Augustine on Human Nature

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  • Human nature
    • Augustine's life and influences
      • Born in 354 AD in North Africa (part of the Roman Empire)
      • Mother: Monica, a devout Christian. Father: a pagan, hostile towards Christianity
      • Well educated: taught in Carthage
      • Followed the teachings of the Manichees as a young man
        • Dualist: God of light and God of darkness. The world is engaged in a cosmic battle between good (spiritual world of light) and bad (material world of darkness)
        • Humans have 2 souls: one good one evil, which pull in different directions
          • We are naturally good, but are trapped in the kingdom of darkness due to the appetites of the body
      • Later followed neo-Platonism
      • Yet felt unsatisfied - doubted the ability of human reason to find truth and goodness alone
      • Converted to Christianity aged 32: intellectual (gradual) conversion
        • Gave up his mistress
        • Became a priest then a bishop
        • Didn't share Constantine's religious tolerance
          • Ordered the destruction of non-Christian places of worship
          • Persecuted heretics as those who had a different way of understanding Christianity
    • Catechism of the Catholic Church on human nature
      • The divine image of God is present in every man
        • "Likeness to God" Genesis 1:27
      • 1703: "spiritual and immortal soul"... "the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake"
        • "In God's image" versus "image of God" Genesis 1:27
      • 1704: participates in the power of the divine spirit = capable of understanding the order of things as established by God
        • Aquinas' Natural Law: morality via the natural world
      • By free will, he is capable of directing himself towards good; i.e. being Christian
      • Humans were created good
        • "And it was very good" Genesis 1:32
    • Aristotle on human nature
      • Recognised an animal-human similarity
        • Both occupy their rightful place on the "Chain of Being" in the Realm of Becoming
      • Developed by Neo-Platonists
    • Augustine on human nature
      • Interpreted the image of God in terms of our ability to reason - distinguishes us from animals
      • Humans have a God-given ability to relate to God
      • Dignity is related to our rational soul
        • Aquinas: free will is in important part of our dignity
      • The Fall: Genesis 3
        • Pre-Fall
          • Humans enjoyed a time of harmony
            • Human body, Will and reason were in complete co-operation with each other
          • Adam and Eve had been given duties and were obedient until the Fall
            • Harmony is expressed in the complete obedience of Adam and Eve and their duties to other living creatures
              • Humans enjoyed a time of harmony
                • Human body, Will and reason were in complete co-operation with each other
            • Need obedience to have a functioning society
          • Concordia
            • Human friendship
              • Adam and Eve lived in a spirit of friendship
                • Had a sexual relationship (obedience to "be fruitful and multiply) but governed by love not lust
            • Humans are naturally social creatures
          • No concept or understanding of sin
          • Free will
            • One of the chief characteristics of being made in God's image
            • Had to be free to obey God's commands
          • Caritas
            • Generous love for others
              • Displayed through each of the "four cardinal virtues" devised by Plato
            • The mark of perfect relationships with God and others
        • Post Fall
          • Cupiditas
            • Selfish love: a love of worldly things and selfish desires
              • Represents an error of will
                • Choosing this path is entirely our responsibility
          • Only through the grace of God can our now corrupt relationships be restored
            • Follow Jesus
          • Human sin and human society
            • Original sin: doctrine claiming that everyone is born sinful
              • We're all born with an inbuilt urge to disobey God and do bad
                • Inherited from Adam
                  • "Seminally present in the loins of Adam"
              • Origins lie in a sense of inaqequacy and weakness
              • Blame lies in Adam and Eve
            • Humanity as a messa peccati
              • Humans are born as "one lump of sin"without redeeming qualities. However hard humans try they can't lead pure lives nor redeem themselves
              • Contradicted by Pelagius
                • Argued we do not have to follow Adam's example
            • Impact of original sin on human society
              • Post Fall: a forceful political authority is needed to control people's sinful natures and keep everyone in check
                • For Augustine, contributing to a well ordered society is a necessity (to avoid chaos), not a virtue (contrast with Aquinas)
        • Key quotations
          • "Or you will die": death not present pre-Fall
          • "The eyes of both of them were opened": change
          • "Cursed are you"
          • "Your desire will be for your husband"
    • Augustine on men, women and sexuality
      • Concupiscence
        • Uncontrollable desire for physical pleasures and material things
        • Augustine primarily meant sexual desires, but other appetites can apply e.g. food, jealousy
      • Augustine himself ensured he didn't gossip, and in order to keep himself chaste didn't let any women into his own home - even his own sister
      • Rejected that women are more evil than men, or weaker, because of Eve's sin
        • Both made in imago Dei, which we share equally in
          • Both have the rational nature of forming a loving relationship with God
          • A women is not inferior, but is passive
            • Should take on roles in the home, not decision making
              • Told Edicia to wait until her husband agreed to renounce her physical pelasures

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