Augustine of Hippo

(354-430)
   Aurelius Augustinus is usually known in English as 'Augustine of Hippo', since he was bishop of that place and, confusingly, shares his name with Augustine of Canterbury. He was the first major Christian philosopher and remains one of the most influential, thanks to the five million or so words of his that survive. He was born in Thagaste, North Africa, to a pagan father, Patricius, and a devout Christian mother, Monica. He rebelled against his mother's faith and lived with a mistress in Rome and Milan while teaching rhetoric there. He was influenced by scepticism and Manichaeism, but came through these, and turned vigorously against them in later life. He was converted by reading Romans 13: 13-14, and baptised by his mentor, Ambrose, in Milan cathedral. After being made Bishop of Hippo he spent the rest of his life in writing and in exercise of his episcopal duties. He had wide-ranging philosophical interests: on time (of which he famously said that he knew what it was until somebody asked him), memory, language (his views were discussed by Wittgenstein) and ethics (he wrote a book on the wrongness of lying). What made Augustine a distinctively Christian philosopher was his insistence on thinking through philosophical issues in the light of his faith and the witness of the Bible. He is perhaps most remembered now for his views on more distinctively theological topics. For example, the nature and existence of freedom vexed him greatly, particularly its compatibility with predestination and (more weakly) with foreknowledge. It seems that Augustine changed his mind on this issue, and he is now usually taken as a champion of the view that insists that free will is compatible with God's determining our actions. Augustine wrote a classic autobiography, Confessions, as well as his theological works, the two most important being On the Trinity and City of God. This last work draws a firm distinction between the city of pagan culture and the city of Christian thought, which thus marks it out as one of the foundational texts of a distinctively Christian philosophy.
   Further reading: Augustine 1877-1902, 1965-, 1990and Augustine 1991; Battenhouse 1955; Bonner 1986; Brown, Peter 1969; Chadwick 1986; Gilson 1960; Kirwan 1989; Rist 1994; Wills 1999

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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