Aristotle and the internet

October 31st, 2007 by Ross Scaife

From Tim Madigan, “Aristotle’s Email – Or, Friendship In The Cyber Age” (Philosophy Now):

Often discussions of personal relationships in the Cyber Age dwell upon the negative ­– the superficial connections, the dangers of identity theft, and information overload. Aristotle does warn us that, at least where friendships of the good are concerned, there are limitations to just how many it is feasible to handle. He writes, “To be a friend to many people in the way of the perfect friendship is not possible.”

Still, it seems to me that email has made it possible for friendships of all three categories [for utility, pleasure, the good] to thrive and prosper in ways Aristotle could never have anticipated. Of course nothing beats personal proximity, but in our highly mobile society this is often not feasible. Email has given new opportunities for continuing friendly ties from a distance.

Dour old Arthur Schopenhauer once sarcastically wrote that if you really want to know how you feel about a person, take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you see it on your doormat. I would amend this by saying that an unexpected email from a friend from the past can brighten up one’s day tremendously. As Aristotle reiterated more than once, we humans are social creatures. Email has added to the social realities of our lives.

2 Responses to “Aristotle and the internet”

  1. Leif Isaksen Says:

    I guess Tim ain’t on Facebook then ;-)

  2. Tim Says:

    Yes, alas I’m not on Facebook or MySpace or other such venues. I still long to get a handwritten letter from someone!

    – Tim Madigan

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