1. What are the two conflicting motives to action? Why are they in conflict? How are they reconciled in friendship? (pp. 210-11)

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1. What are the two conflicting motives to action? Why are they in conflict? How are they reconciled in friendship? (pp. 210-11)

2. Explain each of the three types of friendship recognized by Kant. (pp. 212-15)

3. How are Kant’s three types of friendship like and unlike the three types discussed by Aristotle?

4. What is the adaptation of two people to one another that constitutes the bond of friendship? What are the elements which make up the character of a perfect friend? (p. 216) Is Kant right about these elements? Does it seem that he’s left out anything important?

5. What are the remarks that Kant thinks a friendship of disposition calls for? (pp. 216-17) Is he correct on all these points in your view? Why?

Notes on the Kant Reading

If you meet Kant’s writing in another class – say, an ethics class, where one sometimes reads his Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals – you may look back on this reading on friendship and wonder why his published writing is so hard to read. By comparison, this little lecture is a model of clarity.

Kant begins by characterizing friendship as a means of reconciling two conflicting motives: self-love and love of humanity. The two are in conflict, because, if we act out of self-love, our action has no moral merit, but, if we act out of love of humanity, we might sacrifice our own happiness. These motives are reconciled in friendship, because each of us loves the other as himself, so our love has moral merit; and because the other loves us, our happiness is brought about as well.

Kant discusses three types of friendship:

1. the friendship of need

  • the original form of friendship among people
  • does not exist at the stage of luxury
  • presupposed in every friendship as a source of confidence that the friend is competent to care for our affairs
  • compare/contrast this with Aristotle’s friendship of utility

2. the friendship of taste

  • consists in the pleasure we derive from each other’s company (not from each other’s happiness)
  • most likely formed by people of different occupations, where their differences can entertain or satisfy one another
  • compare/contrast with Aristotle’s friendship of pleasure

3. the friendship of disposition or sentiment

  • friendship in “the absolute sense”
  • a relationship where we can completely disclose all of our dispositions and judgements; a relationship where we don’t need to hide anything
  • can exist only between two or three friends
  • no question of any service or demand
  • compare/contrast with Aristotle’s complete friendship

Kant thinks that the bond of friendship is built on differences in the way two people think rather than in the two thinking alike. However, their intellectual and moral principles must be the same. He thinks the following characteristics are elements of the perfect friend:

  • upright disposition
  • sincerity
  • trustworthiness
  • lack of falsehood
  • lack of spite
  • a sweet, cheerful and happy temper

Even when one has a friendship of disposition or sentiment, Kant counsels us to be careful in case the friend turns into an enemy. First, we mustn’t hate the old friend or speak ill of them. This is a matter of prudence: we might give people hearing us a reason to avoid our friendship. Second, while we’re friends, we should be careful not to trust the friend completely or to tell all of our secrets, in case they fail to keep our secrets or one day seek to injure us.


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