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Religions 2016, 7(11), 137; doi:10.3390/rel7110137

Loving the Many in the One: Augustine and the Love of Finite Goods

Duke Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Academic Editor: Peter Iver Kaufman
Received: 18 August 2016 / Revised: 19 October 2016 / Accepted: 24 October 2016 / Published: 18 November 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plato among the Christians)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [250 KB, uploaded 18 November 2016]

Abstract

This is an essay in comparative ethics within the Platonist tradition. Although the primary focus is on Augustine’s account of rightly ordered love of neighbor in De vera religione, it analyzes Augustine’s account of the love of finite goods by comparing it with Plato’s grounding of the love of imperfect creatures within an ontological hierarchy in Symposium. Against the backdrop of the critique by modern readers that neither thinker’s teleological and hierarchical view of love allows for a real love of particular individuals, this essay will show how for Plato and Augustine alike, the love of the One—the Beautiful, for Plato, and God, for Augustine—conditions all other loves. Augustine’s ontological hierarchy of the one eternal God and the many created goods leads him to insist that the love of God, who alone is loved for his own sake, conditions the Christian’s love of neighbors whom she loves not for their own sake but for God’s. The Platonic ontology of Augustine’s theodicy, it will be argued, allows him to explain how use-love is a genuine expression of love for the neighbor in her particularity and yet remains subordinated to one’s highest love of God. View Full-Text
Keywords: Platonism; the one and the many; Symposium; Augustine of Hippo; uti-frui; love; On True Religion; On Christian Doctrine Platonism; the one and the many; Symposium; Augustine of Hippo; uti-frui; love; On True Religion; On Christian Doctrine
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Smith, J.W. Loving the Many in the One: Augustine and the Love of Finite Goods. Religions 2016, 7, 137.

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