Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Jimmy Chan: Living with Happiness in a Troubled World? A Critical Exploration of Augustine's Reception of Stoic Emotions in De civitate Dei

Augustine’s discussion on emotions in De civitate Dei is the most extended one in Late Antiquity. There Augustine shows an ambivalent reception of the Stoic theory of the emotions. On one hand, he adopts Stoic terminology for emotions (perturbationes) and makes use of the fourfold Stoic categorization of emotions —delight (laetitia), distress (aegritudo/dolor), desire (libido/cupiditas/appetitus), fear (metus) — in his arguments. On the other hand, he rejects the Stoic notion of apatheia, and yet acknowledges their idea of eupatheia. While research exists on the subject of Augustine and Stoic emotions, a synergistic exploration of Augustine’s reception of the Stoic ideas of emotions based on textual, contextual and theological analyses, is apparently lacking. The aim of this paper is twofold: (1) to show how the aforementioned ‘ambivalence’ reveals Augustine’s rhetorical purpose to persuade his readers on his theology of sins and the human soul, and (2) to explore why Augustine’s exposition of emotions is important for his overall argument on happiness and God’s providence. For the former, textual analysis of Augustine’s use of words for Stoic emotions will be analyzed. For the latter, socio-rhetorical analysis will be used to reveal how Augustine’s extended treatment of emotions is relevant to the ‘sitz-im-leben’ of De civitate Dei. Overall, I intend to show that Augustine, while maintaining that true happiness cannot be attained in this troubled world, asserts that right-ordered emotions are indispensable for one to live with temporal happiness and to seek eternal happiness.

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