Friday, 3 April 2015

Peter Busch: Augustine's Limited Dialogue with the Philosophers in City of God XIX

In this paper I investigate the relationship between Augustine and the political philosophers, as presented in City of God, Book XIX. That relationship is, on its face, highly oppositional, as Augustine devotes the entire text to challenging their view of happiness and the good. As Robert Dodaro has shown, however, it would be a mistake to leave it at that, for Augustine draws greatly on Cicero and others for his teachings on citizenship and statesmanship. Some (including myself) have even ventured to use the word "dialectical" to describe that relationship. I would now argue, however, that careful distinctions can and must be drawn. Augustine does indeed mean to provide reasons that will persuade those who admire philosophy and are morally serious about citizenship; such reasons will be all the more effectual when drawn from the philosophic tradition itself. That said, Augustine is exhorting his readers to the faithful practice of justice, and that requires him ultimately to part company with those who believe only what they see.

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