Jessica Schurz on Dante and Friendship

Over at Public Discourse, Brazos Fellows alum Jessica Schurz (2018-2019) writes about what we can learn from Dante about the importance of friendship:

Throughout Purgatorio, Dante makes a powerful case that friendship—however fleeting—is integral to both human flourishing and the human person because it prepares us for union with God. Dante’s medieval wisdom on friendship provides helpful guidance as we navigate our own strange nomadic landscape in the modern world.

Jess unpacks how Dante’s Aristotelian understanding grounds his vision of friendship, which proves to be a central means toward our end, our telos, of life with God:

Beyond our everyday interactions with those around us, Dante’s idea of friendship offers deeper theological and metaphysical meaning. His model of friendship as central to human nature is understood in Aristotelian terms of ends and goals. As Aristotle notes, a thing can be understood in relation to its goal, such that an acorn (for example) can be understood as existing to grow into a tree. Similarly, Dante understands humans as existing to know, love, and depend on others. We are inherently relational, social, and dependent beings, who cannot meet our needs but through the help of others.

Jess reflects on how the experience of reading Dante in community this year–a very Brazos Fellows thing to do!–underscored the meaning of Dante’s vision of friendship:

Dante’s wisdom on friendship became most salient to me this past year. After moving to a particularly transitory city, a group of friends and I joined a number of others and read through The Divine Comedy together over the course of a few months. Each week, our discussions drifted back to navigating what Dorothy Day aptly called “the long loneliness” of our newfound transient lives. Cups of hot tea in hand, we followed Dante up the mountain, where we learned that we too are inherently dependent on others and that even seasonal friendships prepare us for communion with God. We also learned that though our time together in our transient city will probably be brief, we can delight in whatever time we do share, knowing “we’re pilgrims too, / travelers like yourselves.”

There’s a lot of wisdom to glean from Dante–and from Jess–on these matters. Read the whole reflection here.

5 in 10: Anne Jeffrey

Today the Brazos Fellows finished our unit on Christianity and society with a discussion of Oliver O’Donovan’s excellent little book, Common Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community. (Long-time readers of the blog will remember that in fall 2018 the Brazos Fellows enjoyed a lecture and evening discussion with Prof. O’Donovan.) Our class this morning was led by Dr. Anne Jeffrey, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Baylor. Dr. Jeffrey teaches and writes on metaethics, the virtue tradition of normative ethics, political and legal philosophy, bioethics, and the philosophy of religion. It was a real treat for the fellows to discuss with Dr. Jeffrey a number of interesting questions surrounding moral deliberation and what it means for Christians to live as citizens of both the “city of God” and the “city of man.”


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