Aquinas on Friendship

Last week I went to the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Francisco, CA. I had the privilege of presenting my paper, “The Forgotten Virtue of Friendship: Thomistic Friendship and Contemporary Christian Ethics.” This paper was an abridged version of a chapter out of my dissertation. I have posted a copy of the paper on the Resources page of my blog.

Without sharing the entire substance of the paper in this post, let me describe why the idea of friendship is important. In our contemporary culture, friendship has become more of an expression of social networks than a true, intimate relationship between individuals. This new understanding of friendship has diluted the robust meaning of friendship that has historically been a part of ethical thought since the time of the Greek philosophers. Online applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, measure friendship by the number of followers or people in your circle. However, in most of these applications, there is no measure of intimacy or characteristics found within the historical understanding of friendship that shed any light on whether or not a true relationship actually exists.

Aquinas offered one of the most substantial discussions of friendship within Christian ethical thought. My paper was an attempt to show how we can recover some elements of this robust, love-based friendship for contemporary ethics without succumbing to the situation-based ethics of Joseph Fletcher or the community-based ethics of Stanley Grenz. My full dissertation makes these connections in a much more substantial way.