to the sphere of society, culture, and civilization. Friendship is becoming a serious problem in all those domains, and cannot be viewed any longer only as an intimate relationship between two persons, a relationship devoid of socio-cultural influence and commitment. Recent socio–cultural phenomena have among others things led to the collapse or distortion of authentic human togetherness. We are witnessing the frightening disappearance of authentic friendly relationships. The very idea and value of friendship has been devalued and is currently turning into its own caricature or an empty illusion. Paradoxically, new communication media are taking part in this degradation. Facebook and other social networking websites and services are changing the intimate, private relation of being friends into collecting “likes.” Mobile phones’ texting extremely shallows conversations, and also—if they become the dominating form of communication—intimate contacts and exchange between humans. However, the degradation of friendship is mainly caused not by the flaws or side-effects of technical innovations. It is first of all a result of social changes, of changing social goals, needs, and lifestyles. Societies around the world are more and more strongly controlled by the rules of the Darwinian struggle for life, by selfish interests, by the continuous state of competition between people, by hostility toward the Other. One serious and pressing modern-day misery—in fact a widespread social disease—is loneliness, which is among other things an effect of the waning of friendship on the global scale (Mitias says a lot about loneliness and exclusion in his works, also Manjulika Ghosh writes about this phenomenon in her essay). People are lonely in the overpopulated world, in crowds, in societies, even in their families, because there are two dominant forms of human contacts: in the process of realising common interests, and in leisure. People are losing the ability to live authentically together, to be in selfless and emotionally involved relationships. The minimal and at the same time crucial benefit of friendship is avoiding loneliness. Till now the postmodern “friendship”—or, in fact, friendship in the era of late capitalism, an era in which millions were excluded, baffled and beaten, an era of the collapse of solidarity (with people seeming to unite only against an enemy or for the sake of common interests)—has not been considered by ethicists and anthropologists with attention it deserves. The threat of a human world wholly devoid of friendship, togetherness, empathy, in other words, a humankind consisting of isolated strangers, opens a new path of philosophical investigation. It seems that friendship is not only an ethical value embracing two individuals, but also a social value and dependent on socio-cultural factors. As such it also could be an object of investigation in social philosophy. This should examine why friendship changes for worse in this world, which frequently speaks of itself as the best and most civilised world in human history. Philosophy should also study obstacles to friendship in today’s multi-ethnical, multicultural and multi-religious world. In general, new conditions, situations and phenomena in the human world, which is in a constant state of flux, inspire philosophy—by founding new philosophical questions, followed by ideas, research, and conceptions. The second part of this Dialogue and Universalism issue, entitled IDEALS UNIVERSAL VALUES, DIALOGUE, includes papers on the main topics discussed in this journal: the ideals and values underlying the praxis of the human world. And as for dialogue—this time we present two entirely different instances of dialogue: a dialogue between Christianity and Judaism (Shoshana Ronen), and a dialogue between philosophy and physics (Hisaki Hashi and Herbert Pietschmann).
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