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  • Aquinas on Friendship
  • Jennifer Hart Weed
Daniel Schwartz. Aquinas on Friendship. Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. xviii + 189. Cloth, $55.00.

In the introduction to Aquinas on Friendship, Daniel Schwartz admits that his treatment of Aquinas’s theory of friendship is not exhaustive. His central argument is that Aquinas reworks several elements of Aristotle’s view of friendship in accordance with his Christian commitment to the ideal of friendship with God and to the theological virtue of charity (viii). Schwartz develops this argument through a detailed description of some of the elements of Aquinas’s theory, most notably the concept of concordia, along with responses to the challenges posed by those elements, drawn from such luminaries as John Duns Scotus, Cicero, and St. Paul.

According to Schwartz, Aquinas identifies three acts of friendship: concordia, benevolentia, and beneficentia. While he claims that these three acts represent the larger themes of the volume, its content and subject index suggest otherwise. Chapters two through four address the nature of concordia and the possible impediments to it, such as heresy, disparity of circumstances, and pride. Missing, however, are similarly detailed treatments of benevolentia and beneficentia. Chapters five and six describe the importance of hope for friendship and the relationship between friendship and justice. More surprisingly, chapter seven considers the satisfaction account of justice (as in the doctrine of the Atonement) and how this might affect Aquinas’s understanding of the restoration of friendship.

According to Schwartz, “Faith, hope, and charity, the three theological virtues, are conceived of by Aquinas as stages in a process reaching its fulfillment in friendship with God” (14). Despite this admission and its importance for Aquinas’s theory of friendship, the link between friendship and the theological virtues is not discussed at length. In fact, the theological virtue of faith is not given much attention at all, although Schwartz references sacramental satisfaction and Christ’s atonement. Given Schwartz’s central argument, one would expect him to focus more on the three theological virtues, rather than concordia, which emerges as the theme of the volume. Additionally, there is an abrupt shift from philosophical and political concerns to theology in subsequent chapters, which are structured around the concepts of hope, satisfaction, and charity.

Schwartz also includes more than one puzzling theological claim. For example, in reference to the theological virtues, he writes, “Human beings, however, must make themselves worthy of these goods in the eyes of God. For Aquinas, the process leading to friendship with God begins with the pursuit of these spiritual goods” (14). Those familiar with Aquinas’s commitment to the doctrine of original sin and his repudiation of Pelagianism will wonder how such a characterization of Aquinas’s theology is possible. Again, Schwartz also claims, regarding the Atonement, that “merit and satisfaction is made by voluntary actions. Yet, individual participation in Christ’s Passion is not always voluntary—infant baptism being a case in point” (159). Perhaps it is theological quibbling to point out that Aquinas condemns the forced conversions of unbelievers, or that he believes infants whose parents willingly bring them forward for baptism are not baptized involuntarily (Summa theologiae III.68.9 ad. 1). But the book invites such quibbles.

There is also no discussion of the difference between Aristotle and Aquinas on friendship, particularly on the possibility of friendship between humans and God. Certainly, Aquinas’s [End Page 136] willingness to accept this possibility is innovative. But Schwartz simply offers Aquinas’s account of how friendship between humans and God is possible and then defends Aquinas from various objections (45–46). A more detailed comparison between the thought of Aristotle and Aquinas is found on the topic of concordia.

In summary, Schwartz’s aim is ambitious for a volume of less than two hundred pages, but there is much to enjoy in the book. There is an interesting discussion of Aquinas’s endorsement of Seneca rather than Aristotle on gratitude and ingratitude in his brief discussion of beneficentia (16–19), and Schwartz’s treatment of the tension among justice, friendship, and charity is also illuminating. Finally, Schwartz is to be commended for his extensive use of almost the entire corpus of...