Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aquinas on Amor Amicitiae and Caritate

As we saw before in Nicomachean Ethics VIII, Aristotle defines friendship as loving another for their own sake. The perfect friendship is a mutual love between the virtuous, who share a common project of willing the good for one another. However, as Aristotle argues that friendship requires equality (or something near enough) he believes that friendship with God, “who surpasses us most decisively in all good things,” is impossible:

…but when one party is removed to a great distance, as God is, the possibility of friendship ceases.
     NE, viii, 7

It is here on the topic of friendship with God that Aquinas departs from the Philosopher. While Aquinas agrees that friendship involves loving another for their own sake, willing the good for them, and thus is mutual, as a Christian theologian, he believes that friendship with God is possible. God has revealed Himself to us along with the possibility of friendship with Him: "I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends." (John 15:15)

How can we be friends with God? According to Aquinas, the theological virtue of charity, of friendship with God, of loving God for his own sake, is an infused virtue:

Now, the conversation of man with God is by contemplation of Him, just as the Apostle used to say: “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Since, therefore, the Holy Spirit makes us lovers of God, we are in consequence established by the Holy Spirit as contemplators of God.

Charity is only possible for us because of grace, because God is absolutely magnanimous, as the Thomist James Chastek reminds us.

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