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Jonathan Ahles

The askesis of friendship. Social relations and philosophical exercise




Born in Freiburg i. Br./ Germany

2002: general qualification for university entrance (Abitur)

2002-2003: Military service

2003-2008: Studies of Philosophy, Psychology and Cognitive Science at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg/Germany

2005-2006: Student assistant at the Centre for Cognitive Science at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg/Germany

February 2009: Graduation as Magister Artium
Master Thesis on „Philosophy as an exercise. Towards a phenomenology of askesis”

Since June 2009: Phd-Student of the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288 “Friends, Patrons, Clients” at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg/Germany



Stoic philosophy; classical theories of virtue; intercultural philosophy; Michel Foucault; Philosophy of the Kyoto School


PhD Thesis Project: 

The askesis of friendship. Social relations and philosophical exercise

The aim of my research is to reconstruct the structure of philosophical exercises in the context of their embedment in social relations. Philosophical exercise (askesis) towards a life of virtue and happiness can be found in most of the philosophical and religious movements in the Hellenistic and the late classic period. They are not conducted as a solitary endeavor, but are always integrated in social relations. This analysis attempts to outline the very conduct of mutual ascetic shaping of character and mind, highlighting the structure and development of moral training and its influence on social relations. It will focus on philosophical exercises of the Hellenistic period and on techniques in the context of early Christian monastic groupings.
The following questions will be asked:
In which way are social relations constitutive for the proper use of these exercises? Although most of the exercises were conducted in the context of social groups, only some of them relied imperatively on the participation of a fellow student. These exercises will be isolated and put under scrutiny.
How are groups shaped by mutual practice of philosophical exercises? Can philosophical exercise profoundly influence the formation of a certain group? The emergence of early monastic groupings in the first centuries offers the possibility to observe the unfolding of a relatively secluded group which is organized around a daily routine of exercises. The social architecture of the respective group as well as the corresponding schedule of exercises will be reconstructed to outline the possible mutual interference.
Furthermore, is it possible to describe the very actions in developing and maintaining friendship as some form of philosophical exercise? Can a routine of exercises establish and maintain the selftransforming effects of friendship? In analyzing this question, I take into account that the transforming potential of friendship could be a phenomenon that refuses to be characterized within the terms of ascetic exercise.
The project will finally investigate whether the goal of these exercises can be described as reaching a state of friendship with oneself, as suggested by texts from the classical and Hellenistic period. How can someone establish this relationship and how can it be characterized as some form of friendship?
The answers to these questions shall finally provide a comprehensive outline of the way in which social relations are shaped by routines of philosophical exercises. This will add another feature to the study of close social relations: Friendship as object, goal and precondition of moral development.


  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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