From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on the philosophy of friendship, this page features books on friendship to suit any learning style. It’s worth noting that there is no single best book on the philosophy of friendship. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or pick up one of the classics.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best philosophy books on friendship in no particular order.
Friendship – A. C. Grayling
Publisher description: An entertaining and provocative investigation of friendship in all its variety, from ancient times to the present day
A central bond, a cherished value, a unique relationship, a profound human need, a type of love. What is the nature of friendship, and what is its significance in our lives? How has friendship changed since the ancient Greeks began to analyze it, and how has modern technology altered its very definition? In this fascinating exploration of friendship through the ages, one of the most thought-provoking philosophers of our time tracks historical ideas of friendship, gathers a diversity of friendship stories from the annals of myth and literature, and provides unexpected insights into our friends, ourselves, and the role of friendships in an ethical life. …
The Philosophy of Friendship – Mark Vernon
Publisher description: In this new accessible philosophy of friendship, Mark Vernon links the resources of the philosophical tradition with numerous illustrations from modern culture to ask what friendship is, how it relates to sex, work, politics and spirituality. Unusually, he argues that Plato and Nietzsche, as much as Aristotle and Aelred, should be put centre stage. Their penetrating and occasionally tough insights are invaluable if friendship is to be a full, not merely sentimental, way of life for today.
Friendship: A Philosophical Reader – Neera Badhwar
Publisher description: Recent years have seen a marked revival of interest among philosophers in the topic of friendship. This collection of fifteen articles is the first to make some of the best recent work on friendship readily accessible.
The book is divided into three sections. The first centers on the nature of friendship, the difference between friendship and other personal loves, and the importance of friendship in the individual’s life. The second section discusses the moral significance of friendship and the response of various ethical theories and theorists (Aristotelian, Christian, Kantian, and consequentialist) to the phenomenon of friendship. The last section deals with the importance of personal and civic friendship in a good society. Badhwar’s introduction is a comprehensive critical discussion of the issues raised by the essays: it relates them to each other, as well as to historical and contemporary discussions not included in the anthology, thus providing the reader with an integrated overview of the essays and their place in the larger philosophical picture.
Plato on Love: Lysis, Symposium, Phaedrus, Alcibiades, with Selections from Republic and Laws – Plato
Publisher description: This collection features Plato’s writings on sex and love in the preeminent translations of Stanley Lombardo, Paul Woodruff and Alexander Nehamas, D. S. Hutchinson, and C. D. C. Reeve.
Reeve’s Introduction provides a wealth of historical information about Plato and Socrates, and the sexual norms of classical Athens. His introductory essay looks closely at the dialogues themselves and includes the following sections: Socrates and the Art of Love; Socrates and Athenian Paiderastia; Loving Socrates; Love and the Ascent to the Beautiful; The Art and Psychology of Love Explained; and Writing about Love.
Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
Publisher description: A student of Plato and a teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle is one of the towering figures in Western thought. A brilliant thinker with wide-ranging interests, he wrote important works in physics, biology, poetry, politics, morality, metaphysics, and ethics.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, which he is said to have dedicated to his son Nicomachus, Aristotle’s guiding question is what is the best thing for a human being? His answer is happiness. “Happiness,” he wrote, “is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world.” But he means not something we feel, not an emotion, but rather an especially good kind of life. Happiness is made up of activities in which we use the best human capacities, both ones that contribute to our flourishing as members of a community, and ones that allow us to engage in god-like contemplation. …
On Friendship – Alexander Nehemas
Publisher description: An eminent philosopher reflects on the nature of friendship, past and present.
Friends are a constant feature of our lives, yet friendship itself is difficult to define. Even Michel de Montaigne, author of the seminal essay “Of Friendship,” found it nearly impossible to account for the great friendship of his life. Why is something so commonplace and universal so hard to grasp? What is it about the nature of friendship that proves so elusive? …
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Questioning the Nature and Goodness of Friendship – Salisbury University
- Love and Friendship – Emory University
- Love and Friendship – Pitzer College
- What book do you recommend about friendship and relationships?
- Recommendations for essays on Friendship?
- What is “friendship?”
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Philosophy Books on Love
- The Best Books on Moral Psychology
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy readings lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
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