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Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum. The study of friendship is included in the fields of sociology, social psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and zoology. Various academic theories of friendship have been proposed, among which are social exchange theory, equity theory, relational dialectics, and attachment styles.
Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:
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A topic of moral philosophy much discussed by Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, but less so in the modern era, until the re-emergence of contextualist and feminist approaches to ethics. In friendship an ‘openness’ of each to the other is found that can be seen as an enlargement of the self. Aristotle writes that ‘the excellent person is related to his friend in the same way as he is related to himself, since a friend is another self; and therefore, just as his own being is choiceworthy for him, the friend's being is choice-worthy for him in the same or a similar way.’ Friendship therefore opens the door to an escape from egoism or belief that the rational course of action is always to pursue one's own self-interest, although escaping through the door would require finding what is covered by Aristotle's ‘same or similar way’. It is notable that friendship requires sentiments to which Kant denies moral importance. It is a purely personal matter, requiring virtue, yet which runs counter to the universalistic requirement of impartial treatment of all, for a friend is someone who is treated differently from others. One problem is to reconcile these apparently conflicting requirements.
A German typically has very few friendships, which however normally last for a lifetime as loyalty is held in high regard. Friends in Germany are expected to help each other in every possible sense. Germans may appear aloof to people from other countries, as they tend to be cautious and keep their distance when it comes to meeting new people, which explains ongoing intercultural differences with people from English-speaking countries. Additionally, friends use the informal personal pronoun "du", which is otherwise only used for family members, as well as their respective first names. The development from becoming an acquaintance to a friend can take several months.
In Russia, one typically accords very few people the status of "friend". These friendships, however, make up in intensity what they lack in number. Friends are entitled to call each other by their first names alone, and to use diminutives. A norm of polite behavior is addressing "acquaintances" by full first name plus patronymic. These could include relationships which elsewhere would be qualified as real friendships, such as workplace relationships of long standing, or neighbors with whom one shares an occasional meal or a customary drink.
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