What we can learn from Augustine of Hippo

A Christian philosopher named Augustine lived in the fourth and fifth centuries AD.

Hippo, a town in North Africa, was on the periphery of the Roman Empire, which was fast fading. He was well-liked and an inspiration to his primarily uneducated and underprivileged church during his 35 years as bishop. Hippo was burned to death in his latter days by a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals.

annihilated the legions, took the young ladies of the town, but left the library and cathedral of St. Augustine undisturbed. in honor of the senior philosopher’s accomplishments.

Because of what he said today about Rome, he is significant to those of us who are not Christians.

its viewpoint, its values Rome shares a great deal of similarities with the contemporary West, in particular, the United States. Particularly, the Romans held fast to two principles.


They were a generally upbeat group. Builders of the Colosseum and the Pont du Gard believed in technology. in the capacity of mankind to govern nature and their capacity to manage themselves and plan their own contentment and pleasure. Cicero and Plutarch, among other authors, were proud, aspirational, and optimistic about the future. which, with a few changes, wouldn’t look out of place in contemporary Palo Alto or the Wired pages.

Romans were avid users of what we would now refer to as SELF-HELP. educating their target audiences to increase their success and impact. They saw the human animal as something that was easily amenable to improvement.


The Romans believed their society was just for a very long time. The JUSTITIA. Those with ambition and intelligence could succeed. It was believed that the army was a meritocracy.

Making money was believed to show both practical skill and a certain level of inner virtue. Consequently, flaunting one’s wealth was considered honorable and a source of pride, and celebrity was regarded as an entirely reasonable goal.

The two of these presumptions infuriated Augustine. He examined each of these two ideas in detail in his magnum opus, The City of God.

that society might be made just and that human life could be flawless, in ways that are still applicable to us now. Original Sin was a concept created by Augustine. Instead than focusing only on this or that terrible event, he suggested that all people, Were corrupt because we are all unsuspecting heirs to Adam’s misdeeds. Our wicked nature gives rise to a LIBIDO DOMINANDI, as described by Augustine. a ruthless, narrow-minded, vicious desire to rule that is manifest we treat people in the environment around us.

We are continuously thwarted in our ability to love because of our egoism and pride. Our ability to think and understand things is really brittle. Our days and nights are ruled by lust. We were unable to comprehend ourselves. We run after ghosts. We are plagued with worries.

In his final salvo, Augustine chastised all those philosophers. had foolishly wished to find happiness on earth and to attain pleasure by their own efforts. Although it could seem dismal, it could actually offer a strange relief. being informed that our lives are inherently flawed simply because we are humans, and therefore no human being can ever be made completely straight.

We are beings destined to intuit goodness and love, however, we were never quite able to obtain them for ourselves.

Naturally, our countries, careers, and relationships are not what we would like them to be. The odds are just stacked against us from the beginning; there is nothing specific that we have done to change that. The pessimism of the Augustinians relieves some of the pressure we could experience. when we gradually accept that pretty much everything we do and are faulty.

We shouldn’t be angry or feel like we’ve been subjected to unfair punishment or persecution. It is merely a symptom of the human condition and the legacy of our choices. Even we do not subscribe to what Augustine calls ORIGINAL SIN in his theology.

Romans believed they were governing a meritocracy in their most ambitious moments. a culture in which people who rose to the top were thought to have done it as a result of their own virtues.

Following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, Eusebious, a philosopher, even asserted that God used earthly authority to spread Christianity on Earth. so that the wealthy and powerful in Rome were now seen by God as being virtuous and fortunate rather than just privileged.

What conceited, boastful, and nasty claims, Augustine replied, In Rome, or really anywhere else on earth, justice has never existed and will never exist.

God didn’t always bestow wealth and influence on the righteous, and he didn’t always judge those who lacked them either. Augustine made a distinction between what he referred to as TWO CITIES,

the CITY OF GOD as well as the CITY OF MEN.

The latter was a vision of the future, a paradisiacal haven where good would ultimately prevail, where justice would appropriately be united with power, and virtue would rule. However, men alone could never construct such a city. and never think they are capable of doing so.

They were forbade from residing elsewhere but the city of mankind. which was a society that was deeply flawed, where morality could never be precisely tracked by money. According to Augustine, there is no such thing as true justice. except in the nation where Christ is both the founder and the king.

Although it may sound grim once more, Augustine’s philosophy is actually very charitable. toward our own and others’ defeat, poverty, and failure.

Humans shouldn’t evaluate one another based on appearances of accomplishment. This analysis shows a lack of snobbery and moralism. It is our responsibility to be forgiving of failure and wary of authority.

Both of these concepts can give us consolation, even if we are not Christians. They are the religion’s contributions to human psychology and political philosophy at large. They serve as enduring symbols of some of the perils and abuses. of imagining a life that is perfectable… in a city of men, poverty and obscurity are trustworthy signs of vice.

Alain de Botton

School of Life