The Politics of Family and Friends in Aristotle and Montaigne

Interpretation 31 (2):165-192 (2004)

This essay attempts to link the responsiveness of republican government with a certain modality of paternalistic friendship. The first section examines Aristotle’s theories of the equal and unequal friendships. A second section takes up Montaigne’s thoughts on friendship, focusing in particular on Montaigne’s rejection of Aristotle’s notion of unequal friendship, and what such a rejection might imply for republican government. Ultimately, I side with Aristotle, suggesting that political friendship is necessarily structured as a friendship of unequals. I argue that Montaigne’s rejection of unequal friendships ultimately blinds him to the dangers inherent in the extra-political or trans-political character of the perfect friendship and the advantages for politics associated with the friendship of unequals
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