The essays in this collection demonstrate the diversity of scholarship that has appeared dealing with Augustine The City of God. Perhaps not surprisingly, The City of God is also a work that attracts the attention of scholars from a great variety of disciplines. The multiplicity of ideas and issues presented by Augustine in his monumental treatise guarantees systematic inquiry into its meaning, on the one hand, and on the other assures the frequent appearance of new theories arising from different approaches to interpreting the text. The essays in this volume deal with the principal topics, as well as most of the secondary themes, in Augustine's work--politics, war, sin, two civitates, order, punishment, morality, authority, obedience, religion, language. Yet, while the individual essays may focus on different aspects of Augustine's thought as he develops it in The City of God, there are also, as the reader will observe, many points of connection among the ideas and theories that are proposed by the particular authors in their essays. Thus the arrangement of the essays into three sections based on major themes may seem to suggest theoretical and thematic separation whereas, in many ways, the essays demonstrate an eclecticism that is characteristic not only of modern criticism but also of contemporary scholarship on The City of God. The scope of the collection is wide with essays ranging from the idea of progress to Neoplatonism, from the origin of society to the role of political authority, and from the idea of language and narrative as syntactic strategies of meaning in The City of God to Augustine's symbolic use of number. Taken together, the essays link Augustine's thought to contemporary issues and define the influence of his work on western thought. And they constitute an exciting and challenging debate about the ideas of one of history's most important thinkers.
I Political Thought
P. R. L. Brown begins his study, "Saint Augustine and Political Society," with the observation that classical political theory was based upon a rational myth of the state. In contrast, modern political thought, like medieval thought, proposes that the link between the individual and the state cannot be limited merely to a rational obligation. Political society does not exist as an "extrapolated, isolated ideal"; on the contrary, it exists concretely whether the primal cause is God or history. The essay proposes that medieval as well as modern thinkers are thus indebted to Augustine for signaling the end of the concept of political idealism embedded in Greek political philosophy and . . .