The Boundaries of Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Despite being often neglected by commentators, the notion of boundary is essential to understand Plato’s and Aristotle’s conception of friendship. By considering some of the passages where the connection between friendship and boundaries is clearer, I will show how both these authors conceive of friendship in its different forms as a complex system of boundaries. These boundaries are of different kinds: definitional or epistemological (regarding the notion of friendship, its various forms and its differentiation from other phenomena), psychical (between the self and others), political (both internal to the polis and between the polis and what lies beyond it) and even anthropological (regarding one’s relation to humanity as a whole). According to Plato and Aristotle, all these boundaries are essential to define friendship and friendship, in turn, plays an important role in defining knowledge, personal identity, the polis and humanity as a whole. Moreover, it is important to consider that for both authors the boundaries in question are not fixed. They can be blurred, crossed and reshaped. In fact, both authors are not just interested in describing the connections between ordinary forms of friendship and these kinds of boundaries, but they also try to promote new forms and practices of friendship that bring about a greater community between individuals, citizens and, to a lesser extent, human beings. The connections between friendship and boundaries are thus complex and multilayered and it is impossible to define Plato’s and Aristotle’s understanding of one of these notions without considering the other.
Period27 Jun 2019
Event titleCeltic Conference in Classics 2019
Event typeConference
LocationCoimbra, Portugal
Degree of RecognitionInternational