Augustine and the Limits of Virtue / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


Augustine's moral psychology was one of the richest in late antiquity, and in this book James Wetzel evaluates its development, giving particular attention to Augustine's appropriation, critique, and eventual reformulation of a philosophical ideal of human perfection. It has been commonplace among Augustine's interpreters to divide his thought into earlier and later phases, the former being deemed more philosophically informed than the latter. Wetzel's contention is that this division is less pronounced than it has been made out to be. Augustine clearly acknowledges his differences with the pagan philosophers of antiquity, but, as Wetzel shows, he never loses his fascination with the Stoic assimilation of happiness to virtue and with the possibility of having virtue follow directly from wisdom. These interests extend to Augustine's writings on grace, where he depicts happiness and freedom as consequences of a divinely directed recovery of virtue. His notorious dismissal of pagan virtue in City of God is part of his family quarrel with philosophers, not a rejection of philosophy per se. Augustine the theologian emerges in Wetzel's depiction as a Platonist philosopher with a keen sense of the psychology of inner conflict. This sophisticated analysis of Augustine's reflections on the nature and limits of human perfectibility makes a notable contribution to Augustine studies, and casts light both on the subject of the will and on the relationship between theology and philosophy generally. It is, finally, a brilliant defense of the cogency and power of the Augustinian view of free will, which has been seen by some as philosophically indefensible.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521064811
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/12/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations
Introduction: Augustine and philosophy 1
1 Time-bound 17
The entropy of personal identity 26
Sin and entropy 37
2 The discipline of virtue 45
Virtue and external goods 55
The disenfranchisement of the affections 68
Voluntary sin 76
3 Wisdom's grief 86
Involuntary sin 88
The rehabilitation of the affections 98
4 Grace and conversion 112
Two wills at war 126
Fugitive beginnings 138
5 Virtue in retrospect 161
Conversion's persona 169
Mixing memory and desire 187
Irresistible grace 197
Alienation and autonomy 206
Conclusion: Free will 219
Editions 236
Translations 238
References 239
Index 244
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