Re: [xmca] Augustine vs. Bauman?

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Tue Nov 27 2007 - 05:54:35 PST

Augustine can sound modern, if selective quotes are considered outside the
context of his thought. Famously, for example, the second of these three
lines in the lyrics of a song by Sting:

The less I need the more I get
Make me chaste but not just yet
It's a promise or a lie I'll repent before I die

[Saint Augustine in Hell
From the album Ten Summoner's Tales (A&M)
Words and music by Sting]

On Tue, 27 Nov 2007, E. Knutsson wrote:

> Paul,
> Let˙˙s not forget that Luther was an Augustinian monk: He abandoned the study of
> law and entered the monastery in Erfurt of the Order of the Hermits of St.
> Augustine. By the second half of the 15th century, the Augustinian order had
> become divided into two factions, one seeking reform in the direction of the
> order's original strict rule, the other favouring modifications. The monastery
> Luther joined in Erfurt was part of the strict, observant faction...
> True, predestination has been especially associated with John Calvin and the
> Reformed tradition. Both Calvin and Luther based many of their views on the
> writings of St. Augustine. In some of the writings of St. Augustine and Luther,
> in the decrees of the second Council of Orange (529), and in the thought of St.
> Thomas Aquinas, the salvation of man is ascribed to the unmerited grace of God
> and thus to predestination, but it attributes divine reprobation to man's sin
> and guilt.
> Augustine˙˙s doctrine of predestination was founded on his premise of unearned
> election, and is, first and foremost, a doctrine of confession. Although
> autobiographical narrative makes up much of the first 9 of the 13 books of
> Augustine's Confessiones, autobiography is incidental to the main purpose of
> the work. For Augustine confessions is a catchall term for acts of religiously
> authorized speech: praise of God, blame of self, confession of faith.
> "The Augustinian ˙˙soul˙˙ is not Aristotelian ˙˙substance˙˙ - nor is it the
> Cartesian ˙˙ghost in the machine.˙˙ It is what is referred to today as
> the ˙˙subject,˙˙ but the subject as derived from and dependent upon the God of
> the Bible. Unlike the medieval debate between Thomistic intellectualism and
> Scotistic voluntarism, Augustine does not regard the different dimensions of
> human interiority as separate spheres ˙˙but as aspects of one and the same act,
> inseparably united with one another.˙˙ For Augustine ˙˙the soul is the living
> whole of personality, whose life is a unity, and which by its self-
> consciousness is certain of its own reality as the surest truth.˙˙ In this
> interpretation of will and soul in the language of personalism, Augustine
> sounds very modern, for in some ways the modern period saw the further
> development of this cast of thought but in a direction toward an individualism
> of the ˙˙private self,˙˙ which is contrary to Augustinian ˙˙interiority.˙˙"
> (Caputo, John D. (ed.). Augustine and Postmodernism: Confession and
> Circumfession. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004, p. 161-2).
> E.
> On 2007-11-26, at 21:58, Paul Dillon wrote:
>> Eric,
>> I tend to agree that the modern notion of individual can't be found in
> ancient texts. Nevertheless, doesn't the idea that ones own life (e.g.,
> Augstine's recounting of his own errant youth and subsequent redemption) can
> be " a typical story, as an exemplum for all Christians" imply a concept of
> individual self. I would argue that the concept of individual self is implicit
> in the Christian concept of the soul and redemption. With all the deadly
> consequences it has wrought humankind.
>> Which is also one of the reason that the quote you provided seems strange.
> The author writes:
>> "Within Augustinian metaphysics human intentions play a restricted role in
> the
>> narrative of the self because of predestination " Now I'm wrong at least 40%
> of the time but predestination isn't an ancient christian concept as far as I
> know. Predestination is present in Calvinism but not in Catholicism . . . I
> don't know whether Augustine specifically addressed it but Aquinas (most
> certainly provided a cogent argument against it. In any event, the concept of
> predestination undermines the possibility of individual salvation, a central
> dogma in pre-Reformation Christianity. Furthermore, the essence Augustine's
> argument in "On the Teacher" is precisely the inability to reduce faith to
> reason, a teaching that can be compared in fundamental ways to
> Kierkergaard's "leap of faith" which Kaufmann and other historians of Western
> philosophy consider the first cogent expression of "existenialism", that most
> individualist of philosophies. That kinship would certainly provide evidence
> that some concept of "individual" was working in Augustine's thought, albeit,
>> to use Hegelian terminology, in-itself and not for-itself.
>> Paul
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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

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Received on Tue Nov 27 06:03 PST 2007

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