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Questions for ‘Confessions’ – Book I, Chapters 11 – 20

 

external image roman_education_fresco_hi.jpg

“The rich people of Rome had a great education. They were often schooled and were taught by their own private tutor, at home they would go to schools. The schools were boys only. All the learning was based from fear, The boys would be beaten for any offence. They did this because they figured if children fear getting the wrong answer they will get it correct. If a student were to get lots of answers wrong they would be held down and beaten with a leather strap. If you were poor chances are you would be able to read and write , but you would not be able to have your own tutor or be able to go to school. ” (source: https://historicalroots.wikispaces.com/Ancient+Romans) Augustine wrote about how he was beaten at school for bad performance. He writes, “I was still a boy when I first began to pray to you, my Help and Refuge. I used to prattle away to you, and though I was small, my devotion was great when I begged you not to let me be beaten at school. Sometimes, for my own good, you did not grant my prayer, and then my elders and even my parents, who certainly wished me no harm, would laugh at the beating I got – and in those days beatings were my one great bugbear.” (Confessions, Book I, Chapter 9)

 

 

 In these chapters, Augustine describes his early education and what his childhood was like.

 

Here are some interesting facts about the time in which Augustine lived in that will provide some background information to clarify some historical details.

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Questions for ‘Confessions’ Book I: Chapters 1 – 10

 

Infant sinner

Don’t let this baby’s unbearable cuteness deceive you. She’s a helpless, natural born sinner according to Augustine.

 

Hi everyone, we will be covering Book I, chapters 1 – 10.

 

Augustine titled his deeply philosophical and theological autobiography Confessions to implicate two aspects of the form the work would take. To ‘confess’, in Augustine’s time, meant both to give an account of one’s faults to God and to praise God or to speak one’s love for God. These two aims come together in the Confessions in an elegant but complex sense: Augustine narrates his ascent from sinfulness to faithfulness not simply for the practical edification of his readers, but also because he believes that his narrative itself is really a story about God’s greatness and of the fundamental love all things have for Him. Thus, in the Confessions form equals content to a large degree—the natural form for Augustine’s story of redemption to take would be a direct address to God, since it is God who must be thanked for such redemption. (That said, a direct address to God was a highly original form for Augustine to have used at the time).

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Plotinus – The One, The Mind, and the Soul and Christian Theology

 

We had a very good opening session last night to start the new semester.

We delved into Plotinus’ general philosophy and how it influenced Christian philosophy.  We can see its legacy even to this day in Christian circles.

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Plotinus – Ennead IV: The Immortality of the Soul

Diagram of Plotinus's philosophy.

Diagram of Plotinus’s philosophy.

We will have our first meeting tomorrow on Thursday as we discuss Plotinus’ philosophy on the immortality of the soul.

Reading Plotinus is not an easy task and his philosophy takes some taking used to, but you’ll begin to see traces of him as we go through the Confessions and the topic of the immortality of the soul will come up again as we go through Augustine’s work.

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Plotinus and Neo-Platonism’s Influence on Augustine

Plotinus (205 - 270)

Plotinus (205 – 270)

Before we delve into Confessions, we will start exploring the development of Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

For a while, Augustine had been influenced by Manichaeism, a Persian adaptation of Christianity, which added in Zoroastrianism, speculative philosophy and superstition.  Augustine was a Manichee for nine years.  Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy.

The next year, he met the formidable figure of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.  His great intellect and fiery sermons left a deep impression on Augustine.  In Ambrose, Augustine found someone who could communicate at his own intellectual level, further confirming his rejection of the Manichees and opening the way for his return to the Christian faith.

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Plato and Theology

In order to really get a good understanding of Christian theology and Christian philosophy, you first need a solid foundation of understanding Plato’s philosophy.

There’s just no way around it. Even Paul’s writings contain Platonic thought and ideas.

Plato’s philosophy still heavily influences Christianity today as well – for instance, our ideas about body/soul dualism, the afterlife, the spiritual being greater than the flesh/material, repentance, conversion, etc.

Here are some summaries we wrote about Plato’s and Greek philosophy’s impact on Christian thought here in terms of church history.

Here is Prof. Andrew Davison of St. Johns College, Nottingham, UK, talking about how Plato influenced Christian philosophy – especially that of Augustine, who was heavily influenced by Plotinus and Neoplatonism.