_A fresh, new translation of Augustine’s inaugural work as a Christian convert_ The first four works written by St. Augustine of Hippo after his conversion to Christianity have influenced prominent thinkers from Boethius to Bernard Lonergan. Usually called the Cassiciacum dialogues, these four works are a “literary triumph,” combining Ciceronian and neo-Platonic philosophy, Roman comedy and Vergilian poetry, and early Christian theology. They are also, arguably, Augustine’s most charming works, exhibiting his whimsical levity and ironic wryness. In (...) this first dialogue, Augustine and his interlocutors have retreated to a quiet country villa north of Milan to explore the history and teachings of Academic Skepticism. Augustine is both sympathetic to and critical of the Skeptics, eventually hypothesizing that they could not possibly have believed everything they taught. The dialogue serves as a fitting launch point for a knowledge of God and the soul, the overall subject of the Cassiciacum tetralogy. Michael Foley’s clear, precise and playful translations are accompanied by his brief, illuminating commentaries. (shrink)
_A fresh, new translation of Augustine’s inaugural work as a Christian convert_ The first four works written by St. Augustine of Hippo after his conversion to Christianity are dialogues that have influenced prominent thinkers from Boethius to Bernard Lonergan. Usually called the Cassiciacum dialogues, these four works are a “literary triumph,” combining Ciceronian and neo-Platonic philosophy, Roman comedy and Vergilian poetry, and early Christian theology. They are also, arguably, Augustine’s most charming works, exhibiting his whimsical levity and (...) ironic wryness. In this second, brief dialogue, Augustine and his mother, brother, son, and friends celebrate his thirty-second birthday by having a “feast of words” on the nature of happiness that includes a bittersweet metaphorical birthday cake. Using a process of reasoning that is philosophical as well as theological, Augustine and the group conclude that the truly happy life consists of “having God” through faith, hope, and charity. Michael Foley’s clear, precise and playful translations are accompanied by his brief, illuminating commentaries. (shrink)
This paper examines Augustine’s views on language, learning, and testimony in De Magistro. It is often held that, in De Magistro, Augustine is especially concerned with explanatory understanding (a complex cognitive state characterized by its synoptic nature and awareness of explanatory relations) and that he thinks testimony is deficient in imparting explanatory understanding. I argue against this view and give a clear analysis of the different kinds of cognitive state Augustine is concerned with and a careful examination (...) of his arguments concerning the deficiencies of testimony in producing these cognitive states. (shrink)
This paper presents a refreshing new reading of Augustine's view on matter. It argues that Augustine's evolving view on matter from the negative to the positive, from the overly simplistic understanding of matter as something purely physical to a nuanced view of spiritual matter, played an essential role in the Confessions. Matter, in this new understanding, accounts for both space and time. As Augustine matured as a thinker, he saw matter's potentiality also positively as possibility for grace (...) for the embodied self and that which creates the depth of our being. Augustine owed this nuanced view of matter partly to its Plotinian origin but he modified it with his lived experience of faith. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss and defend Augustine’s and Aquinas’s respective epistemologies of faith. This entails analyzing central claims both thinkers make in order to determine the ways in which the true beliefs about God the faithful form and hold are reasonable as well as properly grounded. In the first two sections of the essay, I highlight what I take to be some of Augustine’s enduring epistemological insights concerning the reasonableness and origins of faith. I read Aquinas’s own (...) account of faith in a distinctly Augustinian light, so in the third section of the essay, I turn to Aquinas to explain more fully how faith-beliefs are adequately or rationally grounded—that is, based on a specifically truth-conducive ground. Like Augustine, Aquinas sees love, or desire more broadly, as an essential component of faith (specifically what Aquinas calls “formed faith”): it is our love of God, infused in our will by God’s grace, that draws us to believe what our intellect also recognizes in the infused “light of faith” to be true revelations from God. In the final section of the essay, I consider and then counter three main objections to my reading of Augustine and Aquinas. Thus, by the end of the essay, I not only discuss some of the main features of the accounts of faith that Augustine and Aquinas respectively offer; I also defend those accounts, as well as the epistemology of faith that I derive from them. (shrink)
In this paper, I first discuss Augustine’s description of time and relate this to Boethius’ explanation of the distinction between time and eternity. I then connect this distinction to Augustine’s understanding of memory as an image of eternity, showing that the analogy between God and the human with reference to time involves a comparison not between eternity and time, but rather, between eternity and a limited experience of eternity within the mind and its distension: time is not the (...) image of eternity, the human mind is, particularly its power of memory (memoria). The accounts of time and eternity of both thinkers provide further evidence for Augustine’s influence on and importance for the thought of Boethius. Both figures describe the past and future as united in the present under the divine purview of God. (shrink)
Many critics of religion insist that believing in a future life makes us less able to value our present activities and distracts us from accomplishing good in this world. In Augustine's case, this gets things backwards. It is while Augustine seeks to achieve happiness in this life that he is detached from suffering and dismissive of the body. Once Augustine comes to believe happiness is only attainable once the whole city of God is triumphant, he is able (...) to compassionately engage with present suffering and see material and social goods as part of our ultimate good. (shrink)
The philosophers of antiquity had much to say about the place of friendship in the good life and its role in helping us live virtuously. Augustine is unusual in giving substantial attention to the dangers of friendship and its potential to serve as an obstacle (rather than an aid) to virtue. Despite the originality of Augustine’s thought on this topic, this area of his thinking has received little attention. This paper will show how Augustine, especially in the (...) early books of the Confessions, carefully examines the potential of friendship to lead us astray. In particular, friendships may prove an impediment to virtue by: derailing our practical reasoning (rather than aiding it); fostering vices (rather than virtues); and misdirecting our love. Augustine’s investigation of the murky depths of friendship shows an original philosopher and keen observer of the human condition at work. (shrink)
In his Contra Academicos, Augustine offers one of the most detailed responses to scepticism to have come down to us from antiquity. In this paper, I examine Augustine’s defence of the existence of infallible knowledge in Contra Academicos 3. I challenge a number of established views (including those of Myles Burnyeat, Gareth Matthews, and Christopher Kirwan) concerning the nature and merit of Augustine’s defence of knowledge and propose a new understanding of Augustine’s response to scepticism (including (...) his semantic response to external world scepticism) and several important elements of Augustine’s thought concerning signification, cognition, and object-directed thought. I argue that once we properly understand Augustine’s views about these issues, his arguments in defence of knowledge are more interesting and more successful than usually thought. (shrink)
Medieval accounts of diachronically unified consciousness have been overlooked by contemporary readers, because medieval thinkers have a unique and unexpected way of setting up the problem. This paper examines the approach to diachronically unified consciousness that is found in Augustine’s and Aquinas’s treatments of memory. For Augustine, although the mind is “distended” by time, it remains resilient, stretching across disparate moments to unify past, present, and future in a single personal present. Despite deceptively different phrasing, Aquinas develops a (...) remarkably similar view when, in order to accommodate Aristotle’s view of memory to Augustine’s, he insists that an implicit self-awareness “time-stamps” all intellectual acts. According to their shared approach, diachronic unified consciousness is the result of the curious way in which the mind is both drawn into and transcends the temporal succession of its own acts. (shrink)
This paper dispels the Cartesian reading of Augustine’s treatment of mind and other minds by examining key passages from De Trinitate and De Civitate Dei. While Augustine does vigorously argue that mind is indubitable and immaterial, he disavows the fundamental thesis of the dualistic tradition: the separation of invisible spirit and visible body. The immediate self-awareness of mind includes awareness of life, that is, of animating a body. Each of us animates our own body; seeing other animated bodies (...) enables us to see other animating souls or minds. Augustine’s affirmation of animation lets us perceive that other minds are present, but Descartes’ denial of animation renders others ineluctably absent. Augustine’s soul is no ghost, because his body is no machine. (shrink)
Seneca asserts in Letter 121 that we mature by exercising self-care as we pass through successive psychosomatic “constitutions.” These are babyhood (infantia), childhood (pueritia), adolescence (adulescentia), and young adulthood (iuventus). The self-care described by Seneca is 'self-affiliation' (oikeiōsis, conciliatio) the linchpin of the Stoic ethical system, which defines living well as living in harmony with nature, posits that altruism develops from self-interest, and allows that pleasure and pain are indicators of well-being while denying that happiness consists in pleasure and that (...) pain is misery. Augustine divides the narrative of his own development into the stages of babyhood (infantia), childhood (pueritia), adolescence (adulescentia), and young adulthood (iuventus) in the Confessions, a text wherein he claims familiarity with more than a few works of Seneca (Conf. 5.6.11). Furthermore, he had access to Stoic accounts of affiliation not only in Seneca’s Letter 121, but also in Cicero’s On Goals, and in non-extant sources of Stoic ethical theory. After pointing out that Augustine endorsed the notion of self-affiliation outside of the Confessions, I raise the question of whether he also makes the notion of affiliation thematic in his philosophical autobiography. I argue that he does indeed present himself and some of his primary relationships – with his mother and his long-term girlfriend – in terms of personal and social oikeiōsis. In addition, his self-critiques in the early books of the Confessions can be more fully understood if compared to Stoic developmental theory. He depicts himself as failing to progress intellectually, socially, and morally: although he passed through the successive constitutions, becoming physically larger and cognitively capable, he did not mature correctly by the standards of his Stoic sources. (shrink)
A modified version of Michael Gorman's comments on Peter King’s paper at the 2004 Henle Conference. Above all, an account of Augustine’s purposes in discussing Neoplatonism in Confessions VII, showing why Augustine does not tell us certain things we wish he would. In my commentary I will address the following topics: (i) what it means to speak of the philosophically interesting points in Augustine; (ii) whether Confessions VII is really about the Trinity; (iii) Augustine‘s intentions in (...) Confessions VII; (iv) King‘s hypostatic interpretation‖;(v) Christology. (shrink)
Meursault, the protagonist of Camus' The Stranger, is unable to grieve, a fact that ultimately leads to his condemnation and execution. Given the emotional distresses involved in grief, should we envy Camus or pity him? I defend the latter conclusion. As St. Augustine seemed to dimly recognize, the pains of grief are integral to the process of bereavement, a process that both motivates and provides a distinctive opportunity to attain the good of self-knowledge.
Phillip Cary argues that Augustine invented or created the concept of self as an inner space--as space into which one can enter and in which one can find God. This concept of inwardness, says Cary, has worked its way deeply into the intellectual heritage of the West and many Western individuals have experienced themselves as inner selves. After surveying the idea of inwardness in Augustine's predecessors, Cary offers a re-examination of Augustine's own writings, making the controversial point (...) that in his early writings Augustine appears to hold that the human soul is quite literally divine. Cary goes on to contend that the crucial Book 7 of the Confessions is not a historical report of Augustine's "conversion" experience, but rather an explanation of his intellectual development over time. (shrink)
There are two general routes that Augustine suggests in De Trinitate, XV, 14-16, 23-25, for a psychological account of the Father's intellectual generation of the Word. Thomas Aquinas and Henry of Ghent, in their own ways, follow the first route; John Duns Scotus follows the second. Aquinas, Henry, and Scotus's psychological accounts entail different theological opinions. For example, Aquinas (but neither Henry nor Scotus) thinks that the Father needs the Word to know the divine essence. If we compare the (...) theological views entailed by their psychologies we find a trajectory from Aquinas, through Henry, and ending with Scotus. This theological trajectory falsifies a judgment that every Augustinian psychology of the divine persons amounts to a pre-Nicene functional Trinitarianism. This study makes clear how one's awareness of the theological views entailed by these psychologies enables one to assess more thoroughly psychological accounts of the identity and distinction of the divine persons. (shrink)
In the Self's Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine presents Jean-Luc Marion's rethinking of the modern notion of the self by way of an original reading of Saint Augustine through the lens of a phenomenology of givenness. Here he tests the hermeneutic validity of concepts forged in his previous works. His goal is to show that the Confessiones are inscribed within the confessio, that love is an underlying epistemic condition of truth, and that God's call and our response (...) to God are both gifts. Ultimately, Marion points us toward a conception of the self that is at once postmodern and very Augustinian. (shrink)
From Augustine’s (death) drive towards an imaginary time before speech to Marx’s drive toward an imaginary time after speech as we know it, we learn that we are always already within the bonds of the mother tongue. In the late twentieth-century, Derrida turns to both Augustine and Marx to repeat the fantasy of escaping the mother (tongue). Derrida responds to Marx’s analysis of our repeated failure to forget the mother tongue by turning to Augustine’s analysis of the (...) mother’s touch: we cannot forget the mother tongue because it is licked upon our skin. Drawing on Derrida’s relationship to Augustine and Marx on the topic of touch and language, I argue that although the bond of the mother tongue is inescapable, its very real grip upon our skin is founded upon a number of fantasies: the fantasy of the Mother, of a cut with the Mother by the Mother, which separates us from an original shared skin and binds us to the Mother tongue, the fantasy of self-articulation in the death of the Mother. I suggest that the symptoms of the fantasmatic foundation of our entrapment by the mother tongue-touch is expressed in barely perceptible glitches—a shiver passing over one’s skin, a stutter in one’s speech. (shrink)
Augustine′s conversion to Christianity in A.D. 386 is a pivotal moment not only in his own life, but in Christian and world history, for the theology of Augustine set the course of theological and cultural development in the western Christian church. But to what exactly was Augustine converted? Scholars have long debated whether he really converted to Christianity in 386, whether he was a Platonist, and, if he adhered to both Platonism and Christianity, which dominated his thought. (...) The debate of the last thirteen decades spans an immense body of literature in multiple languages. In this literature, four major views on Augustine′s conversion may be discerned. The first view is associated with Gaston Boissier and Adolph von Harnack, and was famously championed by Prosper Alfaric: that Augustine in 386 converted to neo-Platonism but not to Christianity. Second, there is the view recently promoted by Catherine Conybeare: that Augustine in 386 converted to Christianity and rejected neo-Platonism. Third, there is the view that he converted to Christianity and was also a neo-Platonist; the most famous adherents of this view are Robert J. O′Connell and Pierre Courcelle. Finally, there is the view recently promoted by Carol Harrison: that Augustine committed to Christianity in 386, yet did not utterly reject neo-Platonism; rather, he aimed to develop a Christian faith that was informed by neo-Platonic insight. In this article, I first explain and distinguish these four general views, and then I explain why I prefer the fourth view. -/- More Info: This is the pre-peer reviewed version of Boone, Mark, "The Role of Platonism in Augustine's 386 Conversion to Christianity," Religion Compass 9.5 (May 2015), 151-61. This article has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec3.12149/abstract. (shrink)
Augustine and William James both argue that religious faith can be both practical and rational even in the absence of knowledge. Augustine argues that religious faith is trust and that trust is a normal, proper, and even necessary way of believing. Beginning with faith, we then work towards knowledge by means of philosophical contemplation. James’ “The Will to Believe” makes pragmatic arguments for the rationality of faith. Although we do not know (yet) whether God exists, faith is a (...) choice between the risk of believing something false and the risk of not believing something true, and in the absence of convincing evidence we may decide for ourselves which risk we prefer. We may be able to experience God in the future and thereby gain knowledge, yet this may be contingent on our willingness to believe. There are key differences, however. Augustine is a Christian with a neo-Platonic bent, James an empiricist defending the religion of your choice. These differences may be less significant than they first appear. After explaining Augustine and then James I draw out the major points of comparison and contrast and suggest a few reasons their insights might be at least partially synthesized. -/- This is the accepted version of the following article: Mark J. Boone, “Augustine and William James on the Rationality of Faith,” The Heythrop Journal (online edition December 2018), which has been published in final form at [See First URL]. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Wiley Self-Archiving Policy [See Second URL]. (shrink)
Philosophical work on testimony has flourished in recent years. Testimony roughly involves a source affirming or stating something in an attempt to transfer information to one or more persons. It is often said that the topic of testimony has been neglected throughout most of the history of philosophy, aside from contributions by David Hume (1711–1776) and Thomas Reid (1710–1796).1 True as this may be, Hume and Reid aren’t the only ones who deserve a tip of the hat for recognizing the (...) importance of testimony: St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) affirms the place of testimony in human cognition, at least in his later writings. (shrink)
This major work constitutes a significant attempt to provide a detailed and accurate account of the character and effects of Augustine's thought as a whole. It describes the transformation of Greco-Roman philosophy into the version that was to become the most influential in the history of Western thought. Augustine weighed some of the major themes of classical philosophy and ancient culture against the truth he found in the Bible and Catholic tradition, and reformulated these in Christian dress.
Throughout his works, St. Augustine offers at least nine distinct views on the nature of time, at least three of which have remained almost unnoticed in the secondary literature. I first examine each these nine descriptions of time and attempt to diffuse common misinterpretations, especially of the views which seek to identify Augustinian time as consisting of an un-extended point or a distentio animi . Second, I argue that Augustine's primary understanding of time, like that of later medieval (...) scholastics, is that of an accident connected to the changes of created substances. Finally, I show how this interpretation has the benefit of rendering intelligible Augustine's contention that, at the resurrection, motion will still be able to occur, but not time. (shrink)
This book is a systematic study of Descartes' relation to Augustine. It offers a complete reevaluation of Descartes' thought and as such will be of major importance to all historians of medieval, neo-Platonic, or early modern philosophy. Stephen Menn demonstrates that Descartes uses Augustine's central ideas as a point of departure for a critique of medieval Aristotelian physics, which he replaces with a new, mechanistic anti-Aristotelian physics. Special features of the book include a reading of the Meditations, a (...) comprehensive historical and philosophical introduction to Augustine's thought, a detailed account of Plotinus, and a contextualization of Descartes' mature philosophical project which explores both the framework within which it evolved and the early writings, to show how the collapse of the early project drove Descartes to the writings of Augustine. (shrink)
The future state of the redeemed human being in heaven is difficult, if not impossible, to pin down in this life. Nevertheless, Augustine and Anselm speculate on the heavenly life of the human being, proceeding from certain theological premises gathered from Scripture, and their arguments often both mirror and complement one another. Because Anselm and Augustine hold the premise that human beings in heaven are “equal to the angels” (Luke 20:36), our understanding of the heavenly condition of the (...) human can be illuminated by angelology, and vice-versa; each reveals the nature of the other. The paper examines aspects of the positions of Augustine and Anselm on the original state of the angels, their fall, and their confirmation, and then explores the condition of prelapsarian Adam and the transformation of the elect in order to illuminate how these figures conceive the afterlife. The angelologies (and demonologies) of Augustine and Anselm help one to understand the heavenly goal of human life, how the redeemed state of human beings differs from their original condition in Eden, and why there is no redemption for the fallen angels. (shrink)
One way of viewing the organizing structure of the Confessions is to see it as an engagement with various texts at different phases of St. Augustine’s life. In the early books of the Confessions, Augustine describes the disordered state that made him unable to read any text (sacred or profane) properly. Yet following his conversion his entire orientation— not only to texts but also to reality as a whole—changes. This essay attempts to trace the winding paths that lead (...) up to Augustine’s conversion through his various encounters with texts (and individuals) and to examine his struggles both intellectual and spiritual along the way. In the final section, I bring Augustine into conversation with Hans-Georg Gadamer in order to highlight a number of hermeneutical continuities shared by premoderns and postmoderns. After comparing premodern and modern hermeneutical orientations, I conclude that Augustine’s approach to Scripture contrasts sharply with a (strict) modern grammatico-historical biblical methodology, whereas premodern hermeneutics share a number of continuities with Gadamerian and postmodern emphases. Lastly, in light of Gadamer’s famous statement, ‘all of life is hermeneutics’, I suggest that perhaps we could read Augustine’s life as affirming this claim. By taking a close look at Augustine’s story, I will attempt to show how pre-judgments, interpretative traditions and a dynamic/analogical rather than a static/univocal understanding of text (and reality) decisively affected his spiritual and intellectual vision—observations Gadamer would no doubt heartily affirm. (shrink)
This paper weaves together a number of separate strands each relating to an aspect of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. The first strand introduces his radical and incoherent idea of a private object. Wittgenstein in § 258 and related passages is not investigating a perfectly ordinary notion of first person privacy; but his critics have treated his question, whether a private language is possible, solely in terms of their quite separate question of how our ordinary sensation terms can be understood, in a (...) philosophical context, to acquire meaning. Yet it is no part of his intention to demonstrate logically that ordinary sensations are not intrinsically meaningful. This is a tempting yet misleading picture, the picture also expressed through the idea of Augustine’s child who is conceptually articulateprior to learning how to talk. This picture lies behind the born Crusoe, an idea at the centre of the dichotomy between language as essentially shared and essentially shareable, a dichotomy considered here to result from a misconception of two quite separate but related aspects of Wittgenstein’s treatment offollowing a rule. The notion of a misleading picture, in both its pre-theoretical and philosophical aspects, also plays a crucial role in a treatment of Saul Kripke’s well-known “Postscript: Wittgenstein and Other Minds.”. (shrink)
While Michael Walzer's distinction between preemptive and preventive wars offers important categories for current reflection upon the Bush Doctrine and the invasion of Iraq, it is often treated as a modern distinction without antecedent in the classical Christian just war tradition. This paper argues to the contrary that within Augustine's corpus there are passages in which he speaks about the use of violence in situations that we would classify today as preemptive and preventive military action. While I do not (...) claim that Augustine makes an explicit distinction between the two types of war (such would be anachronistic), I will argue that based on examinations of "De libero arbitrio" I.v.11-12 and "De civitate Dei" I.30 Augustine's discussions of hypothetical cases or actual wars in history provide insights helpful for contemporary reflection on preemptive and preventive wars. (shrink)
Purpose. The article is aimed to reveal the essence of the eternal problem, comprehended by Augustine Aurelius in the culture of the early Middle Ages – the focus of the value orientations of the anthropological search. Theoretical basis. Only in the twentieth century, various aspects of Augustine’s creative legacy became the subject of scientific research by many authors. As the direction of their scientific research, the problem of the relationship of reason, faith, knowledge, which has risen sharply in (...) medieval Christian culture, has been considered. The logical outcome of these studies was the assertion that for Augustine Platonism was the main of the philosophical teachings of antiquity; that Augustine, being in line with Christian philosophy, considered the understanding of the aesthetic perfection of the Divine creation of the world as the sense of human life. The analysis of their works gives reason to argue that the definition of the human essence – the Augustine’s anthropological problems, was practically not addressed by representatives of domestic and foreign philosophical thought, and therefore remained undiscovered. Originality. The authors have proved that the definition of the human essence by Augustine is in the correlation with his answers to questions about the nature of the origin of man, about the secrets of being, etc. The ethical ideal of the thinker has been revealed, which is systematically formed in his works. Conclusions. The thesis has been substantiated that the anthropological views of Augustine Aurelius are in correlation with his epistemological judgments. Only by knowing the order of things in the universe, determined by the will of the Lord, we will know also the order of our value orientations. The basis of the philosophical comprehension of the human essence by Augustine Aurelius is a series of questions that constantly arise before mankind – about the nature of its appearance, about the secrets of human existence, the sense of life, death and immortality, etc. The ethical ideal of the thinker is an eternal city that is not based on human nature, it is too volatile, therefore it is only to a small extent subject to research, but on a Divine basis – the Christian idea. (shrink)
The paper has two main parts. First, I introduce the eudaimonistic setting of the epistemological discussions in book one and – very briefly – and make a few points about book two. Second, in an analysis of book three, I show how Augustine relieves a tension which was present between the conclusions of books one and two and how the relief of that tension culminates in a critique of the skeptic’s eudaimonistic claims more so than their epistemological ones.
Central to Augustine's understanding of rightly ordered sexuality is his belief that the pleasure of the act should not be separated from its good (procreation). It is useful to observe that he reasons in a similar way about eating: that the pleasure of eating should not be separated from its good (nourishment). Inadequacies in his understanding of the purpose of food and eating may be instructive when we think about inadequacies in his understanding of sex. If there is more (...) to food than he imagines, the same may be true of sex. Correcting for such inadequacies may also help correct for the (inadvertent) way in which his understanding of the purpose of sex may seem to legitimize technologies of assisted reproduction. (shrink)
A critical essay on St. Augustine's social and political thought. In describing Augustine, the author captures the essence of the man in these words: "Genius he had in full measure... he is the master of the phrase or the sentence that embodies a penetrating insight, a flash of lightning that illuminates the entire sky; he is the rhetorician, the epigrammist, the polemicist, but not the patient, logical systematic philosopher.".
This is my first published paper, written over a decade ago. I can't remember exactly what I argued in it, but I can assure you that the follow up paper "Epistemology and Eudaimonism in Augustine's Contra Academicos" is better.
This essay attempts to provide more evidence for the notions that there actually is a Latin (as opposed to a Greek) Neoplatonic tradition in late antiquity, that this tradition includes a systematic theory of first principles, and that this tradition and theory are influential in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The method of the essay is intended to be novel in that, instead of examining authors or works in a chronological sequence and attempting to isolate doctrines in the traditional (...) manner, it proceeds by identifying certain philosophemes (a concept borrowed from structuralist and post-structuralist thought and here signifying certain minimal units from which philosophical “systems“ can be constructed), and then studying the combination and re-combination of these philosophemes consciously and unconsciously by a selection of important medieval writers. These philosophemes occur in Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram ; Augustine, De Trinitate ; Augustine, De Vera Religione ; Augustine, De Musica ; Macrobius, Commentarius in Somnium Scipionis ; and Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae . The sampling of medieval authors who use these philosophemes includes Eriugena, William of Conches, Thierry of Chartres, and Nicholas of Cusa. (shrink)
Two ancient sages show how even the most salacious fiction can be spiritually beneficial, for it shows our need for virtue and for grace. The first is the Roman philosopher Plutarch. Among ancient moral philosophers who were concerned with the effects of bad behavior in fiction, Plutarch distinguishes himself by showing how we can benefit morally from such stories. To do so we must approach them with a critical mind and from the right perspective; only then will we have the (...) discernment to separate the good from the bad, to learn to embrace and imitate virtue but flee from vice. The second is Augustine. A comparison of his writings with Plutarch’s produces not only a valuable theological extension of Plutarch’s thought, but also a valuable Christian perspective on the arts. According to Augustine, the pursuit of virtue only gets us so far, and on its own it cannot get us to a happy life. In particular, fiction such as this shows us that we need virtue; but it also shows us that we are not virtuous; so it also shows us that we need grace. -/- I first expound the concerns of ancient philosophers with the epic fiction of their own day. Then I consider Plutarch’s advice on how to benefit from bad behavior portrayed in fiction. Next, I apply his advice to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Finally, I show that Galactica illustrates Augustine’s argument in The City of God that happiness cannot be found in this life and how it thus points to our need for grace. -/- Note: The attached file does not have the same pagination as the published article. If you need to cite this article by page number, please consult Volume 2, Issue 1 of Imaginatio et Ratio. (shrink)
This paper examines demonic agency and epistemology in the thought of Augustine. When Augustine claims that demons can “work miracles,” he means this in a specific sense: the actions and intelligence of demons are only miraculous from the standpoint of humans, whose powers of perception and action are limited in relation to those of demons. The character of demons’ bodies and the length of their lives provide abilities beyond what humans possess, but, as natural, created beings, demons adhere (...) to the physical rules of nature. Demons possess neither supernatural powers, nor perfect knowledge. Just as our wonder ceases when we are shown how a magic trick is executed, human astonishment makes way for rational understanding once we comprehend demonic nature. (shrink)
This article is about the conception of truth and signification in Augustine's early philosophical writings. In the first, semantic-linguistic part, the gradual shift of Augustine's position towards the Academics is treated closely. It reveals that Augustine develops a notion of sign which, by integrating elements of Stoic epistemology, is suited to function as a transmitter of true knowledge through linguistic expressions. In the second part, both the ontological structure of signified (sensible) things and Augustine's solution to (...) the apparent tautologies of mathematical truths are examined. Again his notion of sign turns out to be the keystone; this time, however, the natural in contrast to the conventional sign of linguistic expressions. In their complementarity, both parts show how Augustine intensely struggles with and (partially) overcomes the skepticism of the sensible world through his conception of sign and signification. (shrink)
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the work of Augustine of Hippo, both in his own period and in the subsequent history of Western philosophy. Until the thirteenth century, when he may have had a competitor in Thomas Aquinas, he was the most important philosopher of the medieval period. Many of his views, including his theory of the just war, his account of time and eternity, his understanding of the will, his attempted resolution of the problem of (...) evil, and his approach to the relation of faith and reason, have continued to be influential up to the present time. In this 2001 volume of specially-commissioned essays, sixteen scholars provide a wide-ranging and stimulating contribution to our understanding of Augustine, covering all the major areas of his philosophy and theology. (shrink)
Christians have historically differed as to whether the wrongness of an act is to be located in the objective character of the act or in the intention of the agent. By blurring this distinction, Alain Epp Weaver fails to see the real principle of consistency that unites Augustine's analyses of warfare and lying. Likewise, by not appreciating the fact that Augustine analyzes the wrongness of the act in terms of intention whereas Yoder analyzes its wrongness in terms of (...) its objective character, Weaver proposes a conversation between two figures who lack the framework of shared assumptions that makes engagement in conversation possible. (shrink)
Among the various approaches to the question of the nature of the mind , Augustine’s philosophical arguments for the existence of an incorporeal and spiritual substance in man and against materialism are here thoroughly examined on their merits as a source of insight for contemporary discussion. This book, originally published in 1986, employs Augustine’s method of introspection, and argues that, as a philosopher, Augustine can teach the modern mind how to detect the reality of such a spiritual (...) subject in and through basic human acts and faculties, such as imagination, memory, knowledge, free-will and self-knowledge. It presents a critical dialogue with various materialistic anthropologies directly addressed by Augustine himself, or those which have arisen at later periods, including epiphenomenalism, mind-brain identity theory, Marxism and others. (shrink)
Pacifism is routinely criticized as sectarian, incoherent, and preoccupied with moral purity at the expense of responsibility. The author contends that the pacifism of John Howard Yoder is vulnerable to none of these charges and defends this claim by establishing parallels between Yoder's analysis of killing and Augustine's analysis of lying. Although, within the terms of his own argument, Augustine's rejection of all lying as unjust is consistent with his condoning of some killing as just, the author shows (...) that given a different conception of the defining characteristic of God , Augustine's theological argument against lying would become an argument against violence. The author therefore suggests that Yoder's rejection of killing is no more sectarian, incoherent, or irresponsible than Augustine's rejection of lying. (shrink)
John Milbank's case against secular reason draws much of its authority and force from Augustine's critique of pagan virtue. "Theology and Social Theory" could be characterized, without too much insult to either Augustine or Milbank, as a postmodern "City of God". Modern preoccupations with secular virtues, marketplace values, and sociological bottom-lines are likened there to classically pagan preoccupations with the virtues of self-conquest and conquest over others. Against both modern and antique "ontological violence" (where 'to be' is 'to (...) be antagonistic'), Milbank advances an Augustinian hope for the peace that is both beyond and prior to the peace of (temporarily) repressed antagonism. One aim of this essay is to consider whether virtues conceived out of such a hope are really all that different from the virtues they are taken to replace. I take a critical look at Augustine's critique of pagan virtue, Milbank's appropriation of that critique, the applicability of that critique to Plato, and the polemical value of Augustine's notion of original sin. I end up being skeptical of the notion of a peculiarly Christian way to turn antagonistically conceived virtues into love, but I am not unsympathetic to Milbank's concerns about a loveless and self-complacent secularity. (shrink)
Many contemporary scholars debate whether war should be conceived as a relative evil or a morally neutral act. The works of Augustine may offer new ways of thinking through the categories of this debate. In an early period, Augustine develops the distinction between evil done and evil suffered. Augustine's early treatments of war locate the saint as detached sage doing only good, and immune from evil suffered. In a middle period, he develops a richer picture of the (...) evil suffered on the occasion of the loss of historical goods but fails to develop the implications of this picture as concerns war. Finally, without abandoning emphasis on the avoidance of doing evil, Augustine comes to highlight how evil suffered in war prevents us from speaking simply of good wars. Augustine's ability to hold together senses of evil and their moral significance provides a useful avenue for new thought on this issue. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the figure of Alexander the Great in Augustine's City of God. It argues that Alexander is used to as a negative exemplar, showing the short coming of Roman virtue. It is easier for Augustine's interlocutors to recognize the flaws in Alexander (a non-Roman) than to recognize flaws in Roman heroes. However, once the flaws in Alexander are identified, the flaws in Rome are easier to discern.
Augustine famously defends the justice of killing in certain public contexts such as just wars. He also claims that private citizens who intentionally kill are guilty of murder, regardless of their reasons. Just as famously, Augustine seems to prohibit lying categorically. Analyzing these features of his thought and their connections, I argue that Augustine is best understood as endorsing the justice of lying in certain public contexts, even though he does not explicitly do so. Specifically, I show (...) that parallels between his treatments of killing and lying along with his “agent (auctor)–instrument (minister)” distinction, in which God is the true agent or “author” of certain acts and humans are merely God's instruments, together imply that he would regard certain instances of public lying as permissible and even obligatory. I buttress my argument by examining several key but neglected passages and by responding to various objections and rival interpretations. Throughout, I challenge standard interpretations of Augustine's ethics of killing and lying and seek to deepen our overall understanding of these dimensions of his thought. In so doing, I contribute to ongoing discussions of public and private lying and to the task of relating Augustine's thought to contemporary debate and deliberation on war, killing, and lying. (shrink)
The Confessions recounts Augustine 's successful search for God. But Augustine worries that one cannot search for God if one does not already know God. That version of the paradox of inquiry dominates and structures Confessions 1–10. I draw connections between the dramatic opening lines of book 1 and the climactic discussion in book 10.26–38 and argue that the latter discussion contains Augustine 's resolution of the paradox of inquiry as it applies to the special case of (...) searching for God. I claim that he develops a model, relying on the universal human experience of joy and truth, that identifies a starting point that is common to all human beings, is sufficient for guiding a successful search for God, and avoids commitment to recollection of experiences prior to birth. The model is crucial to Augustine 's rejection of traditional Platonist views about recollection. (shrink)
Eric Gregory's Politics and the Order of Love takes up an audacious project: enlisting Saint Augustine in order to "help imagine a better liberalism." This article first provides a summary of Gregory's argument, focusing on his emphasis on love as a "motivation" for neighborly care, and hence democratic participation. This involves tracing the theme of motivation in the book, which is tied to his articulation of liberal perfectionism and an emphasis on civic virtue. In conclusion I raise the question (...) of whether his project has ignored a key aspect of Augustine's account of love, namely, the role of the Holy Spirit, thereby demarcating the limits of Gregory's "rational reconstruction" of Augustine. (shrink)
The article focuses on Jamblichus’ concept of “nothingness” in comparison to Augustine’s humility as turning-point and conditions for the soul’s ascent to the divine and/or for salvation. It claims that both authors respond to specific teachings of Porphyry, who thus appears as something like a common enemy, and can help explain certain similarities between the Hellenic theurgist and the Catholic bishop, notwithstanding other profound differences between their philosophical views on the human person and its relation to the divine.