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SAINT AUGUSTINE: The Human Person as Relational and Volitional. Prepared by : FR. RONNIE B. RODRIGUEZ, MS University of La Salette-Roxas Campus Roxas, Isabela 1 st Semester S.Y. 2009-2010. Life and Works:. Born at Tagaste, in Numidia, Northern Africa, in A.D. 354

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saint augustine the human person as relational and volitional

SAINT AUGUSTINE:The Human Personas Relational and Volitional

Prepared by:


University of La Salette-Roxas Campus

Roxas, Isabela

1st Semester

S.Y. 2009-2010

life and works
Life and Works:
  • Born at Tagaste, in Numidia, Northern Africa, in A.D. 354
  • His mother, Saint Monica, was a Christian but his father, Patricius, was a pagan
  • Augustine’s baptism was delayed until he was in his thirties, though he was reared as a Christian
At 17, he went to Carthage for higher education
  • Though he was a good student, he continued to practice evil habits he had already begun
  • He took a mistress, and soon had a son, Adeodatus
He lost what Christian faith he had, and when he finished his education he became a Manichee – a disciple of Mani, who taught a mixture of Christian and pagan thought
  • He followed his faith for nine years while he was teaching in Tagaste and Carthage
  • His Manicheeism was then replaced by his personal mixture of several Greek and Roman philosophies
In 383, he went to Rome to teach
  • 384, he moved to Milan, then the capital of the Empire
  • He fell under the influence of the bishop of Milan (Saint Ambrose), the teachings of the Platonists, and the letters of Saint Paul
  • He lost his skepticism and was convinced that he should become a Christian
But his will was unable to take the step; he could not give up his mistress
  • It was only because God gave him the strength (miraculously, it seems) that he was able to make the decision to leave his past life behind and start afresh
  • He and his son and some of his friends were then baptized
Augustine decided to return to Africa in 387, but his mother, who had accompanied him to Italy, died at Ostia, the port of Rome, on the return journey
  • He then remained in Rome for another year before returning to Africa; his son died soon after his arrival there
He entered the monastery
  • Later he became a priest in the town of Hippo and in 395, he was made its bishop
  • As the bishop of Hippo, he spent the next thirty-five years preaching, leading a religious community and writing
His literary output is enormous, but his famous works are:
    • The Confessions (397-401)
    • On The Trinity (399-422)
    • The City of God (413-427
    • He died at Hippo in 430
main ideas
Main Ideas:
  • Being a person means having multiple relationships with other persons
  • Having multiple relationships is what distinguishes a person from an individual
  • Our will is responsible for developing these relationships
  • We are therefore responsible for who we are
The moral life is a struggle
  • Humans are truly free only if their freedom is limited
  • The will, not what it wills, causes evil
  • What is most truly ourselves is our will
on god
On God:
  • “Saint Augustine is the first great Christian philosopher”
  • This intellectual giant exposes his philosophical genius in maintaining his dogma of God
  • God is Absolute Spirit, Absolute Will, Absolute Intelligence, Absolute Freedom, Absolute Good, Absolute Power, Absolute Holiness, cannot will evil, no beginning and no end (Eternal) and Transcendent
Augustine asserts that God is Creator
  • God created the world out of nothing
  • But creation is not indispensable on the part of God, because for Augustine, God created the world out of love
  • And “man is part of this creation”
on the human person
On the Human Person:
  • Saint Augustine is the real founder of the study of the person
  • “the first thinker who brought into prominence and undertook an analysis of the philosophical and psychological concepts of person and personality”
  • Augustine worked to understand God by using the human mind as an example, but he ended up understanding the human person by using God as an example
Augustine believed that the human person, through his or her mind, is an image of God
  • Augustine saw that in the Trinity there are relations, for example, relations of fatherhood and sonship between the Father and the Son
  • The very notion of a divine person is a relational notion
A person is not just a substance that simply possesses intellect and will, in its deepest reality, related to other persons
  • He saw human person as essentially a relational being
  • A human being is “constituted a person only insofar as he is related to other persons”
“Augustine teaches that the person, while being an absolute, is also and essentially a being related to others, open to others, and defined as person by this very relativity”
To be a person is to be “for others.”
  • And, of course, others are likewise “for us”
important consequences
Important Consequences:
  • Human beings are not meant to live in an impersonal world but in relation to other persons
  • “We are, it is true, little absolutes, and yet at the same time always related, correlated, and interrelated with other persons and personalities. We are not meant to live in a depersonalized world”
Since other human persons are relational also, we must recognize that we are “for them” as much as they are “for us”
  • Human beings are made for each other, for I-Thou rather than I-It relationships
human individual and or human person
Human Individual and/or Human Person:
  • The individual is human, it has intellect and will, but it is considered as a world in itself
  • It if develops relationships with other human beings it does so on its own terms
  • But the person is already, simple as a person, related to others
  • The relationships its nature calls for are not optional
  • It not only can count on others to help in the living of its life, but it owes the same to others
on the will
On the Will:
  • Augustine recognizes both the existence of the will as distinct from the intellect and the power of this will
  • He knows that it can lead him to perform actions for which he can find no rational justification actions of which his intellect disapproves
  • The will can build up habits of acting that overcome the intellect’s better judgment
Augustine further found that not only desirable objects outside himself attracted him and overcame his self-control, but he was attracted also by evil itself
  • His will was capable of making him a rebel against morality even when he did not know why he acted as he did
  • But then, he realized that he himself is responsible for his actions
Augustine became aware of the existence of the will, of its freedom and of its power
  • He faced up courageously to the recognition and admission that he was responsible for his actions and even for the existence and power of the habits he had cultivated but later deplored
To be a person is to be a relational being, and the task of our will is to complete our person by building our personality, that is, by developing relations
  • Since person is a relational notion, personality has to do with relationships we develop with God, with other human beings, and with material things
These relationships are the core of our personality, and they should be the fulfillment of our nature
  • Our nature is that of relational creatures, made to choose goods in accordance with their real value, to serve God, the infinite good, and to use all other goods while keeping in mind that our use of them must be in accord with our nature as creatures made for the infinite good
When our will acts in accord with our nature, it is free
  • But if it seeks creatures without regard to the Creator, it becomes a slave to them, and finds itself in bondage
  • Our choice then, is to be a servant of God, and in this to find our freedom, or to be a slave of habits that bind us against our will
Free will, then, Augustine discovered to be a paradox
  • Our will is free when it serves its proper master
  • When it wants to be absolutely its own master, when it rebels, as Augustine did when he stole the pears, it becomes a slave
True freedom, freedom in accord with truth, that is, in accord with our nature, is submission
  • What looks like freedom, a denial of submission, is an illusory freedom, in reality slavery
  • We must choose then, between submission to God or submission to what is below us
  • The former is freedom, the latter is slavery
  • Everything depends on what we choose, and what we choose is what we love
  • The Greeks no doubt found it difficult to understand the will because its function is paradoxical. In order to be free the will must be submissive, submissive to truth, to its nature, to God. It is so tempting to reject submission, to think that freedom comes from autonomy.
But the type of autonomy envisaged here is contrary to truth, to human nature, and to being a creature. The reward of submission is freedom, the reward of rebellion us slavery. And this paradox, like all philosophical problems, is perennial. Each person has to solve it for himself or herself.