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Lecture 5

PHIL 3060 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Manichaeism, Sophist, Marcus Terentius Varro

Course Code
PHIL 3060
Peter Eardley

of 3
Lecture – Augustine
“There’s only two things worth worrying about: God, and the soul”
St. Augustine of Hippo
oBorn in modern-day Algeria, in North Africa
oOne of the founders of the Christian tradition in the West, and contributed to the ideas
of the western Church
oHe sees his life as a philosophical quest/project, and he realizes that the Christian life
is the most satisfying – he moves away from his faith and then later comes back
oRecommended book: Robert Harris on Cicero, etc.
oHe travels around to Italy and then converts to Christianity and spends the rest of his
life spreading/teaching his faith – he aimed to figure out the truth
oBooks: The Confessions, On the Trinity, The City of God
oHe was influential to later thinkers – he was one of the Latin Church Fathers
oDoctrine of Original Sin – he has a harsh view of human nature, and views humans as
inherently prone to making decisions that thwart their relationship with God, and that
humans are egotistical, power-hungry, and corrupt by nature
Rhetoric: the art of persuasion
oVery common and important in the ancient world
oPolitics and religion in the medieval Islamic tradition were aspects of rhetoric
oPlato did not like rhetoric because Sophists were rhetoricians and they would be paid
to teach people how to win arguments (their arguments were weak) so he
distinguishes between rhetoric and philosophy
oAugustine is a trained rhetorician but he also sees it as open to abuse because
rhetoricians appeal to emotions as well as intellect so it can be highly manipulative
Augustine’s view of humans as selfish and corrupt by nature was echoed by Hobbes,
Nietzsche, Freud, but social institutions must keep humans in check; on the other hand,
Rousseau sees the social institutions as the source of human corruption
Influences on Augustine: Cicero, who translated many texts into Latin, and translation had a
very important impact on later thinkers; Manicheism, a dualistic religion which maintains
that there are two principles, light and dark or good and bad/evil, and that the soul is a
battleground between both but neither side ends up winning
oAugustine belonged to this sect (Manicheism) for many years, and then eventually
left and moved on to Neoplatonism:
God/the One gives rise to intelligence at many lower levels until you reach the
world of complex creatures
The only real principle of work in the cosmos is goodness, according to
Neoplatonism; God creates because goodness has the tendency to spread
itself, and does this by creating other beings
Being and goodness are interchangeable, and the more being something has,
the more goodness it has; when evil does occur, it is a result of the privation of
goodness, just like darkness is the privation of life
Objection to God: How could He allow all the evil that takes place in the world?
oEvil is necessary in order for goodness to exist
oNeoplatonism helped Augustine with his conversion to Christianity
The City of God:
oThe various books refer to the scrolls of Augustine that have been gathered together –
there weren’t many copies of these, which is why many ancient works have been lost
o22 books, took 13 years to write – a defense of Christian religion against Pagan critics
oChristianity was decriminalized in 313; it was a crime in the Roman empire because
Christians only believed in one God
Pagans: believe in many Gods; comes from word paganus which means
“country person”
At Augustine’s time, many people still held these pagan beliefs and were
polytheistic; during his time, Pagan temples were ordered to be closed, which
made pagans bitter towards Christians
Roman Empire was weakened, Rome sacked in 410 but the Christian churches
are spared – Pagans said this was caused by people’s abandonment of the gods
In this context, that Rome’s adoption of Christianity was somehow
responsible for fall of Rome according to the pagans, that Augustine wrote
this book
oAugustine uses the expression “City of God” to imply that there are two types of
citizens in the world: those who belong to earthly city, and those who belong to
heavenly city (those who live according to God’s will)
Two cities; two societies of human beings
Depending on what kind of person you are, you are a citizen of one city or the
Earthly city created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the
heavenly city (City of God) by love for God carried as far as contempt for self
Distinguishing between secular personality and religious personality
Truly religious person is supposed to submit himself to God and recognize
their position in the hierarchy
Those who belong to the City of God find their highest glory in God, among
other characteristics:
Interest in truth
oSo, the City of God is not heaven or the Church; it’s an allegory for the different types
of personalities
The love of all that is selfless and good versus the love of all that is selfish and
corrupt 7
Our focus: book XIX (19)
oAsks, what is the final destiny for human beings?
oWhat is happiness, and what does it consist of?
Similar to the questions Aristotle was addressing
These are the central questions of ethics for the ancients and the medievals, as
they were less concerned with which actions are good
Chapter 3 of the book begins with a mention of Marcus Terentius Varro (116 – 27BC) a
Roman scholar, wrote De philosophia
oAugustine uses Varro as an example of all that is wrong with Pagan philosophy
What is the supreme good/happiness/the final end? (Summum bonum)
o“That for which other things are to be desired, while it is itself to be desired for its
own sake”
Aristotle would agree with this definition; we desire all things because they
lead to happiness
What is the final evil? (summum malum)
o“That for which other things are to be shunned/avoided, while it itself is to be
shunned on its own account”