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This paper explores the relationship between friendship and morality. Two ideas have been influential in the history of moral philosophy: the impartial standpoint and close friendship. These two perspectives on thought and action can conflict, however, and such a case is presented.

In an attempt to resolve this tension, and understand the assumptions that give rise to it, I explore an alternative conception of moral conduct and friendship suggested by early Confucian thought. Within this account, moral conduct is that which aims at harmony, understood as the appropriate blending of different elements. This suggests a conception of friendship, ‘event friendship’, which realizes harmony through a focus on shared activities, and the quality of interaction achieved between people as they participate in shared social events. This account offers a novel way of conceptualizing friendship, which also avoids the tension between the impartial standpoint and close friendship.


This chapter was originally published in Conceptualizing Friendship in time and Place, edited by C. Risseeuw & M. van Raalte (Leiden: Brill, 2017).



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