Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Friendship played an outsized role in ancient political thought in comparison to medieval and modern political philosophies. Most modern scholarship has paid relatively little attention to the role of friendship in ancient political philosophy. Recently, however, scholars are increasingly beginning to investigate classical conceptions of friendship. My dissertation joins this growing interest by examining the importance of friendship in the political thought of Socrates and Aristotle. Specifically, I analyze the divergent approaches that Socrates and Aristotle take to politics and trace these distinct approaches to their differing conceptions of friendship. Through an examination of two Platonic dialogues—the Lysis and the Gorgias—I make the case that Socrates has a largely negative conception of friendship, according to which all friendships are based upon a metaphysical lack or need. This negative understanding of friendship causes him to adopt a negative, abstentious approach to politics. In contrast, in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle presents a conception of friendship that is based not upon deficiency and need, but instead upon the mutual recognition of each other’s complementary virtues. Aristotle’s positive account of friendship ensures that he does not take a negative, abstentious approach to politics, but instead seeks to use his philosophic insight to impact politics and orient it toward the good.

Committee Chair

Stoner, James R.

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