St. Augustine

“St. Augustine (354-430 AD) sought to combine Christian faith and human reason: to believe in order to be able to understand. In his Confessions he explains his life-long quest for truth and goodness in which he moved from a life of sin and debauchery, passing first under the influence of Manichaeism ( a religious doctrine that held that human life is caught in a struggle between good and evil, God and matter, and which urged asceticism to free the self from evil), and then under the influence of Platonism (from which he learned the doctrine of Forms of Ideas (logos), and that reality goes beyond what is bodily), before finally undergoing a conversion and liberation of his will enslaved by sin through his encounter with the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. In his City of God he tried to show that Christianity is not the cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. He argues against Varro that the Greek and philosophical views on the best way of life based on moral and intellectual virtue, although true, is only able to be realized in speech, but not in deed on account of original and personal sin. Since a commonwealth, according to Cicero, is based on the common agreements or consensus or loves of its citizens, there are finally two cities based on two loves: the city of man based on sinful love (the love of self above all things even to the contempt of God); and the city of God based on the love of God above all even to the contempt of self. Grace and the God-given virtues of faith, hope, and charity make it possible for Christians to be good citizens in the earthly city, but they are aiming at the heavenly city. [His theory of knowing is Plato’s + the Interior Master of Word and Spirit who give us an inward, a priori standard of truth.]” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Aristotle

“Aristotle (384-322 BC), student of Plato at the Academy, teacher of Alexander the Great, and founder of the Lyceum, took up Plato’s ideas about politics as order towards the virtuous living of the citizens. In his Ethics he argued that all men seek one or other of three kinds of happiness: as sense pleasure or immediate satisfaction; as political honor or fame or glory; and as seeking to know the truth about what is highest and best or the whole (= contemplative or theoretic life). He defines habit as a good habit that enables one to act in the mean between the extremes of excess and defect easily, quickly, and with pleasure. (E.g. liberality as a virtue having to do with getting and giving wealth is the mean between extravagance which gives too much in relation to one’s getting, and stinginess which is too concerned with getting and does not give enough.) Continue reading “Aristotle”

Plato

“Plato (427-347 BC) was the student of Socrates (469-399 BC) and the teacher of Aristotle. He used his dialogues to justify philosophy in relation to the common sense of the city, the pretended wisdom of the Sophists, and the pseudo-inspired teaching of the comic poets (Aristophanes–The Clouds) and the tragic poets (Sophocles–Oedipus the King or Tyrant, Antigone). Continue reading “Plato”