February 5, 2002

( 8:20 PM )
David Weinberger thinks he’s winning the contest of “incipient assholism”–don’t tell him (it’ll break his heart), but I’m just letting him win to make him feel better.
As for whether it would be appropriate for us to call one another friends, I’m a little surprised that yesterday he cited “friendship” as a word that the Web was transforming, but today he figures that there’s a problem if (for instance) he and I call one another “friend” if we’ve never met. I’m not even sure that’s good Aristotelian ethics — the Philosopher says:

For separation does not destroy friendship absolutely, though it prevents its active exercise. If however the absence be prolonged, it seems to cause the friendly feeling itself to be forgotten: hence the poet’s remark:
Full many a man finds friendship end
For lack of converse with his friend. (Nic. Ethics 1157b 1)

But observe that Aristotle is concerned with the possiblity of converse, of (and I’m using this in an innocent sense) intercourse with another, which would be gravely impaired in Aristotle’s fourth-century context if the two friends-or-maybe-not weren’t in the same place. Sure, you could gamble on letters, for what they were able to accomplish, but for true friendship to thrive, you needed to be able to exchange ideas, to be present to one another.
But if “presence” and “voice” are among the transitional-words that David’s discussing (and I’m putting them there, they weren’t on his list), what’s the impediment to Web-based friendship? Indeed, some folks are more candid (parrhesiastikos) on the Web than they ever were in person; might it not be easier to be their friend online than face-to-face?
So if David’s right that new media change the words we use in them (isn’t that what you meant?), then I’d think that “friendship” of a different sort, both more diffuse and more intense, is perhaps available at a distance, whatever Aristotle reckoned. And don’t worry; I wouldn’t think less of Aristotle for not anticipating the Web.
( 10:03 PM )
As I complained yesterday about the paucity of theologically-interesting blogs, today I see that I should include Joel Garver’s page. He’s reading The Postmodern God and looking out for James Smith’s The Fall of Interpretation, and those are good signs bei mir.
I should add that my son Si has a blog now, too, with potential for exciting posts as he goes away for a four-week trip to Sri Lanka. Or even just tomorrow, as he goes to Children’s Memorial Hospital for his typhoid vaccination.

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