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Is Philia Dead?


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Judith Levy



Many years ago, when one of my best friends told me she was getting married, I knew I was supposed to squee and throw my arms around her and jump up and down in unison with her and start babbling about dresses. But the sentence that fell out of my mouth was: "But I always thought you were going to marry me."


We're not gay, but we were (and still are) about as close as two friends can possibly be -- so much so that she completely understood my being crestfallen rather than ecstatic about her news. She burst out laughing, in fact, because she understood my emotion so very well. Our friendship is a true love -- the kind that is deeper and more permanent than erotic love. Philia rather than eros.


Doug Mainwaring, http://writing on the Public Discourse page at The Witherspoon Institute, draws upon this distinction in a post against gay marriage. What makes the piece so startling is that Mainwaring -- a co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots -- is gay. (As a result of his position on this issue, he writes, "I am viewed by many as a self-loathing, traitorous gay. So be it. I prefer to think of myself as a reasoning, intellectually honest human being.")


His argument quite deliberately avoids leaning on religion or tradition, neither of which, he says, played much of a role in forming his position. He leans instead on reason and experience, and in the process highlights the distinction between kinds of love that has been almost completely obscured as marriage has become so politicized:

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