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Friendship and Politics

Essays in Political Thought

Edited by John Von Heyking and Richard Avramenko

Publication Year: 2008

Throughout the history of Western political philosophy, the idea of friendship has occupied a central place in the conversation. It is only in the context of the modern era that friendship has lost its prominence. By retrieving the concept of friendship for philosophical investigation, these essays invite readers to consider how our political principles become manifest in our private lives. They provide a timely corrective to contemporary confusion plaguing this central experience of our public and our private life. This volume assembles essays by well-known scholars who address contemporary concerns about community in the context of philosophical ideas about friendship. Part One includes essays on ancient philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. Part Two considers treatments of friendship by Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, and Part Three continues with Thomas Hobbes, Montaigne, the American founders, and de Tocqueville. The volume concludes with two essays that address the postmodern emphasis on fragmentation and the dynamics of power within the modern state.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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Introduction: The Persistence of Friendship in Political Life

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pp. 1-17

Throughout the greater part of the history of political philosophy, friendship has occupied a central place in the conversation. If we draw on conventional historical distinctions, friendship perennially figured as the sine qua non of discussions among ancient and medieval political thinkers regarding good political order and the good human life. ...

Part I. Ancient Perspectives

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pp. 19

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1. Platonic Philia and Political Order

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pp. 21-52

Recall the political life of Athens from the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War to the execution of Socrates. Democratic and oligarchic factions took turns ruling the polis, harming opponents, and enriching themselves. The leaders were notorious for power lusts, mendacity, fraud, diverting public moneys and war booty into personal fortunes and payoffs to cronies, and fanning the flames of toxic passions. ...

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2. Taking Friendship Seriously: Aristotle on the Place(s) of Philia in Human Life

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pp. 53-83

For present-day readers, Aristotle’s discussion of friendship (in Greek, philia)1 is both intriguing and perplexing—intriguing because of his unique emphasis on friendship as an essential topic for moral and political theory, perplexing because his lengthy discussions of friendship do not result in any clear moral or political principles. ...

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3. Cicero’s Distinctive Voice on Friendship: De Amicitia and De Re Publica

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pp. 84-111

The model of friendship, so beautifully described in these words of Cicero,1 could be seen as a rival to politics. Politics in the classical sense was especially oriented to “the highest good of nature.” Aristotle, who systematically articulated the dominant classical understanding of political life, located his treatise of friendship in a richly significant way at the very heart of his practical philosophy. ...

Part II. Christian Perspectives

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pp. 113

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4. The Luminous Path of Friendship: Augustine’s Account of Friendship and Political Order

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pp. 115-138

Cicero was Augustine’s principal ancient teacher and interlocutor about politics and Augustine knew he had to go through his teaching, as it were, in order to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian contribution to political life over the ancient.1 Yet, as much as Augustine thought that he had surpassed Cicero, he depends on Cicero’s identification of, as opposed to answers to, the perennial questions of political order...

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5. A Companionship of Caritas: Friendship in St. Thomas Aquinas

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pp. 139-162

“When friendships were the noblest things in the world,” Jeremy Taylor observed, “charity was little.”1 So begins Gilbert Meilaender’s thoughtful examination of the theological significance of friendship. Meilaender features Taylor’s observation because he thinks it captures an important shift in Western culture, specifically the shift from a classical period...

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6. Friendship in the Civic Order: A Reformation Absence

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pp. 163-193

In Michael Pakaluk’s anthology of the key writings in the Western literary and philosophical tradition concerning friendship, which begins with Plato and Aristotle, there is a major lacuna. So, too, in several recent collections of scholarly treatments of the topic in the self-same tradition, or even in wider comparative context.1 Missing in every case are all of the sixteenth-century Reformers. ...

Part III. Modern Perspectives

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pp. 195

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7. Plato and Montaigne: Ancient and Modern Ideas of Friendship

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pp. 197-213

My aim in this essay is to reflect on ancient and modern ideas of friendship by considering Plato’s dialogue on friendship, the Lysis, and Montaigne’s essay “Of Friendship.” In so doing, I must pass over many other significant reflections on friendship, especially those of Aristotle, that equally should claim our attention. ...

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8. Hobbes on Getting By with Little Help from Friends

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pp. 214-247

Hobbes’s political thought contains a sustained attack on friendship. At the outset of Leviathan, for instance, he draws immediate attention to the problems that friendships present. The book opens with the dedication “To My Most Honour’d Friend Mr. Francis Godolphin, of Godolphin.” ...

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9. Social Friendship in the Founding Era

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pp. 248-267

The founding era does not yield up any sustained treatment of the role of friendship per se for a properly ordered civil society or for individual fulfillment and well being. Nevertheless, the need for the goods that flow from it—for example, loyalty, trust, understanding, forbearance, empathy—and the extent to which they could be realized in the new and extended republic were matters of utmost concern in light of the political divisions and conflicts leading up to the adoption of the Constitution. ...

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10. It Is Not Good for Man to Be Alone: Tocqueville on Friendship

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pp. 268-284

...The locus classicus to which historians of political thought return to consider the question of friendship is, of course, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. What we find in that compilation, among other things, is the ready distinction between three kinds of friendship: friendships based on pleasure, friendships based on use, and friendships based on virtue.1 ...

Part IV. Contemporary Perspectives

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pp. 285

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11. Zarathustra and His Asinine Friends: Nietzsche and Taste as the Groundless Ground of Friendship

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pp. 287-314

To ask of Nietzsche sage wisdom regarding friendship seems somewhat misguided—like turning to Henry VIII for marriage advice or to Jean-Jacques Rousseau for tips on parenting. By most accounts Nietzsche was something of a misanthrope, and his biography recounts a litany of failed friendships and long periods of loneliness.1 ...

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12. Friendship, Trust, and Political Order: A Critical Overview

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pp. 315-347

It is appropriate to begin with the question: Does friendship count in modern politics? At first glance there are reasons for an answer in the negative, as the following reflection on the modern political discourse seems to suggest. ...


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pp. 349-351


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pp. 353-358

E-ISBN-13: 9780268095505
E-ISBN-10: 0268095507
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268043704
Print-ISBN-10: 0268043701

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2008