- Slides: 22
Must society be grounded in religion? St Augustine, City of God PHIL 1003, 2008 -09
Overview • Communitarianism of – Plato: community of women, children, property – Aristotle: polis – Augustine: res publica and City of God • They believe the whole—the community— is more than the sum of the parts • Implications for today?
Who was St Augustine? • • b. 354 -d. 430 C. E. N. Africa Christian mother, pagan father 373: adopts Manichean religion 375 -87: teacher of rhetoric 387: conversion to Christianity 388 begins contemplative life 391: establishes monastery, ordination to priesthood • 395: Bishop of Hippo • 397: Confessions published • A “father of the Church”; doctrine of original sin
Confessions Autobiography Statement of faith Shows power of God to convert sinners
Confessions: Pre-Christian Phase • “I went to Carthage, where I found myself in the midst of a hissing cauldron of lust…. ” (Confs. , Bk III. 1). • “…I was also studying for the law. Such ambition was held to be honourable and I determined to succeed in it. The more unscrupulous I was, the greater my reputation was likely to be…” (Confs. , Bk III. 3). • “…when I first read the Scriptures…they seemed quite unworthy of comparison with the stately prose of Cicero” (Confs. , Bk III. 5).
Manicheanism • • Proscribed (forbidden) sect Dualist materialism Eclectic: included Christianity and other religions Based on false science, including astronomy and astrology (Confs. , Bk V. 3 -7) • Basic tenets – evil and good are physical substances – body is corrupt; – Elect eat only vegetables filled with light in order to purify their bodies.
Platonism • Cicero’s Hortensius gave A. desire for “wisdom of eternal truth”; • Yet he still “could imagine no kind of substance except such as is normally seen by the eye” (Confs. , Bk VII. 1); • “books of the Platonists” opened him to the supersensible realm (Ideas, Forms) (Confs. , Bk VII. 9). • Key to his acceptance of Christianity: – God is immaterial, incorruptible (like the Forms); this is true reality – Good and evil are not embodied as Manichees believed.
Key theological ideas • Problem of evil: where does it come from? – Manichean answer: from corrupt physical elements: the body, certain foods – Christian (Aug. ) answer: from misuse of free will [but why do we misuse it? !] • God is good and everything in us that is good comes from God (Confs. , Bk I. 20) • Doctrine of original sin—even babies would sin if they could (Confs. , Bk I. 7)
City of God A reply to the pagans
The pagan case against Christianity • The Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the 3 rd century C. E. • Edict of Milan made Christianity legal (but not official) in 313 C. E. • Constantine gave buildings, lands and privileges to the Church; baptized on his death bed (337 C. E. ) • Christianity spread widely in the army and cities • 391 Christianity becomes state religion • Pagans claimed that Christianity destroyed Rome.
Augustine’s reply to the pagans • Roman religion was polytheist; Christianity is monotheist; • First charge: Roman gods did not assure their worshippers’ morals • E. g. Obscene theatricals violate universal notion of respect for parents (2. 4) • Poets not allowed to slander men, but cast aspersions on the gods (2. 14) • Cites Plato’s expulsion of poets from his city in speech (2. 14)
Augustine’s reply, cont. • Romans’ morals corrupted for centuries; • Republic (BCE) supposed to be moral than the Empire; • But even late Republic corrupt (1 st cent. BCE); • Pagans--Sallust, Cicero—admit this themselves; • So Roman gods must be to blame; • Yet pagans blame Christianity for a moral decline that pre-dates Christianity (2. 19)!
Augustine’s reply, cont. • Cicero considers whether republic/city requires justice; • “Republic” = “the affair of a people” (res publica, the “public thing”); • A “people” = not just any grouping; • But “a fellowship united through a consensus concerning right and a sharing of advantage” (2. 21); – Like Aristotle’s polis!
Augustine claims that on this definition, Rome was never a republic in the true sense.
Why? • “…the republic never existed because true justice was never present in it”; • “However…a certain sort of republic did exist, and it was directed better by the earlier Romans than by the later ones”; • Because “true justice does not exist except in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ” (2. 21, p. 21).
What is true justice? • “The iniquitous institutions of human beings must not be said or thought to exist by right”; • “…justice is that virtue which distributes to everyone his due. What sort of justice is it, then, that takes a man away from the true God and subjects him to unclean demons? ” • “…when a man does not serve God, what in him can…belong to justice? . . . the soul can in no way justly rule the body, or human reason the vices” (19. 21).
Shared advantage • “…”there is no advantage to any who live impiously, as do all who do not serve God” (19. 21). • “…the Romans have up to this point served evil and impure demons…” – e. g. Romans’ animal sacrifices were demonic • “We ourselves—his city—are the best and most radiant sacrifice” (19. 23).
Summation “…justice exists when the one and supreme God rules his obedient city according to his grace” (19. 23): – Soul commands body – Reason commands vices (Aristotelian/Platonic).
Bishop Bossuet Why it is better for a state to be pagan than atheist
Bishop Bossuet, 17 th century • Principles of religion even in pagan states – Athenians “adored [God] unknowingly” (193) – “tradition of divinity and sacrifice” (192) • Certain principles allow for stability of pagan states – E. g. “sanctity of the oath” (193) guarantees treaties, contracts, promises; makes business possible. • Oath “establishes the greatest possible security among men” (194); • Does not have to be sworn by the one true God, but only by the God one recognizes (194).
Question • According to Book II, "true justice does not exist except in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ”; • In Book XIX, "when not serving God, the soul can in no way justly rule the body, or human reason the vices. . . there is not any justice in such a man…. “ • In modern societies, some cities/peoples are grounded in religion while some are not. • Does this mean that some cities/peoples have no true justice? • Do you agree that cities/people should be religious in order to be moral?
Further Questions • What are some examples of modern societies that subscribe to Augustine’s views? • Do you agree with Augustine that society should have a moral basis? • Does the moral basis have to be religious in character? • Or could it have another basis?