Friendship: poignancy and paradox


Our relations with friends are often poignant. We yearn for friendship and enjoy the playfulness and pleasure it provides; and yet we are also confronted with loss and disappointment in friendship. This poignancy is partly explained by the structure of the relationship and the tension between similarity and difference that it entails.

This paper will argue that rather than being dispiriting, the tension between similarity and separateness inherent in friendship is to be celebrated. Specifically it maintains that a failure to recognise the tension between similarity and separateness and the significance of difference in friendship emasculates the relationship, undermining the possibilities it presents for genuine engagement and for the understanding of both self and other. It undermines the possibility that we can, as Thomas Aquinas argues, come to “know ourselves aright” and hence the possibility that we can come to an adequate understanding of our place in the world.


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