A lecture by Timothy J. Madigan. In Book VIII of his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle categorizes three different types of friendship: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good. The latter, Aristotle states, are the most important, and the rarest. Such friendships of the good require time and intimacy -- to truly know people's finest qualities you must have deep experiences with them, and close connections. "Many a many a Friendship doth want of intercourse destroy", Aristotle warns us. And yet, for those of us living in the frenetic 21st Century, it can be difficult to maintain such ties. E-mail, texting, Facebook and other such technological realities have added a new wrinkle to Aristotle's threefold schemata. Thanks to them, and the wonders of the internet in general, it is now easier than ever to stay in touch with people from throughout one's life. Often discussions of personal relationships in the Cyber Age dwell upon the negative: the superficial connections, the dangers of identity theft, and the reality of information overload. In this talk, I argue that technology has made it possible for friendships of all three categories to thrive and prosper in ways Aristotle could never have anticipated. Perhaps the very concept of "friendship" is in need of new categories in light of such new possibilities for staying intimately connected.
Funded project of the New York Council for the Humanities. The New York Council for the Humanities is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.