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The Life of Virtue - Affability

Saturday, August 01, 2009
One of the most frequent criticisms northerners direct at London and the south is that the people are so cold and unfriendly in comparison to the cheery Geordies, smiling Scousers, and friendly Tykes. My own observations are inconclusive but their evaluation indicates an important point: friendliness or affability is an important and good thing. Humans are social creatures. We are linked by our common humanity to every person by a special general friendship. As St. Thomas says “we are naturally every man’s friend”.

This special virtue of Friendliness is, however, not necessarily about affection. It is about behaving in a becoming manner. Of course there are different degrees of intimacy and behaviour: a relationship with a stranger is very different to that with a friend of longstanding years; likewise our friendly behaviour in a library is very different to friendly behaviour at a dinner party. Nevertheless the common friendship should underline all our social interactions. When we practise this virtue it obliges us to live in an agreeable manner. When we practise this virtue we bring a little bit of joy, we make life pleasant for others. As Aristotle points out “no one could abide a day with the sad, nor with the joyless".

St. Thomas shows that the special virtue of Friendliness is part of justice. Whilst this might seem strange, we each owe one other a natural debt. We are obliged by a natural equity to be pleasant, amicable and friendly, due to the social nature of humanity. It can be a difficult virtue to practise but it helps us to flourish both morally and within society.

Mark Davoren


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