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Aristotle and Derrida on friendship


Jacques Derrida begins the first chapter of his book The Politics of Friendship1 with a statement attributed to Aristotle by both Diogenes Laertes and the 16th Century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. The statement is this:

“O my friends, there is no friend.”

Derrida points out the paradox and apparent contradication in such an impossible declaration. Who is Aristotle talking to, given that he is addressing friends to inform them that there are none? How can the statement be taken seriously? We might say that the paradox is a result of a bit of philosophical licence on Aristotle’s part. Aristotle defines the friend as “another self”2 and since it is logically impossible that the friend could actually be another self, then this is simply a bit of philosophical hyperbole that Aristotle engages in, but about which he is not serious. Yet the fact that Derrida has written three hundred pages of text on this subject suggests that this interpretation would be hard to sustain. As the title of his text suggests, Derrida approaches the question of friendship via an analogy with politics, specifically with republican democracy. This paper focuses on three aspects of that analogy.



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