St. Augestine View on Political Theory

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Political Theory Term Paper
Sarah Gabr
900089073
POLS 301
Fall 2011

St. Augustine viewed politics as evil, this claim influenced his political theory. It’s important to understand the basic beliefs of St. Augustine so we can better discover why St. Augustine viewed politics as evil. One very important thing to know is that St. Augustine was a philosopher and bishop so his beliefs were set in the view of Christianity. St. Augustine believed that the world and everything in it was created by God, being a firm believer of the Bible. Men were originally living in relationship with God, but after Adam and Eve had made sin they fell and had gotten what is called “original sin”, which causes Man to be cursed for living in an imperfect society. In order to understand St. Augustine’s view to the secular world we must analyze his views on the nature of man, society and state.

In the nature of men, man is originally created good but man is given the gift of free will so he is able to disobey God and make his own will, free to sin and make whatever choices, just as Adam and Eve did. Since humans were created by God and were made to be in relationship with God, we are by birth social people. Also, since we all come from Adam and Eve we share the ordinary bond of family and social relationship. Man cannot stand alone without outside influence or social ties. Although, regardless of his natural sociability that brings us together, such peaceful bonds between men do not prevent conflicts in the world such as wars or misery,

which are brought about by Man’s libido dominandi, or the passion men have for domination which escalates from “original sin”1. Our human nature after the “fall” of Adam and Eve is basically jealous, resentful, revengeful, and egoistical, man longs for importance and praise, also m a t e ri a l w ea l t h

St. Augustine believes that though Man has a law of nature written into our hearts, a conscience of mutuality, do unto others what you wish others would do unto ourselves, we are basically incapable of perfect reason after the fall. This is not only due to our limited ability of reasoning, but also due to our weak and deviated will that often overrides our reason. Since we are unable to live by perfect reasoning, we are unable to sensibly perfect ourselves into a perfect historical city or state.

Lastly, St. Augustine says that harmony and peace are the utmost desires of the human heart, although, the “grip of destructive impulses and passions” in the human heart prevents the creation of such order. Additionally, God is punishing Man’s original sin by making human life in this world a penalty. Man is not able to accomplish perfect peace, this can only be found in St. Augustine’s City of God, which is a divine city that is to be ruled by God after Jesus’ second coming.2

In St. Augustine’s interpretation of the state, St. Augustine believes and claims that the State is exists as a consequence and a proof of sin. This view that St. Augustine provides is unlike that of Aristotle and Plato in their definition of the State, which they view as a natural part of human

1

R.W, Dyson. The Pilgrim City: Social and Political Ideas in the Writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK ; Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2001. Google Books. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. 2

Mendelson, Michael, "Saint Augustine", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

life, or natural form of development and expression of human character. This view of the state made by St. Augustine is shown in his quote “It is an unnatural supervention upon the created order; it has been called into being by the fact that man’s naturally sociable and co-operative disposition has been denatured and made selfish by sin.”3

St. Augustine also believes that the State is not made up of a “populus”,...
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