This dissertation examines the extent to which Augustine's choice and application of available philosophical concepts are adequate to the task of understanding love as the New Testament enjoins it. In the first chapter some of the various types of love theories present in ancient philosophy are examined in order to see how tensions arise in Augustine's own theory from his attempting to combine aspects of conflicting models of love. At the conclusion of the chapter certain criteria for assessing a theory of Christian love are tentatively proposed. Augustine's own theory is then examined at different stages in its development. In the early works, he interprets love generally along the lines of the eros tradition. Charity is seen as the desire for the vision of God, which will make a human being happy. But there are also deontological aspects to Augustine's theory. Succeeding chapters explore the effect upon his theory of his theology of grace, his contributions to thematizing the concept of the person in De Trinitate, and the socio-historical dimension of his theory as presented in De Civitate Dei. A final chapter gives a summary and evaluation of the theory, employing the criteria proposed in the first chapter. An initially negative assessment is mitigated somewhat by distinguishing between imperfect and perfect forms of charity, a distinction suggested by a number of texts in Augustine. The problems with Augustine's theory are traced to his consistently dualistic way of thinking, especially when combined with the Platonic connection between immutability and goodness on the one hand and mutability and evil on the other. This has the unfortunate effect of devaluating the entire temporal realm. In consequence of this, he never really comes to grips with the incarnate nature of the human being. This, together with all temporal relations, is reduced to instrumental value. But this is something that a Christian philosophy, a philosophy of the Incarnation, cannot allow.

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Recommended Citation

O'CONNOR, WILLIAM RIORDAN, "AUGUSTINE'S PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE" (1982). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8213252.