Perspectives Final Study Guide
1) Augustine: The problem of the self and its unity
● “What does it mean that I am one?”--what remains constant even with time?
○ ForAugustine it is God’s love
● scatteredness of ourselves (many interests) → several versions of ourselves
● God is the only thing that remains constant through our life, so He is what unites us.
● birth = being and life → God is responsible for uniting these 2 human traits
● Augustine only knows that at birth he had both being and life.
● He also points out that God is the most extreme instantiation of both being and life, and
that God is responsible for uniting these two qualities in new humans.
● as a little boy, his good traits = from God and his sins were the misdirection of his gifts away from God and
toward the material, created world
○ this misdirection = key in Neoplatonism
■ God’s creation is no longer His unity but changing multiplicity of the created world
● Augustine liked Jesus’s story but couldn’t commit because he liked sex too much
● Neoplatonic theme _→ all creation of material world has turned away from God’s perfection (to mutability,
temporality, and ) while God remains unchangeable, eternal and unified ---> creation always seeks to return
○ Sin itself fundamentally aims at return to God
■ “friendship can be a dangerous enemy, a seduction of the mind”
● how augustine addresses the question why does he talk about the early stages of his life, why is he
somehow telling god even though god is omniscient - self reflection, regain himself in light of his
● all of your cells change, physically you are completely different, spiritually and psychologically you are
also completely different. how do we become “one” only in light of god’s love is how we can make sense
of god’s love
○ regaining his self by confessing to God from the perspective of God’s love and his conversion
2) Augustine: The problem of evil
● evil is lack of good (privative state) → still has bearing on the world
● God has only givenAugustine good properties, but he has misdirected them towards bad things such as lust
● ideally, sex is for procreation and is meant for love, not for lust, but it was perverted by its misdirection
towards worldly things… aka bodies
● Manichees (enlightened Christians) said the 2 forces of good and evil were always fighting each other
○ HOWEVER, this was an oversimplification of things
● nature and source of evil → if God is supremely good, how can evil exist?
○ Manicheesm says God is NOT all powerful and constantly struggles with evil
● according to Manicheans, body is evil → why they had recreational sex (said it’s bad to procreate b/c it
traps yet another divine spark in mortal body)
● evil enters when humans think they can take the place of God
● all humans have addiction to pride (ex. infants who are jealous of their siblings for mother’s milk) ● the pear thief
○ he stole them for the pure sake of desire to do wrong and cause mischief
○ turning away from God’s perfection
○ each thing he sought to gain from stealing the pears turns out to be twisted version of God’s
● evil is not some dark substance that exists in conflict with God; it is simply the
extent to which something in God's creation has turned away from him, the extent
to which a thing (or human) is unaware of its existence in God. In a significant
sense, Augustine argues that there is no evil.
○ this argument is only valid if you accept that God is being as a spirit and is
the source of existence itself
- wants to respond to the manichees they thought evil was an existing force struggling against
good. everything in the universe can be understand as a war between light and darkness.
augustine thought this was toos imple. if we look inside ourself we see it is not always a struggle
between good and evil. sometimes there is just a lack of something. the world is not the arena
between good an evil. we should think of the world as fundamentally good because god created
it, but sometimes we stray away from this good.
so why did i steal the pears? he did it in some sense because he was influence by the people he
was hanging out with. if i had been alone, i wouldnt have done it. this company is nothing in the
sense of evil is nothing. those people were the lack of true friends. you can’t blame it on them
because they are technically nothing, so the blame falls back on himself
-Evil is not Being but a lack of it, a deficiency inherent in having been placed on a lower step
than higher entities. Since to exist is for a Platonist to be a ‘substance’, evil has no ‘substance’.
Secondly, matter is recalcitrant to beauty and form, and pulls the soul down to external things .
Matter exploits a weakness in the will distorting it towards moral evil. Thirdly, evil results from
the misuse of free choice by rational beings.
3) Augustine: The problem of prioritizing one's affections, as portrayed
in the sections on the death of his friend and the death of his mother
● “I had become to myself a vast problem”
● “I was more unwilling to lose my misery than him”
● He made an idol of his friend and himself
● He only grieves about death of his mother when by himself
○ different than weeping for the friend
1. weeps to God
2. weeps to his mother
3. weeps about and for himself
● wants readers to weep for who he is → imperfect man
● Realizing now that his grief would have been alleviated by faith in God,Augustine concludes that his grief
meant he had "become to myself a vast problem."Attached to the transient, embodied things of the world
(rather than to God), he suffered grief when they disappeared. ● Misery, he writes, is due to an unreasonable attachment to "mortal things." Further, this is always the state
of the soul without God--misery is everywhere when there is nothing eternal to depend on.
○ God is the only thing eternal and permanent
● Things other than God should only be the object of love in as much as one is loving the presence of God in
● Though the things of the world pass away, taken together they are part of a timeless whole. Through God,
one can perceive this whole, since God is the ground for all existence.
● suffering for the sake of others is not wrong
● his constant grief was selfish because it was more about his emotions than his friend dying
● misplaced love → lied in his friend rather than in God
● after reverted to Christianity, could properly grieve over his mom
● death of his friend - we never learn the name, whereas his mother is very well-defined. basically augustine
is trying to tell us back then he didn’t know how to love people in god, or see people as creatures of god
instead of as our possessions. when you dont know they are part of the greater love, that love becomes self-
● this self centered way ultimately erases the friends.. it’s all about you, not the other person
○ you can only love other people at a distance
○ recognize that the other person is a creature of God
○ look at everything on earth through God and they will not be lost
■ his mother is preserved
4) Augustine and the problem of the will and its fragmentation
● human will is responsible for sin
○ only desires evil for its own sake
○ wiling our own destruction
● God is what brings our fragmented selves together
● Theory of Will (part of soul that desires and acts): will is able to be split into different things (not
necessarily good or bad things)
● the will reveals fragmentation of the soul and temporarily disrupts its unity
● why we feel the urge to make a decision: perceive fragmentation in ourselves with different options →
Making choice = making/restoring unity in ourselves
● In will, the most painful thing is the split itself
● We shouldn’t think about our human condition as the tear between good and evil.
○ -The real struggle that is going on is within ourselves in the division between being one, unity, and
being multi (going in many different directions).
● We restore our unity when we reach our decision
● will of the will - he struggles not with the decision to do something but the WILL to make a decision --
● “The enemy had a grip on my will and so made a chain for me to hold me a prisoner. The consequence of a
distorted will is passion. By servitude to passion, habit is formed, and habit to which there is no resistance
● “So my two wills, one old, the other new, one carnal, the other spiritual, were in conflict with one another,
and their discord robbed my soul of all concentration.”
● “The law of sin is the violence of habit by which even the unwilling mind is dragged down and held, as it
deserves to be, since by its own choice it slipped into the habit.”
● example of general principle: we have troubles remaining at one with ourselves, we continue to go in many
directions, that is our core of our human condition on earth. since we were separated with god since birth, we tend to fragment ourselves. the will is an example of this.
● the power to act is identical with the will → the mind listens to the soul’s will than the soul does because
the body is willing to act on the will before the soul does (basically, it’s easier for our mind to tell our body
to pick up a pencil than to tell our soul what to will or believe)
● Our commands don’t override our will → if we don’t have enough will to do something, no matter how
much we command ourselves to do it, we won’t → only God can fill the chasm for us to have a proper and
● Our choices of the will aren’t always between good and evil (which is what Manicheans believe) → can be
between two evils and God is where you find the truth
● embracing ourselves in God/ Christianity helps to unify us and hold ourselves together in ways that other
decisions may not be able to do
5) Aquinas on the necessity and scientificity? of theology
● said theology is a science
● 2 types of theology = natural and revealed
○ natural: based on evidence and rationality - cause
○ revealed: clarifies and systemizes things (learn through Bible - what God has shown us) - effect
○ Main objection to necessity of theology besides philosophy is that we cannot be certain about God
● objection he considers: we shouldn’t be concerned with/trying to understand unearthly things such as God.
responds bye saing we should be realistic on our limits but if he decided to reveal the unearthly things to us
we should be thankful and try to make sense of it and that is was theology is.
● “ i. FIRST POINT (Common lines of knowledge about theology in general)
○ Any other teaching beyond that of science and philosophy seems needless (argument against what
Aquinas is gonna say)
○ Man ought not to venture into r