With Friends Like These...

Who Needs Serenity?

AN OLD GREEK named Ibycus said a long time ago that "an argument needs no reason, nor a friendship." For me and my friends, friendship is argument. Friends have to argue. And friends that don't aren't really friends.

My roommates and I get into arguments all the time. And we almost always end up shouting so loud that people can hear us all the way down the hall. Voices get hoarse, tempers flare, sometimes we throw insults or furniture at each other, some of us stomp out of the room fuming--but only to come back to get that last, trenchant word.

Don't get me wrong--I think we're one of the closest bunch of roommates at Harvard. It might be better, then, to think of our arguments as dialogues. Or even better, dialogues of friendship. (Does that somehow ring a bell?) To give you an idea of what I mean, here's an excerpt from our most recent spate of angry, but friendly words:

DAN For I suppose that cooling is not the work of heat, but of its opposite.

ALBERT Yes.

DAN Nor wetting the work of dryness but of its opposite.

ALBERT Certainly.

DAN Nor is harming, in fact, the work of the good but of its opposite.

KENJI It looks like it.

DAN And it's the just man who is good?

LARRY Certainly.

DAN Then it is not the work of the just man to harm either a friend or anyone else, Albert, but of his opposite, the unjust man.

ALBERT In my opinion, Dan, what you say is entirely correct.

Just kidding! I plagiarized this stuff from Plato's Republic (Book I, 335d--in case you don't believe me). Speaking seriously now, what follows is a sampling of what really happens. This is part of an argument we had a few nights ago. And to protect the privacy of our real interlocutors, I've changed their names.

SOCRATES I don't think you're being honest in your essay, Glaucon. I think you're rationalizing a lot.