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We should politely decline to comply and willingly suffer the consequences; Augustine never suggests more than this. He is clear that all political power—evens the power of wicked emperors like Nero—comes from God. Subjects cannot remove what they have not conferred. Augustine is also dear that bad rulers are our just punishment. If the emperor harms us or persecutes us, he does not cease to be our rightful ruler. If he commands us to worship false gods, we must decline to obey not because we do not acknowledge his authority, but because we are all, including the emperor, bound to acknowledge an authority higher than his.

Obedience and refusal both arise out of an obligation that is not political, but religious. To sum up, if any one man stands between this era and the modern world, it is Augustine.


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There is a good reason for his influence, not only on Western Catholicism, but also even more on Luther, Calvin and the entire Protestant world. Within his own experience, Augustine was able to stand between several pairs of worlds, particularly the spiritual and the worldly. His youth was spent carelessly, or sometimes almost carefully, doing what he should not and absorbing gnostic Manichaeism.

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Political peace is thus morally neutral insofar as it is a goal common to Christians and non-Christians. Augustine criticizes Cicero because he included justice in his definition of the state Cicero, De re publica 1. The early Roman Empire, which strove for glory, was more tolerable than the Oriental empires that were driven by naked lust for power; the best imaginable goal pursued by an earthly society would be perfect earthly peace ib. But the doctrine of the two cities deliberately precludes any promotion of the emperor or the empire to a providential and quasi-sacred rank.

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Not even Christians in power will be able to overcome the inherent wretchedness of fallen humanity De civitate dei Like the vast majority of ancient Christian theologians, Augustine has little or no interest in social reform. Slavery, meaning unnatural domination of humans over humans, is a characteristic stain of postlapsarian human life and, at the same time, an evil that is put to good effects when it secures social order ib. War results from sin and is the privileged means of satisfying lust for power ib.

Nevertheless, Augustine wrote a letter to refute the claim that Christianity advocated a politically impracticable pacifism Letter His Christian reinterpretation of the traditional Roman Just War Theory should be read in the framework of his general theory of virtue and peace Holmes To be truly just according to Augustinian standards, a war would have to be waged for the benefit of the adversary and without any vindictiveness, in short, out of love of neighbor, which, in a fallen world, seems utopian Letter Wars may however be relatively just if they are defensive and properly declared cf.

Cicero, De officiis 1. Outright misogyny is rare in Augustine, but he lived in a society and worked from a tradition—both Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian—that took the natural and social subordination of women to men largely for granted cf. Augustine interprets the Genesis tale of the creation of woman Genesis —22 to mean that, Eve having been created as a helper to Adam and for the sake of reproduction, she was subordinate to him already in paradise De Genesi ad litteram 6. This situation is exacerbated by the Fall; under the conditions of fallen humankind, marriage is, for the wives, a kind of slavery that they should accept with obedience and humility as Monnica did; cf.

Confessiones 9.

Clark In his early anti-Manichean exegesis of Genesis, he allegorizes man as the rational and woman as the non-rational, appetitive parts of the soul De Genesi contra Manichaeos 2. De vera religione 78; De Genesi ad litteram 8. By implication, woman is an image of God qua human being, but not qua woman. The practice enjoined by Paul is meant to signify this difference De trinitate This exegesis safeguards the godlikeness of woman against a widespread patristic consensus and, it appears, against Paul himself, but at the same time defends social inequality and even endows it with metaphysical and religious significance Stark a.

Clark : his mother, Monnica her name appears only in Confessiones 9. In the dialogues of Cassiciacum, Monnica represents a philosophical way of life based on the natural intuitions of reason and on an unshakable Christian faith together with a life according to the precepts of Christian morality De beata vita 10; De ordine 1.

Augustine represents her influence on his religious life as pervasive from his earliest years onwards and even compares her to the Mother Church Confessiones 1.

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She embodies ideal Christian love of the neighbor see 7. With this she however combines, especially in the earlier books, more mundane motives, e. Like the other human influences on Augustine reported in the Confessiones , she is used by God as an instrument of his grace in a way she neither foresees nor wills.

True to the deliberately counter-intuitive and often provocative procedure of the Confessiones , he singles out an emotion that, then as now, most people would have easily understood but which he nevertheless interprets as a mark of his sinful state because it resulted from the loss of a female body he had, in a kind of mutual sexual exploitation, enjoyed for the sake of pleasure Confessiones 4. For this disobedience they, and all humankind with them, were punished with the disobedience of their own selves, i.

The inability of human beings to control their sexual desires and even their sexual organs witness the shameful experiences of involuntary male erection or of impotence: De civitate dei But he thought that Adam and Eve had been able to control their sexual organs voluntarily so as to limit their use to the natural purpose of procreation; in paradise, there had been sexuality but no concupiscence De civitate dei Original sin had destroyed this ideal state, and since then sexual concupiscence is an inevitable concomitant of procreation—an evil that may be put to good use in legitimate marriage, where the purpose of sexual intercourse is the procreation of children rather than bodily pleasure De nuptiis et concupiscentia 1.

In De Genesi ad litteram , in the Confessiones and, to a lesser extent, in De civitate dei Augustine presents his exegesis in a questioning manner and keeps the results open to revision. The reason is that, according to the hermeneutics developed especially in bk. Knuuttila —; Mayer —, each with references : God does not create in time but creates time together with changeable being while resting in timeless eternity himself Confessiones Creation occurs instantaneously; the seven days of creation are not to be taken literally but are a didactic means to make plain the intrinsic order of reality Confessiones Like the demiurge in the Timaeus , God creates out of goodness, i.

As the causality of the Trinity makes itself felt everywhere in creation, Augustine likes to describe created beings in their relation to the divine cause in a triadic manner, using, e. Changeable being is not generated from God which, according to the Nicene Creed, is true only of the Son but created out of nothing, a fact that partly accounts for its susceptibility for evil. Incorporeal and purely intellectual beings, i. Corporeal being is created when the Forms or rational principles contained in God and contemplated by the angels are even further externalized so as to inform not only intelligible but also physical matter De Genesi ad litteram 2.

Whereas his accounts outside the Confessiones center on cosmic or physical time, he here focuses on how we experience time from a first-person perspective and what it means for us and our relationship to ourselves and to God to exist temporally. In this sense, the purpose of the book is ethical rather than cosmological.

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This is so because time is present to us in the form of our present memory of the past, our present attention to the present and our present expectation of the future ib. The phenomenal proof of this claim is the experience of measuring time by comparing remembered or expected portions of time to each other or of repeating a poem we know by heart, when, as we proceed, the words traverse our attention the present , passing from expectation the future to memory the past; ib.

We would thus be unable to relate past, present and future events, to remember the history of our own lives and even to be aware of our personal identity if our being in time was not divided into memory, attention and expectation and, at the same time, unified by the connectedness and the simultaneous presence of these. Although he was soon accepted as a theological authority and consensus with him was regarded as a standard of orthodoxy throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, his views—or more precisely, the right way of interpreting them—continued to trigger controversies.

The philosophical discourse of early scholasticism 11 th —12 th centuries largely centered on Augustinian themes. With the growing influence of Aristotle from the thirteenth century onwards, Augustine came to be interpreted in Aristotelian terms that had largely been unknown to himself. Medieval political Augustinianism projected the conflict of the Two Cities onto the Church and the State.

Martin Luther — agrees with Augustine on the absolute gratuitousness of grace but does not follow the Augustinian and scholastic ideal of intellectus fidei and makes faith in the Gospel the decisive condition of salvation. In his debate with Erasmus on free will, he voices a quite Augustinian pessimism about human freedom.

The variety of Protestantism that was inaugurated by Jean Calvin — accepts double predestination. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the leading philosophers of Enlightenment, German Idealism and Romanticism showed little interest in Augustine, and even, in the case of Nietzsche, outright contempt.

He remained, however, an important figure in Neoscholasticism or Neothomism, a philosophical reaction of Catholic philosophers against Enlightenment and Idealism which continued to inform Catholic theological scholarship on Augustine till the s and beyond. Like their medieval predecessors, modern and postmodern appropriations of Augustine are selective and inevitably conditioned by contemporary concerns, sometimes resulting in secularized readings. Nevertheless, the richness of his thought continues to fascinate readers. Almost all the books, the complete letters and a considerable portion of the sermons have been edited in the series.

The most famous works of Augustine, Confessiones and De civitate dei , have often been translated in various modern languages, but for many of the other works only dated translations or none at all are available. A nearly complete modern translation is:. The last complete translations of Augustine into French date from the nineteenth century. The—still incomplete—standard translation series is:. Here is a selection:.

Christian theology, philosophy and divine: illumination emotion: in the Christian tradition ethics: virtue free will free will: divine foreknowledge and medieval philosophy moral responsibility Neoplatonism Plotinus political philosophy: ancient Porphyry skepticism: ancient Stoicism. Saint Augustine First published Wed Sep 25, Life 2.

Work 3. Augustine and Philosophy 4. Theory of Knowledge 5. Anthropology: God and the Soul; Soul and Body 6. Ethics 7. History and Political Philosophy 9. Gender, Women, and Sexuality Creation and Time Gender, Women, and Sexuality Outright misogyny is rare in Augustine, but he lived in a society and worked from a tradition—both Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian—that took the natural and social subordination of women to men largely for granted cf.

New critical editions are continually being prepared and older ones replaced. A complete work list is also found in Fuhrer a: — Translations The most famous works of Augustine, Confessiones and De civitate dei , have often been translated in various modern languages, but for many of the other works only dated translations or none at all are available.

Understanding Submission and Obedience