Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chp 6: Taking a Chance with Others: The Beginning of the Moral Life

Wadell begins this chapter by recounting a story of moral formation on the F Train. He writes, “We learn that all morality begins in and is an elaboration of the discovery that something other than ourselves is real—whether it is nature, another person, or God—and the moral life is the ongoing attempt to understand, deepen, and apply this discovery” (145) Furthermore, this exploration of something other than ourselves is “the threshold of every friendship” (146).

Learning to acknowledge the other is foundational to our morality. When we embrace a stranger, we are placed outside of ourselves. This is the beginning of friendship. “What is remarkable about the moral life,” Wadell writes, “is not that morality is friendship, but that all our friends were once strangers” (148).

Friendships do not appear out of thin air; we must seek a connection with others. Once that connection is forged we begin the “adventure” of a moral life. This adventure is a moral adventure that is “the adventure of another person shaping, challenging, and enlarging our world as we do their own.... it is part of the history of every friendship” (147).

Thus, a once-stranger becomes integral to our moral formation. As Wadell writes, “we cannot be ourselves without them” (144). By recognizing something outside ourselves, we gain a new perspective. Our moral formation begins and grows with the continued presence of the outside influence.

Wadell concludes the book saying, “the Christian moral life is what happens when we grant God, and others, the freedom to be our friends” (167). Our moral life is a consequence of our relationships with others. Our friends, especially play a crucial role in our moral formation. Without these relationships, we are incomplete.

Wadell on the Purpose of Morality and the Goal of Friendship

Questions for discussion and further thought:

Charity, Wadell says, is supposed to "[change] us unto God" (137). He also says that "The purpose of the moral life is to make our way to God, to return to God through love" (127). How much is the point of Christian morality for this life (if at all), and how much is for the next life, or life after death?

Wadell claims that Thomas thinks a friendship is like a certain kind of conversation. In a conversation, people come together for the purpose of discussing things. Thus Wadell says that "the focus of a friendship is not primarily the friends but the good which joins them" (136). Does this mean we choose our friends? If the focus is not the person or the friend, but rather the good, then what must this mean for friendship with God? What is the focus in that relationship?

Wadell explains how Thomas believes friendship with God is possible and how "fullest self is acquired" in this friendship (140). Is friendship with God alone enough for the moral life? Why or why not? If we need other people, then to what extent are these friendships important?

Being BFF with God (Friendship... ch. 5)

"...a sharing in which each friend delights in the goodness of the other, seeks their good, desires their happiness, and finally becomes one with them" (120).

"Charity, this friendship with God, is the love with which the Christian life begins, the love by which it is sustained, and the love in which it is eternally perfected" (120-121).

God is the best friend any of us could have is essentially what Wadell is getting at.

" is a happiness we could never give ourself; it is the gift, the unexcelled graciousness, upon which our friendship with God, and therefore, our life, begins" (123).

To add to our discussion yesterday when asked if we choose to be friends with people, Wadell answers that question in reference to the friendship we have with God by saying, "To love God as friend is to love a God who always loves us first" (124). God chose to love us and in God's love we all have a friend.

In order to be friends with someone you must be equals. Seeing as how this is impossible to be equal to God, Wadell fixes that problem by discussing the grace of God. "Grace is 'a certain habitual gift, by which spoiled human nature is healed, and once healed, is raised up to perform works which merit eternal life.'...Grace 'elevates' us to the end that is our fullness" (125). Without grace we cannot be friends with God because we would not be on God's level, but because God loves us, God gives us grace so that we can join God in friendship.

The latter part of chapter 5 more generalizes friendship, reminding us that it is reciprocal, while also telling us how friendship changes us, including our friendship with God. "No one who is a friend of God remains the same, and that is the tremendously reassuring sign that we do not hope for goodness in vain. In charity we become exactly who we need to become, we begin to hint of holiness" (137). So in God's friendship we still strive for the ultimate goodness and our friendship with God gets us closer to that point.

Friendship, Wadell reminds us, not only make us like the other person, but also grossly unlike the other person, even in our friendship with God. "Love brings likeness, not identity" (138). "If charity is truly friendship, it makes us more fully someone who is not God, it makes us more fully ourselves" (139). "We become more like God because we come to love what God loves, we make God's good our own; but we also become more unlike God because we become more genuinely ourselves" (140).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A look at Aristotle's Ethics

“Friendship is a fitting model for the moral life because it respects that the change of self necessary for wholeness is impossible apart from those relationships in which love for that wholeness can be shared” p.25

“What is the best way of life and how are we to achieve it?” p. 31

“In order to be there is something that we have to become” p32

“Human nature was not given, it was achieved. It was a wholeness to accomplish by the kind of life and activities which Aristotle called the virtues, by which human beings were constituted” P.33

Aristotle does not think that individual acts will bring about the good in a person. Instead, Aristotle agues that ‘eudemonia’ must be achieved—which “is no a single highest good, some particular good which surpasses all others, but the kind of life in which all those intrinsic goods are included…eudemonia is the complete and perfectly satisfying life”
(p. 37) MacIntyre points out that morality for Aristotle is “the making and remaking of persons”, and also, “And ethics of virtue always suggests something crucial to human wholeness that is lacking, that something more has to be done is a person is ever to be established. (P. 41)

“…to be human is to have some special function to achieve”(41)

Chapter 1 Frienship and the Moral Life

Friendship and the Moral Life:

“Friendships are not sought, they emerge.” “Warrenton was a school of friendship not because it sought to make us friends, but because it presented us with a purpose that made friendship possible.” P.3

“Warrenton was an argument which said to be human was to have a story to live and the task of our lifetime is to live so that we not only bring that story to completion, but to embody the fullness that story represents.” P.5

“Friendship is not only a good for the moral life, it is indispensable; there is simply no other way to come in touch with the goods that make us whole than through relationships with those who share them.” P.5

~Wadell begins by giving us an account of the school he attended and how friends were made from strangers through working for a shared purpose.

He then goes on to speak about this one time when he was a new professor one of his students approached him and was bold enough to say that he hated ethics. The reason that we hate Ethics and Morality is that we find in divisive “and how far apart we are on things we consider important” Although these matters may be avoided at all costs, one question cannot be overlooked and that is “How must our lives be shaped.” Socrates says that we should not focus on “what should I do” but “how shall I live”. This is the difference between quandary and virtue ethics. In quandary ethics, we are alone, adrift on an island of our own personal beliefs. This type of ethics also only addresses a small portion of our lives: the part in which we face a crisis. It does not call for a change in lifestyle, but a second’s worth of a decision. Quandary ethics prescribes that we create our own moralities. Virtue ethics calls for us to instead be faithful to a higher ideal and we are shaped by ethics, not the other way around. In virtue ethics, friendship is indispensable.

“Friendship is a fitting model for the moral life because it respects that the change of self necessary for wholeness is impossible apart from those relationships in which love for that wholeness can be shared” p.25

Monday, December 3, 2007

Aristotle on Friendship

Paul Wadell makes the comment that "everyone wants to be happy, it is the great longing with which we are born and with which we die." (67-68). It is how we are to start to go about achieving that happiness that Wadell concerns himself with during this chapter. In the first section, he summarizes Aristotle's attempt to construct the polis as that community in which all must participate in order to become virtuous, and thus happy. However, Aristotle, after years of reflection, intrusion of the realities of society, and the teaching of others, comes to realize that the polis is not capable of providing the relationship necessary for virtuous living. This is when he turns to friendship. In the second section of chapter 3, Wadell discusses the three types of friendship that Aristotle defined. Aristotle defined the three types of friendship as:
1) Friendships of pleasure; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to the pleasure that they each receive,
2) Friendships of usefulness; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to their mutual gain from each other and,
3) Friendships of character; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to each one's goodness and virtue.

He goes on to say that the third type of friendship is more important than the other two, although all three are still friendships and needed in a fully lived life, because the friendship is based on something which, during the friendship, can do nothing but grow and flourish, which leads the two friends to continue their attraction to each other all the more. However, Wadell then goes on to say that this third type of friendship is the one which leads us, as humankind, to the ultimate, although unattainable, goal of happiness. Is this truly the ultimate goal of humankind? How do these ideals of friendship fit in with other views of friendship and love? Is it possible that none of these types is more important than the others? Are these types of friendships stepping stones for each other as well as the ideas of eros and agape?

Friendship and the Moral Life~Preface

*This book is an argument for another way to think about the moral life (xiii).

*Aristotle articulated "Friendships are not only enjoyable, they are also highly morally formative" (xiii).

* "The moral life is the seeking of and growing in the good in the company of friends who also want to be good" (xiii).

* "This book argues that the central concern of the moral life is the formation of a good and worthy character, the development of virtues that will help guide us to authentic human flourishing" (xiv).

* "Virtues are habits we develope by practice, but we learn what it means to practice a particular virtue and have the opportunity to grow in it through relationships with others who share our hunger for the good" (xiv).

* "This book is an invitation to open up our sense of the moral life" (xv).