Civic Friendship and Thin Citizenship
- 382 Downloads
Contemporary appeals for a deepening of civic friendship in liberal democracies often draw on Aristotle. This paper warns against a certain kind of attempt to use Aristotle in our own theorising, namely accounts of civic friendship that characterise it as similar in some way to Aristotelian virtue friendship. The most prominent of these attempts have focused on disinterested mutual regard as a basic ingredient in all Aristotelian forms of friendship. The argument against this is that it inadequately accounts for the idea of a virtue friend as another self, which we find in Aristotle’s thought. When we attend closely to that, we see that civic friendship is different in a fundamental way from virtue friendship because virtue friends are keenly committed to the moral improvement of one another. It is argued that Aristotle does not see civic friendship in the same way. However, if this argument about the differences between the forms of friendship cannot be accepted, the paper argues that we should not draw on Aristotle for an understanding of civic friendship because any similarity it might have to virtue friendship would license illiberal interventions in the lives of citizens in service of some idea of moral improvement. A seeming connection between Aristotelian civic friendship and thick conceptions of citizenship is replaced with a connection between it and thinner conceptions.
KeywordsCivic friendship Virtue friendship Citizenship Altruism
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Manchester Workshops in Political Theory, September 2010. I am grateful to ‘Friendship’ panel participants for their suggestions and probing questions. I am also grateful to the anonymous referee for this journal for raising important concerns. Finally, thanks to Michelle Bentley for numerous discussions about the paper and for helping me clarify my thoughts.
- Cooper, John M. 1999. Political animals and civic friendship. In Reason and emotion: Essays on ancient moral psychology and ethical theory, ed. John M. Cooper, 356–377. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Cooper, John M. 1999 [1977a]. Aristotle on the forms of friendship. In Reason and emotion: Essays on ancient moral psychology and ethical theory, ed. John M. Cooper, 312–335. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Cooper, John M. 1999 [1977b]. Friendship and the good in Aristotle. In Reason and emotion: Essays on ancient moral psychology and ethical theory, ed. John M. Cooper, 336–355. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Dover, Kenneth. 1994 . Greek popular morality in the time of Plato and Aristotle. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
- Kraut, Richard. 2002. Aristotle: Political philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ostwald, Martin. 1962. Aristotle: Nicomachean ethics. Indianapolis: The Library of Liberal Arts.Google Scholar
- Schollmeier, Paul. 1994. Other selves: Aristotle on personal and political friendship. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Stalley, Richard F. 1995. Aristotle: Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Valk, Francis V. 2004–2005. Political friendship and the second self in Aristotle’s nicomachean ethics. Innovations: A Journal of Politics 5:49–63.Google Scholar
- Yack, Bernard. 1993. The problems of a political animal: Community, justice, and conflict in Aristotelian political thought. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar