Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine

By Joseph Clair | Go to book overview

2
Household Goods

As in the case of the Stoic–Peripatetic debate on external goods, it often takes very little for Augustine to find his way to the heart of a philosophical concept. And, as is so often the case in Augustinian studies, source criticism unearths little in the way of direct, thematic exposition. For this, the real work in understanding his thought lies in tracing a concept’s unspoken presence in his writings and appreciating how Augustine’s theological instincts refashion a stock philosophical idea. So let us pursue his adaptation of oikeiōsis in further detail through the lens of its application in a number of his writings.

In section 2.1 of this chapter, I examine the way Augustine conceives of the goods of marriage and celibacy within the framework of oikeiōsis, which has not yet been recognized by interpreters of his teaching on marriage and sexuality. I argue that it is precisely this framework that allows Augustine to hold the competing goods of marriage and celibacy together, affirming the goodness of each and identifying their deep interconnection. In section 2.2, I argue that Augustine’s understanding of marriage and celibacy as goods in the framework of oikeiōsis allows him to affirm the superiority of celibacy over marriage (a ranking that he inherits from other Christian writers), while also appreciating the diverse ways people may relate to these goods and develop the virtues associated with them.


2.1. THE GOODS OF MARRIAGE AND CELIBACY

As I noted in the Interlude, friendship, for Augustine, at its most basic level, is a bond of affection that unites two or more persons—or

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Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • Texts and Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Degrees of Good 9
  • Interlude - Augustinian Oikeiōsis 39
  • 2 - Household Goods 48
  • 3 - Public Goods 75
  • 4 - Private Goods 107
  • 5 - Eternal Goods 130
  • Conclusion 167
  • Bibliography 173
  • Index 185
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