Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World

Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World

Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World

Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World

Synopsis

Saint Augustine's political thought has usually been interpreted by modern readers as suggesting that politics is based on sin. In Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World, John von Heyking shows that Augustine actually considered political life a substantive good that fulfills a human longing for wholeness. Rather than showing Augustine as supporting the Christian church's domination of politics, von Heyking argues that he held a subtler view of the relationship between religion and politics, one that preserves the independence of political life.

Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World demonstrates some of the deficiencies in the way Augustine's political thought has been interpreted. It also explains why a rereading of his thought illuminates the current debates between "secularists" and proponents of "orthodoxy" and shows why these debates are miscast. By examining Augustine's political thought, von Heyking provides a way of resolving this controversy and shows how we can move beyond conflicting claims and thus moderate yet elevate political life.

Excerpt

This book examines the political thought of Augustine of Hippo, a fourth-century bishop of the Christian Church. It is not so much about the political thought of a religious thinker (which, of course, Augustine was) as it is an exposition of the political thought that accounts for human beings' participation in diverse realms of being, from the vegetative, to the animalistic, passionate, rational, and to that which philosophical anthropology signifies as the ground of being, or the divine ground of being. It explicates the essential attitude toward politics that one can take from the perspective of one who reflectively participates in all of those strata of being. The study is one of political philosophy, and not of theology, although certain problems of the latter discipline are necessarily discussed as they bear on the issues at hand. It considers primarily the resultant way of considering politics, articulated mostly in the City of God (but also in his other writings), that one with Augustine's philosophical anthropology had. A full explication of his philosophical anthropology would require an exegesis of his great meditations, the Confessions and On the Trinity, which is a task best left for another time. This study refers to those works, but focuses more on Augustine's presentation of the insights, gained from his meditations, in his political City of God, which he wrote for posterity as his account of politics and theology. Thus, the reader skeptical of the truth of those meditations will have to determine their veracity for himself. This study more modestly presents the view of politics that accompanies those meditations and attempts to judge the coherency of that view.

This study attempts to explicate Augustine's political thought to the fullest extent in a way that is sympathetic but not hagiographic, critical but not unnecessarily suspicious. However, it was born out of a serious criticism of . . .

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