On Friendship and Treachery
The issue of the betrayal of friends or a benefactor has been confronting mankind since ancient times. This issue returned to the forefront once again when Steve Russell, the leader of the U.S. forces in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein, revealed in his book "We Got Him" that Hussein was betrayed by his "most trusted" friend. History is replete with endless examples of treachery. The best known example is of course the betrayal of Jesus Christ by His disciple Judas Iscariot, for thirty pieces of silver. However, practically all of us have experienced the bitterness of treachery from a so-called "friend." And so, this is nothing new to us. But the question remains: can people live without friends? My answer is no. The question of friendship, with all its pitfalls, has preoccupied many philosophers from the days of ancient Greece until today. Aristotle spends a lot of time studying the issue of friendship in his "Nicomachean Ethics." Obviously, this issue is far too broad to be examined within the scope of a newspaper column. But I will give you a small foretaste from what Aristotle writes, so I can contribute to a discussion that might follow. "It is said that those who are supremely happy and self-sufficient have no need of friends; for they have the things that are good, and thereforebeing self-sufficient they need nothing further, while a friend, being another self, furnishes what a man cannot provide by his own effort; whence the saying 'when fortune is kind, what need of friends?' But it seems strange, when one assigns all good things to the happy man, not to assign friends, who are thought the greatest of external goods. And if it is more characteristic of a friend to do well by another than to be well done by, and to confer benefits is characteristic of the good man and of virtue, and it is nobler to do well by friends than by strangers, the good man will need people to do well by. This is why the question is asked whether we need friends more in prosperity or in adversity, on the assumption that not only does a man in adversity need people to confer benefits on him, but also those who are prospering need people to do well by. Surely it is strange, too, to make the supremely happy man a solitary; for no one would choose the whole world on condition of being alone, since man is a political creature and one whose nature is to live with others. Therefore even the happy man lives with others; for he has the things that are by nature good. And plainly it is better to spend his days with friends and good men than with strangers or any chance persons. Therefore the happy man needs friends." In response to how many friends a man should have, Aristotle says it is probably better that someone not seek to have as many friends as possible, but only as many as are necessary..."So for friends too there is a fixed number perhaps the largest number with whom one can live together (for that, we found, thought to be very characteristic of friendship)." Presumably, then, it is well not to seek to have as many friends as possible, but as many as are enough for the purpose of living together; for it would seem actually impossible to be a great friend to many people. This is why one cannot love several people; love is ideally a sort of excess of friendship, and that can only be felt towards one person; therefore great friendship too can only be felt towards a few people."