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Augustine - Dr Chris West Nature of Politics Spring 2009...

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Augustine Lecture In the Roman world, politics becomes abstract, removed from the direct, personal experience of the polis If political theory is about establishing agreement, is such agreement possible on an imperial scope, with such immense diversity? [remember Aristotle on size and agreement] What does it mean to be a citizen of Rome? Of the universe? There is nothing greater than Rome itself in the psychological frontier Alexandrine and Roman empires as backdrop Hellenistic influence: Stoics virtue for virtue), Epicureans (virtue for pleasure), neo-Platonism blends Plato and Aristotle: retains platonic hierarchy of soul/city (Cicero) Church fathers and Christianity: use Hellenistic terms to explain Christian doctrine; and identify Christianity with and distinguish it from “pagan” philosophy. Constantinian state established Augustine’s bio, Augustine was born in North Africa, then a province of the Roman Empire, in 354 AD. He became a teacher of rhetoric, was converted to a religious life (Ambrose of Milan), and became bishop of Hippo in 395. His writings have had a great influence on Christian thought. This is especially true of his writings on grace, against Pelagius. Pelagius, a popular preacher, taught that everyone could live a good life if they wanted to -- intending this as encouragement to good living. Dr. Chris West Nature of Politics Spring 2009 February 16, 2009 1
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Augustine answered that no one can live a good life, or even want to, without special help from God which he does not always give. God's help is a "grace" -- that is, it cannot be earned or deserved, but is given gratuitously, and only to "the elect" (chosen), i.e., those to whom God has chosen from eternity (predestined) to give it. Augustine also elaborated the doctrine of Original Sin, i.e., that all human beings are subject to punishment because of Adam's sin. The punishment consists in ignorance and weakness of will which result in further sins which deserve eternal punishment -- unless God gives grace. General overview of Augustine’s Political thought Politics, for St. Augustine, is the result of the Fall. That is, agreeing with Aristotle at the end of <The Ethics,> Augustine held that coercive government ought not to exist, but did so because of the actual condition of man. This condition was not ultimately rooted in nature or in the polis, but in the human will. Hence, evil will be operative no matter in what sort of actual city man lives. That is, good men can be found in the worst regimes and bad men in the best. St.
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