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THE USES OF FRIENDSHIPS: MOSES MENDELSSOHN
26.07.2021 Yuval Levin
philosophy
Moses Mendelssohn

The very fact that we can relate to ancient friends, learning from them as from our contemporaries, offers frustrating evidence of the limits of progress. It suggests that certain kinds of human problems are permanent, so that the challenges that bedevilled men and women centuries ago still confront us now, however far we might imagine our societies have come. "What has been is what shall be, what is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."

And yet, some of the ancient friends from whom I learn the most are those who have struggled with the fact that some things actually are new under the sun. The challenge of contending with change has sent me looking for their help. That challenge often involves a tension between the good that progress makes possible and the danger it poses to the good we have inherited or are called to perpetuate. We can never resolve that tension, but we also must not let it blind us to either kind of good, or let it turn us against one another. And friendship itself actually turns out to be a crucial ingredient in this complicated balancing act.

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