Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature Deck (24):

Augustine's background:

Loved his concubine deeply and had a child but had to give her up for a socially acceptable marriage


Augustine's teaching on human nature:

Based on Genesis 3 and Romans 7 (Paul's description of the struggle with sin- doing what he doesn't want to do and not doing what he wants to do)
Human nature includes God-given human will
Will is driven by two types of love: caritas and cupiditas



Generous love (of others)



Self-love (a love of impermanent, changeable, earthly things; selfish; lust)


Before the Fall (pre-Lapsarian):

Humans (Adam and Eve) enjoyed harmony):
In complete obedience to God
In human body
In relation to each other:
- Adam and Eve married as friends, participating equally in the friendliness of God
- Friendship (Concordia)- highest expression of human existence; sex is secondary to this. Sex happened without lust; will was in harmony with and in control of the body- Adam could will his body to want to have sex
Augustine- 'in this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them


The fall:

Pivotal moment in history
Describes Adam and Eve's original sin
Cupiditas and caritas separate- humans disobey God; bodily desires overrule reason
Will is corrupt


After the Fall (post-Lapsarian):

In considering Romans 7, Augustine felt his will to be 'half wounded' and 'divided'
Lack of control over libido- concupiscence (sexual lust and desires)
'Human nature is without any doubt ashamed about lust, and rightly ashamed'- Augustine, City of God, 14:20
Most obviously seen in relationships with friends where friendship is undermined by things that result from concupiscence e.g. jealousy
Augustine recorded his own struggles with concupiscence e.g. "give me chastity and continency, only not yet"


Original sin:

Humans still have free will to choose between good and evil, but there's a greater tendency to choose evil- human will = weakened by sin
Augustine describes original sin as 'double death': 'first death' kills friendship between humans and God (symbolised by nakedness); second death = mortal state we're in following the Fall
'Original sin is contracted, not committed'- passed on through sexual act
'Sin means that humans can never be morally good'- humans have an innately sinful disposition


Original sin and effect on human societies:

'Earthly city'- peace needs to be enforced, peace is agreed because of selfish material wellbeing; there are repressive political structures. 'Christians are pilgrims in a foreign land'- poor reflection of heavenly society (ecclesia)
'City of God'- true peace. Human nature will be restored by God's grace after death



Augustine's life experiences led him to believe that the only way to be rescued from the body of death (Romans 7) is through God
God's generous love can heal damaged will and restore human relationship with God- humans can achieve the summum bonum (highest good)
Done through God's grace- shown in his gift of Jesus to remove punishment of original sin
Augustine argues that no humans can be reconciled to God through their own efforts and rejects these alternative views:
- human reason can lead to enlightenment
- good acts and works can earn a place in heaven


Augustine's conclusion:

Unless one has sufficient humility to acknowledge the failings of human nature and faith in the love of God, no amount of reason will bring ultimate happiness


Problems with the Fall, original sin:

What if the Fall was not a literal, historical event?
Genesis 1-3- interpreted symbolically; at some point each person loses innocence- has to engage with reality of life. The Fall can be interpreted as symbolic moment when a person realises their situation and begins spiritual journey. Goal = wholeness in Christ
Problem with Evolution- humanity is working towards perfection rather than falling away from it
Unfair- God punishes all humans for the mistakes of two ancestors


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good?

If the damage is already done, why bother trying to be good?
Did God know humans would give in to temptation easily? Could he have made humans more able to resist?


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? Pelagius:

Human nature = not flawed
Sin- freely chosen, not inherited
Humans = responsible for own sin- not tainted with Adam and Eve's sin
Humans don't have to sin- theoretically possible for people to be good


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? J Rousseau:

'Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Many a man believes himself to be the master of others who is, no less than they, a slave'
Humans = naturally generous, only act otherwise because of situation
Human's purpose = break these chains by learning to appreciate each other
Human nature = naturally good


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? T Hobbes:

'The life of a man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'
Humans = naturally selfish
Use reason to co-operate with others and make life tolerable


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? John-Paul Sartre:

'There is no human nature'
All humans have capacity to make own essence through choices they make
Simone de Beauvoire (feminist)- influenced by Sartre's view and rejected gender stereotypes because of it


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? Psychologist Steven Pinker

Humanitarian principle
Humans get on better when they take into account interests of others- doesn't require God's grace


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? Criticism of Pelagius' view:

Augustine's realistic view of human perfection more likely to lead to moral progress than reliance on human effort alone
Pelagian view = naively optimistic, doomed to failure- better to rely on God's grace from the outset


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? Reinhold Neibuhr:

No action can be entirely good: inner will = defeated by egoism
Power of reason and belief in moral goodness will not bring about a fair and just society
Human ego must encounter divine- then it will realise limitations and possibilities


Is Augustine right that humans can never be morally good? Second Vatican Council:

Since the Fall: 'man is split within himself. As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil'


Challenge from science and modern world view:

Richard Dawkins:
Rejects idea of Fall and Original Sin
Humans evolved from lower animal forms- did not have kind of consciousness to rebel
A lot of human suffering has come from the tradition Augustine created
'What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it's born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor'


Psychosexual criticisms from Freud:

Libido = vital and natural element of human development
Psychological problems traced back to an original event in a person's life (similar to Augustine?)- misuse of sex and relationships underlie individual and social problems
Sexual neurosis passed on through culture and society; Augustine said similar
Cure can come from psychoanalysis; Augustine said that it comes from God's grace alone



Implications of Augustine's teaching on sin and grace led to pre-destination
Only God knows who is deserving of his grace and to be rewarded with heaven so all humans can preserve in hope and faith
Augustine = optimist: without God's grace no one would be saved from original sin
But Augustine is often criticised for undermining the Christian belief in the God of love and the sacrifice of Christ for all the 'sins of the world'- not for the sins of a few