Many critics of Augustine target his “pessimism,” arguing that his fixation on evil denies the value of this-worldly goods. This article challenges this view by exposing a methodological assumption that often underwrites it—the idea that Augustine's texts can be abstracted from their rhetorical contexts. To illustrate, I offer a close reading of City of God 22.22–24, a passage frequently cited as evidence of Augustine's pessimism. By analyzing how Augustine uses rhetoric to “instruct” and “encourage” his readers, I argue instead that this passage should be interpreted as an exercise of hope that helps readers resist temptations toward presumption and despair. This account complicates the common binary between optimism and pessimism and supplies a novel interpretation of key passages in City of God.
1 On Augustine's interest in mosaics, see Wills, Garry, Saint Augustine (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 3, and Harmless, William, introduction to Augustine in His Own Words (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), xvii–xviii. On mosaics in Roman North Africa, including Augustine's basilica in Hippo, see Dunbabin, Katherine M. D., The Mosaics of Roman North Africa: Studies in Iconography and Patronage (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 188–95, 238–39.
2 Augustine, , On Order, trans. Borruso, Silvano (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's, 2007), 1.2. References to the original Latin are from Corpus Augustinianum Gissense, ed. Mayer, Cornelius (Basel: Schwabe, 1995), available via Past Masters at http://pm.nlx.com/.
3 On Order 1.2. Cf. Augustine, , The City of God against the Pagans, ed. Dyson, R. W. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 12.4.
4 Rawls, John, Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy, ed. Freeman, Samuel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 302.
5 Russell, Bertrand, The History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972), 345–46, 355, 365.
6 Niebuhr, Reinhold, “Augustine's Political Realism,” in The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected Essays and Addresses, ed. Brown, Robert McAfee (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986), 140–41, 128.
7 Elshtain, Jean Bethke notes how “Augustine is usually numbered among the pessimists” in Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), 19–21. See also Gregory, Eric, “Sympathy and Domination: Adam Smith, Happiness, and the Virtues of Augustinianism,” in Adam Smith as Theologian, ed. Oslington, Paul (New York: Routledge, 2011), 34.
8 Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 53–55. See also Arendt, Hannah, Love and Saint Augustine, ed. and trans. Scott, Joanna Vecchiarelli and Stark, Judith Chelius (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
9 Nussbaum, Martha C., Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of the Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 550–56.
10 Billings, David, “Natality or Advent: Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Moltmann on Hope and Politics,” in The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity, ed. Volf, Miroslav and Katerberg, William (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 135–36, endorsing the view in Arendt, Love.
11 Billings, “Natality or Advent,” 136. I engage the interpretations of Arendt, Nussbaum, and Billings at greater length in Michael Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair: Augustine's Hope for the Commonwealth,” American Political Science Review (forthcoming).
12 Niebuhr, “Augustine's Political Realism.”
13 Deane, Herbert A., The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), esp. 56–66, 241–43. Deane equates Augustinian “realism” with “pessimism” (56–57, 66, 242–43).
14 Shklar, Judith, “Giving Injustice Its Due,” Yale Law Journal 98, no. 6 (April 1989): 1136, 1139–40.
15 Isaiah Berlin, quoted in Arthur Scheslinger Jr., “Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr,” New York Times, September 18, 2005, and Hobsbawn, Eric, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914–1991 (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 1.
16 Milbank, John, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 382–442.
17 Hauerwas, Stanley, After Christendom? How the Church Is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1991), 13–44, esp. 40, 19. Cf. Hauerwas, Stanley, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 72–86, 260n46.
18 Drawing on Arendt, Billings argues, for example, that “Augustine cannot develop an adequate view of politics because loving the world for its own sake is idolatry and secular (worldly) events cannot attain true significance” (“Natality or Advent,” 135).
19 Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair.” I am developing Augustine's account of hope at greater length in Michael Lamb, “A Commonwealth of Hope: Reimagining Augustine's Political Thought” (unpublished manuscript).
20 My argument is part of a small but an emerging set of interpretations that attempt to illuminate a less pessimistic and more hopeful account of Augustine's political thought. See, for example, Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics; Heyking, John von, Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001); Doody, John, Hughes, Kevin L., and Paffenroth, Kim, eds., Augustine and Politics (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005); Johnson, Kristen Deede, Theology, Political Theory, and Pluralism: Beyond Tolerance and Difference (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Mathewes, Charles T., A Theology of Public Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Gregory, Eric, Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); and Bretherton, Luke, Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of Faithful Witness (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Many of these accounts come from scholars in theology and religious studies. One of my aims is to bring this alternative interpretation into political theory.
21 Hadot, Pierre, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, ed. Davidson, Arnold I., trans. Chase, Michael (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1995); Hadot, Pierre, What Is Ancient Philosophy?, trans. Chase, Michael (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Nussbaum, Martha C., The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994); Cooper, John M., Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012).
22 Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 83, 264–76.
23 Ibid., 265. Averil Cameron notes that scholarship on the exchange between early Christian discourse and Greek philosophy “has in most cases focused on content rather than on mode of expression.” See Cameron, , Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 9.
24 Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 59–60, 81–82; What Is Ancient Philosophy?, 6.
25 Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 59.
26 See Schenkeveld, Dirk M., “Philosophical Prose,” in Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period (330 B.C.–A.D. 400), ed. Porter, Stanley E. (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 195–264, esp. 204–13.
27 Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 61.
28 Hadot, What Is Ancient Philosophy?, 274, emphasis original. Cf. Cameron, Christianity, 28, 46, and Charry, Ellen, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 120–49.
29 See Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 64; cf. 267–68. One of Hadot's favorite examples is Marcus Aurelius's Meditations (59–60, 179–205). Against modern readers who interpret Meditations as a repository of pessimism, Hadot argues that “Marcus’ seemingly pessimistic declarations are not expressions of his disgust or disillusion at the spectacle of life; rather, they are a means he employs in order to change his way of evaluating the events and objects which go to make up human existence” (186). In other words, Marcus's clinical statements attempt to objectify, and thereby sterilize, the pleasures he finds so tempting (186). The “consciously willed application of rhetoric” constitutes a “discipline of desire” aimed at reorienting Marcus's vision and thereby reforming his desire (59–60, 187, 197). Considering the Meditations within its rhetorical context casts new light on Marcus's “pessimism” and illustrates the importance of a text's rhetorical form. The same insight, I believe, applies to many passages typically seen as evidence of Augustine's “pessimism.”
30 For an insightful analysis of Augustine's appropriation of the classical rhetorical tradition, see Kolbet, Paul R., Augustine and the Cure of Souls: Reviving a Classical Ideal (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010).
31 Augustine, , The Confessions, trans. Boulding, Maria (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 6.11.18; cf. 3.4.7–8, 8.7.17. Cf. Augustine, The Happy Life, in Trilogy on Faith and Happiness, trans. Teske, Roland J. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2010), 9–53, at 1.4.
32 Confessions 7.9.13–15; 8.2.3; Happy Life 1.1–4.
33 City of God 8.5. For Augustine's later assessment of his early Platonism, see The Retractions, trans. Bogan, Mary Inez (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1968), 1.1.3–4, 1.3.
34 City of God 19.1. In City of God 4.21, Augustine notes that his predecessors described “virtue” as “the art of living well and rightly. Hence, they considered that it was from the Greek word arete, which means ‘virtue,’ that the Latin-speaking peoples derived the word ‘art.’” For discussion of Augustine's “more practical” mode of philosophy, see Kent, Bonnie, “Augustine's Ethics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, ed. Stump, Eleonore and Kretzmann, Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 205–6.
35 On Neoplatonism as a way of life, see Hadot, What Is Ancient Philosophy?, 146–71, and Cooper, Pursuits of Wisdom, 305–87. On Neoplatonic practices of commentary and “books as guides to living,” particularly in relation to Augustine, see Clark, Gillian, “City of Books: Augustine and the World as Text,” in The Early Christian Book, ed. Klingshirn, William E. and Safran, Linda (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2007), 117–38, esp. 134–38.
36 Brown, Peter, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 241–42. Nussbaum traces Augustine's appropriation of Platonic “ascent” (Upheavals of Thought, 527–56), but ignores the more rhetorical aspects of Augustine's account.
37 Byers, Sarah Catherine, Perception, Sensibility, and Moral Motivation in Augustine: A Stoic-Platonic Synthesis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), esp. chaps. 2–3.
38 Ibid., 45–54.
39 Ibid., 1–22, 55–69, 151–71.
40 Ibid., 27–28.
41 Augustine, , Expositions of the Psalms, 99–120, trans. Boulding, Maria (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003), 118.1.1, cited by Byers, Perception, 28.
42 Confessions 3.3.6–3.4.7; Happy Life 1.4.
43 See Cameron, Christianity, 47–88, 139–40, and Brown, Peter, Through the Eye of the Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 56–57.
44 Confessions 1.17.27, 3.3.6.
45 For Augustine's indictment of Roman rhetoricians, see Confessions 4.2.2, 9.2.2, 9.5.13. On Augustine as an “antirhetorical rhetorician,” see Wills, Saint Augustine, 27–28, 144–45; cf. Cameron, Christianity, 35, 66–68, 85–87.
46 Augustine, , On Christian Teaching, trans. Green, R. P. H. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 4.5.8, using the translation in Cipriani, Nello, “Rhetoric,” trans. O'Connell, Matthew, in Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Fitzgerald, Allan D. et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 724–26.
47 See, e.g., The Augustine Catechism: The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity, trans. Harbert, Bruce (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1999), 22.81. For discussion, see Dodaro, Robert, Christ and the Just Society in the Thought of Augustine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 27–32, 66–67, and Clair, Joseph, Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 54–55.
48 Augustine, The Excellence of Widowhood, in Marriage and Virginity, trans. Kearney, R. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1999), 111–36, at §2. I am indebted to Clair, Discerning the Good, 54, for bringing this passage to my attention.
49 For overviews, see R. P. H. Green, introduction to On Christian Teaching, vii–xxiii; James J. O'Donnell, “Doctrina Christiana, De,” in Fitzgerald et al., Augustine through the Ages, 278–80; Harrison, Carol, “The Rhetoric of Scripture and Preaching: Classical Decadence or Christian Aesthetic?,” in Augustine and His Critics: Essays in Honour of Gerald Bonner, ed. Dodaro, Robert and Lawless, George (New York: Routledge, 2000), 214–30; and Kennedy, George A., Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, 2nd ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 174–82.
50 According to Frederick Van Fleteren, “Augustine knew Cicero's De oratore and Orator ad Brutum well,” but “did not follow them slavishly.” See “Augustine and Philosophy,” Augustinian Studies 41, no. 1 (2010): 267n67. See also Green, introduction to On Christian Teaching, xviiii–xix; James J. O'Donnell, “Doctrina Christiana, De,” 278–80; Harrison, “Rhetoric,” 219–29; and Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric, 114, 174–82.
51 On Christian Teaching 4.12.27. See Cicero, Orator, trans. H. M. Hubbell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962), 21.69; cf. Cicero, , The Best Kind of Orator, trans. Hubbell, H. M. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949), 1.3–4, 5.16, and Cicero, , On the Ideal Orator, trans. May, James M. and Wisse, Jakob (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 2.114–15, 2.121, 2.128–29, 2.176, 2.310–12.
52 On Christian Teaching 4.12.27–28; cf. Harrison, “Rhetoric,” 220.
53 On Christian Teaching 4.13.29.
54 Ibid., 4.12.27, cf. 4.13.29 and On Order 2.38.
55 On Christian Teaching 4.17.34; cf. Cicero, Orator 29.101. “In the restrained style,” Augustine adds, the orator “persuades people that what he says is true; in the grand style he persuades them to do what they knew to be necessary but were not doing; in the mixed style he persuades people that he is speaking attractively or elaborately” (4.25.55). Erich Auerbach suggests Augustine's emphasis on “context and purpose” is a departure from the classical tradition, which distinguished styles by the “subject matter” discussed. See Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, trans. Manheim, Ralph (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 34–39. See also Heyking, John von, “Disarming, Simple, and Sweet: Augustine's Republican Rhetoric,” in Talking Democracy: Historical Perspectives on Rhetoric and Democracy, ed. Fontana, Benedetto, Nederman, Cary J., and Remer, Gary (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2004), 170–72.
56 On Christian Teaching 4.18.35–4.19.38.
57 Ibid., 4.4.6; 4.19.38–4.20.39; 4.21.46.
58 Ibid., 4.4.6.
59 Ibid., 4.19.38, 4.22.51.
60 Elshtain notes that many political theorists teach what she describes as “Augustine Lite,” focusing primarily on book 19 and other “political” fragments from City of God (Augustine and the Limits of Politics, 19–20). One reason may be the sprawling length of City of God and the pedagogical need to assign a manageable excerpt focused on politics. Eric Gregory and Joseph Clair observe that book 19 “provides perfect length of assigned reading for Augustine's political theology in a survey course.” Gregory, See Eric and Clair, Joseph, “Augustinianisms and Thomisms,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Political Theology, ed. Hovey, Craig and Phillips, Elizabeth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 183.
61 Skinner, Quentin, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, vol. 1, The Renaissance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), xiii–xiv, 88–89, referencing Petrarch, who, notably, took inspiration from Augustine. On Skinner's account of “saying” and “doing,” see Hamilton-Bleakley, Holly, “Linguistic Philosophy and The Foundations,” in Rethinking the Foundations of Modern Political Thought, ed. Brett, Annabel, Tully, James, and Hamilton-Bleakley, Holly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 20–33.
62 See Lane, Melissa S., Method and Politics in Plato's “Statesman” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Viroli, Maurizio, Machiavelli (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); and Skinner, Quentin, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
63 See von Heyking, Augustine and Politics as Longing, 17–50; von Heyking, “Disarming, Simple, and Sweet”; Murphy, Andrew, “Augustine and the Rhetoric of Roman Decline,” History of Political Thought 26, no. 4 (2005): 586–606; and Smith, Thomas W., “The Glory and Tragedy of Politics,” in Augustine and Politics, ed. Doody, John, Hughes, Kevin L., and Paffenroth, Kim (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 187–213.
64 Arendt, Love, 4–6. In his formal assessment of Arendt's dissertation, Karl Jaspers notes that Arendt's “method does some violence to the text. The foreword and the execution of the whole make clear that no attention is given to the great transformations in Augustinian thought that came about in the course of his life. Neither historical nor philosophical interests are primary here.” See Arendt, Hannah and Jaspers, Karl, Correspondence, 1926–1969, ed. Kohler, Lotte and Saner, Hans, trans. Robert, and Kimber, Rita (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1992), 689n1.
65 Niebuhr, “Augustine's Political Realism.”
66 Deane, Political and Social Ideas.
67 See Nussbaum, Therapy of Desire, esp. x–xi, 6–8, 35–37, 44–47.
68 Ibid., 18–19, 32–36.
69 Burke, Kenneth, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), 1–171; Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 52, 68; Martin, Thomas F., “Augustine's Confessions as Pedagogy: Exercises in Transformation,” in Augustine and Liberal Education, ed. Paffenroth, Kim and Hughes, Kevin L. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 25–51.
70 Stock, Brian, “Ethical Values and the Literary Imagination in the Later Ancient World,” New Literary History 29, no. 1 (1998): 1–13.
71 See, e.g., Stalnaker, Aaron, “Spiritual Exercises and the Grace of God: Paradoxes of Personal Formation in Augustine,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 24, no. 2 (2004): 137–70; Kolbet, Augustine and the Cure of Souls; Byers, Perception; Clair, Discerning the Good; Cavadini, John C., “Simplifying Augustine,” in Educating People of Faith, Exploring the History of Jewish and Christian Communities, ed. Engen, John Van (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 63–84; and Bullock, Jeffrey, “Augustinian Innovation: A Spokesperson for a Post-classical Age,” Journal of Communication and Religion 20, no. 1 (1997): 5–13.
72 See, e.g., Clair, Discerning the Good; Dodaro, Christ and the Just Society. Atkins, E. M. and Dodaro's, R. J. edition of Augustine's Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) has helped to reorient scholars’ attention to the political relevance of Augustine's sermons and letters.
73 Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, 107; Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds, 120–49; Stalnaker, “Spiritual Exercises,” 138–40.
74 In contrast to Augustine's theological works, von Heyking notes, “comparatively little has been done on his political rhetoric in the City of God beyond demonstrating Augustine's antipolitical rhetoric” (Augustine and Politics, 17).
75 Andrew Murphy, “Augustine and the Rhetoric of Roman Decline”; Smith, “Glory and Tragedy,” 202; cf. 188–97. On City of God’s hortatory dimension, see also O'Daly, Gerard, Augustine's City of God: A Reader's Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 36–37. On Augustine's attempt to redirect the love of glory, see also Roberts, Veronica, “Augustine's Ciceronian Response to the Ciceronian Patriot,” Perspectives on Political Science 45, no. 2 (2016): 113–24.
76 Von Heyking, Augustine and Politics as Longing, 12, 20, cf. 17–50; “Disarming, Simple, and Sweet,” 176–77.
77 Brown takes this phrase from Henry James's description of nineteenth-century Russian novels. See Brown, Peter, “Political Society,” in Augustine: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Markus, R. A. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972), 311.
78 See Retractions 2.69; Letter 23A*.4 in Augustine, , Letters 211–270, 1*–29*, trans. Teske, Roland (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2005).
79 See R. W. Dyson, introduction to City of God, xi–xiv; Markus, R. A., Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St. Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 70–71; Brown, “Political Society,” 311–12; and Harrison, Carol, Augustine: Christian Truth and Fractured Humanity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 197–99.
80 O'Daly, Augustine's City of God, esp. 27–38, 272.
81 Harrison, “Rhetoric,” 215.
82 On Christian Teaching 4.22.51.
85 See ibid., 4.22.51–4.25.55.
86 Ibid., 4.23.52, 4.25.55, 4.20.42–43.
87 Von Heyking highlights Augustine's use of the three styles in City of God (Augustine and Politics, 36; “Disarming, Simple, and Sweet,” 172n16, 176–77).
88 Letter 2*, in Letters 211–270. For discussion, see O'Daly, Augustine's City of God, 36–37.
89 Letter 2*.3.
90 Clark describes City of God as Augustine's “most consciously and consistently Ciceronian work, both in content and in style” (“City of Books,” 126).
91 For evidence of Augustine's dictation, see Letter 23A*.3. For allusions to his process of review, see Letter 212A and Letter 1A* and Possidius, , “The Life of Saint Augustine,” in Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints’ Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, trans. Hoare, F. R., ed. Noble, Thomas F. X. and Head, Thomas (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), §28. For a summary of research on Augustine's process, see Stock, Brian, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 288n79. For a history of City of God as a book, see Clark, “City of Books,” and Vessey, Mark, “The History of the Book: Augustine's City of God and Post-Roman Cultural Memory,” in Augustine's City of God: A Critical Guide, ed. Wetzel, James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 14–32.
92 Stock, Augustine the Reader, 5–6; Patricia Hampl, preface to Confessions, xiii–xxvi, esp. xvii.
93 In Letter 212A, for example, Augustine encourages Firmus to share City of God with those in Carthage who lack access. Possidius (“Life,” §18) describes how many of Augustine's texts were copied and shared.
94 Confessions 6.3.3.
95 Stock, Augustine the Reader, 5.
96 Letter 2*.3.
97 City of God 22.1.
98 For a summary of book 22, see O'Daly, Augustine's City of God, 225–33.
99 City of God 22.22–23.
100 Ibid., 22.22.
101 Ibid., 22.22–23.
102 Ibid., 22.22.
103 See, e.g., Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 61, 66, 92–93, 236; Markus, Saeculum, 95; and Markus, R. A., Christianity and the Secular (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), 56. While acknowledging the goods listed in 22.24, O'Daly describes 22.22–23 as “an uncompromisingly grim picture of the human condition” (Augustine's City of God, 230–31).
104 Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 61, 66, 92–93, 236.
105 Ibid., 59–60.
106 Ibid., 66, cf. 60–2, 234–43.
107 Ibid., xiii, 230, 241.
108 City of God 22.24. Bonnie Kent also cites this passage to suggest that “Augustine never reduces the present life to some miserable waystation on the train route to heaven. De civitate Dei’s notorious, often-reprinted catalogue of all the troubles of mortal life—a staple of late twentieth-century anthologies—comes followed by a much less noticed catalogue of all the goods of the present life” (“Augustine's Ethics,” 211).
109 City of God 22.24.
110 See Wills, Saint Augustine, 138. Peter Brown describes 22.24 in passing as an “argument for hope,” but does not elaborate on its specific relation to the virtue or how it is cultivated (Augustine of Hippo, 328). Elshtain also challenges a disproportionate emphasis on evil and insists on Augustine's affirmation of goodness (Augustine and the Limits of Politics, 89, 117), but does not attend explicitly to the rhetorical and pedagogical features of book 22.
111 See, e.g., Billings, “Natality or Advent,” 132–36.
112 Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 64, cf. 43.
113 Ibid., 66–67.
114 Ibid., 60–62, 66, 243.
115 Ibid., 230, 241, 237–39.
116 Mathewes, Charles T., Evil and the Augustinian Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 75–103. I agree with Ernest Fortin that “Augustine was neither the starry-eyed idealist for which he has been taken by some, nor the hard-nosed realist for which he has been taken by others,” and that to see him as such is to take his “long series of hyperbolic statements” “out of context.” See Fortin, , “Augustine and the Problem of Modernity,” in Classical Christianity and the Political Order, ed. Benestad, J. Brian (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996), 142, 146.
117 Shklar, “Giving Injustice Its Due,” 1139–40.
118 On Order 1.19.
119 City of God 22.24.
120 Ibid., 11.18.
122 Cicero, Orator 38; On the Ideal Orator 2.263, cf. 3.207.
123 City of God 11.18.
124 On Order 1.18.
125 Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 70–71.
126 Cf. Smith, “Glory and Tragedy,” 189.
127 See Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair” and “A Commonwealth of Hope.”
128 Hebrews 11:1, cited in Enchiridion 2.8; Augustine, , Sermons (341–400) on Various Subjects, trans. Hill, Edmund (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1994), 359A.3.
129 Enchiridion 2.8.
130 See Sermon 359A.3–4; Augustine, , Sermons (148–183) on the New Testament, trans. Hill, Edmund (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1992), 158.7–8; Augustine, , Expositions of the Psalms 1–32, trans. Boulding, Maria (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2000), 31(2).5.
131 City of God 11.28; Confessions 13.9.10.
132 Sermon 359A.4.
133 Enchiridion 2.8.
134 City of God 14.7; cf. 14.6.
135 City of God 15.22; Augustine, On the Free Choice of the Will, in On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings, ed. and trans. King, Peter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 18.104.22.168–22.214.171.124.
136 See, e.g., Enchiridion 30.115; Augustine, , Letters 100–155, trans. Teske, Roland (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003), 130.6.12–130.7.14; Augustine, , Expositions of the Psalms, 121–150, trans. Boulding, Maria (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2004), 129.11. For discussion, see Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair.” See also Mittleman, Alan, Hope in a Democratic Age: Philosophy, Religion, and Political Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 155; and Studer, Basil, “Augustine and the Pauline Theme of Hope,” in Paul and the Legacies of Paul, ed. Babcock, William S. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), 201–25. To be clear, Augustine believes that hope remains a theological virtue ordered ultimately to God; he does not identify a separate natural or temporal virtue of hope. However, Augustine does include temporal goods as proper objects of the theological virtue, and he recognizes that hope is a time-bound virtue characteristic of our temporal life on earth. Since we can hope only for objects that are unseen, Augustine argues that there will be no hope in heaven, for “we shall not hope for the reality, but embrace it.” Hope falls away, but love remains. See Augustine, , Expositions of the Psalms, 73–98, trans. Boulding, Maria (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2002), 91.1; cf. On Christian Teaching 1.38.42.
137 City of God, 15.22.
138 On the relation between Augustine's explicit order of love and implicit order of hope, see Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair.”
139 See Mathewes, Evil, 75–81.
140 For more detailed discussion, see Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair.”
141 Sermon 352A.9; cf. Expositions on the Psalms 1–32, 31(2).6.
142 Sermon 352A.7–9.
143 Augustine, , Expositions of the Psalms, 121–150, trans. Boulding, Maria (Hyde Park, NY: 2004), 129.10; Sermons (Newly discovered), trans. Hill, Edmund (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1997), 352A.8–9; Sermons (51–94) on the Old Testament, trans. Hill, Edmund (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1991), 87.10.
144 See, e.g., Sermon 352A.3–9; Sermon 87.10–11; Sermons (148–183) on the New Testament, trans. Hill, Edmund (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1992), 157.5; Expositions of the Psalms 1–32, 31(2).1, 5–6.
145 Sermon 87.10–11. Given that Augustine's virtue of hope finds a way between vices of excess and deficiency, its conceptual structure parallels Aristotle's doctrine of the “mean,” though Aristotle never develops an explicit virtue of hope and Augustine read only a smattering of Aristotle, probably only the Categories (see Confessions 4.16.28). Augustine, however, was familiar with Aristotelian ideas in his Roman predecessors and may have implicitly appropriated an Aristotelian structure from Cicero, who explicitly discusses the “intermediate course between too much and too little” when identifying virtues that relate to the affections (Cicero, On Duties, ed. M. T. Griffin and E. M. Atkins [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991], 1.88; cf. 2.59–60). Strikingly, Cicero gestures toward such a mean when discussing the virtue of “magnanimity” or “greatness of spirit” in a statesman: “he must take thought so that indolence does not make him despair prematurely, nor greed spur him to over-confidence” (On Duties 1.73). Though Augustine does not explicitly mention the mean in his sermons on hope, the structure of his concept is similar: the virtue of hope emerges as a way between a vice of excess (presumption) and a vice of deficiency (despair).
146 Even in his most famous account of the “order of love,” Augustine suggests that the “person who lives a just and holy life is one who is a sound judge of these things” (On Christian Teaching 1.27.28, emphasis added). Clair, Discerning the Good, analyzes Augustine's sermons and letters to offer an illuminating account of the role of “discernment” in ordering loves for various goods.
147 Free Choice of the Will 126.96.36.199. See also Augustine, , Eighty-Three Different Questions: A New Translation, trans. Mosher, David L. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 61.4.
148 Augustine, , The Trinity, trans. Hill, Edmund, 2nd ed. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2015), 14.9.12. In City of God, Augustine identifies the function of prudence as “distinguishing good things from bad, so that no error shall creep in as we seek to pursue good and avoid evil” (19.4; cf. 22.24). See also Augustine, The Catholic Way of Life and the Manichean Way of Life, in The Manichean Debate, trans. Teske, Roland (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006), 1.25.46.
149 Catholic Way of Life 1.15.25. Since God is the highest good, Augustine indicates that prudence can also be defined as “love distinguishing correctly those things by which it is helped toward God from those things by which it can be impeded.” Whereas Aristotle and Cicero ground the interconnection of the virtues in prudence, Augustine unifies the virtues through love. See Catholic Way of Life 1.15.25, 1.25.46; Letter 155.12–13, in Letters 100–155; and Letter 167, in Letters 156–210, trans. Roland Teske (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2004). For insightful discussions, see Bowlin, John, “Augustine Counting Virtues,” Augustinian Studies 41, no. 1 (2010): 277–300, and Langan, John P., “Augustine on the Unity and the Interconnection of the Virtues,” Harvard Theological Review 72, no. 1/2 (1979): 81–95.
150 For Augustinian applications of prudence to politics, see von Heyking, Augustine and Politics as Longing, 110–149, and Breyfogle, Todd, “Toward a Contemporary Augustinian Understanding of Politics,” in Augustine and Politics, ed. Doody, John, Hughes, Kevin L., and Paffenroth, Kim (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 217–36.
151 City of God 22.29; Enchiridion 1.5.
152 1 Cor. 13, cited in City of God, 22.29.
153 Smith also emphasizes “vision” and Augustine's aim to “give his readers new eyes” (“Glory and Tragedy,” 190).
154 See Bowlin, “Augustine Counting Virtues.”
155 My analysis here is compatible with, and complementary to, von Heyking's account of Augustine's use of a “dialectic of excess over excess” to “form the inordinate passions into ordinate love” (Augustine and Politics, 20; “Disarming, Simple, and Sweet,” 176–77), Smith's emphasis on Augustine's “pedagogical and pastoral” attempt to reorder our loves away from human to divine glory (“Glory and Tragedy,” 189), and Fortin's analysis of Augustine's “hyperbolic” statements to persuade the Roman elite to moderate their devotion to the empire and accept the Christian faith (“Augustine and the Problem of Modernity,” 146–47).
156 See Gregory, Politics and the Order of Love, 39–42.
157 City of God 1.Preface, translation altered; 19.12.
158 City of God 15.22, 19.25–27; On Christian Teaching 1.3.3–1.5.5, 1.22.20–1.29.30.
159 Gregory, Politics and the Order of Love, 39. According to Gregory, Augustine's “philosophical and theological energies are devoted more to how one is to love in an actively ordering way rather than to an abstract metaphysical speculation on what one is to consider as appropriate objects of love” (221; cf. 39–41). See also Williams, Rowan, “Language, Reality and Desire in Augustine's De Doctrina,” Literature & Theology 3, no. 1 (1989): 138–50; Mathewes, A Theology of Public Life, 89–90; and Bowlin, “Augustine Counting Virtues,” 297–98.
160 Sermon 335C.13, in Political Writings, 59.
161 To borrow a distinction that Melissa S. Lane applies to other varieties of Platonism (Plato's Progeny: How Plato and Socrates Still Captivate the Modern Mind [London: Duckworth, 2001], 53–96), City of God 22.22–24 does not simply provide a foundationalist metaphysics from which we can “deduce” the principles of morality, but an aspirational ethic intended to reorder readers’ loves. This view challenges the rationalistic and deductive Platonism that Nussbaum and others impute to Augustine. By applying the indirect methods that Nussbaum celebrates in Hellenistic writings but fails to identify in Augustine's, the bishop is exhorting readers to desire the good, not simply to understand it.
162 City of God 20.9.
163 Ibid., 15.1, 20.5–6, 20.17.
164 Ibid., 22.24.
165 Ibid., 22.24.
166 Todd Breyfogle, “Citizenship and Signs: Rethinking Augustine on the Two Cities,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, ed. Ryan K. Balot (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 508.
167 City of God 22.24.
170 Cicero argues that dispositio is “so powerful in oratory that nothing contributes more to winning a case” (On the Ideal Orator 2.179–81, cf. 2.307–49).
171 City of God 21.1. Cameron highlights the early Christian practice of “working through the familiar, by appealing from the known to the unknown” (Christianity, 25; cf. 121). See also Murphy, “Augustine and the Rhetoric of Roman Decline,” 597; Smith, “Glory and Tragedy,” 190–91; and Keys, Mary M., “Augustinian Humility as Natural Right,” in Natural Right and Political Philosophy: Essays in Honor of Catherine Zuckert and Michael Zuckert, ed. Ward, Ann and Ward, Lee (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 97–113.
172 Burke, Kenneth, “Semantic and Poetic Meaning,” in The Philosophy of Literary Form (New York: Vintage Books, 1957), 138–39. For the introduction to Burke, I am indebted to Stout, Jeffrey, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 55, and Stout, Jeffrey, “The Transformation of Genius into Practical Power: A Reading of Emerson's ‘Experience,’” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 35, no. 1 (2014): 3–24, esp. 6n12.
173 City of God 22.30.
174 I am grateful to Charles Mathewes for discussion of this connection.
175 City of God 22.30.
176 Several scholars emphasize that this division in Letter 212A/1A* reflects both the substantive content of City of God and the practical necessity of publishing such a massive work in more manageable codices. See Clark, “City of Books,” 120–21; Vessey, “History of the Book,” 29–30; and O'Daly, Augustine's City of God, 72–73.
177 Letter 212A/1A*; Retractions 2.69.1.
178 Letter 212A/1A*; cf. Retractions 2.69.1–2.
179 Retractions 2.69.2; cf. Letter 212A/1A*.
180 City of God 19.1.
181 Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 60–62, 92–93.
182 Ibid., 221–43.
183 Niebuhr, “Augustine's Political Realism,” 140–41; Shklar, “Giving Injustice Its Due,” 1139–40.
184 See Niebuhr, “Augustine's Political Realism,” 128, 140; Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 60, 68, 242. As Donald Burt argues, “Whether St. Augustine was an optimist or pessimist continues to be a matter of debate, and reasonably so. The Bishop of Hippo seems to go through violent mood swings on the issue, saying of the world at one time that it is a ‘smiling place’ and at another that it is like an old man groaning in his bed, saying of human beings that they are the ‘best of creation’ and at another that they are ‘cracked pots.’” See “Courageous Optimism: Augustine on the Good of Creation,” Augustinian Studies 21 (1990): 55. Henry Paolucci opens his introduction to Augustine's political writings by asking whether Augustine was a “political pessimist” or “prophetic utopian.” See Paolucci, Henry, editor's introduction to The Political Writings of St. Augustine (Chicago: Regnery, 1962), vii. Miles Hollingworth cites Paolucci to frame his discussion in The Pilgrim City: St. Augustine of Hippo and His Innovation in Political Thought (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 16, 85–87; cf. 204 on “optimism” and “pessimism.”
185 See Gregory, Politics and the Order of Love, 363–84; Mathewes, Evil, 56–103; Avramenko, Richard, “The Wound and Salve of Time: Augustine's Politics of Human Happiness,” Review of Metaphysics 60 (June 2007): 784–85, 810–11.
186 Robert McAfee Brown, editor's introduction to The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr, xi–xxiv, describing Niebuhr.
187 Burt, “Courageous Optimism.”
188 Deane, Political and Social Ideas, 68.
189 See, e.g., Sermon 87.10 and Augustine, The Gift of Perseverance, in Selected Writings on Grace and Pelagianism, trans. Teske, Roland J. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2011), 22.57–62.
190 For a history of “pessimism” in modern political thought, see Dienstag, Joshua Foa, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).
191 Note how Burt anachronistically organizes his discussion around a distinctly Leibnizian question, asking if Augustine believed that “this is the best possible world” (“Courageous Optimism,” 61–64).
192 While this article is largely interpretative, I engage the larger debate around political hope and pessimism and relate Augustine's account to contemporary politics in Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair” and “A Commonwealth of Hope.” For examples of recent discussions of hope, see, e.g., Unger, Robert Mangabeira and West, Cornel, The Future of American Progressivism: An Initiative for Political and Economic Reform (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1998); Rorty, Richard, Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin Books, 1999); Shade, Patrick, Habits of Hope: A Pragmatic Theory (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2001); McGeer, Victoria, “The Art of Good Hope,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 592, no. 1 (2004): 100–127; Pettit, Philip, “Hope and Its Place in Mind,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 592, no. 1 (2004): 152–65; Walker, Margaret Urban, “Hope's Value,” in Moral Repair: Reconstructing Moral Relations after Wrongdoing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Green, Judith M., Pragmatism and Social Hope: Deepening Democracy in Global Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); Mittleman, Hope in a Democratic Age; Scruton, Roger, The Uses of Pessimism and the Dangers of False Hope (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Martin, Adrienne M., How We Hope: A Moral Psychology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014); Eagleton, Terry, Hope without Optimism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015); Dalferth, Ingolf U. and Block, Marlene A., eds., Hope (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016); Lamb, Michael, “Aquinas and the Virtues of Hope: Theological and Democratic,” Journal of Religious Ethics 44, no. 2 (2016), 300–332; Winters, Joseph R., Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016); and Snow, Nancy E., “Hope as a Democratic Civic Virtue,” Metaphilosophy 49, no. 3 (2018): 407–27.
193 See Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair” and “A Commonwealth of Hope.”
194 For their feedback, I thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for the Review of Politics, along with Alexis Andres, Richard Avramenko, Hannah Barr, Susan Bickford, John Bowlin, Edward Brooks, JanaLee Cherneski, Andrew Chignell, Joseph Clair, Kendall Cox, Molly Farneth, Steven Firmin, Andrius Galisanka, Eric Gregory, Davey Henreckson, Benjamin Hertzberg, Emily Holman, Amy Hondo, Susan James, George Kateb, Melissa Lane, Stephen Macedo, Charles Mathewes, Alison McQueen, Sarah Mortimer, Andrew Murphy, Alan Patten, Matthew Puffer, Alan Ryan, Cameron Silverglate, Michael Sloan, Sophie Smith, Sarah Stewart-Kroeker, Anna Stilz, Jeffrey Stout, William Umphres, Melanie Webb, James Wetzel, Brian Williams, Brian Young, and audiences at various conferences and workshops. For support of this research, I am grateful to the Department of Politics at Princeton University, The McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life at the University of Oxford, The Templeton World Charity Foundation, and Wake Forest University.
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