On Free Choice of the Will

By Augustine; Thomas Williams | Go to book overview
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Note on the Translation

My aim in this translation has been to reproduce as faithfully as possible Augustine's meaning, emphasis, and sequence of thought. I have made no attempt to reproduce the polysyllabic splendor of Augustine's Latin; such weighty rhetoric is too much for the slender skeleton of contemporary English to bear. This decision has frequently meant sacrificing some of Augustine's favorite rhetorical devices: for example, his habit of expressing arguments in the negative, and often in interrogative form; his tendency to apologize for metaphors by inserting an expression like "as it were" or "in a certain sense"; and his repetitions for rhetorical effect. In choosing between a literal but turgid translation and a freer but crisper one, I have preferred the latter, provided always that the meaning and emphasis are preserved.

I have adopted gender-inclusive language only where it could be used without calling attention to itself. It would be the worst of anachronisms to make Augustine sound as if he had the same concerns about inclusiveness that we have nowadays. In general, I have preferred 'human being' to 'man' in the generic sense. Where appropriate, I have also changed singular subjects to plural in order to allow the use of common-gender pronouns. Otherwise my usage is that of traditional English, in which the masculine bias is actually less pronounced than it is in Latin.

References to Scripture are given in accordance with the verse and chapter divisions of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

For the Latin text of On Free Choice of the Will I used the critical edition in the Corpus Christianorum: Series Latina, volume 29, edited by W. M. Green (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1970). Except for its surprisingly frequent typographical errors, this edition is the same as the one that appeared earlier in the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. I have adopted variant readings in two places: at page 256, line 22, for 'iuste videndum est' read 'iuste vivendum est'; and at page 276, line 6, for 'bonum hominem' read 'primum hominem'. In addition, at page 308, line 47, I have emended 'esse' to 'esset'.

For the Latin text of the Reconsiderations I used the critical edition from the same series, volume 57, edited by Almut Mutzenbecher


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