Cultivation of Friendship within Epicureanism

  • Principle Doctrine 27:

    27. Of all the things that wisdom provides for the complete happiness of one's entire life, by far the greatest is friendship.

    Principle Doctrine 27 is very important for a happy life. Modern life is busy with work and family, and yet we all still need friends. So it is very important to take the time and put the effort into making friends and maintaining friendships. Some people might be satisfied with the number and kind of friendships in their lives, but others (like myself) could put some work into making more friends.

    And for any of us who are not currently in any kind of romantic relationship, (and maybe not even dating), it takes a lot of friends to make up for not having a romantic partner or a life partner.

    Friendships can be challenging for some, especially for introverts. And the covid shutdowns, covid restrictions and restructuring, and continued mask mandates have had a big impact on socializing and making new friends. So this thread is a bit of an "antidote" for anyone who feels lonely, or who wishes to have more friends in their life.

    I want to have this thread running for anyone who wants to say 'hi'... or drop in here for giving or receiving friendship support.

    So for anyone who feels the desire to make more friends, and improve their friendships. I will post helpful tips, and feel free to share any of your own tips as well. :)

  • Some tips for where and how to make new friends from an online article (will include link below).

    --- Find new friends where you work - this sounds practical, however won't work for those who work from home, or are retired, or unemployed.

    ---"Micro-communities are another great way to find new friends while also doing activities that you love. Have a penchant for gardening or volunteer work? Groups like that still exist—just browse social media or your local newspaper. Can’t find your dream group? Now’s a good time to start it yourself."

    More tips from the article:

    * Confidence is key. Arm yourself with a good self-introduction and be ready to engage in casual conversation with people you come across.

    * Put in an active effort. Friendships rarely just happen.

    * Say yes to safe, socially distanced opportunities. On the flip side: Have a good reason to say no.

    * Remember: You set the expectations for your own space.

    * Keeping up with a routine can offer strong support to virtual friendships.

    * Use your network however you can.

    * Be kind to yourself. It might be hard to make friends at first. Remember, there are people who want to be your friend.


  • How to improve existing friendships, from a NY Times article:

  • I found this and wanted to cross it brings up some interesting ideas:


    In the above linked thread, Elayne writes:

    PD 39 and VS 28, remind us that because we are using reality-based processes, not idealistic concepts, we will not have anything to do with virtues that treat all humans the same. We will not use abstract consequentialism. We must use our observations and feelings to find out who is a friend to us and who is not.

    And so now, some further pragmatic advice...we need to reach out and make "bids" for connection. Just researching this idea on the internet...I found this excellent article, and the advice is for everyone, regardless of gender. This is such a good article, so please read the whole thing, if you feel so inclined. :)


    But as far as getting that cycle going, “it does take some push from someone,” she says. “I think a lot of people, myself included, can sometimes get stuck. Like ‘They haven’t called me, so I’m not going to call them.’ If you want to talk to your friend just call them. You don’t have to play chicken about who’s going to take the first step.”

    Rawlins, however, doesn’t care for the bid concept. “I don’t think of friendships in economic terms,” he says. “I don’t think about ‘investing’ in friends. I see friendship as an ongoing conversation. A way of literally coauthoring the story of our relationship.”…nds-become-closer/538092/

  • Well, then I might add something as well ;)

    I'm currently a student, thus I probably am in a different situation than y'all. Still, I took the 20th as a possibility to meet up with my friends- we simply plan to get into a cafe, talk for an hour or so and then get back to business. Great way to celebrate the 20th, get a bit of pleasure (and cake!) and strengthen friendship.

    I honestly think that sometimes, we only need an "impulse" to get rolling and meet up with people we value. And, to be honest, the 20th can be a great impulse just for that!

  • I know people who have had great success (pre-Covid) finding friends with similar interests on Meetup. This hasn't worked well for Epicurean groups, but can be good for whatever else you do. The groups I hear about are for "outdoorsy" types (which I no longer am!), but I'm sure someone could find groups for writing, groups for knitting, groups for table-top gaming, groups for quilting, groups for working on cars, etc.

    I haven't tried any of this myself!

  • This is a good presentation, although at the end he brings up the idea of "intrinsic value" (and I would hope to find some reference to the writings of Epicurus).

    Sadler on Epicurean friendship:

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  • Thank you Kalosyni and good catch as to "intrinsic value." I think we're on safe ground to assert that the only thing Epicurus would label as "intrisically desirable" (which I interpret as the meaning of "intrinsic value) is pleasure itself. Friendship might come close, depending on one's definition of it, but I think the way most people speak and understand the terms Friendship would generally be thought of as a tool for achieving pleasure, but not a pleasure itself.

    That takes us toward definitional rabbit holes but I wonder if anything can be defined as "always" a pleasure other than pleasure itself.

    Perhaps "joy" and "delight" and other words which are always associated with "pleasure," and maybe even "tranquility," but I would think that whatever we're discussing would have to be something that we "always" consider to be pleasurable. In that regard, "friendship" is probably tricky to classify.

    What do others here think about that?

  • Well, even the best friendships can be quite annoying sometimes. And here, the hedonistic/Epicurean calculus should kick in. If a friendship will produce more pain in the long run (although that seems difficult to achieve), then we should end it, or at least de-attach us.

  • More tips...Here is a small-talk method called 'FORD'.

    Small talk is good for conversations at parties, or meeting new people in new situations, with the goal to make people feel more comfortable. From these kinds of questions, you can begin to see what kinds of things you have in common, which might lead to a friendship. Tip: keep it light and easy, and take turns asking and answering, so that it is a back-and-forth conversation.

    F - Family:

    "Where are you from originally?"

    "Where did you grow up?"

    "Do you still have family there?"

    "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" or "Did you come from a big or small family?"

    If applicable: "How did you meet your _______?"(husband/wife/partner).

    If applicable: "Do you have kids? How old are you children?"

    "Do you have pets?" "What is your dogs name?" "How old is your dog?"

    O - Occupation

    "What keeps you busy these days?" (this is a good way to ask, in case they are unemployed).

    After they answer then: "Oh, that's interesting, how did you get involved with that?" (or How did you get started with that? How did you get involved with that company?)

    How long have you been in your field?

    What's the best part of your job?

    (or if in school, What's the best part of school? Your favorite course/subject?)

    R - Recreation (interests and hobbies) (Make sure you don't take over the conversation... Remember you are looking for similarities).

    "What do you do for fun?"

    "Do you play any sports?"

    "Have you seen any good movies lately?"

    "Do you have any hobbies?"

    "How did you become interested in that?"

    "What do you like to do on weekends?"

    "Have you heard the new song by ______?"

    "Do you have a favorite restaurant that you like to go to?"

    D - Dreams (goals) -- (Smile, listen, learn) (What gets them up in the morning) (motivation and goals, short-term dreams, long-term dreams)

    "Any plans for the summer?"

    "Have you traveled before?" or "Is this your first trip?

    "If you could travel any where in the world where would you go?"

    (Ask about what they want to see and do)

    If they are working on a project (or taking a course) - "How did you get interested in that?" "What will you do once you finish this project?" (or course)

    (If they just finished reading a book) "What did you like about the book?" "What do you want to read next?"


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  • Haha! Wow! That's good stuff. So easy even *I* might be able to do it. (I'm the one of the world's WORST small talkers. I've never been comfortable with it.)

  • (I'm the one of the world's WORST small talkers. I've never been comfortable with it.)

    I suspect I am in close competition with you and I bet if we thought about it that might be a trademark of the "Epicurean personality" - or at least the "Lucretian" personality!

    How's this for good small talk with the next cute person you meet at a party:

    Let's get right to the heart of the matter: You're wasting your life pursuing virtue! There is no god to protect you! Stop hoping for heaven or thinking that bad people go to hell! Hang some skeleton pictures on your wall and remember that death is just around the corner! And with death comes eternal nothingness - and that means FOREVER!

    What do you mean that you don't care about infinite divisibility? Don't you see how crucial that is to your happiness? Or even to walking across the floor?

    And are you trying to tell me that you don't think the issue of whether the universe is eternal or whether space is infinite doesn't have a direct influence on how you're going to spend your weekend?

    Geesh how shortsighted can you be ? ! ?


  • Here is a texting conversation that I had with an Epicurean friend recently (edited for clarity):


    I've been thinking about the complexity of friendship...

    1) First you have to meet people and have a conversation (or text conversation).

    2) Then you have to discover commonality/common interests.

    3) Then you have to discover overlaping needs/goals (a need for a certain goal in friendship).

    4) Then a common motivation to mutually engage with each other must arise, which also depends on both people having a certain amount of free time to devote to one another. People who are married in long-term relationships have much less need for friends and also much less time.

    Friend's Reply:

    I think what we are finding is that a friendship just doesn't happen spontaneously but is frequently the result of a shared "project" on which you are working with another person. There probably has to be a joint goal to keep it all together or else even friendship can be "pointless."

    So I think that joint projects are probably the key to at least let a friendship get started at the beginning. Of course in male/female relationships there is the attraction part which can start things, but unless there is a joint project even that will fall apart.


    I think the joint project idea is good...and it also depends on the needs of the people involved...and also the ways that they find pleasure within friendship.

    Because if the conversation is -ONLY- about the project then it doesn't really lead to a deeper friendship.

    Friend's Reply:

    I agree, but it is difficult to assess what friendship really is. You obviously have enjoyment in dealing with a friend, but it isn't just contemplation [conversation?]

    - there is action involved "doing things together" is probably the key.

    And enjoyment and pleasure are not static. Not everyone can or will be our friend.

    Friendship itself is not a goal. Epicurus is right, it is pleasure alone that is intrinsically good. And what can appear to be friendship can die if it does not remain enjoyable.


    More about finding is about what we find enjoyable in friendships. And there is what we can give, but also what we want to get.
    And I very much enjoy conversation, the kind that is mutually fullfulling...a back and forth conversation...about anything and

    But of course some topics I might not know enough about, so then you would have to seek out someone else on those topics (obviously)...and same for you, you might not know enough on certain topics so then I would have to seek out someone else on those other topics.

    Friend's Reply:

    I think this is where your sister and I would agree that there are personality types among people and that there are good matches and bad matches :)


    Okay, so are you saying that a certain kind of disposition and attitude toward life makes for a better conversational partner?

    Friend's Reply:

    Sort of. I think I am saying that conversational styles may exist where some people may understand some people much better than others. And it's not just a matter of being considerate or inconsiderate.


    Yes I do agree. I think it is both conversational style and also each individual has drives and goals which shape how they view the world.


    Here is what I would add: That there is some kind of pull that we feel toward people that we find conversationally engaging and who also have a pleasant and enjoyable disposition. Over time a common history of shared experiences will build up and this will lead to a feeling of a long-term friendship bond. Yet it seems that there still needs to be a personal dedication to putting in the time and energy to maintain the friendship. In a busy world, that means people would need to prioritize friendship. Not only knowing that pleasure comes from friendship, but actively shaping one's life so that one has time for friendships. Also, when you do find a genuine friend with shared mutual understanding and shared mutual goals, it can be somewhat of a rare situation, and so it would be a very precious pleasure indeed.

  • Meditations on the importance of friendship -- this writing by Michele Pinto (which I just discovered today) starts off with an idea of solitary happiness and then moves forward to cite Epicurean references on friendship and the importance of friendship.


    Epicurus traveled to friends, and wrote letters such as these: "I am quite ready, if you do not come to see me, to spin thrice on my own axis and be propelled to any place that you, including Themista, agree upon." (U 125), "The way in which you have provided for me in the matter of sending the grain was godlike and magnificent, and you have given tokens of your regard for me that reach to high heaven." (U 183).

    Epicurus and his friends worked to build a network of relations throughout Greece, so much so that the wise man of the Garden came to sing: "Friendship dances around the world, bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness!” (VS 52).

    Friendship is therefore an essential ingredient in the recipe of happiness, so much so that Epicurus no longer speaks of the happiness of the wise, but of the happiness of the community of friends: "As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbours, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and, after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend, as though he were to be pitied." (PD 40) and "The noble soul occupies itself with wisdom and friendship; of these, the one is a mortal good, the other immortal." (SV 78).

  • Kalosyni

    Changed the title of the thread from “Epicurean Friendships: How to Improve Friendships” to “Cultivation of Friendship within Epicureanism”.
  • For me, an "Epicurean Friendship" is someone to which I share a said or unsaid mutalistic relationship with. By mutualistic I mean we will literally help one another survive, literally in the struggle of economy, or likewise in correcting our moral character to better survive and thrive in the social arena. It's largely about security. My nuclear family, therefore, is the arena of deepest Epicurean Friendship for me as that is were the deepest solidarity and the deepest work of my soul goes on. With other extended family or friends depending on whether we share that deep sense, or actuality, of solidarity. Not all my good Friendships are Epicurean Friendships, and not all my Epicurean Friendships are of notable quality of pleasure as some other forms of Friendships, and that's all ok.

    But perhaps I am mistaken in my understanding of Epicurus. putting such an emphasis on security and the lack of fear that comes from having that safety net.

  • I skimmed back over the thread (almost a year at this point) to try to refresh my memory as to whether it had contained a "definition" (which I take as part of Root304's point). I am not sure that it does, and that might be something that needs to be discussed further to add to the clarity of the issue. I am not sure that there is an Epicurean text that really "defines" friendship is there? I seem to remember that there might be a definition in Aristotle (is it a "second self"?) but we shouldn't take for granted that Epicurus would agree with Aristotle.

    And of course given the absence of ideal forms or the like, how would the word best be used in the Epicurean context? What is the most accurate 'idea" to attach to the word "friendship" so that we may not go on explaining to infinity or use words devoid of meaning?


    First of all, Herodotus, we must grasp the ideas attached to words, in order that we may be able to refer to them and so to judge the inferences of opinion or problems of investigation or reflection, so that we may not either leave everything uncertain and go on explaining to infinity or use words devoid of meaning. [38] For this purpose it is essential that the first mental image associated with each word should be regarded, and that there should be no need of explanation, if we are really to have a standard to which to refer a problem of investigation or reflection or a mental inference. And besides we must keep all our investigations in accord with our sensations, and in particular with the immediate apprehensions whether of the mind or of any one of the instruments of judgment, and likewise in accord with the feelings existing in us, in order that we may have indications whereby we may judge both the problem of sense perception and the unseen.

  • They didn't have dictionaries back in hellenistic Greece... but we do :P

    friendship, a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people. In all cultures, friendships are important relationships throughout a person’s life span.


    (This site has an interesting write-up about friendship development across the lifespan).


    Friendship is generally characterized by five defining features:

    • 1. It is a dyadic relationship, meaning that it involves a series of interactions between two individuals known to each other.
    • 2. It is recognized by both members of the relationship and is characterized by a bond or tie of reciprocated affection.
    • 3. It is not obligatory; two individuals choose to form a friendship with each other. In Western societies, friendships are one of the least prescribed close relationships, with no formal duties or legal obligations to one another.
    • 4. It is typically egalitarian in nature. Unlike parent-child relationships, for instance, each individual in a friendship has about the same amount of power or authority in the relationship.
    • 5. It is almost always characterized by companionship and shared activities. In fact, one of the primary goals and motivations of friendship is companionship. In addition, adolescent and adult friendships often perform other functions, such as serving as sources of emotional support and providing opportunities for self-disclosure and intimacy.
  • I always liked Rilke’s definition of love: “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.” I’d just expand the possible number and call it friendship.

    Note: I’m a pretty strong introvert (which I do not accept as a flaw to struggle against – even though extroverts are the vast majority in our society); I do not get “lonely” when I’m alone; I value and cherish a few friends.

  • Note: I’m a pretty strong introvert (which I do not accept as a flaw to struggle against – even though extroverts are the vast majority in our society); I do not get “lonely” when I’m alone; I value and cherish a few friends.

    Fully agree! If you haven't read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, I highly recommend it. Her website is at:

    Home - Susan Cain
    Hi, I’m Susan! #1 NYT bestselling author. Unlikely award-winning speaker. Seeker of kindred spirits.Welcome to the world of QUIET and BITTERSWEET Susan Cain’S…