In case anyone wonders if Vanier recognised the political implications of what he was learning, he tells us that through his contact with men and women with intellectual disabilities:
"I discovered then how divided and fragmented our societies are. On the one hand are those who are healthy and well-integrated into society; on the other are those who are excluded, on its margins. As in Aristotle's day, there are still masters and slaves. I realised that peace could not prevail while no attempt was made to span the gulf separating different cultures, different religions, and even different individuals."
Jean Vanier wrote his dissertation on Aristotle. He knows well that Aristotle thought the test of any good polity was revealed by its ability to sustain friendship between people of virtue. Aristotle, however, would not have thought it possible for a friendship to exist between those that are mentally handicapped and those that are not. Yet Vanier believes that friendship is what L'Arche is about. That he does so is not only a challenge to Aristotle's understanding of friendship, but to the presupposition of liberal political theory and practice which tries to envision a politics in which friendship is an afterthought.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor