Chapter 5 Historical Moments of Friendship Ideals: David & Jonathan, Montaigne, Adam Smith

In: Conceptualizing Friendship in Time and Place
Allan Silver
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Modern theory and culture distinguish between utility, interest, instrumentality, and calculative relations on the one hand, and those of friendship, centered on sincere intimacy and trustful self-disclosure, on the other. However, personal gain and intense friendship were highly compatible in many historical settings. The disinterested ‘pure gift’ is a heroic, exceptional ideal before it becomes a secular ideal of personal friendship in modern bureaucratic and market societies. Drawing on historical examples from the Hebrew bible, the European Renaissance, the onset of civil society in the eighteenth century, and material on modern friendship ideals, this article seeks to recapture conceptually the historical compatibility of gain and interest with friendship and its contrast with modern criteria of moral worth in friendship.

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