Can Friendship Replace Family?

“Friendship is fragile; kinship is robust; attraction is antifragile.”
—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Benefit from Disorder (2012)


In The Meaning of Friendship (2010), the philosopher Mark Vernon comes to a rather startling conclusion: friendship cannot replace family, much as he once wished (and claimed) that it could. As a gay man, Vernon says he (and many of his friends) had really hoped that the ties between networks of friends could replace the fraught family ties that so many gays and lesbians have to deal with. They wanted to transcend the family, as well as the need for the institution of the family. But alas, Vernon says that he came to the conclusion that the bonds of friendship were, by and large, far too fragile.

People are surprisingly fickle, and they drift with astonishing regularity. The friends you hold dear today might be strangers to you in ten years. By contrast, your cousins will still be your cousins, and your siblings will still be your siblings. You’ll still see them at family gatherings (e.g., weddings, funerals, etc.). And, in all likelihood, you’ll know where they live and what they’re up to, ten or twenty years from now. For these reasons, and others, Vernon concludes that family ties, messed up as they are, should be salvaged and maintained; forgiveness should be offered, time and again, even to the unforgivable. Family is maddeningly flawed, but it’s (perhaps tragically) irreplaceable.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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