Augustine on Human Nature

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  • Created on: 29-03-14 15:24
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  • Human Nature
    • The Paradox
      • Between people who have ruled wisely and generously, and murderers for example
      • People with optimistic view say humans only behave badly due to poor education or psychological deprivation
      • Others say humans are egocentric and violent as these are required for survival
      • Thomas Hobbes
        • The natural state of humans is 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'
        • Only through the power of reason can we agree by making contracts not to kill or steal but to create civilised communities
          • Pessimistic view of human nature
            • Without adult reason, children become murderous savages, survival of the strongest
            • Still suppose we can be better than base instincts
            • Driven by animal desires but can make rational decisions, sympathise and co-operate with each other
              • Tension between these characteristics determine human nature
      • William Golding 'Lord of the Flies'
        • Without adult reason, children become murderous savages, survival of the strongest
    • Weakness of Will
      • Akrasia
        • I think I know what is in my best interest yet do something different which turns out not to be for the best
          • Therefore, can we not control our will through reason or do we always will for the best but unconsciously?
      • Plato's Protagoras, Socrates says there's no such thing as Akrasia
        • Akrasia
          • I think I know what is in my best interest yet do something different which turns out not to be for the best
            • Therefore, can we not control our will through reason or do we always will for the best but unconsciously?
        • We do what really, deep down, gives us pleasure. Evaluative hedonism
          • People choose pleasure over alternatives, reason calculates short and long-term happiness
          • Supports psychological hedonism - people will always act for most happiness
            • Aristotle's variation
              • We don't know all the facts so might act in what we think is best way, but due to ignorance it turns out not to be for the best
      • Motivated by deeper desires means not fully in control?
        • If reason indicates what I choose is not my best interests, am I making a genuine free choice?
          • Our wills are weak and we cannot always control them
            • For Christians, weakness of will is a universal condition of being human
      • Augustine concluded through life experiences and reflection on St Paul's letters that weakness of will is the defining characteristic of human nature
        • Paradox is not just that we are weak willed but the weakness of will is the reason for Jesus Christ
        • Augustine
          • Before the Fall
            • Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked
              • Until the Fall, humans lived in harmony expressed in complete obedience of Adam and Eve to God and in duties to other creatures
                • Human will, body and reason in complete co-operation
            • The Will as Love
              • Will is God-given
                • Created ex-nihilo with humans
                  • Can choose good or evil and determines kind of people we are
              • Will is synonymous with love
                • If driven by cupiditas it diminishes us as humans
                • If driven by caritas it completes us as humans when we will our neighbours good by expressing the divine love of God for his creation
            • Sex and Friendship
              • Adam and Eve were married in paradise as friends and participated equally and mutually in the friendliness of God
                • Theologians of the time argued marriage occurred after the Fall to control lust
                • 'Be fruitful and multiply' so friendship included reproduction AND pleasure of sex
                  • BUT sex is always secondary to friendship
                    • Friendship is the highest expression of human existence
                  • Sex when required occurred without lust and an erection could be summoned by Adam as the will was so perfectly tuned to the body
          • After the Fall
            • The reason for Adam's disobedience originates in human perversity and pride and was entirely voluntary
              • Divided Will
                • The distorted will had now become divided
                  • Rational enough to kow what is good but the Fall meant what it willed was often motivated by desire not good
                    • Paul in letter to Romans: I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate
                    • Augustine describes the will as half wounded and divided, ingrained out of habit
                      • Will is at war with itself and unable to obey own orders
            • Concupiscence
              • Man no longer able to control libido and desiring aspect of soul dominated by concupiscence
                • Disagreed with Manichean argument and Platonic notions that body is sinful, it cannot be as it was created to be good by God
                  • Will weak and divided so concupiscence dominates human existence, hence body craves money, power, food and sexual intercourse above all
                    • Concupiscence painfully experienced in friendships - jealousy, betrayal and death threaten to cause pain and undermine true friendship
                      • We invest so heavily in friendships that we're distracted from loving God
            • Original Sin
              • 'Through Adam all have fallen' St Paul
                • Other theologians took this to describe inadequacies all humans are prone to
                • Augustine made this sin an ontological condition of human existence, not a description of our behaviour on occasions
              • Sin of Adam is passed on through every generation by each sexual act as this is tainted by concupiscence
            • Free Will
              • On Free Will by Augustine
                • Book1 he argued platonic view that using reason and aspiring to the Good by living virtuous life was possible through free will
                • Books 2 and 3 concluded that sex drive, ignorance and death were punishments for human rebellion which no amount of human reasoning could overcome
                  • Sin is involuntary
            • Men and Women's Natures
              • 'So God created man in his own image... male and female he created them' Genesis
              • Rejected Philo of Alexander's interpretation of Genesis who blamed Adam's sin on Eve's evil nature
                • Said men and women were created equal but different
                  • Created imago dei, so share equally in God's rational nature
                    • Difference in role determined by their bodies and roles in society
                      • Man active in sex so exercises deliberative rational aspect of soul to rule over irrational animal world, active in public sphere and obedient to God
                      • Women passive in sex so homemaker, obeys husband and is child bearer. Uses deliberative reason in household as mother and housewife
                        • St Paul 'woman has been made for man'
              • Rib from Adam's side illustrates they share same spiritual nature
                • Fall affects them differently due to bodies - punished differently - men pain of work, women childbirth
                  • Eve not punished more for being evil temptress but her body was made less spiritually pure than men
                    • St Paul said women should wear veils as the glory of man, whereas man is the image and glory of God
                      • Moses - women wear veils to show obedience to husband and sign his image is less corrupt than hers - women subordinate rationally but not spiritually otherwise wouldn't be able to know God and be redeemed
            • Grace
              • We could reach the summum bonum (harmonious relationship with God) if we make required effort
                • Through God's generous love that our will is healed and relationship with Him restored - healed through God's grace, act of love in gift of Jesus which removes guilt of originl sin
                  • Without Jesus, no redemption
                  • People continue to sin but God has elected those who will respond to His love to be restored to paradise assisted by the Holy Spirit
    • Augustine
      • Before the Fall
        • Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked
          • Until the Fall, humans lived in harmony expressed in complete obedience of Adam and Eve to God and in duties to other creatures
            • Human will, body and reason in complete co-operation
        • The Will as Love
          • Will is God-given
            • Created ex-nihilo with humans
              • Can choose good or evil and determines kind of people we are
          • Will is synonymous with love
            • If driven by cupiditas it diminishes us as humans
            • If driven by caritas it completes us as humans when we will our neighbours good by expressing the divine love of God for his creation
        • Sex and Friendship
          • Adam and Eve were married in paradise as friends and participated equally and mutually in the friendliness of God
            • Theologians of the time argued marriage occurred after the Fall to control lust
            • 'Be fruitful and multiply' so friendship included reproduction AND pleasure of sex
              • BUT sex is always secondary to friendship
                • Friendship is the highest expression of human existence
              • Sex when required occurred without lust and an erection could be summoned by Adam as the will was so perfectly tuned to the body
      • After the Fall
        • The reason for Adam's disobedience originates in human perversity and pride and was entirely voluntary
          • Divided Will
            • The distorted will had now become divided
              • Rational enough to kow what is good but the Fall meant what it willed was often motivated by desire not good
                • Paul in letter to Romans: I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate
                • Augustine describes the will as half wounded and divided, ingrained out of habit
                  • Will is at war with itself and unable to obey own orders
        • Concupiscence
          • Man no longer able to control libido and desiring aspect of soul dominated by concupiscence
            • Disagreed with Manichean argument and Platonic notions that body is sinful, it cannot be as it was created to be good by God
              • Will weak and divided so concupiscence dominates human existence, hence body craves money, power, food and sexual intercourse above all
                • Concupiscence painfully experienced in friendships - jealousy, betrayal and death threaten to cause pain and undermine true friendship
                  • We invest so heavily in friendships that we're distracted from loving God
        • Original Sin
          • 'Through Adam all have fallen' St Paul
            • Other theologians took this to describe inadequacies all humans are prone to
            • Augustine made this sin an ontological condition of human existence, not a description of our behaviour on occasions
          • Sin of Adam is passed on through every generation by each sexual act as this is tainted by concupiscence
        • Free Will
          • On Free Will by Augustine
            • Book1 he argued platonic view that using reason and aspiring to the Good by living virtuous life was possible through free will
            • Books 2 and 3 concluded that sex drive, ignorance and death were punishments for human rebellion which no amount of human reasoning could overcome
              • Sin is involuntary
        • Men and Women's Natures
          • 'So God created man in his own image... male and female he created them' Genesis
          • Rejected Philo of Alexander's interpretation of Genesis who blamed Adam's sin on Eve's evil nature
            • Said men and women were created equal but different
              • Created imago dei, so share equally in God's rational nature
                • Difference in role determined by their bodies and roles in society
                  • Man active in sex so exercises deliberative rational aspect of soul to rule over irrational animal world, active in public sphere and obedient to God
                  • Women passive in sex so homemaker, obeys husband and is child bearer. Uses deliberative reason in household as mother and housewife
                    • St Paul 'woman has been made for man'
          • Rib from Adam's side illustrates they share same spiritual nature
            • Fall affects them differently due to bodies - punished differently - men pain of work, women childbirth
              • Eve not punished more for being evil temptress but her body was made less spiritually pure than men
                • St Paul said women should wear veils as the glory of man, whereas man is the image and glory of God
                  • Moses - women wear veils to show obedience to husband and sign his image is less corrupt than hers - women subordinate rationally but not spiritually otherwise wouldn't be able to know God and be redeemed
        • Grace
          • We could reach the summum bonum (harmonious relationship with God) if we make required effort
            • Through God's generous love that our will is healed and relationship with Him restored - healed through God's grace, act of love in gift of Jesus which removes guilt of originl sin
              • Without Jesus, no redemption
              • People continue to sin but God has elected those who will respond to His love to be restored to paradise assisted by the Holy Spirit
    • Conclusion
      • Unless one has sufficient humility to acknowledge failings of human nature and faith in love of God, no amount of reason can bring eudaimonia
        • 'Unless you believe, you will not understand' Isaiah

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