June 06, 2006

How I spent my summer vacation VII

Augustine, On free choice of the will, and a relevant selection from the Reconsiderations

On free choice of the will is Augustine's treatment of the problem of evil, and also touches on his notion of the Good, the existence of God, and divine foreknowledge. The piece from Reconsiderations was written some time later, and discusses grace in the context of the discussion in On free choice and some sectarian bickering.

Augustine's solution to the PoE is a fairly familiar one these days: humans have a free will, and thus the responsibility for their sinful decisions lies entirely on their shoulders. Free will is necessary for humans to be good at all; Augustine likens it to hands and eyes, which can be used for sin but are also necessary for good to be done. (This is a ridiculously brief gloss, and he doesn't sound anywhere near this ablist in text.) Sin itself is defined as inordinate desire, which in turn seems to be a desire for perishable goods, as opposed to the eternal goods that come with religious devotion and intellectual contemplation of the True and Good. And, of course, the object of religious devotion and the object of intellectual contemplation come together in the proof of God, where Augustine argues that the True is superior to reason; thus, he concludes, either the True is God, or God is something still more superior to True, and exists in either case.

I'm not sure if I'm doing that last bit justice, because it clearly doesn't go through.

I find it amusing that this small book doesn't actually contain all that much more substance than the nine page translator's introduction. The account of various goods that leads up to the analysis that the True is superior to rationality is extremely drawn out and repetitive, taking up about thirty pages when it could easily have been presented in five or so.

Total pages read: 608

Interesting philosophical link: Some modal metaphysics involving God

1 comment:

Noumena said...

I've started cross-posting these at the ND philosophy grad student blog, such as it is.