Bold Standard

Augustine's "Sense of Life"

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In Dr. Peikoff's lecture course, "The Founders of Western Philosophy," there is a section on St. Augustine. He includes a quote from Augustine that really illustrates his tragic sense of life, and in fact it's one of the most vivid quotes describing a tragic sense of life that I've ever seen. But I don't have this lecture anymore, and I can't find the quote. Does anybody have it, or happen to know the quote I'm thinking of? I'd like to find it again. Thanks!

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Unfortunately I do not know the quote nor do I own the lectures mentioned. But, I think that ewv owns the lectures as I have read his post when he quotes information from the lectures, so you might want to PM him.

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Unfortunately I do not know the quote nor do I own the lectures mentioned. But, I think that ewv owns the lectures as I have read his post when he quotes information from the lectures, so you might want to PM him.

I don't own a copy of the recording but I do have excellent notes, supplemented with quotes looked up in his sources when I could find them. I'll look for the Augustine material. I think I know what you are referring to and it came straight from the "bespotted" and "foul" Augustine himself.

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In Lecture 7 on the Middle Ages, in the section on characteristic Christian ethics, he began with their view of man and life on earth as expounded by Augustine: life on earth is hell and human nature is depraved.

From Augustine's City of God:

That the whole human race has been condemned in its first origin,

this life itself, if life it is to be called, bears witness by

the host of cruel ills with which it is filled. Is not this

proved by the profound and dreadful ignorance which produces all

the errors that enfold the children of Adam, and from which no

man can be delivered without toil, pain, and fear? Is it not

proved by [man's] love of so many vain and hurtful things, which

produces gnawing cares, disquiet, griefs, fears, wild joys,

quarrels, lawsuits, wars, treasons, angers, hatreds, deceit,

flattery, fraud, theft, robbery, perfidy, pride, ambition, envy,

murders, parricides, cruelty, ferocity, wickedness, luxury,

insolence, impudence, shamelessness, fornications, adulteries,

incests, and the numberless uncleannesses and unnatural acts of

both sexes, which it is shameful so much as to mention;

sacrileges, heresies, blasphemies, perjuries, oppression of the

innocent, calumnies, plots, falsehoods, false witnessings,

unrighteous judgments, violent deeds, plunderings, and whatever

similar wickedness has found its way into the lives of men,

though it cannot find its way into the conception of pure minds?

...

Who can describe, who can conceive the number and severity of the

punishments which afflict the human race, -- pains which are not

only the accompaniment of the wickedness of godless men, but are

a part of the human condition and the common misery, -- what fear

and what grief are caused by bereavement and mourning, by losses

and condemnations, by fraud and falsehood, by false suspicions,

and all the crimes and wicked deeds of other men? For at their

hands we suffer robbery, captivity, chains, imprisonment, exile,

torture, mutilation, loss of sight, the violation of chastity to

satisfy the lust of the oppressor, and many other dreadful

evils. What numberless casualties threaten our bodies from

without, -- extremes of heat and cold, storms, floods, inundations,

lightning, thunder, hail, earthquakes, houses falling; or from

the stumbling, or shying, or vice of horses; from countless

poisons in fruits, water, air, animals; from the painful or even

deadly bites of wild animals; from the madness which a mad dog

communicates, so that even the animal which of all others is most

gentle and friendly to its own master, becomes an object of

intenser fear than a lion or dragon, and the man whom it has by

chance infected with this pestilential contagion becomes so

rabid, that his parents, wife, children, dread him more than any

wild beast! What disasters are suffered by those who travel by

land or sea! What man can go out of his own house without being

exposed on all hands to unforeseen accidents? Returning home

sound in limb, he slips on his own doorstep, breaks his leg, and

never recovers...

Is innocence a sufficient protection against the various assaults

of demons? That no man might think so, even baptized infants, who

are certainly unsurpassed in innocence, are sometimes so

tormented, that God, who permits it, teaches us hereby to bewail

the calamities of this life, and to desire the felicity of the

life to come. As to bodily diseases, they are so numerous that

they cannot all be contained even in medical books. And in very

many, or almost all of them, the cures and remedies are

themselves tortures, so that men are delivered from a pain that

destroys by a cure that pains...

From this hell upon earth there is no escape, save through the

grace of the Saviour Christ, our God and Lord.

[saint Augustine (354-430) City of God, Translated by Marcus Dods,

Book XXII, Chapter 22,

http://www.logoslibrary.org/augustine/city/2222.html; quoted in

Jones, History of Western Philosophy, Vol 2, The Medieval Mind,

Harcourt Brace & World, 2nd ed, 1969, p.111-112.]

A brief summary by Augustine:

Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great

evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is

misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without

mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks

himself happy because he has lost human feeling.

[saint Augustine (354-430) City of God, Translated by Marcus Dods,

Book XIX, Chapter 7,

http://www.logoslibrary.org/augustine/city/1907.html]

Addressing God in his Confessions he refers to himself in his earlier secular life but intends it to be universal about man:

]Thou didst set me face to face with myself, that I might behold

how foul I was, and how crooked and sordid, bespotted and

ulcerous.

[saint Augustine (354-430) Confessions, Translated by

J. G. Pilkington, Book VIII, Chapter 7,

http://www.logoslibrary.org/augustine/confessions/0807.html; quoted

in Jones, History of Western Philosophy, Vol 2, The Medieval Mind,

Harcourt Brace & World, 2nd ed, 1969, p.81.]

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He obviously possessed an amazing ability to introspect, probably well before the concept was formed. I can only say to him: "speak for yourself."

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It is too bad people aren't more historically literate. Can you imagine a sitcom based on this guy? Or a series of skits with him as the lead? He gets time-travelled here, and has many misadventures like landing the coaching gig for the New England Patriots, or inherits a life coaching business, or takes a job as a motivational speaker. Or ends up in Van Nuys California, or as a glee club officer.

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It is too bad people aren't more historically literate. Can you imagine a sitcom based on this guy? Or a series of skits with him as the lead? He gets time-travelled here, and has many misadventures like landing the coaching gig for the New England Patriots, or inherits a life coaching business, or takes a job as a motivational speaker. Or ends up in Van Nuys California, or as a glee club officer.

More likely a drug addict, homeless in LA.

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Thanks so much, ewv! That's exactly the quote I was looking for. :blink:

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