Saint Augustine of Hippo

By Carrie Gillespie
May 5, 2011
First truly important philosopher in the
Christian Platonic tradition
Maintained ideals somewhere in between
the classical world and medieval world
His philosophy is a profound meditation
on the relation between God and the
human being
Very focused on the ideas of free will and
Manichaenism: Looked at reality in terms of an
eternal struggle between good and evil.
Body=evil, Soul=good.
 Humans can not help but to sin and there is no
free will
 This let Augustine and other Manicheans
atttribute their sins to a principle somehow
outside of them selves
 Augustine became attracted to this belief at a
young age.
Soon Augustine was dissatisfied with this
“solution” to evil and turned to neoplatoism
Neoplatoism was an expansion of Plato’s
ideals that focused more on religion
Also focused on the concept of Immaterial
The belief that evil is not a real feature of reality,
but an incompleteness, or a lack of good.
 (i.e., a cavity is not a thing but a lack of calcium)
After converting to Christianity Augustine
remained influenced by neoplatonic ideas but
changed his view on evil
Now he believed that evil is not a lack of
goodness, but the result of excessive self-love on
the part of the sinner and the lack of sufficient love
for God.
Spent lots of time battling heresies and helping
to form the identity of Christianity
The most difficult heresy to battle was
This heresy over accentuates the role of free will in
salvation and minimizes the role of God’s grace. It
denied original sin and said humans have the ability to
become righteous through free will alone.
Was the opposite of the Manichees because it
overemphasized free will, while Manicheanism
minimized it.
Augustine had the difficult task of finding the
correct balance between these two extreme
If God is omniscient, then he knows the future.
If he knows the future then it must unfold
exactly in accordance with his knowledge.
Therefore there is no freedom.
If there is no freedom, then humans are not
responsible for their actions. Therefore, it
would be immoral to punish them for sins.
Problem: Either God is omniscient but
immoral, or he is benevolent but ignorant
For God there is no past or future. Only an
eternal present. Everything exists in an eternal
moment. God is outside of time.
God’s knowledge of the world entails
necessity, but to deny that necessity is
incompatible with freedom.
Freedom is the capacity to do what one wants
and one can do what one wants even if God
(or anyone else) already knows what that
person wants.