The Politics of the Fall in St. Augustine of Hippo
Saints and Heroes: Augustine on the Love of Glory
Is ambition, or the love of glory, a righteous desire? The question is a pressing one, given the importance of ambition for political life. Politics is the playground of ambition. In this essay, I show that Augustine shows a quite unexpected appreciation for the love of glory, despite his awareness of the many dangers that frequently attend it. Augustine draws a distinction between the love of glory and the desire to dominate, the latter of which he spurns. Yet both the earthly and the heavenly cities, in their own way, seek glory and to live in a way that provokes praise. Therefore glory is, in a way, the bone of contention between the two cities – each claims to have or merit true glory. Augustine shows, in the end, that the effort to attain glory reveals the depth of human longing for immortality.
By Nature Social, by Corruption Quarrelsome: Sociality in St. Augustine’s Account of the Fall
Are people naturally sympathetic and friendly, or are they by nature contentious, irascible beings, prone to erode the possibility of a common good? Augustine believes that mankind is by nature social, yet quarrelsome by corruption. This paper unearths Augustine’s definition of human sociability in light of the Fall and shows that it is a profound longing for unity, which can be expressed in and through political life. Yet because of the Fall, the human being becomes a quarrelsome creature. This tendency motivates our involvement with politics, and complicates it, in fascinating ways. Ultimately, Augustine believes in mankind’s natural and original sociability; the need or hope to restore this sociability is one way that Augustine distinguishes the City of God from the Earthly City.
Not Quite Secular: Montesquieu on the Political Utility of Faith
Is religion a useful or dangerous feature of political life? This paper analyzes an argument made by Montesquieu, a liberal philosopher whose writings were highly influential in the American founding. Montesquieu contends, in Book 24 and 25 of The Spirit of the Laws, that the moral and political effects of a religion depends on its doctrines. Such a claim links faith closely to mores. In other words, doctrine as doctrine cannot simply be expelled from the political realm – each article of faith must be weighed in the balance of political utility. Montesquieu therefore seems to reject Pierre Bayle’s famous defense of a society of moral atheists. At the same time Montesquieu quietly argues that these doctrines are often matters of indifference, and suggests that some key Christian doctrines – in particular – are less than salutary. This paper tracks Montesquieu’s handling of this question, a handling that explains why he fails to go along with Pierre Bayle’s more radical enlightenment secularism.