Mary Astell’s theory of spiritual friendship

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (1):46-65 (2018)
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Abstract

Mary Astell’s theory of friendship has been interpreted either as a version of Aristotelian virtue friendship, or as aligned with a Christian and Platonist tradition. In this paper, I argue that Astell’s theory of friendship is determinedly anti-Aristotelian; it is a theory of spiritual friendship offered as an alternative to Aristotelian virtue friendship. By grounding her conception of friendship in a Christian–Platonist metaphysics, I show that Astell rejects the Aristotelian criteria of reciprocity and partiality as essential features of the friendship bond and that she develops a theory of friendship that is neither reciprocal nor partial. Further, I argue that Astell’s theory of friendship advances her feminist aims by providing a justification for female–female spiritual bonds in contradistinction to female–male marriage bonds. Astell argues that the female–female bond of spiritual friendship is sanctioned by God, and is, therefore, a divinely authorized alternative to the male–female bond of marriage. Through her theory of spiritual friendship, Astell marks out a central place for female–female bonds and provides women with a justification for resisting marriage.

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Author's Profile

Nancy Kendrick
Wheaton College, Massachusetts

References found in this work

Aristode on Friendship.John Cooper - 1980 - In Amélie Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics. University of California Press. pp. 301--340.
17. Aristotle on Friendship.John M. Cooper - 1980 - In Amélie Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics. University of California Press. pp. 301-340.
Mary Astell on Virtuous Friendship.Jacqueline Broad - 2009 - Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 26 (2):65-86.

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