by Amy MacArthur
“Define friendship. What is it? What isn’t it?” were questions Dr. John Cunningham, assistant professor of philosophy at Providence, posed to his students on day one of Philosophy of Friendship and Love.
From the first class period, students in this new 300 level class were assigned readings from philosophers like Cicero, Plato, and Aristotle, paired with theologians like Augustine, Aelred of Rievaulx, and Thomas Aquinas. Each philosopher presented a unique view of friendship and its role in human’s lives.
On Thursday March 10, Father Michael Carey, a Dominican priest with extensive knowledge of Thomas Aquinas’ life and theological views guest lectured. Father Michael outlined and discussed with students Aquinas’ view of friendship and it’s unbreakable tie to the Christian life.
“Thomas says you have to love everyone. It’s the same love as with God and friendships. Charity should be the form of everything we do. Virtue orients your action to the right object and supports the action to make it easier to do,” Father Michael said.
Special topics classes often challenge students’ presuppositions, forcing them to ask themselves, “Why do I think this, and where is my knowledge based?” This structure of lecture and discussion fosters a deeper understanding of not only the topic at hand, but students’ own values and opinions.
“The special topics classes give us an amazing opportunity to study a whole new range of subjects such as American radicalism, fantasy literature, and the philosophy of friendship and love. Even though my first passion is Biblical and theological studies, all these classes go towards my humanities concentration. If I was at any other school as a Bible major, I highly doubt those unique classes would’ve been available to me. The typical small class size paired with the interest that students have for that subject allows for a richer and more meaningful study of the subject. It enhances the texture of my experience at Providence and in the world beyond.” sophomore Sarah Bergquist said.