Who Is St. Augustine?

As a youth I prayed, "Give me chastity and continence, but not right now."

-St. Augustine, Confessions

Podcast of the Day

Augustine’s life story is related in the Confessions, a work that combines autobiography, theology, and metaphysical discussions of the nature of time.

Listen to Life and Time: Augustine's Confessions by The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Mihi quaestio factus sum. This Latin phrase bounces around the screen of my sleeping laptop, reminding me of something I know only too well: “I have become a problem to myself.” It comes from St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” his powerful spiritual autobiography that has shaped how Christians and non-Christians in the West have conceived of their life journeys for over 1,500 years....

His quest for knowledge was really a dodge to avoid experiencing the overwhelming anxiety and despair he felt inside. He was unhappy, and, after the death of a friend, unhappier than he had ever been. Pursuing philosophical truth was one way of avoiding this existential truth. Another was to lose himself in physical pleasures that did nothing to fill the emptiness inside. (He kept a concubine and had a child with her.) And yet he couldn’t give them up. He was a living contradiction. “Grant me chastity and continence,” he prays to God, “but not yet.”...

Continue reading Mark Lilla's review of: Augustine: Conversions to Confessions

Further Reading

One of the decisive developments in the western philosophical tradition was the eventually widespread merging of the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions. Augustine is one of the main figures through and by whom this merging was accomplished. He is, as well, one of the towering figures of medieval philosophy whose authority and thought came to exert a pervasive and enduring influence well into the modern period (e.g. Descartes and especially Malebranche), and even up to the present day, especially among those sympathetic to the religious tradition which he helped to shape (e.g. Plantinga 1992; Adams 1999). But even for those who do not share this sympathy, there is much in Augustine's thought that is worthy of serious philosophical attention. Augustine is not only one of the major sources whereby classical philosophy in general and Neoplatonism in particular enter into the mainstream of early and subsequent medieval philosophy, but there are significant contributions of his own that emerge from his modification of that Greco-Roman inheritance, e.g., his subtle accounts of belief and authority, his account of knowledge and illumination, his emphasis upon the importance and centrality of the will, and his focus upon a new way of conceptualizing the phenomena of human history, just to cite a few of the more conspicuous examples.

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on St. Augustine by Michael Mendelson

Related Topics

 FaithPascal | ReligionSelf-control | Time

Each day I post short quotes by great thinkers on a particular philosophical, scientific or historical topic, along with videos, interviews and articles by contemporary thinkers that explore each topic in more detail. Find me on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to learn about the ideas that helped shape our world.