- Life and work
- Overcoming academic skepticism
3.1. Cicero’s influence on Contra academicos
3.2. The rationality of faith as overcoming doubt
3.3. The certainty of self-awareness
3.4. The Augustinian Truth Inquiry
3.5. The doctrine of Augustinian enlightenment
3.6. Truth and levels of knowledge
3.7. The problem of time
- Fundamental elements of Augustinian ethics
4.1 Virtue as ordo amoris
4.3. Love classes: little faces and cupids
4.4. The uti-frui distinction
4.5. The problem of evil
4.6. Freedom, will and destiny
- Related voices
With San Agustín a very significant milestone is marked in the Latin Patristics. It assumes the Greek heritage of Plato, the Stoics and Plotinus, fulfilling its synthesis and overcoming from an original conception based on Christian wisdom. This is particularly reflected in his theory of enlightenment, which, drawing inspiration from the Platonic theory of knowledge as reminiscence, puts in the foreground the flashes of light that come from the divine Teacher; or by understanding love as a personal gift beyond the love-desire of the Greek authors; or in the vector conception of time and history, replacing the decadence from a golden age that prevailed among the Greeks and the model of cyclical time; instead, it maintains the Greek idea of perfection, but instead of representing it in the perfect movement of the circle,
On the other hand, Saint Augustine is the first modern, as can be seen from his treatment of subjectivity and the influence it has had on Phenomenology, especially on Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildebrand or Edith Stein. He introduced into ethics the sphere of affectivity, which had been relegated by the Greeks as irrational, and discovered an order in the affections of the will.
The exhibition has been divided into three chapters of unequal length: the first, dedicated to his biographical-intellectual itinerary, showing how his vocation to truth was crowned by the Christian faith; secondly, a large space is devoted to the problem of knowledge, starting from his departure from skepticism in Contra Academicos and paying attention to the various orders of certainties that he finds and the elusive question of the three ecstasies of the time of consciousness; thirdly, within the ethical problem we select his expansion of the framework of the moral virtues in the Greeks,
2. Life and work
the concept of ordo amoris, freedom and the mystery of evil. A constant in the Saint of Hippo in the various issues addressed is the search for the trinity in man and in creation as imperfect images of the divine Trinity.
Saint Augustine was the greatest of the Latin fathers due to his influence, which dominated Western thought until the 13th century. He was born in Tagaste, in the province of Numidia, on November 13, 354. He learned the rudiments of Latin and arithmetic with a teacher from Tagaste and, although it is not entirely accurate to say that he knew nothing of Greek, the truth is that the language was hateful to him and he never read it easily. Around 365 he moved to Madaura, a pagan city, where he studied Latin grammar and literature, distancing himself from his mother’s faith, which his sabbatical in Tagaste (369-370) did nothing but urge.
In 370, the year his father died after converting to Catholicism, he began studies of rhetoric in Carthage, becoming a brilliant student despite the rupture that the licentious environment of the port city induced him with the values of Christianity. He lived there for some years with his son —Adeodato— and his mother. The reading of Cicero’s Hydrangea stimulated him to start the search for the truth, although the Manichean sect had yet to intervene, in which he was trapped for some time.
He returned to Tagaste in 374, teaching Latin grammar and literature for a year. He then returned to Carthage, where he opened a school of rhetoric, remaining until 383. He received a poetry prize and wrote his first prose work De pulchro et apto , which has been lost. Shortly before Augustine’s departure for Rome in 383, Faust, a well-known Manichean bishop, arrived in Carthage and was unable to give a satisfactory answer to his doubts, so his faith in Manichaeism began to break down. His intellectual disappointments only fed his appetite for real.
He opened a school of rhetoric in Rome, where he hoped to find students less unruly than in Carthage and achieve a relaunch to his career, but had the drawback that, indeed, the students were less unruly but had the ugly habit of changing schools earlier to pay the fees.
In 384 he obtained a post as municipal professor of rhetoric in Milan, leaning philosophically towards academic skepticism. In Milan his mother tried unsuccessfully to make him reform his life by marrying a certain girl. However, at this time he read certain Neoplatonic writings, probably the Enneads of Plotinus, in the translation of Mario Victorino, which helped him free himself from the chains of materialism and accept the existence of an immaterial reality. This provided him with a satisfactory solution to the problem of evil through the concept of deprivation , and helped him understand the reasonableness of Christianity, prompting him to read the New Testament and, in particular, the writings of Saint Paul.
The intellectual conversion of Saint Augustine, the result of reading the Neoplatonic works, was parallel to his moral conversion, the product of the sermons of Saint Ambrose and the words of Simpliciano – an elderly priest who gave him news of the conversion to Neoplatonic Christianity. Victorino and Ponticiano, and told him of the life of Saint Anthony of Egypt—, his conversion to Christianity taking place in the summer of 386. Saint Augustine heard from the garden of his house a boy crying from the top of a Tolle wall lege! and that provoked, by opening the New Testament at random, the reading of the words of Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans :
Let us walk with decency, as during the day: not in binges and drunkenness, not in dishonesty and dissolution, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and do not seek how to satisfy the cravings of your sensuality [ Confessions : VIII, 8-12].
Lung sick, he retired from the teaching staff and at Cassiciaco he strove, through reading, reflection, and conversations with his friends, to gain a better understanding of Christianity. There he wrote Contra Academicos , De Beata Vita and De Ordine ; back in Milan he wrote De Immortalitate Animae , probably the Soliloquies and began De Música . On April 25, 387, Holy Saturday, he was baptized by Saint Ambrose. Shortly after he returned to Africa, after the sudden death of his mother occurred while they waited to embark in the port of Ostia. Postponing his return to Africa, in Rome he wrote De libero arbitrio , De quantitate animaeand De moribus ecclesiae Catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum , passing to Africa in the autumn of 388. Already in Tagaste, he established a small monastic community and wrote, among others, the De vera religione and the end of De Musica .
Although in Cassiciaco the young Augustine resolved never to marry, he probably did not aspire to the priesthood, which, however, he received when ordained by the Bishop of Hippo, who desired his help, in 391.
Appointed auxiliary bishop of Hippo in 395-396, after the death of Valerius – bishop of Hippo – he succeeded him in office in 396, taking up the task of fighting against the Donatist schism when his wishes might have been directed to a quiet life of prayer and study, despite which he found time to begin his Confessions completed in 400 and to write part of his De Doctrina Christiana whose fourth book was added in 426. But the impetus with which Saint Augustine carried out his conversion was not nothing to do with the one that, centuries later, would show Scheler. In the year 400 one of his great treatises began, De Trinitate , completed in 417, where his theory of knowledge is collected; in 401 he began the twelve books ofFrom Genesi ad litteram completed in 415, where a theory of seminal rations is found .
After the promulgation of various imperial edicts against the Donatists, Saint Augustine had to turn his gaze this time against another heresy, the Pelagian, which, using texts from De libero arbitrio, had come to deny original sin, minimizing the role of divine grace and exaggerating that of human will. Thus, he wrote various works starting in 412, which did not prevent him from starting in 413 the twenty-two books of De civitate Dei , which he completed in 426, on the background of the barbarian invasion. In 418 Pelagianism is condemned by a council of African bishops, by Emperor Honorius and Pope Zosimus, continuing his polemic anti-Pelagian work in various writings. In 426 he appointed Bishop Eraclio as successor of his diocese, and published, in 426-427De Gratia et libero arbitrio , ad Valentinum , De correctione et gratia and the two books of the Retractations , critical review of his writings of great value to know their chronology.
Saint Augustine also continued to write during the last years of his life, even making contact with Arianism and dedicating to them in 428 his Contra Maximinum haereticum and Collatio cum Maximino Arianorum episcopo . In the spring-summer of 430 the Vandals besieged Hippo and Saint Augustine died during the same on August 28, 430, while reciting the penitential psalms. Although the vandals set fire to the city, the Cathedral and the library of San Agustín, thank God, they were safe.
3. Overcoming academic skepticism
Certain fundamental milestones in the biography of Saint Augustine can be highlighted due to their relationship with his intellectual evolution. One of them is the reading of Cicero, which prompted him to dedicate himself to philosophical problems and to devote his intellectual efforts to them when he was only nineteen years old. The reading of the work Hortensio ( Hortensius , written 45/46 BC), of which there are only testimonies in fragments of Nonio and Augustine, led the young Augustine to approach the field of philosophy. It was an apology for philosophy on the model of Aristotle’s Protreptikos .
Cicero (106-43 BC), eclectic philosopher and Roman consul, held a moderate skepticism suitable, according to him, to defend himself against dogmatism. On the other hand, he also rejected radical skepticism for a moral and social rather than an epistemological reason: a universal consensus and innate ideas need to exist to maintain social cohesion. In his Four Academic Books ( Academici libri quattuor , written 46/45 BC) he argued that it was sufficient for practical life to attain a transitory security based on subjective probability.
It is not difficult to appreciate the relationship between the cited work of Cicero and one of Augustine’s early philosophical writings. We refer, of course, to his work Against Academics ( De Academicis libri tres ) which, together with two more works, On Happiness ( De beata vita ), and On Order ( De ordine ) were completed in November 386 at Cassiciacum, near Milan.
Written in the form of a dialogue, and showing a certain Platonic influence, Contra Académicos collects the refutation of academic skepticism without ambiguity. The central question that dominates the work is whether the possession of the truth is necessary to be happy. Saint Augustine refuted Cicero’s thesis that the investigation of the truth, even without reaching it, was enough to achieve happiness.
Assuming that every man aspires to happiness, the saint of Hippo defends that happiness is achieved by living according to reason. So, this being the organ of truth, it would not make sense to live according to reason if it renounced the object of its activity: the knowledge of the truth.
3.2. The rationality of faith as overcoming doubt
Saint Augustine recognizes that there are two ways of knowing: reason and authority. However, these ways of knowing are not incompatible but rather complement each other. Ultimately, even faith rests on an act of reason: natural reason can arrive, through philosophical activity, at the affirmation of the existence of God. Now, the Saint is perfectly aware of the limits of reason and human understanding in order to know the essence of God. So faith helps to go beyond the limits of reason, so that the true philosophical opposition is not between reason and faith, but between reason and doubt. Faith conforms to reason and reason conforms to faith:
- a) before giving faith, reason presents what can be believed by natural reasons, which in turn allow adherence to revealed faith ( ergo intellige ut credas);
- b) once faith is received, reason overcomes its own limits through divine illumination ( crede ut intelligas).
This is the interpretation of the motto ergo intellige ut credas, crede ut intelligas [ Sermons : XLIII, 7, 9]: understand so that you can believe, believe so that you can understand. Christianity is for Saint Augustine the culmination of Philosophy, understood as wisdom. Hence in its highest sense it identifies philosophy with Christian wisdom. What Saint Augustine formulates is not just a religious doctrine: it is true philosophy, the wisdom that Christianity has reached its fullness.
However, it must be stressed that the interest of Augustinian philosophical research is eminently practical, not speculative. You want the results of your research to help you achieve happiness. For that reason, in the Doctor of Grace, both the theoretical and practical aspects of philosophical research appear intertwined: God is not only the foundation of truth, but he is also the source of happiness.
3.3. The certainty of self-awareness
Once it has been established that there is no happiness without wisdom or wisdom without truth, and that doubt is the true enemy of reason, St. Augustine will conclude by affirming the certainty of self-consciousness by virtue of a purely philosophical reasoning, direct precedent. of the Cartesian cogito ergo sum , which we can synthesize in the following stages:
1st) intellectual intuition places, whatever the depth of the doubt, before a certainty: I doubt ;
2nd) that doubt is realized through the act of thinking, so that doubt supposes a new certainty: I think ;
3º) although in all things he deceived me, he could not deceive me if he did not exist, so that the certainty of self-consciousness is thus reached: I exist .
Consequently, whatever the level of the doubt raised, Agustín de Hipona has definitively defeated it with the famous aphorism si failor, sum : “If I am mistaken, I exist, because whoever does not exist cannot be deceived” [ The City of God : XI, 26]
The indubitable certainty of the existential knowledge of the “I” accompanies every mental operation. Now, as explained by Eudaldo Forment [Forment 1989: 7] and collected by Saint Augustine in La Trinidad , the self-knowledge of the soul can be of two types:
- a) existential knowledge, as an immediate individual perception or experience, not conceptualizable or communicable to other men, by which the being of the soul is intellectually verified; Y
- b) essential knowledge, by which a definition of the essence that the soul must have to be a soul is obtained, not from the generalization of existential knowledge, which has a temporary and mutable character, but from the essential intellection that facilitates true knowledge , immutable and eternal in character. Saint Augustine writes in this regard:
It is not by seeing with the eyes of the body a multitude of minds that we form, by analogy, a general or concrete concept of the human mind, but by contemplating the inadequate truth, according to which we define, insofar as it is possible , not what is the mind of each man, but what should be in eternal reasons [ The Trinity : 9, 6, 9].
In turn, the presence of the soul has two forms: knowing and thinking. The saint of Hippo exposes the difference between knowing ( noscere ) and thinking ( cogitare ) with the example of the doctor who knows grammar: when he acts as a doctor he thinks about medicine and not about grammar, which does not prevent him from knowing it .
To clarify the problem of the presence of the soul, Saint Thomas Aquinas, upon delving into the metaphysics of the Augustinian spirit centuries later, will introduce the Aristotelian concepts of act and power , characterizing: a) the news known as habitual knowledge ; and b) that which occurs in thinking, as current knowledge [Santo Tomás, De anima : q. 1, a. 15, ad. 17]. Said thinking, as essential knowledge, can be defined as the act of intelligence by which one seeks to know the essential truth and which needs the help of divine illumination.
3.4. The Augustinian Truth Inquiry
At the beginning of Soliloquies , Saint Augustine defines the objectives of his philosophical research task: to know God and to know the soul. This investigation does not require two different paths, as it might seem at first glance, but is summarized in one: since God is in the deepest intimacy of our soul, seeking God requires gathering oneself in the soul and gathering oneself in the soul means finding goodbye. In this way, the look inwards through which the search for God and the soul begins means a confession. This confession does not end in the mere description of an inner sentimental state but tries to clarify the deepest problems that lie at the core of the soul, shedding light on one’s own existence. This is the meaning of the famous aphorism pronounced by the Bishop of Hippo: “Do not go out of yourself, come back to you, in the interior of man the truth dwells” [ True religion: 39].
Saint Augustine assumes a method of philosophical research that is based, with due qualifications, on the characteristic dialectic of the Platonic tradition. This is seen in On Order ( De Ordine), one of his first works, in which he considers: a) that philosophy is resolved in an investigation of unity; b) that reason is nothing but the capacity for distinction and union; and c) that the investigation of the soul or of oneself must be prior to the investigation of God [ About order : II, 18].
But the above would not justify the Augustinian originality, which would not be such if the Doctor of Grace had stayed there. In Soliloquies , when he refers to the conditions of rational vision , he adds the following requirements that complete his own method of philosophical investigation: a) the soul must be able to know the truth, for which it must receive the help of grace , that is, the soul must be healthy , be purified through the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity in order to know the truth and see God ; b) the soul being healed by the theological virtues, it is necessary to look at, and this look is the one that properly carries out reason; c) the soul is required not only to look, but also to see , for what virtue must possess , defined at first as the right order of reason . However, it should be noted that the Augustinian concept of virtue evolved from the rationalist ordo est rationis of the works of Casiciaco, to the emotional ordo est amoris , written later in De moribus Ecclesiae after his priestly ordination. Precisely the originality and modernity of Augustine are found in reconciling reason and love, that is, in integrating with reason the healthy emotion that turns to God as a sine qua non condition. of the rational vision of the truth.
3.5. The doctrine of Augustinian enlightenment
The perception of the intelligible from which wisdom springs, unlike Plato, does not depend on the reminiscence of the world of ideas but on divine radiation, on the lumen rationis aeternae or eternal light of reason. In this question, Saint Augustine was interested in the way of perceiving the intelligible truth, and not so much in the way in which the mechanism of abstraction is produced, which will be treated centuries later in a much more detailed way by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
However, a Neoplatonic motif can be seen in this question in Saint Augustine that goes back, ultimately, to the Platonic comparison between the idea of Good and the sun. As is known, for Plotinus the One or God was identified with the sun of the intelligible, that is, with the transcendent light. Along these lines, the Doctor of Grace also maintains that it is impossible to perceive the immutable truth of things if they are not illuminated as by a sun [ Soliloquies : I, 6]. But said sun is for the Bishop of Hippo the divine light of the Christian God, which illuminates the human mind and enables it to perceive the notes of necessity and immutability of the eternal truths. In the same way that the eye, through the sunlight that makes them visible, sees sensitive objects, the human mind, through theintelligible light from God, understands and is able to see exemplary ideas or eternal truths:
Ideas are the (a) main forms, the stable and invariable reasons of things, (b) which in themselves are not formed , and therefore are eternal, always remaining in the same way in the divine understanding. (c) They are not born or die, but according to them are formed all the things that can be born or exist and those that are actually born and perish. (d) Not every soul, but the rational soul can intuit them with that most excellent part that it has and that is called mind or reason, as with a kind of inner and intelligible eye or sight. (and)Furthermore, this intuition of ideas is not achieved by just any rational soul, but by the pure and holy soul, which has a sincere, serene, healthy view and similar to the things that it intuits in its intelligibility [ Eighty-three different questions : q . 46].
It should be emphasized that, far from ontological interpretations, it does not seem to follow that the human mind perceives illumination itself, that is, the same intelligible God or sun. The human mind cannot directly contemplate the divine mind and therefore the exemplary ideas contained within it. All that human reason can achieve, finite and limited, are the characteristics of eternity and necessity of the eternal and necessary truths, made visible to the human mind through the illuminative activity of God.
The problem of the ontological status of divine ideas in relation to the doctrine of Augustinian illumination is thus posed. Faced with ontological interpretations, it should be said that it is a reflex illumination , whose characteristics would be the following: a) the illumination that God offers the human mind is reflective light , that is, an image of the eternal Light projected on the human soul; b) the human soul is capable of perceiving intelligible ideas, but it is not capable of perceiving them in their total and complete essence, but what it receives is only a reflection ; c) only in that reflected illumination can God be seen, as a reflection and never directly in his essence; and d) lighting reflects it does not supply concepts, but enables the soul to identify the absolute, necessary and eternal of things.
3.6. Truth and levels of knowledge
In Against Academics the saint of Hippo overcame the skeptical arguments by affirming the possibility of man reaching the truth. Whatever the depth of the doubt raised, the Doctor of Grace defended the human rational capacity to possess the truth, considered within its limits. The indubitable truths that Saint Augustine raised were the following: a) whatever the level of doubt he accesses, what I can be certain of is the principle of non-contradiction : of two contradictory disjunctive propositions, one is true and the other is false; b) with regard to the sensesIt is true that they can present appearances that are not true, as in the case of the appearance of the crooked oar immersed in the water, but if I just nodded saying that “it seems to me that the oar is crooked” I am not mistaken , for I am not giving assent to anything other than appearance . And it is that for practical life sensory knowledge is needed, in the same way that a large part of human knowledge depends on the senses; c) man can be certain, likewise, of mathematical truths ; d) it can also be certain of the ability to doubt because, in any case, man knows that he doubts; e) regarding real existences, man knows of his own existence, to which Saint Augustine associates the certainty of his own life and understanding: the certainty of one’s own existence requires that man be alive and understand the fact of his own life and existence, so that man knows that exists, who lives and who understands; f) but, in addition to that, another certainty can be added: man knows what he wants ; Hence, in The City of God Saint Augustine affirms not only the certainty of one’s own existence but also the certainty of love for her and her knowledge: “we exist, and we know that we exist, and we love that fact and our knowledge of it.” [ The city of God : XI, 26].
But what mattered above all to Saint Augustine was the knowledge of eternal things — as exemplary ideas or truly intelligible archetypes — and their relationship with God. This is wisdom ( superior ratio ), so his attitude towards sensible objects is Platonic: true knowledge cannot be obtained from them due to their changeable character, which deprives them of the status of a true object of knowledge. Being the sensation common to men and animals, man is differentiated from the animal by the possibility of rational knowledge of corporeal objects ( lower ratio ), so that the levels of knowledge would be the following: a) the lower level of knowledge is constituted by the sensation,common between man and brutes; b) At an intermediate level , rational knowledge is situated , directed to action, which involves the use of the senses and is directed at sensible objects, but in which the mind judges corporeal objects according to eternal and incorporeal models ( lower ratio ); and c) the highest level is constituted by the contemplation that the mind makes of eternal things by themselves, without the intervention of sensation, which is known as wisdom, of a purely contemplative nature ( superior ratio ).
In the same way that sensation reflects the corporeal objects in which it has its foundation, the eternal truths also reflect its foundation. This can only be Truth itself, the necessary and immutable Being, that is, God. The necessity and immutability of eternal truths are a reflection of the necessity and immutability of God. God is the foundation of all exemplary standards, ideas, or models. In this sense, we find in Saint Augustine a precedent for the famous Proslogion of Saint Anselm and his ontological argument for the existence of God, starting from the definition of Him as that greater than which nothing can be conceived. Thus, the saint of Hippo wrote several centuries before that “everyone agrees to believe that God is that which surpasses all other objects in dignity”, referring to the only God of gods as “something more excellent and more sublime than which nothing exists »[ Christian doctrine : 1, 7, 7]
3.7. The problem of time
Augustine of Hippo’s solution to the problem of time is known as the triple present theory. Faced with skeptical arguments, which deny the very existence of time, the experience articulated in language is enough to refute them and, in particular, the testimony of history and foresight allows us to affirm the existence of future things and of things past:
It should be said that the times are three: present of past things, present of present things and present of future things. All three exist in a certain way in the spirit and outside of it I do not believe that they exist [ Confessions : XI, 20, 26]
Once the reality of time is admitted, the past would be nothing more than a memory of what has ceased to exist, the future would be defined as the expectation of what does not yet exist and the present would not consist of more than attention to a point, an instant that passes and lacks duration. But the problem of time measurement remains to be solved. Saint Augustine had affirmed the possibility of the measurement of time in the human soul because the impression remains – affectio– of things in passing. This impression, which supposes a passive element, must be placed in relation to an active element: the activity of the spirit that extends as memory, attention and waiting in opposite directions. So the extension of time is appreciated, according to the saint of Hippo, in the relaxation of the human spirit, a solution that Plotinus had pointed out in relation to the spirit of the world.
The relevance of the active element, of a psychological nature, is highlighted as St. Augustine develops his argument and describes the present, not as a point that lacks duration, but as a present intention ( praesens intentio ). The attention deserves to be called intention because it ensures the passage of time: the present intention transfers the future to the past, until, once the future is consumed, everything becomes the past.
The activity of the spirit allows the experience of time, since there would be no future or past without waiting and without a memory. That is, the impression of time depends on the activity of a spirit that waits, attends and remembers. Memory and waiting lie in the human spirit as images-footprint and image-sign, respectively. Although the present was reduced to a point, to the extent that attention passes time, and that attention endures, the measurement of time in the human soul is explained.
In the face of human temporality, eternity is for Saint Augustine always stable, stability consistent in that everything is present — unlike time, which is never present in its totality. Saint Augustine considers that time has been created with the world, but leaves open the possibility of the existence of other times before the world, thus reserving a temporal dimension for angelic beings. Therefore, the central idea that characterizes time according to Saint Augustine is being created. For this reason, any speculation about the time before creation is absurd, as would be absurd the attribution of temporality to God, the eternal Being: “You precede all past times by the magnitude of eternity, always present” [ Confessions : XIII, 13, 16].
4. Fundamental elements of Augustinian ethics
4.1 Virtue as ordo amoris
Augustinian virtue was defined in The City of God in terms of ordo amoris : loving what should be loved [ The City of God : XV, 22]. For this reason, the theological virtues – faith, hope and charity – were considered superior to the four moral virtues taken from Plato – fortitude, justice, prudence, temperance. Not in vain the former order life towards God, while the latter order the life of the soul and of society. Not only that, but, by virtue of their natural hierarchy, moral virtues also had to be ordered toward God. The virtues were conceived by Saint Augustine as various affections or manifestations of love, and the commandment of love for God and neighbor brought them all together:
here is the ethics, since a good and honest life is formed in no other way than by loving, as they should be loved, the things that should be loved, namely, God and our neighbor [ Epistles : 137, 5, 17].
Saint Augustine of Hippo is interested in knowing God as a source of eternal happiness, and in knowing the soul not only because God reveals himself within man, but also because union with God is produced through love. And love is the place where the soul is found: «Bodies are contained in places; but for the soul, affection itself is its place “[ Enarrations on Psalms : 6, 9].
For this reason, the investigation about the human soul as spirit was translated into an exhibition of true love, and the Philosophy of Augustine became an investigation about love. An investigation about love whose core concept is that of the order of love insofar as the Augustinian transcendent eudaemonism defines virtue precisely as follows: “A brief and true definition of virtue is the order of love” [ The City of God : XV , 22].
Saint Augustine was a pioneer in making the ethical concept of virtue evolve, from the classic “disposition of the soul according to nature and reason” [ Eighty-three different questions : q. 31] – ordo est rationis – until it is considered as a “manifestation of love” [ The customs of the Church and those of the Manichaeans : I, 15, 25] – ordo est amoris . In this way the consecration of the ethical investigation of love and the affections of man was consummated, leaving the intellectualist concept of reason relegated to the background in moral questions. The reason for the human heart is none other than love. It is therefore convenient to clarify, given the centrality of the concept, what the Doctor of grace means by love.
From a historical point of view, three conceptions of love can be distinguished: an ancient conception, a Christian conception and a modern conception of love.
According to the ancient notion of love, whose example would be found in Aristotle, the universe can be understood as a chain of dynamic spiritual units, hierarchized from the raw material to the celestial spheres, in which the lower aspires to the higher and is drawn to this until arriving at the divinity, not lover, that supposes the eternally immobile end of all the movements of the love. Love, as Plato already emphasized [Plato, The Banquet : 203b-204b], is an aspiration or tendency from the lower to the higher, from non-being to being, a love of beauty, so that what is loved would be the most noble and perfect. From there a certain vital anguish arises in the beloved, insofar as he fears contamination by being dragged by the lower, and which constitutes the main difference between the ancient and the Christian conception of love.
On the contrary, in the Christian conception there is a change of meaning in the movement of love, that is, an inversion of the movement of love. Love starts from the higher and goes to the lower not with the fear of being contaminated but with the conviction of reaching the highest in that act of humility and humiliation of lowering oneself. Hence, the first initiative in love comes from God.
Love is superimposed on the rational sphere, according to Saint Augustine, for whom love of God makes us more blessed than all reason. Love is considered by Saint Augustine the most fundamental dimension of the human spirit, responsible for its trend movement: «My weight is my love; by the weight of my love I am carried wherever I go »[ Confessions : XIII, 9].
Saint Augustine conceives the universe as a hierarchy of goods arranged at different levels of perfection and goodness, as similarities, vestiges or images that are more distant or closer to God. God has created all things, material and spiritual, and creates them, according to the Holy Scriptures, with measure, number and weight . Saint Augustine put these biblical concepts in relation to the triadic structure , mode, species and order that defined the general structure of the goods of the universe:
We understand by measure that which determines the mode of existence of every being, and by number that which provides the form of existence, and by weight that which reduces every being to stability and stillness [ From genesis to the letter : IV, 3 , 7].
The mode is that by which finite realities exist and are concrete, being able to be and act in a certain place and time space. The species supposes the essential dimension of things, the conceptualizable aspect that attracts intelligence and is a reflection of divine Ideas. The order is a relative component based on the above, which are absolute, consisting of the trend dynamism of things according to their species, which is a tilt both search and appetition or broadcast itself. Identified with the weight, the order inclines to action and its end.
This ontological triad also serves to establish a parallel with the three-dimensional structure of the human spirit according to Saint Augustine as mind, news and love . The mind , which expresses the very nature of the human soul, is its species; the news , as self-consciousness or knowledge that the soul has of itself, in man occurs on the existential plane of the way; and, finally, love , with which the spirit loves itself, reproduces the order or dynamism that the soul develops with respect to itself.
Likewise, the immanent activity of the human soul displayed in memory, intelligence and will, is defined by the same structure of mode, species, order: a) memory is the mode of life of the spirit as the original unit of the soul in its triple dimension of mind, news and love, which enables presence in the existential order; b) intelligence is the species of the immanent activity of the spirit, because it is born from memory and expresses in its interior the internal word oriented on the horizon of the essential; c) the will, which also arises from memory, is the order or inclination of the spirit as such.
Love is for Saint Augustine the force of will in man. Its radical importance lies in constituting the true heart of the soul. Just as all the faculties and activities of the spirit are moved by the will, the love that moves the will is what gives meaning and unity to all human operations. Long before Scheler wrote, as early as the 20th century, that a man’s ordo amoris allows him to be possessed, Augustine of Hippo had already essentially characterized man by his love. His passions or his movements of the will are qualified by the love that enlivens them. That is why he affirmed that “men are specified by their love” [ Sermons : 96, 1, 1].
4.3. Love classes: little faces and cupids
Saint Augustine used the fundamental concepts of caritas and cupiditas to refer to the two fundamental types of love according to their object. The saint of Hippo conceived love as a movement of the soul, an appetite linked to a specific object as a trigger for the movement itself. The love directed to the world by the world, the cupiditas, condemns the human being to the most terrible of unhappiness to the extent that every temporal good is under threat of its disappearance. Only the caritas , the love of God for God and of neighbor for God, can ensure true happiness in the possession of a good that cannot be lost because it is immutable and eternal.
In the cupiditas as lust or love of the world for the world, the desire to have is transformed into fear of losing . Satisfaction for the possession of a temporary asset is revealed as ephemeral, since the fear of its loss is born almost immediately. For this reason, the world by itself can never give true happiness, that which cannot be lost. The world can never offer the assurance that the good obtained by its radical contingentism will not be lost, that is, by its constitutive finitude, always returned to nothing.
Happiness – beatitudo – consists in the possession and conservation of our good, but also in being sure of not losing it. On the contrary, regret – tristitia – consists in having lost our good. However, the real problem with human happiness is that man is constantly beset by fear. Hence Saint Augustine, as Hannah Arendt explains [ Arendt 2001: 26], oppose the happiness of having not so much the sadness for the loss of the good as the fear of losing. The key to the moral life of man is not so much whether to love as what to love. A wrong love can lead to the most irredeemable of misfortunes, making happiness an unattainable goal by itself. For this reason, the saint of Hippo warns that special care must be taken when choosing love:
Love, but think what you love. The love of God and the love of neighbor is called charity; the love of the world and the love of this age is called concupiscence. Hold back concupiscence; excite charity [ Enarrations on Psalms : 31, II, 5].
Consequently, it can be affirmed that the Augustinian distinction between caritas and cupiditas clearly results in a fundamental hierarchy. Loves must be placed in a correct order or ordo amoris : at the top of the pyramid is love for God and, below it, successively, love of neighbor, love of oneself and, finally, love. to the body. Saint Augustine does not absolutely deny their value to temporal goods, but he places them in their correct order: the body must submit to the soul and the soul to God. The commandment of love for God and neighbor includes all kinds of goods and its fulfillment coincides with the ordo amoris that leads to a good, just and happy life. The Augustinian definition ofcaritas as the love of what should be loved evokes the idea of an order of love: “The love of things worth loving is more properly called charity or dilection” [ Eighty-three different questions : q. 35].
In Agustín de Hipona an ethical system is observed whose tools serve to achieve absolute happiness consisting of the union of man with God out of love. The idea of an order in love thus acquires a subordinate character: charity or dilection presupposes an order in love whose direct purpose is none other than to achieve freedom, with the help of grace. This freedom as a domain of the will is identified with the faculty of orienting oneself towards the true formal object of will: the Good, identified with God. God is the only absolute good because he is the only one that is not affected by the radical mutability characteristic of all creatures. Any other good is an inferior good since it is directed by its own nature towards nothingness, it is out of date. Only the union of man with God out of love guarantees his contemplation and,
In charity the order of love is fulfilled which prescribes loving God for oneself and all other things for God. Furthermore, the Augustinian dilection implies a double order in love: on the one hand, an order of things loved and, on the other, an order in the subject who loves. As Alesanco Reinares affirms, this dual objective and subjective natural order of love is the one that reflects the evangelical commandment: “You will love God with all your soul, with all your heart and with all your mind” [ Alesanco Reinares 2004 : 433].
The objective order in love falls on loved things. The inferior useful goods must always be subordinated to the only fruitful object of love: God. Within useful goods, an order from lower to higher rank can be established, from material goods, through rational beings other than oneself, to oneself and, within oneself, virtue, as a great moral good, over freedom. as a medium good and, naturally, on the body, as a minimum good:
This is convenient: that the lower is subject to the higher, so that whoever wants what is lower to be subject to it, may in turn obey the higher. Recognize order, seek peace. You, submitted to God, and to you, the body [ Enarrations on Psalms : 143, 6].
The subjective order in love that the saint of Hippo preached is what allows us to interpret the terms soul, heart and mindof the aforementioned evangelical mandate, insofar as they relate to the three parts of the human soul. Platonic anthropology is corrected by Augustine in the following way: the human soul, one in itself, unfolds its activity in the planes of vegetative or reproductive activity (“with all your soul”), of human and spiritual affections (“with all your heart “), as well as love and knowledge of pure ideas and God (” with all your mind “). The evangelical mandate refers to the need to love God with all the powers of the soul, so that the will is free, that is, it is not dominated by any inferior natural tendency. Only if the soul adheres to the subjective and objective order of love will it attain dominion over the lower tendencies by subordinating them to the contemplative mind. However, once sin has been introduced into the world and the fall of man has taken place, his freedom must be assisted by grace to fight against the inferior natural tendencies. That is why Saint Augustine advises paying attention so as not to succumb to them: “The soul cannot dominate what is inferior to it if it does not deign to serve what is superior to it” [Enarrations on the Psalms : 46, 10].
4.4. The uti-frui distinction
To better clarify this question, the classic Augustinian distinction between uti and frui must be brought up and its meaning properly recalled. Only God can be loved by Himself. Only God can be enjoyed as frui for himself, and other goods insofar as they are ordered to Him: “Because loving is nothing other than wanting something for itself” [ Eighty-three different questions : q. 35].
Thus, there is no more true love than the love of God, since in relation to other people and things there is only uti , that is, their order in relation to the only good that can be loved for oneself: God. Deep down, the Ciceronian distinction beats in the Augustinian doctrine between the very honest , as summum bonum, and the useful , as a means to achieve the former.
Every incorrect interpretation of love, and, consequently, every human perversion rests, according to Saint Augustine, in the confusion between uti and frui , either by using what should be enjoyed, or by enjoying what should be used [ Eighty-three different questions : q. 30].
As has just been said, the only honest love , according to Saint Augustine, is that which is directed to God. But that does not mean that he should instrumentalize his neighbor in the sense of making him a means to achieve his own benefit at his own expense. That love for other men and even love for oneself is a useful love means that they must be correctly ordered with reference to God, that is, they must be subordinate to the love of God:
It is not yet clear to say that we enjoy a thing when we love it for its own sake, and that we should only enjoy it when it makes us blessed; and that of the others we use [ Christian doctrine : I, 31].
4.5. The problem of evil
Faced with the Manichean doctrine, which affirmed the existence of two creative principles, antithetical and in eternal struggle – Ormuz, the god of good or light, and Ahriman , the god of evil or darkness -, the saint of Hippo reacts denying substantiality to evil based on the metaphysical principle of divine incorruptibility: if God cannot be corrupted, then neither can he receive any harm, so there is no point in combat. Everything that is, as created by God, also has the quality of goodness. That is, all that is, is good: quaecumque sunt, bona sunt [ Confessions: VII, 12]. If creatures become corrupted, it is precisely because they participate in both goodness and being, so that their corruption not only takes away the good, but also the being.
These arguments serve to analyze primarily the problem of physical illness. However, Saint Augustine was especially interested in the problem of moral evil and, despite the fact that his treatment is based at first on the same metaphysical bases as physical evil, moral evil supposes the irruption of a new element that instills an inescapably positive character. The moral evil or sin is one that depends on the will of the person, whose realization, consequently, necessarily implies an act of free will.
Thus, it is true that physical evil is not properly an evil considered ontologically. But what is involved here is not the reflection on the nature of physical evil, but on moral evil, and the Doctor of Grace made it very clear that this was the evil itself, inasmuch as it proceeded from the will. human.
Sin or moral evil is evil properly considered deontologically. The ultimate root of evil is a consequence of original sin committed by the parents, in which the entire human species was represented. The consequence of original sin was the stain that characterizes human nature as fallen nature and that has given rise to a deficient freedom, a deficient cause of evil as a voluntary departure from God. Now, the will as a faculty of self-determination, from which sin starts, is itself considered a good. Therefore, although evil is not ontologically, the will is, and therefore, acts positively both by determining itself towards good and evil. Evil, for Saint Augustine, it exists positively in the will considered deontologically when there is a departure from God’s law through a guilty and responsible act. In this sense, a brilliant doctrine around the concept of obligation and moral responsibility can be seen in Saint Augustine.
Moral evil implies that man subverts the correct order of what should be loved: he puts the ephemeral and temporal before the eternal, the world before God. Saint Augustine established as the cause of moral evil the disorderly preference of goods, defining evil in the strict sense as that which proceeds positively from the will of man and that supposes the abandonment of the best. Evil would not be so much the appetite of bad natures — because everything that is, is good — but rather the abandonment of the best natures : iniquitas est desertio meliorum [ The nature of good : XXXIV].
4.6. Freedom, will and destiny
It does not seem too risky to say that the main vital concern of Augustine of Hippo consisted precisely in the problem of man’s destiny. Said destiny appeared essentially linked to his happiness, which could only occur in God. He tried different rational arguments based on the Neoplatonists in favor of the immortality of the soul as an essential requirement to reach the otherworldly destiny of man. These arguments presented insurmountable difficulties. For example, the argument of the immortality of the human soul because it is subject to the attribute of eternal truth was only applicable to the true subject of truth as an essential property, that is, to God, since the human soul is a subject that is mutable in the face of reality. immutable and eternal truth. So that,
[ The problem ] of whether human nature can achieve this immortality is a very big problem. But if there is faith, which all those to whom Jesus gave the power to be children of God have, the problem disappears [ The Trinity : XIII, 9, 12].
Saint Augustine considered that the happiness to which man aspires is not authentic if it does not include the immortality of the soul: a life that was not eternal could not be a happy life. Since all men want to achieve happiness and not lose it, they should keep life, since obviously no one could be happy if he did not live. For this reason, only eternal life can properly be called blessed. Happiness, destiny, eternal life and immortality of the soul were intimately linked questions in Saint Augustine that could only receive a definitive answer from the hand of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. A life and complete happiness that would not be perfect until the resurrection of the bodies took place, since, being man a compound of soul and body,
The fallen nature of man by pride made divine help necessary to rise humbly above sin and return to God. Saint Augustine resorted to grace as a key element in his doctrine to restore freedom to man, conceived as a “not being able to sin”, after having degenerated by original sin into free will, characterized as a “not being able not to sin.” The deficient freedom of man as a consequence of original sin supposes a natural tendency or inclination to do evil, so the grace of God as a giftDivine favor helps to save that tendency by rectifying the wrongly inclined movement of the will. Likewise, the mechanism for receiving grace does not nullify the free determination of human will, but rather requires the free and favorable will of the person who receives it in the form of acceptance. Consequently, free will and divine grace are two perfectly compatible elements in Augustinian thought: “The Law was given, then, so that grace could be sought; grace was given so that the law might be fulfilled ”[ The spirit and the letter : 19, 34].
Exactly the same happens with the doctrine of the predestination of the saints. This must be put in relation to divine foreknowledge without implying any detriment to the free determination of the human will and its necessary cooperation, together with grace, to achieve salvation. And it is that God knows who will respond to his call, who will accept sanctifying grace before they work. Predestination contains in itself divine foreknowledge, but that knowledge does not affect the free will of men, who are the ones who really condemn themselves by rejecting the grace that God offers them. Divine foreknowledge does not imply necessity in all causes but that God knows the order of all causes, both necessary and contingent. As regards the human will as a contingent and free cause,The gift of perseverance : 14, 35].
The truth is that destiny and human happiness were intimately linked in the saint’s thought, without prejudice to the fact that to achieve beatitude the double collaboration of the human will and divine help was required. The Christian experience of salvation is situated between two moments: a first moment that starts from the love of God himself, in the form of grace , prior to all individual activity; and a second final moment, characterized by sanctifying grace , of redemption through divine love. Freedom and human merit would be located between both moments, so that the beginning and the end of all salvation process would be in God.
In this context, Christ identifies himself with the truth, acting as the model and starting point of the loving emotion, thus embodied in a person: the person of God. Likewise, the love that God pours out on his creatures and that is an essential condition to begin to love him, is also a love of God for all his creatures. Hence, after its reception by the human person, God’s love is also embodied in a love of neighbor as loved by God. If God loves all his creatures and the human person receives God’s love, the human person also becomes the repository of God’s love for all his creatures.