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  • The Root of Friendship: Self-Love and Self-Governance in Aquinas by Anthony T. Flood
  • Colleen McCluskey
The Root of Friendship: Self-Love and Self-Governance in Aquinas. By Anthony T. Flood. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2014. Pp. xix + 164. $59.95 (cloth). ISBN: 978-0-8132-2605-7.

Anthony Flood argues that the key to understanding Aquinas's account of self-governance lies in understanding an aspect of his thought that has not [End Page 293] been traditionally acknowledged, namely, his account of proper self-love, which in turn gives rise to self-friendship. For Flood, self-love grounds one's conscious experience of oneself as a self and a person, which makes self-friendship possible. He draws upon Aquinas's general description of the five central characteristics of friendship, namely, (1) a desire for the friend's existence, (2) a desire for various goods for the friend, (3) the promotion of those goods for the friend, (4) the pleasure of the friend's company, and (5) a commonality of mind concerning joys and sorrows. Self-friendship, on Aquinas's account, involves the same cognitive and affective attitudes directed toward oneself. Since friendship requires consciousness of the other, self-love and self-friendship fundamentally involve conscious awareness of oneself. Furthermore, the conditions for friendship entail desire for and union with the beloved. Since with self-friendship there is no separation between beloved and lover, self-love constitutes the deepest form of interiority possible, grounding one's experiences of and action in the world.

Flood distinguishes between what he calls common self-love, ordered self-love, and wicked self-love. All human beings exhibit common self-love insofar as, at the minimum, they desire their own self-preservation (the first of the five conditions for friendship). But well-ordered persons desire more than simple physical self-preservation; they also care about the quality of their interior lives. Although all human beings desire the good for themselves and pursue what they take to be good (conditions 2 and 3), here, once again, the well-ordered and the wicked part company. The well-ordered recognize what is in fact good for them and direct their actions accordingly. In so doing, they achieve a pleasant life (satisfying condition 4) and achieve an inner peace (condition 5). Thus, the well-ordered attain self-friendship. The wicked, on the other hand, desire their own existence but are interested only in pursuing their passions (what Flood calls their animal characteristics), rejecting what right reason would deem appropriate. They pursue the wrong sorts of goods or pursue badly what is in fact good. Since they do not achieve the goods conducive to a flourishing life, they end up in misery and conflict. Thus, the wicked satisfy only the first of the five conditions for self-friendship and do so only superficially. In so doing, they fail to achieve self-friendship and set themselves up for a chaotic and unhappy life.

Flood argues that proper self-love and the resulting self-friendship are required in order to achieve self-governance. An individual must satisfy three conditions in order to be a candidate for self-governance: the epistemic requirement, the motivational requirement, and the authority requirement. The first two constitute what Flood calls the psychological conditions for self-governance. One satisfies the first requirement by possessing the knowledge requisite for self-direction, namely, knowledge of the moral law. The natural law, according to Aquinas's account, plays a major role here, as well as the human ability and obligation to seek out moral guidance in situations of uncertainty. Therefore, the virtues of prudence and docility bear important [End Page 294] responsibilities in this matter. The second requirement refers to the ability to act on the basis of one's own internal motivation as opposed to being subject to or determined by external threats or rewards. The perfection of the sensitive appetite is especially important here, for unless the passions are perfected, they are inclined to resist the direction of the intellect in determining what actions to perform. Thus, the acquisition of virtues such as courage and temperance is important in...


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pp. 293-297
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