Luther, self, will Re: [xmca] Augustine ...

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Tue Nov 27 2007 - 06:36:33 PST

Eric can probably shed light on this:

Maybe the most famous quote traditionally attributed to Luther is "Here I
stand; I can do no other." Assuming that Luther actually did say something
like that (I think documentation is lacking), I understood this for a long
time as a kind of existential act, taking a stand that Luther thought he
needed to take as a matter of personal integrity, authenticity, and
fidelity to his beliefs.

Then I read his discourse on _the Bondage of the Will_, his response to
Erasmus, in which Luther strenuously argues that there is no such thing as
"free will." In light of this, I can no longer understand Luther's
declaration as one that he understood himself as making as an act of free

But how, then, can we understand this? It could be interpreted and
explained in terms of his doctrine of predestination. Still, it's hard for
me to dismiss hearing some element of existential self-consciousness mixed
in -- some glimmer of an idea that his personal identity was at stake in a
decision he was making.

Søren Kierkegaard might be relevant to making sense of this, and K's
relation to Hegel could help articulate how all this relates to the
thought-worlds more familiar to folks on this list.

On Tue, 27 Nov 2007, Tony Whitson wrote:

> 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,
>> Lets 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.
>> Augustines 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
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> _______________________________
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

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 06:45 PST 2007

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