Who would choose to live without friends?

Who would choose to live without friends? Who could live without friends? We all need friends. This is an assumption that has shaped the lives and thoughts of so many throughout history. From the greatest philosophers to your so-called average Joe, the vast majority of people have believed that we need friends.

The ancient philosopher Aristotle makes precisely this point in his ethical writings. He points out that even if we had all other goods imaginable – wealth and honour and accomplishments of every kind – even then, no one would choose to live without friends.  The philosopher asks: If we don’t have friends, to whom will we show generosity? If we don’t have friends, how will we guard our prosperity? Without friends, how will we survive misfortunes and poverty? Without friends, who will stir us to noble action?

There is a wide literature on friendship. Relationships between friends have been portrayed in so many different ways, and our need of friends has been re-iterated in so many contexts. In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein gives us the shadow side of this assumption. Victor Frankenstein (the doctor who creates the great monster) writes these words to his confidant, Margaret Walton Saville: “I have no friend, Margaret. When I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in my dejection.” Continue reading