Friendship, duties regarding specific conditions of persons, and the virtues of social intercourse: TL 6: 468-475

Marcia Baron

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


My essay focuses primarily on the conclusion to the Elements of Ethics. Friendship, according to Kant, properly takes two forms. The more central, and more complex, is friendship as a union of two persons through equal mutual love and respect; the other form, also important, is being a Menschenfreund, a friend of human beings as such. After explaining Menschenfreundschaft and relating it to Kant’s discussion of beneficence, I examine friendship as a union of two persons, probing especially what he means by ‘equal mutual love and respect’. There is an ambiguity concerning just what has to be equal: A’s love and B’s love (and A’s respect and B’s respect)? Or also A’s love and A’s respect (and likewise for B)? It is clear that Kant thinks that A’s love for B and B’s love for A must be (at least roughly) equal, and similarly for A’s respect for B and B’s respect for A; it is not clear that he thinks that one’s love and one’s respect for the other must form a 1:1 ratio, but it is clear that they must be in proper balance.

Kant’s discussion of an Ebenmass between love and respect builds on his discussion at TL 449, where respect and love are presented as counterweights to each other. The tension between the principles of love and respect is a facet of our “unsociable sociability.” We need to share our thoughts with others, but also are wary of opening up to others. Kant thinks we are right to be wary, yet also holds that we should resist any temptation to wall ourselves off from others (for an array of reasons, including the need for reason to “subject itself to critique in all its undertakings (KrV A738/B766). Human friendship, he holds, is a duty.

In addition to probing what Kant means by such claims as that human friendship is a duty, I articulate and address some worries about his account, with particular attention to his endorsement of caution about accepting favors from one’s friends.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKant's "Tugendlehre"
Subtitle of host publicationa comprehensive commentary
EditorsOliver Sensen, Andreas Trampota, Jens Timmermann
Publisherde Gruyter
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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