Augustine and Politics As Longing in the World

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2001-05-01
  • Publisher: Univ of Missouri Pr
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Saint Augustine's political thought has usually been interpreted by modern readers as suggesting that politics is based on sin. InAugustine and Politics as Longing in the World,John von Heyking shows that Augustine actually considered political life a substantive good that fulfills a human longing for a kind of wholeness. Rather than showing Augustine as supporting the Christian church's domination of politics, von Heyking argues that he held a subtler view of the relationship between religion and politics, one that preserves the independence of political life. And while many see his politics as based on a natural-law ethic or on one in which authority is conferred by direct revelation, von Heyking shows how Augustine held to an understanding of political ethics that emphasizes practical wisdom and judgment in a mode that resembles Aristotle rather than Machiavelli. Augustine and Politics as Longing in the Worlddemonstrates some of the deficiencies in the way Augustine's political thought has been interpreted. It also explains why a rereading of his thought illuminates the current debates between "secularists" and proponents of "orthodoxy" and shows why these debates are miscast. By examining Augustine's political thought, von Heyking provides a way of resolving this controversy and shows how we can move beyond conflicting claims and thus moderate yet elevate political life. Behind Augustine's apparent antipolitical rhetoric lies his substantial agreement with his Roman philosophical interlocutors on virtue and politics. This allegedly antipolitical rhetoric is meant to tame the lust for domination of Roman patriots by showing that lust can never be satisfied by political goods. By opposing extreme "worldliness" with extreme "otherworldliness," Augustine appears to reject politics as a natural good. On the contrary, he affirmed politics as a natural good. Augustine and Politics as Longing in the Worldshows how Augustine's belief that politics was a way for humans to fulfill their longings for a kind of wholeness discloses a deeper affirmation of a more meaningful, pluralistic, and robust political life than his interpreters have previously appreciated.

Author Biography

John von Heyking is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge in Canada.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
List of Abbreviationsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Political Rhetoricp. 17
A Little World of Orderp. 51
A Headless Body Politic?p. 77
Ordo Amoris and Political Prudencep. 110
Glory as a Proper End of Politicsp. 150
Love of God and Neighbor by Following the Footprintsp. 172
The Coercion of Hereticsp. 222
Conclusionp. 258
Bibliographyp. 263
Indexp. 275
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