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The Philosophy of Friendship Hardcover – 8 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (8 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403948747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403948748
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,005,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Friendship may seem to be both too familiar yet too elusive and ambiguous a topic to consider on its own out of the context of novels or biographies. However, Mark Vernon convincingly refutes this notion and reconsiders the contributions of philosophers from Aristotle and Plato to Nietzsche and Emerson. The result is a wise and accessible discussion of the perils and promise of friendship, providing a beacon of hope to encourage us through the many confusions in our personal lives and suggesting its wider political and spiritual implications. This is definitely philosophy for next Monday morning and it deserves to reach a wide general readership.' - Ray Pahl, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Kent at Canterbury, and author of On Friendship

'Friendship is a subject which has been much neglected by recent philosophy. Mark Vernon's engaging and accessible yet thorough book rediscovers the rich contributions philosophers of the past have made to the subject and shows how these discussions are more relevant today than ever. It is also of much more than theoretical interest, as it illuminates in surprising ways a facet of life important to everyone. Everyone will learn something of value by reading this book, whether their primary interest lies with friendship or philosophy. The Philosophy of Friendship revivifies and sets the agenda for its eponymous subject.' - Julian Baggini, Editor of The Philosopher's Magazine and author of What's it all about? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life

'Mark Vernon is the best kind of friend of friendship, who is well aware of how its variations and transmutations elude any individual or ideological appropriation. His treatment is wide-ranging and open-ended, exemplary both in lucidity of exposition and in range of sympathy. He is at once celebratory and common-sensical, appreciative of friendship's aspirings and perceptive of its fallings short, respectful of its indebtedness to ethical tradition, and hopeful of its fecundity in social innovation. Readers will place themselves variably within the spectrum of possibilities that he displays, but with an enhanced sense of the alternatives that one's own choices leave open to others.' - Anthony Price, Birkbeck College, London

'A history of the idea of friendship through the works of various thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche. It's genuinely useful, lucid, informative and wise.' - The Independent, Books of the Year 2005

From the Inside Flap

What is friendship? What is its nature, its rules, its perils, its promise? Can colleagues be friends, can online strangers, can lovers?
These are the questions that journalist Mark Vernon takes to thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche, via Augustine and Aquinas, in a search through philosophy for the things that thwart friendship and for the conditions within which it might best thrive. He unpacks their penetrating and often unexpected insights with numerous illustrations from history and culture to ask about friendship in sex and work, society and ethics, politics and spirituality.
Aristotle asked who would choose to live without friends, though they had every other good thing? He also observed that though the desire for friends comes quickly, friendship does not. Philosophy of Friends is the first book length philosophical examination of friendship for many years. Written with wit, clarity and passion, it will engage anyone interested in friendship, general readers and academics alike.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ms J L Twentyman on 28 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book really gave me something to think about: How should we define true friendship in a world littered with colleagues, acquaintances, email contacts, friends-of-friends etc? Mark Vernon guides the reader through this philosophical minefield with some panache, using an approach that is informative but never overtly earnest. Highly recommended!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Denise Inge on 17 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating look at friendship from ancient times to today, The Philosophy of Friendship asks questions we need to hear. What is friendship about? Why does it matter so much? and more alarmingly, Can friendship bear the weight of the many expectations we place on it? I really enjoyed this book. Readable,engaging, Mark Vernon's interweaving of history and theory with everyday examples of many types of friendship makes this is a book of philosophy for everyone. Don't miss it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. N. A. Haeffner on 5 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mark Vernon's book on frienship is not only a good read, it's also a great example of how to do philosophy at a time when bookshops are giving over shelfspace previously devoted to it to self-help books with titles like 'Make Money, Be Happy'. Deftly seizing the opportunity to write a book of philosophy which might appeal to the pragmatic temper of the times, Vernon surveys the promises and perils of friendship with the aid of a range of texts from the mainstream philosophical tradition at the same time as demonstrating the value of these insights in the context of everyday life.
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Format: Hardcover
The title is a fascinating idea; the book is less so. Mostly, Mark Vernon's views are hidden behind quoting famous philosophers, so it's not intellectually original. His own ideas, when they appear, are colloquial and not terribly though out: on a section about "Can non humans be our friends" he says, "Tree huggers are likely to be imbalanced" without any justification or discussion. Actually, discover the philosophy of a real tree hugger, and you'll see that a case for non-human friendship is quite a strong one, as some see trees as kind of sentient, and part of the all connecting energy. Mark omits such beliefs entirely so that his book is about passionate friendship but, despite the spiritual chapter, not really about relating on that level in the way a practised, say meditator or mystic might. It's a very male orientated book, with women only really coming in at the end. I was unsure about the way he presented homosexuality in men and women, and if it is affirmed - sometimes I doubted that it is by Mark.

It also became less interesting to read as it went on, and could feel quite pessimistic (eg the first chapter on
work friendships being about need and commodity) but there was a pervading interesting idea: that of romantic friendship. It seems that some very deep friendships don't fall neatly into a category of sexual or "platonic" (he explains that Platonic is often misused). There is this inbetween mode of friendship, not really about repression of homosexuality or some other taboo, but about this high, wonderful love between people where actually, as he kind of says, sex gets in the way. (Not sure I'd endorse the last).
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