Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature

  • Created by: ekenny5
  • Created on: 04-02-22 17:20

St Augustine:

Influential to both Christianity and society. He wrote the first autobiography, very open and honest about his views on society and his past self. Wrote Confessions between 397 and 400 AD

Human Nature

Jean-Jaques Rousseau argued that humans are essentially generous and only act otherwise when situation and society cause us to act that way. 'Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains'. We are good, but society has manipulated us to act in certain ways.

Thomas Hobbes thought that humans are naturally selfish and brutish. Humans learn that if they co-operate with each other enough, life becomes tolerable. 'The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'.

Augustine thinks that humans were created in the image of God, but at the Fall, human nature was irretrievably damaged and we spend our lives battling against this, shown through our relationship with sin. 

Is there a distinctive human nature:

  • evolution suggests human nature is moving away from the primitive 
  • if human nature is based on civilisation, its clear that human nature changes with the civilisation
  • Marx says we are essentially creative beings - creativity adapts to different situations 
  • Sartre said that we make our own essence through the choices we make

Before the Fall

God created humans, making them then pinnacle of his creation and likeness. They lived in the Garden of Eden, a perfect paradise with everything they needed. There were no threats to their lives, lived in harmony, and in complete obedience to, God. There was perfect harmony between the human body, will and reason.

The will as love: will is God given, and along with humans was created ex-nihilio. We can choose good or evil, and to believe in God or reject him. The will is synonymous with love, a force pulling us in different directions. The will is driven by cupiditas: self love and caritas: generous love.

Sex and friendship: Augustine argues that Adam and Eve were married as friends, and equally and mutually participated in the friendliness of God. As God says, be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve did have the pleasure of sex, but friendship is a greater good than lust, the sex would be without lust. Adam could use his balanced body, will and reason to make his body want to have sex when he wanted. Friendship is the highest expression of huamn existence.

The Fall 

Genesis 3. The serpent tempts Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, after being told not to do so by God. She eats and Adam follows suit. They realise they are naked, hide from God, but he finds them and they are duly punished. Augustine's interpretation of the Fall:

  • the shame of nakedness and the punishment to Eve of lust and subordinate defines male-female relationships 
  • harmony between humans and God is lost, friendship is broken and Adam and Eve are banished from the garden. Self love and generous love separate - pulling humans in opposing


No comments have yet been made