The Four Friendships

From Aristotle to Aquinas

Kevin Vost

Foreword by Shane Kapler

Twenty-three centuries ago, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle gave us profound insights into the nature and nourishment of friendship in all its forms, foremost among them the intimate, virtuous friendships in which friends become “as one soul in two bodies.” Two centuries later, Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero left us a literary masterpiece of his own on the glories, benefits, and duties of friendships based on harmonious goodwill and benevolence. Thirteen centuries later, a young man, St. Aelred of Rievaulx, became enthralled with Cicero’s writings on friendship, and later, as a Cistercian abbot, wrote his own treatise on the subject, building upon Cicero’s sturdy treatment, but raising it to new, supernatural heights through the sweet exemplar of the spiritual friendship of Jesus Christ. Quite independently of St. Aelred, a century later the sublime Dominican philosopher and Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, in his treatise on charity, Christianized and elevated to heaven Aristotle’s teaching of the friendship of virtue as man’s friendship with God.

In The Four Friendships: From Aristotle to Aquinas we undertake to glean the lasting lessons of these four great friends of friendship. Aristotle wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics that “the object of our inquiry is not to know what virtue is but how to become good…” To this end we too will examine these four writings on friendship not merely as works of literature or historical curiosities, but as practical guides to help us build, maintain, and enjoy noble friendships of our own—today. The object of our inquiry, then, is not to know what friendship is but how to become good friends.

Praise for The Four Friendships

“C. S. Lewis wrote his famous book, The Four Loves. Kevin Vost has now furthered the discussion by writing The Four Friendships. Like Lewis’s classic, it encourages us to reflect on what is most important in our daily lives.”

— CHRISTOPHER S. MORRISSEY, Seminary of Christ the King, British Columbia

“Kevin Vost’s joyful reflections follow pagan and Christian pioneers along their itinerary of friendship in this feast for mind and heart. He reminds us that contrary to many modern prejudices, ancient philosophers were sages of a high spiritual order, and medieval spiritual masters could be insightful guides and artists in the logic of love. Vost dives deep into the waters of friendship and offers us what is most precious, virtuous, and enduring.”

— HEATHER ERB, moderator in the Great Books Program of the Angelicum Academy

“If you want to build good friendships, Kevin Vost’s The Four Friendships will serve you well. Read the book slowly, taking time to reflect deeply on how the four classic authors he presents may help you choose friends wisely, and love others with more Christian charity.”

— BERT GHEZZI, author of Voices of the Saints

“This concise volume brings together key texts of four great thinkers from pagan antiquity and the Christian Middle Ages on the ever-timely topic of friendship. Kevin Vost provides helpful and insightful commentaries on the reflections of Aristotle, Cicero, Aelred of Rievaulx, and Thomas Aquinas on what friendship is, how it works, what it requires, and even when it is time to call it quits. A most useful book for understanding important dimensions of all manner of relationships.”

— GREGORY SADLER, President and Founder, ReasonIO

“Kevin Vost’s The Four Friendships is a compendium on the nature of friendship, and especially what it means for us today to befriend and be a friend. It is a timely reminder of our true nature as persons destined for communion in an age in which many of our friendships are based increasingly on mere utility.”

— SEBASTIAN MAHFOOD, OP, author of The Narrative Spirituality of Dante’s Divine Comedy

About the Author

Kevin Vost

Kevin Vost holds a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) degree from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. He has taught psychology and gerontology at Aquinas College in Nashville, the University of Illinois at Springfield, MacMurray College, and Lincoln Land Community College. He has served as a research review committee member for American Mensa, a society promoting the scientific study of human intelligence, and as an advisory board member for the International Association of Resistance Trainers, an organization that certifies personal fitness trainers.