The desire for friendship comes quickly. Friendship does not.
The Meaning of Friendship

By Mark Vernon
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN 0230517145
Published in paperback in 2006

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In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, on friendship

Podcast: ‘What is friendship?’

Philosophy Bites on friendship



The FQ questionnaire assesses your ideas about friendship and compares them with those of the great philosophers of friendship.The 20 questions are loosely grouped into 5 sections.

Be warned: there are not always wholly wrong or right answers. But the philosophers of friendship do tend to agree when one sentiment or opinion is more favourable to friendship than another.

Complete the online test and hit "Finished the Test!" for a full discussion of your ideas - and your FQ score!

1. How many very close friends would you say you have? Would you say:
  • (a) between 1-3,
  • (b) between 4-8,
  • (c) more than 8?

2. Now think of someone who is a good friend, as opposed to a close friend. How often would you say you should speak with them in order to maintain the friendship? Would you say:
  • (a) once a week,
  • (b) once a month,
  • (c) once every 6 months

3. Researchers have found that what people want in life can be listed as a hierarchy of goods. A simple version, in ascending order, puts sex at the bottom, followed by financial security, and self-esteem at the top. Where would you place friendship on this list? Would you say that friendship is:
  • (a) more important to you than sex, but less important than financial security;
  • (b) more important to you than financial security, but less important than self-esteem;
  • (c) more important than sex, security and self-esteem?

4. Do you currently have a soulmate, someone with whom you feel like one person in two bodies, as one philosopher put it?
  • (a) No.
  • (b) Yes, for sure!
  • (c) Sort of - in the sense that I do have a very close friend and we often feel like soulmates.

Thank you. We now move onto round 2, how you think friendship compares to other sorts of love.
5. Philosophers often think of friendship as just one sort of love. If erotic love, family love and divine love are three other types, which do you think friendship is most similar to? Do you think it is most like:
  • (a) erotic love,
  • (b) family love,
  • (c) divine love?

6. Now think about sexual relations in particular. First, would you say that a sexual relationship can be perfectly satisfying between people who share little or no sense of being friends?
  • (a) Yes.
  • (b) No.
  • (c) Possibly, but only for a limited period of time.

7. Second, in a close friendship between two people who are not and never have been lovers would you say that erotic feelings might get in the way:
  • (a) Never.
  • (b) Occasionally.
  • (c) Fairly often?

8. Third, how many times have you had a fling with a friend?
  • (a) Never.
  • (b) Once, and once only.
  • (c) On more than one occasion.

Thank you. We now move onto round 3, what you make of friendship in the world, and at work in particular
9. Someone with whom you work finds a new job and leaves. Although you were pretty friendly with them before, you now find that you hardly miss them. Does this:
  • (a) leave you feeling mostly guilty;
  • (b) leave you feeling mostly puzzled;
  • (c) leave you feeling mostly pragmatic that such is life.

10. Consider what working for a friend would be like. Which statement applies to you most:
  • (a) I would never work for a friend.
  • (b) I would work for a friend only if really necessary.
  • (c) I would work for a friend with barely a second thought.

11. Would you say that true friends should use each other for individual gain or convenience:
  • (a) never,
  • (b) with hesitation,
  • (c) as needs be?

12. Philosophers have argued that friendship flourishes better in societies and communities which exhibit certain characteristics. Which of the following would you say is the most important? Would you say it is:
  • (a) civility,
  • (b) cooperation,
  • (c) comradeship.
Thank you. We now move onto round 4, friendship and our ethical behaviour and character.
13. In principle, how often do you think you should judge your friends?
  • (a) Never.
  • (b) Sometimes.
  • (c) Often.

14. What would you say is the most important virtue that good friends share? Would you say it is:
  • (a) loyalty,
  • (b) trust,
  • (c) goodwill?

15. What would you say is the most important virtue for an individual to have in order to be a good friend? Would you say it is:
  • (a) self-awareness,
  • (b) individual contentedness,
  • (c) personal integrity?

16. Which of the following qualities would you say is most detrimental to friendship? Would you say it is: ould you say is the most important virtue for an individual to have in order to be a good friend? Would you say it is:
  • (a) favouritism,
  • (b) selfishness,
  • (c) dishonesty.

Thank you. We now come to the final round, a brief round of trivia on friendship and what people have said about it.
17. Which philosopher wrote the most on friendship? Was it:
  • (a) Aristotle,
  • (b) Immanuel Kant,
  • (c) Bertrand Russell?

18. Who said a nation has no permanent friends, only permanent interests? Was it:
  • (a) Benjamin Disraeli,
  • (b) George Bush,
  • (c) Napoleon?

19. How often did the philosopher Michel de Montaigne think people became soulmates? Was it:
  • (a) All the time;
  • (b) Once every 15 years;
  • (c) Once every three centuries?

20. Without actually trying to do so, do you think you could come up with a robust definition of friendship - that is, say in a short statement 'friendship is.'?
  • (a) No.
  • (b) Yes, with a little effort.
  • (c) Yes, pretty easily.