Augustine 7-8

Class notes for 10 January

Main points

God’s incorruptibility was the theme of the day.

Augustine was quite sure that God was incorruptible. We discussed two ways that he used this assumption.

  1. In an argument against the Manicheans (7.2)
  2. In an argument for the conclusion that evil doesn’t exist (7.12) (Kudos to Timon for figuring this out)

Finally, we touched on Augustine’s explanation for why we think some things are evil (7.13-16) and his claim that Christ was necessary for his wholeheartedly holding true beliefs about God (7.18-19).

Arguments against the Manicheans

We had to do a lot of work to infer the Manichean doctrines from Augustine’s arguments against them. For example, it took a little work (and Monica) to figure out that it was the Manicheans who gave the explanation of the origins of evil out of a conflict between God and evil in 7.2.

Emma (I think) referred to a second argument against the Manicheans that we didn’t get to. It’s in 8.9-10. In a nutshell, it is possible to have conflicting desires. It’s even possible to want to want something but nonetheless fail to want it: I might wish that I were the kind of person who genuinely wanted to help the poor and fail to be that way. Augustine wanted to want to follow God’s will, but notoriously failed to do so.

The Manicheans had an expalantion of this phenomenon. Conflict is the product of two different natures. Augustine thought that was a way of putting off responsibility. He also thought that it wasn’t a very good explanation. What about conflicts between two good or two evil desires? Should those be explained as the product of different good or evil natures?