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Title: Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine
Authors: Clair, Joseph
Advisors: Gregory, Eric S.
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Augustine of Hippo
temporal and eternal goods
the order of love
Subjects: Religion
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation explores Augustine's social and political ethics as they appear in a neglected set of illuminating texts: his letters and sermons. The colorful, personal, and practical details found in these writings provide a window into Augustine's moral reasoning not available in his more theoretical treatises. The study focuses on letters and sermons that contain concrete advice on how to prioritize goods in cases of conflict - where an individual must weigh lower and higher goods and prefer the higher - and cases in which an individual's office (e.g. head of household, political magistrate, military commander) and role-specific obligations inform Augustine's advice. The study situates Augustine's classification of goods within the ancient philosophical debate over virtue, goods, and happiness. It also argues that Augustine's theory of goods is unintelligible apart from his adaptation of the Stoic and Peripatetic doctrine of social oikeiōsis, or "social appropriation." This philosophical concept contains the idea that all temporal goods are ultimately necessary for the sake of friendship. The good of friendship unfolds into a series of concentric circles, extending out from the self to the household, political community, and, ultimately, all other human beings and God. Augustine's view of social oikeiōsis involves a conception of society as an integrated complex of roles and practices, and of correspondent virtues. Recognizing this illuminates the tight connection that he posits between one's office and one's responsibility for tending particular temporal goods. A cluster of temporal goods - marriage and family life, public office, and wealth - appears throughout Augustine's letters and sermons, and forms the topics of the central chapters of the study. The dissertation concludes with an examination of Augustine's advice on obtaining eternal goods - the virtues and goods of friendship as they will exist in eternity. Augustine's letters and sermons reveal him bringing his moral-psychological acumen to bear on the problems and decisions faced by his correspondents, and by members of his congregation. These genres provide the right vehicle, and concrete cases provide the right occasions, for his most original and searching reflections on the moral life.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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