St. Augustine - Philosophy, Ethics and Learning
St. Augustine (354-430)
Philosopher (pictured right) from Hippo (now in Algeria) who applied Plato’s ideas to Christianity.
His most famous book
Confessions (written in 400), the world’s first autobiography.
What did he say about God, ethics and learning?
1. Nobody is perfect
Admit your weaknesses and do something about them.
Stand up for virtues like love, and resist the temptation of vice, although, as a youth,
he asked God to “give me chastity but not yet”!
As a boy he stole some pears with some friends, which taught him not to follow the crowd.
Evil is “the removal of good, until finally no good remains”, he believed, and has three causes:
2. Love each other
People must be:
- patient and kind - small acts of kindness are vital
to being good.
- live peacefully together - peace is the only valid reason for war.
“Love the sinner and hate the sin”, he said
This is vital for all the other virtues like love.
The more successful you become, the more humility you need.
4. Justice and hope
Without justice and fairness for everyone, power is “organized robbery”.
Unjust laws should be ignored.
Justice needs hope, resulting from:
- anger at the way things are.
5. Love wisdom
At the age of 18 he read a book by the Roman philosopher, Cicero (pictured right), which gave him a passion
for philosophy, or the love of wisdom.
He found that wisdom and happiness were not found in material possessions, but in eternal
truths like God and love.
It is wrong to doubt everything, because there are absolute certainties like:
He wrote about God:
“Our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you”.
6. Learn continuously
He learned from:
A bishop told his mother that it is best to discover things for yourself including your
weaknesses and mistakes.
“We learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion”, Augustine
7. Love God and help yourself
God loves and helps you, but you must help yourself, too.
“God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails”, he said.
Wisdom comes from:
- the Bible (the Word of God).
“The true philosopher is the lover of God”, he believed.
People and countries must do anything that God wants, even if it has never been done
8. Believe and then understand
Faith in God (believing what you don’t see) is vital to understand life and the world.
Don’t try to understand first and then believe.
“Believe that you may understand”, he said.
9. The 3 D’s
He believed in:
- desire (want what is right and avoid evil).
- duty (do what you should).
Key quotes on ethics
Love the sinner and hate the sin
Cruelty is the weapon of the powerful, used to make
others fear them.
Humility is the foundation of all the other
Complete abstinence is easier than perfect
Key quotes on God and religion
Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand– St. Anselm
(1033-1109), Archbishop of Canterbury, said something similar.
If you think you have understood God, it is not God
who you have understood.
God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails
Key quote on learning
We learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion.
Key quote on law and
An unjust law is no law at all.
Key quote on stress and
Pray not for a lighter load but stronger shoulders .
Key quote on positive
Bad times, hard times - this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good.
Key quote on
Patience is the companion of wisdom.