David Baird’s paper for Andrea Westlund

Friendship—making life sublime

How do we become committed to persons, and what does this commitment consist of? Friedman distinguishes commitment to persons and commitment to rules. But I think they’re intertwined. “See to it that you love X, because Y” may not be a general, impartial principle. But with respect to your own life, it becomes something like one. Commitment to persons can itself be seen as a rule. “Be directly responsive to X.” You can’t be committed to a being unless you’re committed to rules about treating her. “Don’t be too direct, but be fairly honest.” If you know the word “friend” you are forced to commit to persons using rules. You conceive of a person and your relationship to her with rules/concepts with which you can understand what you see. The main difference between the two forms of commitment may be this: there is commitment to external (beings) vs. commitment to internal (Praxis). Rules, once accepted, become internal. Beings,

dynamic, remain external.

Do I see to it that I love Noel because I’m committed to myself, my desire and judgment? The rule—“See to it that you love Noel”, is only valid if you follow the rule “Listen to your feelings.” Are you committed to this rule? Your ultimate rules, your Praxis. How much yourself you are.

Once you commit to a rule, you don’t have to keep it conscious. “You better see to it that you try to befriend Ian, because he seems to be who you need.” Once you agree to this, you commit to him as a person, but only because of the agreement. Praxis follows an historical “should.” It may be hard to remember the should-rule you committed to with respect to Ian. But I think it existed/happened.

You don’t have to consciously consult Praxis when deciding things, leading to too many thoughts. It’s like when constructing meaningful sentences—you have a target message in mind, and your brain gives you words that you can juggle into line. You don’t ponder the meaning of every word you use—and the meaning of every word that forms its definition.

Once you learn rules as a child, can you escape them? When you improvise musically, are you committing to music, or to rules? “Be a real musician, be musical.” (Whatever that means). When you write, are you committing to meaning, or rules about meaning-formation? “Get at the reality, make it all important.”

How do you commit to yourself? Direct response? But your rules are (part of) you. So commitment to yourself and commitment to rules are inseparable. You have to respond to yourself. May as well make the best of it. Am I committed to “me”? Or just to “Eelia, who is the self in my brain”? Do I make decisions based on mentality/info, and is this info actually me?

Commitment is a moral decision, because the intensity of your life, and the lives you touch, depend on it. Commitment to Ian can be also a commitment to your self’s deep needs, wants, and vision. The morality of accepting and rejecting the gifts life gives. Isn’t ethics about denying or amplifying life? (“Life”—the meaningfulness of a self’s existence). We commit to what we think is our self, but the self can’t feel the self. That would cause an infinite feedback loop. The self can feel. What’s doing the feeling? The self. What’s the self? What feels. What is “feeling”? What selves do. Loop definitions are allowed, because all meanings are in a vast interlooped relation to other meanings. The buck doesn’t stop.

Friedman thinks “Affection need not involve any judgmental or evaluative component. It can consist of no more than affective responsiveness to the one who is liked or loved.”(1993,p.193) But why become responsive to Maria? You must have been attracted to developing a friendship for a reason. She must have done Y, even if Y was only “Looking like she looks.” You must have an opinion of how she looks. Even if you’re simply neutral, neutral is not negative.

Is there a smooth continuum of commitment, or are there steps? “You like Maria so much now because of her Maria-ness you’ve learned about.” When you want someone to be your friend, do you think “I want to be her friend”? Or do you just “want” it? You exist with respect to the goal. Where did your practice of caring for Maria originate? From the fact-value interaction in your life before and since you met. She is a fact, which you value. She generates facts because of valuing the facts you generate, because of you valuing the facts she generates, because…

What is the poc—point of commitment? From zero to commitment. Can we commit to Lucas if we don’t discover what “type” he is, and follow our rules for that type person? If he is a new type, we make new rules. First, Lucas must satisfy your most superficial rule—“He’s not repulsive, so don’t be repelled.” If you have that rule. Can you know Lucas before you commit to him? Or do you have to commit to “a person like Lucas”, and then find out who he is?

Equality is not a factor in successful friendship. Two good people are in no way equal. Alternate conscious universes may follow alike laws, but histories are wildly divergent. You do not have to “measure up to Daniel’s spirit”. Your ability levels’ congruency is secondary. I think the key is the interconnect. The key is giving Daniel your key—letting your realities touch. For a relative amount of time. The approach, taking a day or a year to connect, doesn’t matter. We’re approaching from universes away, consciously speaking.

Friedman writes, “None of [one’s behavior toward a friend] (necessarily) accords with one’s moral rules, values, or principles.”(1993,p.192) But wouldn’t allowing myself to befriend Daniel, even if he didn’t follow one of my rules, just be a case of me following my other rule, “Allow friends to deviate”? Which is part of your Praxis, which follows the laws of brain physics, and meaning-math.

No action between friends need take place for a new step to be taken in their relationship. Once two elementary particles touch, they are forever “entangled”, according to quantum physics—what happens to one affects the other. People may not be entangled in this physical way,

but I think there is an analogy. Do we relate “directly” or “indirectly”? There are no one-line analyses of the most sublime interaction known, friendship. Atomizing experience is tempting—“He said that. It must mean he likes me like so.” But I would say the truth is larger than messages. It is the ultimate message—the integral whole. We can’t even conceive of its import. But I think we can let it hit us, and feel the impact.

Friends trigger transformations, moral and perspectival. You can’t really see as they see. They’re just too unique. But you can try to see how you think they see. And to get closer, you can go farther away, as Smith puts it. Because “life” is what we’re after. Getting new life, even if on wildly divergent paths, will, if two people have connected, bring them closer to an understanding of “life”, including the lives of each other. When one has a friend, alone is not really alone. You feel ecstasy, doing what you’re doing, and predict, “She will feel (is feeling, has felt) this too.” It’s a sharing without needing to actually share. Though only possible because of previous or expected shared life.

What is the ultimate skill in a friend? It may be how well he can see you. How he “gets” you. What you “do to him.” We want friends who we can influence. Who can interpret our suggestive action positively. Who are so good that we have difficulty imagining their reality. It flows through us, it is proven and undeniable, yet still we wonder, “What is he?”

“Commitment”—devoting brain activity to X. If you value Noel, you see to it that you value Noel. You “know things.” You know you love Noel. How do you know? It is your practice to use your imagination in ways compatible to an appreciation of and care for her. You may think about X a lot, spontaneously, in a caring way. We adjust our Praxis with respect to Noel so that we think about her and feel with respect to her. We have function and consciousness. If our consciousness is committed to Noel, we direct our function to explore the consequences of this commitment. What is commitment? Acts “guided” by her needs? Is commitment

“action-guiding”? The more you like her, the less you may need to attempt action with her. Although you may want to.

You may have the feeling “Who cares about Sarah? I don’t want to think about her anymore.” But negative feelings aren’t the whole story. It’s just your brain processing the reality. Negative feelings about Sarah are an artifact of processing. They may not mean your friendship with her is in any way negative. Tolerance for ambiguity is needed in “artistic” endeavor. As you are an artwork, your friendship is also. The struggle to create art includes all the feelings. “I love X” to

“I hate X.” A cycle of connects/disconnects. Approach and avoid.

Why be friends? Friends bring you stress, you have to pay attention to them, they interrupt your thoughts, usually nothing important gets said. It’s valid to feel this. What rule is it that friendships will produce all nice-type feelings? Isn’t it the more real the friendship, the more probable a multiplicity of types of emotions will be gone through with respect to the friend? And bad feelings don’t hurt you, or I wouldn’t be here. Short of biological brain damage, mental experience is all educational. We don’t want pain to predominate, but to eliminate it and its source, Brett, from our life would only invite the same reality to get to us in another way, probably less meaningful.

For example, we may feel sickness and guiltiness as we learn a new morality from him, and realize our previous wrongs. But the safety of a friendship is the best and most intense place to learn these things. If we have to learn something (painful), why not learn it from a friend?

People are external. But your mind envelops their reality, especially if they know how to blow your mind—your mind appropriates an imagistic copy, as far as your memory is powerful. From this, Eve is then alive within you. She can be as alive as she ever really was, if your mind wants to devote enough processing power to model her. Any new realtime with her, your mind drinks her reality, adapts to her changed being, and updates your “copy” of her. What’s more, we don’t know how deep the copy is—it may have a life of its own in your subconscious and do some growth over time. It depends on your imagination. If it is alive, your friends live within it. If you want them to. Just as you may separate from Eve for real, you may also at times say “I don’t want to think about her.” This is as optional as choosing physical nearness. We can control our minds, as we can our bodies. Though “you” may not be free to choose your inspirations, your pure creational invention—this is up to almost-magic.

Is friendship music? Trying to express your soul in a recognizable form? Gaining skill at turning friends/listeners on? You perform for friends. What else is all the skill you’ve learned for? Friends can teach you things they themselves don’t know. It’s not just a transfer of pre-existing data.

Because there is infinite variety in situations, Praxis is realized infinitely many ways. (But data transfer helps). To an extent it’s a meaning-seeking deal, friendship. But as Smith asks, are we circling around “the truth”, getting closer and closer, or are we walking along a meandering path, with each footfall being a truth of its own, and with where we are now as our destination?

Imaginative commitment to X—performing experiments with her, for real and in mind. Not only sharing life with her, but mentally re-living when alone your co-experiences again (and again).

Alone, what happens to just you can be felt as if you’re both there. Not because she will ever feel Y—but that you would hope she’ll feel Y’. Not this, but something akin.

If he is a sex you would have sex with, you don’t have to have sex with him, if you want the friendship to be ultimate. The mere possibility is a strange and maybe amazing thing to ponder. Playing around with the idea, seeing if it would be good to enact, until you may both agree or not to try it. But liking someone is enough of a trip. You don’t need him to give you action for real. Although it can be nice to get a piece of the action. Though physical closeness isn’t always coincident with mental closeness. And if the sexual part of your relationship isn’t growing, other parts may be instead. Sometimes sex seems like a natural step. What are “natural steps” in a relationship? What if the commitment is unconventional? If something like it has never happened before? Are relationships as unique as people? Sex is meaningless. Or sex is the essence of life. As Janov says, sex is not acts performed—sex is who you are. You are either sexual or you’re not, from time to time. Can sexuality be taught/given? Or does it have to be found?

As we can see, the commitment of friendship is super-complex, and very educational to experience and think about.


Friedman, Marilyn, What are Friends For?, Cornell, 1993. Janov, Arthur, The Biology of Love, Prometheus, 2000.

Smith, Mike, Virginia Tech, lectures and conversation.