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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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(p.397) 15 Augustine
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1

Terence Irwin

Oxford University Press

In the City of God, Augustine of Hippo claims that Christians and pagans form two societies identified by their different shared objects of love. The Christian community distinguishes itself from the pagan world by its different aims and goals. One clear and important strand in Augustine's thought presents a sharp antagonism between the Christian and the Greek outlook. However, it would be one-sided to attend only to this strand and to ignore the views that place Augustine firmly in the Greek tradition. Augustine does not believe, then, that he undermines the practice of the virtues, as pagan moralists understand them; he seeks to remove the obstacles imposed by human sin, and especially by human arrogance, to the practice of the virtues. Augustine agrees with this conception of the virtues, and claims that we are in a better position to practise them if we recognize our dependence on God for our growth in virtue, and the insufficiency of the goods of this world for our complete happiness.

Keywords:   Augustine of Hippo, Christians, pagans, virtues, human sin, City of God, happiness

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