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Aquinas’ Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy

[Revised entry by John Finnis on March 16, 2021. Changes to: Bibliography] For Thomas Aquinas, as for Aristotle, doing moral philosophy is thinking as generally as possible about what I should choose to do (and not to do), considering my whole life as a field of opportunity (or misuse of opportunity). Thinking as general as this concerns not merely my own opportunities, but the kinds of good things that any human being can do and achieve, or be deprived of. Thinking about what to do is conveniently labeled "practical", and is concerned with what and how to choose and do what one [More]

The Ethics of Teacher-Student Relationships

When I was starting out in my academic career, I was assigned a senior colleague as a mentor. This is not an unusual practice. The hope is that the senior colleague can provide advice on how to navigate the thickets of academic life. I remember at one of our meetings the topic of teacher-student relationships came up. This colleague told me, in no uncertain terms, that any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with a student (graduate or undergraduate) was inappropriate and should be avoided. Sound advice, but a little bit ironic for two reasons. First, this particular colleague was in a long-term (and by all accounts happy and well-functioning) relationship with a former graduate student. Second, the thought of entering into such a relationship had never crossed my mind nor had it been a feature of our conversation prior to that point. I believe the only reason it had come up was because I was unsure of how to deal with a student whose mother was dying. To say that the advice was disconnected from the context would seem to be an understatement. If I were to characterise the relationships I have had with my students over the years I would say that they are, for the most part, extremely distant. To be fair, this my normative baseline when it comes to all relationships. I have very few close friendships and I am, for the most part, reclusive and solitary. That said, I probably take this reclusive attitude to extremes when it comes to students. For example, I try to [More]

Rediscovering Political Friendship: Aristotle's Theory and Modern Identity, Community, and Equality

2021.03.05 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Paul W. Ludwig, Rediscovering Political Friendship: Aristotle's Theory and Modern Identity, Community, and Equality, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 347pp., $105.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781107022966. Reviewed by Jonny Thakkar, Swarthmore College Those of us who live in liberal democracies do not tend to think of ourselves as connected to our fellow citizens by bonds of friendship. Most of us recognize special obligations towards our fellow citizens on account of our shared membership in a given society. We find it natural, for instance, that more of our tax dollars go to welfare programs within our own country than to overseas aid. But if pushed on why that is, we would be unlikely to invoke the notion of friendship. The concept of friendship seems to apply at a fundamentally different scale to the concept of citizenship: even in the era of Facebook, it still evokes relatively small-scale networks that tie individuals together on the basis of... Read [More]

Hobbes's On The Citizen: A Critical Guide

2021.03.04 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Robin Douglass and Johan Olsthoorn (eds.), Hobbes's On The Citizen: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 251pp., $99.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781108421980. Reviewed by Sandra Leonie Field, Yale-NUS College, Singapore The perennial interest in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes shows no sign of slowing down. The rush of edited volumes commemorating the 350th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece Leviathan (1651) has been followed by a steady stream of collections guided by various themes -- Hobbes and the law, feminist interpretations of Hobbes, Hobbes and religion, Hobbes's contemporary relevance -- as well as new general companion volumes every number of years. Robin Douglass and Johan Olsthoorn's book nonetheless makes a distinctive and welcome contribution not addressed by any of the previous volumes. It seeks to determine the political philosophy of Hobbes's less well known book De Cive (1642/1647; referred to throughout the volume as On the Citizen). Although Douglass and Olsthoorn's volume... Read [More]