Mark Vernon on the Philosophy of Friendship

(1 min read / 45 sec video)

You can count your real, long-term friends on one hand.

What defines a healthy relationship? Are there times when should you ditch a friend? Guardian writer and philosopher Mark Vernon caught up with after speaking at the London Philosophy Club to explain the workings of friendship:

Aristotle said that you can have all sorts of things in life, you can have a family, a career, money, but if you don’t have friendship then your life is lacking. In a previous post we discussed Epicurus’ view that friendship is the greatest possesion in the world. Also when we interviewed Prof Robin Dunbar he explained that we can only have a dozen or so real friends and that the human brain can only handle 150 acquaintances, questioning the integrity of huge social media friend counts.

Mark explains that the deep fulfilling level of friendship is all about “knowing someone and being known by them.” I imagine that is what I hunt for in real friends, someone to share a piece of my soul with.

Here is my take: I’ve always viewed my life and time as a big pie. I can only give out so many slices before it is all gone, so who do I chose to give my slices to? If I try to be everyone’s friend then how small and worthless are those slices I give out? I’d prefer to give a few healthy sized pieces to the people that really matter.

What does that mean practically? It means I can get on with many people but I chose to say NO to many things to keep focused on my real friendships and know I’m doing something right when not everyone likes me. If everyone likes me I feel uneasy and believe I am not truly being myself. This does not mean I try to alienate some people, it just means that I spend time with people who like the real me and help me grow into a better person. This makes me happy and comforts me that since I am giving my best to my friends it means that I cannot give my best to everyone else. It’s simply impossible to be everything to everyone – that turns you into a spineless shell.

Often, I look up to people by not only what they do, but what they will not do. It’s in saying no to many things and saying yes to a few that I am able to see character in a friend.

One unique pie filled with life and love that not everyone will like. That’s fine, what philosophy do you have about sharing the slices?


  • Pingback: Malcolm Levene

  • Malcolm Levene

    Very timely blog, Filip. I believe that many people are reflecting on the real meaning of friendship – I know I am. The very word, ‘friendship’ conjures up different images for different people. I love your image of the ‘pie’, for me, it nails a large part of the friendship question. One of my images for friendship, is about being able to truly ‘connect’ and doing so without words. A kind of slilent knowing that enables you to feel warm and safe.

  • Pingback: david brockman

  • Filip Matous

    I like it Malcolm. Connecting without words. Knowing someone to the point that you don’t always have to be talking, so you can sit in silence without feeling any need to rush to speaking again.

    Also glad the pie image worked for you, I was hoping that it makes sense.

  • Pingback: O Malomo

  • Pingback: O Malomo

  • Pingback: thebestofwho?

  • Pingback: southplaceethicalsoc