Saturday, September 20, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.54

Chapter 54:
Do we even need to argue these questions, given the fact that the "calculated" date of Christ's return has already passed? If nothing else, no one can seem to agree on when to start the calculations (His birth? His baptism? His death? His resurrection? His ascension? Pentecost?)
Instead of assuming that we have been deluded by Peter's magical arts, we should realize that we are Christians, who
in name and deed do not believe in Peter, but in Him in whom Peter believed; we have been drawn to Christ by Peter's exhortations, not drugged by his incantations; we have been helped by his services, not hoodwinked by his sorceries. Christ was Peter's teacher in that faith which leads to everlasting life. The same Christ is our teacher too.
So much for those who claim to follow Peter, in his throne and seat. It's not the magic utterances of a priest claiming Petrine authority that gives Christianity truth and power, it is the work and person of Christ.

And so Augustine ends his book, having

described in such detail as I judged adequate the historical course of the two cities, the heavenly and the earthly, intermingled as they have been from the beginning and are to be until the end of time.  The earthly one has made for herself, according to her heart's desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself an true sacrifice to Him.
And so we may spot the difference between the City of God and the city of man--the former worships God according to His rules and in such a way that we lay our lives down for His glory; the latter worships itself, to the point of killing others for its own pride. This is not to say that one city cares about material goods and the other only spiritual things:
Both of these cities alike make use of temporal goods and both are equally afflicted by temporal ills--but how different they are in faith, how dissimilar in hope, how unlike in love! [diversa fide, diversa spe, diverso amore] This will go on until they are to be separated in the Last Judgment, when each shall achieve its appointed end--an end which will have no end!
Which means that Augustine now has the task of discussing the ends to which both cities are heading.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" I.IV

Part I: Reconstruction

IV. Regnum Caesaris Regnum Diaboli

Between the collapse of this system and the rise of Christianity, there were three phases:

  1. accommodation to the Augustan order;
  2. the fulfillment of the promise of this order;
  3. the collapse of Augustus' reconstruction, culminating in the integration of Christianity into the empire. (114)
These roughly match the next three centuries (not exactly of course). 

First, accommodation and adjustment, that is, accepting Augustus and his system as the embodiment of the "logos of classical order", involved:
  • unifying the Mediterranean;
  • subjecting that unified body to "Romanitas" (115).
The Caesars worked to these ends, through vis (force), auctoritas (authority), and consilium (agreement).
  • vis: (military force or power) This is not limitless expansion, that was a factor of the Republic and Republican individuals--the Empire was about protection only! (115-116) Expansion had collapsed the Republic, so in the army discipline especially had to be maintained, which became a question of
  • auctoritas: (authority) This was built on the personal relationship between the Emperor and the army. This, in turn, was partly discipline, and partly 1) the military's professionalization and 2) the loss of Senatorial control over the army. (116-117) This isolated the army from the people, the only point of mediation henceforth being the Emperor. (117) Inept or weak Emperors lost control and things under their rule went south.
  • consilium (agreements, peace) This was not so much the Emperor's executive as it was his judicial function, and his relationship to the law. (118) Magistrates increasingly took the place of professional juries under the principate. (119-120) In criminal law, this made the Emperor supreme and risked corrupting the system. (120) In private law, rights and obligations grew. (120-121) These were granted and enforced by the Emperor (121), and guided by his inclination (122), which was shaped by classical principles, which were then projected into the future.
Augustus' problem was the ideal manipulation of the physical and human world (122-123) in the face of fortune. This was the challenge of the art of statesmanship squared off against fortune, which meant that luck was somehow involved. But it was also understood that overcoming the luck and unknown experienced in nature was done through societal discipline. (123

"Societal discipline", in this case, meant mostly the Roman peoples (provincials were mostly ignored for the time being), especially the rich and the oligarchs. (123-124) These never really came to terms with the principate, and finally ended in extinction. They could never forget the fact that they once had held power. (124) Cato became their role model, but how could they expect to live to the standards of earlier generations when the path through the political ranks to those standards is now closed off to them? (124-125)

The Senate was both the source of legitimacy for the Emperor and superfluous (albeit traditional). And so it died, but slowly. (125-126) "But if the pax Augusta spelt doom for the aristocracy, it was not less fatal to the heirs of the founder himself." (126) The charges against them raise questions of what is virtue and vice in a state, or for an emperor. (127)

The Emperor was to be the embodiment of Roman virtue, which Augustus was and all others struggled to be. (127-128) 

Tiberius eventually broke under the strain. (128-129)

The Emperors could not be gods and so became beasts (129), all while increasingly being accepted as divine. (130) Philosophy steps up to justify this charge (131), and court pomp starts to look Oriental and Hellenized. (131-132) But this just highlights the role of the Emperor as the center of the order, the type that holds the state together. (132) Originality and personality were abhorrent. Adoption, rather than hereditary dynasticism was the way to meet this ideal. (133)

Tacitus writes from an aristocratic conservatism, condemning both dictatorial extremes and mass revolution. (133-134) Tacitus is a hesitating figure, not always sure what to do with his material. (134-135) The best he can muster is the praise of rustic virtue, and the "dreamworlds" to which he escapes. (135) His problem is ultimately spiritual, and revolves around the divinity of the Emperor, which he knows through common sense to be wrong, but finds no intellectual grounds to object. (135-136) And so reason itself breaks down and he must fall back on fortune. (136) For immortality he turns to posterity, and so appeals to virtue and vice and their examples. (136-137) This climaxed in the five good emperors. (137)

The Empire was at peace, expansive and united in a cosmopolitan classical ideal. (137-138) There was no external (137) or internal (138) existence. The only major revolts were those of the Jews (138-139), and even they were eventually tolerated, leaving only the Christians as the persecuted minority. These emperors were solid and, mostly, constitutional. They fixed the military, the economy, and society to the best of their very considerable abilities. (139-140) They set about fixing up the empire and encouraging service. (140) The spirit of the times was that of stability (141), and was inherently conservative. Food was secure and the land was open for settlement. (141-142) Stability in this context meant no innovation. (143)

Thus, the peace and prosperity of the Antonines was material, but it was also spiritual--the fully realized "good life" as envisioned by the Classical philosophers. "Translated into terms of concrete fact, this meant that the Antonines had succeeded in constructing a world which was adequate to the demands of civilized man." (144) This was Aristotle's ideal life on a grand scale. (144-145) The pinnacle of this was education, which 1) dissolved "all forms of particularism," and 2) built "'universal' standards of judgment and taste." (145) This education involved a "combination of literature (grammar and rhetoric) with philosophy." (146) 

This form of education mixed with a lack of freedom resulted in  a rise of crappy fluff. (146-147) And yet at the same time it provided a door to social life. (147

The true value of criticism is the question of the nature of philosophy. At this time, "philosophy" was restricted to the study of man (not nature). (148) Thus, philosophy had become isolated from other sciences (which had, in turn, atrophied). (148-150) 
On the other hand, jurisprudence as a science now rose to new heights. (150) How to relate (or discriminate) the ius naturale (natural law) from the ius gentium (human law) was the question at hand.

Yet, "law" does not equal "change", and flexibility was what was truly needed in the Third Century Crisis. (150-151) Constantine, Theodosius, and Diocletian all had some effect, but none could stem the lifeblood of the Empire from flowing out in Christian/pagan/heretic contests. (151-152)

The Third Century (and its depression) had three stages:
  1. 235-252 (Maximin to Decius), the period of disintegration;
  2. 253-269 (Valerian and Gallienus), the period of demoralization and anarchy;
  3. 270-284 recovery begun by Aurelian
This last period was marked by conflict between two aspects of Roman government. (152-153) Anarchy and terror reigned in the Empire. (153) Even economic, "spiritual, and intellectual life" were affected. (154) Literature and philosophy fell to "Orientalism," and Christians began to preach apocalypse. (154-155)

But what was the cause of this collapse? (155-156) 
[Various causes proposed, 156-157]
Ultimately, the collapse was intellectual and moral. (157) The Western mind had failed. Because the Romans themselves never figured it out, the problem must have been in their blind spot and tied to the "classical logos of power." But reason could never fully see this logos, and so fear of the unknown crept in. (157-158) "Luck" came to be a dominant explanation for the way of the world (158), followed by fate, in turn followed by astrology and superstition. (158-159)

Escape from this fate/fortune tyranny meant turning to Orientalism, especially Gnosticism. (159) Escape from the material to the spirit saw an alternation between libertinism and asceticism and, eventually, self-destruction--the very problem that Rome and the Emperors were trying to escape. (160)

This effort, the mix of character and circumstance, was bound up in the person of the Emperor. (160-161) This led to a war between conservative and innovator, neither of whom had solid grounding. This is typified in the "heresy of individual emperors," embodied in the cracking up of Roman religion. (161) As the Pantheon expanded, we see that the Roman spirit was one of confusion, not really toleration. (161-162) This too sowed the seeds of future break-up (162), other than merely the occasional repression of philosophies. 

What philosophy there was remained disconnected from the real world, as did literature. (163) That philosophy had fallen, we see in Diogenes, who shows the development of philosophy in 1) physics; 2) ethics; 3) logic. These three patterned all subsequent thought (164-165), even as materialistic and idealists, dogmatists and skeptics, fought over application. Stoicism, though destined to collapse, was the most important of all, with its doctrine of fate and its precept to "follow nature" (165), which is to "follow reason" (166), and which builds the "city of god." But because "order" and "process" could never truly be reconciled through human reason, Seneca increasingly withdrew into the fantasy world. (166-167)

The only viable alternative to Stoicism (other than Skepticism) was Platonism, which argued the connection between the subjective material and the objective/spiritual logos. Thus Plutarch, writing on fate, argues for the blending of fate and intellect (167-169) as a means to reconcile fate and virtue, which he then demonstrates as connected. In Egyptian myth, Plutarch sees that the resolution of this problem can only occur in the realm of transcendence. (169-171) But, in this, Plutarch opened the "gap between God and the universe," leaving room for intermediary demons and the study of demonology, but also leaving room for Plotinus. (171-172)

Plotinus is the last "effort of classical reason", drawing on Plato's core thought--though he turned to the "intuitive and mystical aspects of Platonism," rather than to the more objective sides. yet, Plotinus still falls back on salvation through reason and knowledge (172), and ultimately retreats into escapism. (172-173)

The problems of the Third Century also had military and financial aspects, but still remained questions of virtue and vice (173), the task of this century was the "restoration" of the glories of the Second century. But since philosophy had abdicated, it fell to the military to perform the task, especially under the rule of the Illyrian Emperors. (174) Their efforts were a mix of military pressure and moral/political flexibility, culminating in Diocletian (174-175), who turned the Empire into a vast, bloated bureaucracy that had the goal of restoring the old system, but which ended up burdening everyone. (174-175) Likewise his policies led directly to persecution (175), though he saw the failure of his policies and the rise of toleration. (175-176)

"City of God" XVIII.52-53

Chapter 52:
Augustine rejects a proto-premillenarian view of persecution and the coming of the Antichrist.

Chapter 53:
The final persecution will end only which Jesus returns to destroy the Antichrist. Yet for those who ask 'when', Augustine says "A most unreasonable question, for, if it were good for us to know the answer, the Master, God Himself, would have told His disciples when they asked Him... Obviously, then, it is a waste of effort for us to attempt counting the precise number of years which this world has yet to go, since we know from the mouth of Truth that it is none of our business."
So much for those who would waste their time in pointless calculations--such people are few steps away from the magicians and alchemists who call Jesus and Peter magicians and attribute to them the practice of the dark arts. (This shows us the true nature of those who reject Christianity, for this is what the pagans believe as well.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.49-51

Chapter 49:
It is undoubtedly no accident that Augustine's discussion of election and reprobation comes with his discussion of the historical moment of the Gospel. What we see when we look at the church in this world is not what it will be in glory, but rather a wide net which includes believers and unbelievers alike who will not be truly separated until heaven. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are the culmination of history and the good news which is declared to all nations and in all tongues. Though the church is not yet pure as it will be one day, history's purpose is accomplished and we only await that final separation at the end of time.

Chapter 50:
How does the church grow? By the preaching of the Word, as confirmed by miracles and the death of the martyrs. This goes on until the very people who executed the martyrs come to respect them as forerunners in the faith and see their former pagan gods as now worthy of persecution.

Chapter 51:
Whether we're thinking about heresy or persecution, even the bad things of this world which plague the church are used by God for the good of His true people. "So it falls out that in this world, in evil days like these, the church walks onward like a wayfarer stricken by the world's hostility, but comforted by the mercy of God."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.46-48

Chapter 46:
The Jews, living under Rome, have now been scattered across the world not necessarily as punishment for killing Jesus (though they certainly had a hand in that), but for so consistently refusing to believe the words of their own Scriptures. While it would be a stretch to say that Augustine is anti-Semitic (he quite clearly knows the importance of the Jews in this history of the church, and obviously longs for their salvation), we can say that there is language here that will later be historically abused that we can wish might have been clarified a bit.

Chapter 47:
When we ask whether there have ever been any Jews brought into the City of God, we have to say of course-- even the Jews in their most isolationist periods have never claimed that they were the only people to come to know God. The Old Testament itself disproves this claim!

Chapter 48:
The OT prophecies about the restoration and coming glory of the new temple are about Christ and the church, not about the building put up in Ezra.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.44-45

Chapter 44:
The Septuagint, for example, helps us sort through some of the otherwise baffling linguistic and numerical problems we find in the Hebrew originals.

Chapter 45:
Augustine gives us a quick run-down of how the Jews came to be under Rome's rule--namely by treachery and sin. How else would we expect the City of God to blend with the city of man?

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" I.III

Part I: Reconstruction;

III. Roma Aeterna: The Apotheosis of Power

Augustus claimed not just to have solved the problems of the Roman Restoration, but all of the (political) problems of mankind. (74) Since the days of ancient Greece, men had been striving to rise above barbarism and civilize themselves. This gradually became a "vision of power" (74-75), which included:

  1. "the excellence of man as man", and 
  2. the realization of the ideal through latent human characteristics. (75)
The Greeks had looked to nature for these, but never to the self-sufficient individual. (75) 

All of this raises the questions of community. (76) Is the community fundamentally based on power, or justice? (76-77) 

The countless Greek attempts to find an answer through the varieties of poleis all failed. (77) Not that these states (Sparta excluded) consciously sought the ideal! (77-78) In general, the Greek state in question was a mere middle-class creation. Yet even this middle-class creation shows a longing for a just and lasting society. (78)

[Idealism defined, page 78.]

Platonic idealism struggles through Plato's conception of existence (78-79) to try to discover where the idea of a just society may be achieved. (79-80) A question he never satisfactorily answers.
Aristotle sought (and found, through biology) transcendent order in nature. It is the nature of man to aim at a transcendent telos, which means that Aristotle ends very nearly where Plato did. (80-82) That is, the polis has a telos, which is to help man escape the flux of the world and move towards the transcendent goal. (82) This becomes the basis for judging constitutions. And although the constitutions of Aristotle's day failed to meet this goal (82-83), statecraft remained the means by which this goal was pursued (83-84), and the means by which passions were restrained and "justice, peace, and freedom would be achieved." (84)

Practically, even as Plato and Aristotle wrote, the Greek world was tearing itself apart (84-86) and being remodeled by Philip and Alexander. 

What is Alexander the Great's role in the history of politics? Functionally, he both destroyed the polis and delivered the Greeks. (86) He did this partially by entering at the practical level into the theoretical conflict between "hero" and "citizen." This conflict was decided at Chaeronea. 
Alexander saw himself as the hero, the new Achilles and Hercules. He is seen as unifying humanity in a cosmopolitan whole. The main thing to note (whatever the validity of someone like Tarn's view) is that his (Alexander's) method was political. (88-89) He ruled as King: hereditary, salvific, philosophical, and lacking only eternality. (89) Again, whether true or not the effect was to sweep all people--even the isolated Jews--into political life. (90

Where the "hopes" of Alexander and his successors "gradually faded," they were transferred to Rome--first in the Republic (90-91),. The Greeks, as we see in Polybius, now look to Rome (91), even to the point of tying it to Troy, and so to their own past. (91-92) Despite conquered/conqueror tensions, the two were spiritually united. (92) And though Polybius' beliefs that the Romans had 1) cured faction and 2) brought peace to the Greek world were premature, it was the same note sounded under the Empire of Augsutus. (93)

What chance did Rome have where Greece had failed? Obviously, the answer to this question would depend on the character of the leader, and Augustus was a mix of idealist and opportunist. (93-94) 
But even this wasn't really enough, the people as well had to be virtuous. (94-95) But what was Roman virtue?
Caesar had identified it with flexibility and adaptability, (95) at least in material terms. Moreover, "classical idealism" (as in Livy) believed that history was an ideal model for virtue, and could be chosen over the "vice" of the modern times. This was an abstraction, and ignored the flux of reality. (96-97) What's more, it reduces man to a "specimen", rather than treating him as a man. (97-98) This in turn leads to the natural/conventional distinction, which can only be bridged through the "justice of the polis." (98) Thus, a system is constructed which attempts to replace human order with cosmic order--often by force (even with "wisdom" being the force in question). (98) So Livy's History becomes Plato's "noble lie", imposing a view rather than searching for truth--an imposition done largely through poetic means. (98-99)

Livy uses a unique combination of "virtue and fortune." (99) But what do these mean?
  • Fortune: This idea is obscure, yet still worshiped by the Romans. (99) It was inherently tied to virtue, though philosophically the two could be opposed.
  • Virtue: This is also called "the arts" and is political, as well as being opposed to vice. Both "virtue" and the "arts "are "mannequin" forms, rather than actual descriptions of something. (100-101) This shows most in Livy's view of religion (101), which he sees as a form, "utterly pragmatic" and unconcerned with either truth or falsehood, focusing on only function and utility. (101-102)
[For more on this, read Machiavelli's reflection on Livy in Discourses on Livy, where he explicitly discusses the Fortune/Virtue relationship.]

The problem is that the opposite of "order" is "change," which is both a real-world fact and a problem. (102-103) If we use physics and nature as the rule, we come to natural = legitimate, and the classical definition of justice. This means that the telos of nature provides both the goal and the limits of the state (103) and the individual.
As a result, a deep conservatism becomes the order of the day, albeit one which needs a strong leader to prevent change and to control the masses. (104) "Thus envisaged, the problem of politics is to reconcile 'liberty' with 'authority.'" (104) 

For Sallust, states are constructs imposed by the (Platonic and ideal) forms, and hence both legitimate and capable. (105) Thus through the forms we gain freedom. But, the forms are impeded by the matter, just as the statesman is impeded by the mob. (106-107) So compromise must be achieved, but it must be a compromise that places people by nature. (107) 

Livy's "moral intention" is problematic, because of the morals he has to work with. (107-108) But how does he choose those morals? We must see his underlying presuppositions, namely he assumes that the principate is the solution to modern political problems. (108) This is because traditional solutions (the Republican institutions) have broken down under the relentless assault of unquenchable passions, and a second founder is needed to renew the forms. Augustus' multiple authorities (general, family member, kind, etc) reinforced this.

Thus, Augustus' power is 1) "formally correct", and 2) based on the virtues of "virtus, clementia, justitia, and pietas," all of which call forth the strength of the past as the source of legitimacy. (109-110) Augustus was understood to be the hand of providence in blessing mankind. (110)

The Caesar cult was based in classical ideals. (110-111) The idea of the great man, or hero, who surpasses all others in virtue (and intelligence, and courage) and fortune was common. Both Plato and Aristotle thought them to be near (or even actually) divine. (111) The Romans bought into this, though they divinized the virtues, rather than the man. (Greek heroes tended personally towards immortality.) (112) The power cults (Hercules) were especially strong, and led to Augustus Caesar's "recognition... as a political god." (112-113) Thus the "superman" became the goal (telos), and virtue and fortune the backbone and foundation of the state. (113)

"City of God" XVIII.42-43

Chapter 42:
Here Augustine relates the tale of the Greek conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great and its passing on to the control of his generals after his death. Ptolemy, who receive Egypt, ordered the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which gives us the Septuagint. Augustine relates the (certainly mythical) story of its translation by the Scribes, who were confined in cells and yet all managed to produce exactly the same translation. I mention this largely because I'm a fan of Alexander the Great. If you want to become one too, check out Arrian's The Campaigns of Alexander, Robin Lane Fox's Alexander the Great, and Ulrich Wilcken's Alexander the Great (and I recommend reading them in that order).

Chapter 43:
Some of the church has so far preferred the Septuagint to the original Hebrew (Jerome's Vulgate is a clear exception, as it draws on the Hebrew sources). Augustine believes that we should accept the Septuagint as canon, with the understanding that we may participate in some light textual criticism that adds bits found in the Hebrew but missing from the Septuagint while noting which bits are in the Septuagint but not found in the original Hebrew. The main point of course is that Scripture is not something which comes from men, but rather from God. And we must not take it upon ourselves to judge Scripture and instead ought to be submissive to it--we certainly ought not judge God for the means by which He delivers and preserves it.
[Here of course we say this is one of the few places where Jerome trumps Augustine, which no doubt would have tickled the cranky old scholar pink.]

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" I.II

Part I: Reconstruction

II. Romanitas: Empire and Commonwealth

The "Augustan settlement" brought nearly unbridled hope out of despair over the fate of Western Civilization. Virgil is the picture of this, giving "human history... a cosmetic setting" as the culmination of mankind's effort. The principate was the solution to the problem of politics. (27-28)

Virgil's idea becomes the "basis for imperial solidarity" (28-29), and the "final utterance to the spirit of classical paganism, the religion of culture." (29) This had been Rome's problem since the time of Cato the Elder and its rise from a local to an international power. The threat to the state was already evident in the exceptionalist mentality of the Scipios and in the reactionary virtues of Cato the Elder. (30) He was right to condemn Hellenism and Greek philosophy, since even Aristotle was willing to defer to a King if he were the most virtuous person in the state. (30-31) Cato with his peasant wisdom stood against Hellenization. (32) He became the first agrarian and proponent of the villa system using work as "the moral counterpart of war." (33) Even in his own time, but especially in later generations, all the evils Cato predicted came to pass. (34-35) Morals slid into decline on all levels of society. (35)

Lucretius' Epicureanism attempted to offer an escape according to the law of reason. Our true problem is irrational religion, which must be replaced with the rational truth of reality: that of atoms in the void. Salvation thus comes "through enlightenment." (36) Enlightenment, in turn, involves observation, apprehension, and finally relaxation.

And yet, even the existence of Lucretius shows how "Greek" Rome had gone since the time of Cato. (37) The state had become a mere compact, and Epicureanism, while of limited actual effect, became the first attempt to solve the "Roman problem" outside of Roman culture on the plane of reason, nature, and principle. (37-38)

Cicero, the most important Latin writer, picks up this new stream of thought. (38) He affects all subsequent thought, including Christianity. (38-39) Cicero responds to the same problems as Lucretius: the psychological lust for power and the running amok of "expansive emotions" (39-4), as well as "self-assertive egoism." The answer to all of these problems is, for Cicero, philosophy. But not the Epicurean philosophy, which destroys both freedom and virtue. (40)

True philosophy is religion, not superstition, but rather "high" religion. (40-41) This meant essentially a conservative skepticism. (41-42) Reason becomes the "link between man and man, and between man and God." (42) Reasoning is judging, and is built into our nature, and in this natural justice we find the state, the freedom thereof being the highest good.

Yet, all his life political realities offset Cicero's idealism, and in practice he often wavered. (43-44) He attempts to find a middle ground between right and left, and associates order and freedom in the state with private property. (44-45) And here, with the idea of a private sphere (res privata), the Romans surpass the Greeks. (46)

Cicero's social thinking, found in On Duties, reflects his view of uniquely human appetites: social impulses, thirst for truth, thirst for glory, love of order and propriety. (47-48) From this springs a sense of ethics (the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice). These virtues are communal, and salvation through them is corporate.

Justice especially is the realm of civil society, especially economic justice. (48-49) Even more, justice applies not only to individuals forming communities, but to communities forming the brotherhood of nations, i.e. international justice. Even slaves are included (49)

Courage too is a moral, intellectual, and social virtue. (50-51)

Thus, the "duties" in question are relational, being different for magistrate, citizen, alien, etc. (51-52) Public duties are a mix of morality and utility, with morality being first in importance--Crassus and Julius Caesar had switched that order. (52-53) The duties of government are ultimately to protect property with virtue, but include specifically:

  1. "to maintain the rights of property;
  2. to abstain from burdensome taxation;
  3. to ensure to every one an abundance of the necessities of life;
  4. to be scrupulously clean-handed, above the suspicion of greed or corruption." (54)
The conflict this clearly sets up between the ideal and the real gives rise to the distinction between the natural law (ideal) and the civil law (real), with the civil fitting the natural to work within the real world. (56)

The final goal of duties is to achieve human, civilized excellence. (56-57) 

Thus, the power of the state resides with the populus, and when magistrates overstep, they may be resisted. (57) 

Cicero's writing, though it couldn't save the Republic, gave it a legacy that had to be worked into the Empire, and has had to be acknowledged ever since (see such diverse writers as Machiavelli and Jefferson). (58)

Cicero also identified the strength of the public consensus, its need for leadership, and the ease with which that leadership could become tyrannical. (58-59)

Caesar's and Pompey's failures were failures of character, as they were dictators rather than monarchical leaders. (60) Such virtues, as pietas and iustitia ["devotion" and "justice"] were found only in the past. (60) Of course, this analysis was Academic (Platonic) idealism, and looked for fulfillment in the world of imagination, rather than in concrete reality. Thus Cicero shows the "strength and weakness of classical liberal idealism," (60-61) and became the source of Augustus' legitimacy.

Yet not Cicero alone, he merely provided the idea. Virgil provided the motive power. (61) Virgil gives Cicero's ideas religious and cultural sanction within the life of Rome. That Virgil was a poet rather than a philosopher just makes the point, since his primary appeal is to the imagination. (62) He is both like and unlike Lucretius. Both are poets (like), but Virgil puts fate over actual chaos (unlike). (62-63) In Virgil, the material order of the world points to a transcendent order, which in turn governs the material world. Thus Virgil emphasizes the will, while Lucretius emphasizes knowledge. (63)  Civilization, for Virgil, must be constructed (64) out of nature, using both effort and organization and culminating in the practical work of Rome. This may be compared to the Pilgrims of the New World seeking the Western dream of "a union of hearts." (64-65) The idea of will expressed through effort is the heart of the Georgics (65), but is given its final expression in the Aeneid (66-67). This work is physical (66), moral, and spiritual (67), as Eastern Orientalism seeks to drag down the virtuous West. History is the story of the struggle to do this work, and culminates in Rome as it becomes the "religion of this world." (68

Virgil unites Cicero, Varro, and Ovid--poetry, philosophy, and the state. (68-69) these three work to forge civilization against barbarism, the rule of reason and virtue against base impulse, the rule of Venus and Jupiter over Juno, until finally the barbaric itself becomes civilized. (69-70)

Fate, here, becomes freedom of a sort (70), but it is the freedom of submission and justification by works. Thus, the virtue of Virgil (which extends even to the next world) as adopted by Augustus becomes the city of man. (71) This city is not just another Carthage, Greece, or Troy, it is to be an eternal solution to the problems which brought those failed states low. (72) The transcendent virtue the Empire embodied set it apart from past states, and bound together Rome by the ideals of Romanitas, which is discovered in--but which also transcends--material wealth. (72-73) The Romans therefore retained their local distinctions, while being bound themselves by "natural reason." (73) 

"City of God" XVIII.40-41

Chapter 40:
At the end of the day, the history and philosophy of the city of man (especially when the whole of it stretched across the earth is considered) only lead to contradiction and error. We believers alone have truth and reality on our side, and can rest assured in the object of our faith as expressed in Scripture.

Chapter 41:
Philosophy, like history, has done the city of man no good--despite the occasional glimmerings of truth it discovers. Philosophers themselves can rarely get above human reason, and are almost always driven by pride and vainglory. This is opposed to the authors of Scripture, among whom "there is no shadow of disagreement," despite the wide variety of men involved in its writing.
Not that it matters much to the city of man--they can't even agree on a philosophy and just accept everything pell-mell. Which, given the transcendent import of the subject matter of philosophy (human happiness) shows further the depravity of man--would any state ever accept such a course in such "relatively indifferent matters as agriculture, architecture, or economics"?
Again, this is not to say that there is no truth in the city of man: "Certain philosophers, it is true, did get a glimpse of the truth amid the fog of their own fallacies and did try to build it up to solid conviction and persuasiveness by means of carefully worked-out argumentation."
Yet for all that, philosophy does not carry the authority or power of Scripture, which when declared brings men to repentance and faith.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.36-39

Chapter 36:
Following the canonical texts, Augustine now turns to the Apocrypha, which he mistakenly places in the canon (here Jerome has a leg up on his younger contemporary). Augustine himself points out that these texts were not understood to be canon until much later in history, as a close reading of even the texts themselves will show to the careful reader. (Maccabees especially are clear that there are no prophets in the land, and so the books cannot be Scripture.)

Chapter 37:
"Philosophy" was a latecomer on the scene, only coming after (and possibly stealing from) the Prophets. Even Egyptian wisdom isn't older than Abraham.

Chapter 38:
In fact, if we count Enoch and Noah, Prophecy goes way back...
Which raises the question of the canonicity of the books attributed to Enoch and Noah. [The Book of Enoch I've heard of, I confess my ignorance of any "Book of Noah".]
This is not necessarily a problem, even when the New Testament (as in the book of Jude) cites them. After all, we have the books of 1 Samuel - 2 Chronicles which talk about history recorded elsewhere. It may be the case that these historians were both inspired and uninspired, depending on which books they happened to be working on. Nor should we trust the non-Canonical texts as sources of truth, since their authors and dates are suspect.

Chapter 39:
The point is, no one gets to claim that the wisdom of their peoples came first--the Scriptures antedate all of them.
We should note that this is a remarkably different view than the modern one. The ancient idea was that the oldest wisdom must be closest to the primal truth, while we tend to worship at the altar of newness. I suspect both views are wrong, and that Scripture alone is the fount of saving truth. I mean, I don't suspect that last part, I know it. But I suspect that both the veneration of the old and the new have their limitations and drawbacks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" I.I

Part I: Reconstruction

I. Pax Augusta: The Restored Republic

Augustus claimed to have created (well, "restored") an ideal and permanent constitution. His goal was to unite power, service, freedom, personal rule (his), and Rome all into one body. (3)

The need for such a solution comes when Rome expands beyond Italy to Carthage (in the South) and East. Once this happens, the traditional methods of government of the Republic no longer suffice. (4)*

Julius Caesar was the first to attempt to solve this problem, largely by using the Populares (the passing of laws through popular institutions, generally flexible/liberal/popular in scope) to overcome the Optimates (the passing of laws through the Senate and upper-level offices, generally traditionalist and stable). Julius Caesar's activities in Gaul (France) and his propaganda led to a "wholesale corruption of the Roman world." (5-6) He built a power base in Gaul to counter Pompey's Italian one, but in doing so created a whole new thing that hadn't been seen before. (6)

Personally, Julius Caesar was an example of moderation during the war. He fought, and then ruled, with mercy and moderation (clementia), especially in his handling of debt laws. (6-7) Julius Caesar's victory meant reform, albeit fairly standard and conservative reforms for the Greco-Roman world. (7) And yet, the imposition of mild reforms could not fix Rome's problems. (7-8) Finally frustrated, Julius Caesar did away with the dignity of the Republic and seized all power for himself on the model of Alexander the Great. (8-9)

Julius Caesar was, at the end of the day, a political scientist, not a visionary. Hence he has a very mixed legacy. (9-10) Julius Caesar is in some sense a force of "sublime egotism." (10) His assassination served as a sort-of warning to Augustus Caesar as to how not to govern (11), and also demonstrated that the death of a monarch was not the death of the monarchy. (12) Consequently Cato, not Pompey or Caesar, became the model of Roman Republicanism (12-13), virtuous but with no practical hope for the prevention of monarchy (only the form the monarchy would take was in question). (13)

Mark Antony only emphasized the Hellenization of Roman leadership, though in much less subtle ways that Julius Caesar had. (14)

Octavian (Augustus Caesar), on the other hand, championed publicly the "Latin spirit" in the traditional sense. (14-15) He phrased his rise as a contest between West and East, Roman gods and virtues versus Eastern monsters. (15-16) Thus, peace for Octavian meant a traditional restoration of Rome as his goal and guide. (16) The "pax Augusta" may then be seen "as a final and definitive expression of the spirit of classical antiquity." (17) This is contrasted with the preceding period of Senatorial dominance, which was an usurpation of the traditional "civic ideal", as we see in Sallust. (17-18) Again, this usurpation was caused by the growth of Rome geographically. (18)

Putting it in these terms makes Octavian a conservative, merely seeking to set Rome to rights (18-19) even as those traditional ways passed in his ascendance (19)--which in turn was nothing less than various magisterial powers being transferred to one person, the Princeps ['first citizen,' another name for the Emperor]. (20) The old Republican system of checks and balances was now dead (21), as all things inclined--intentionally or otherwise--towards the Emperor, making it ultimately the indispensable Roman institution. Its job, in turn, was to pursue the res publica, the common good (21-22), especially through peace and defense. (22) This goal was accomplished by:

  1. "The maintenance and extension of individual civic rights." (22) Specifically, this was done by colonization and by the assimilation f barbarians. (22-23)
  2. "The purgation of society"'s evils and the "inculcation of a public spirit." (23) How this was accomplished will be discussed later, but it should be noted that the means were to be political. 
The emperor thus avoided the extremes to which liberalism could lead and found a new way to express and exercise power. (23)

As a result, the state becomes the vehicle of the rule of law, which is "the most characteristic aspect of the Roman genius." (23) Under the emperor, the law becomes a function of "scientific and philosophic principles" rather than a function of faction and personal interest.  

As party and social politics faded, the claims of a culmination of civilization increased (24), for "faction", while not completely disappearing, was being replaced with "reason and equity." (24) As public rights and powers were sacrificed, private rights began to flourish.

Thus, the Greek polis and the Roman res publica find full expression in the Emperor as the agent of justice over against faction (24-25) and the evils of human nature. (25) We see this in the deification of Augustus' person and Rome as an idea. (25-26)

*Citations underlined note pages especially key to understanding the themes and ideas.

"City of God" XVIII.34-35

Chapter 34-35:
Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi all spoke of what Jesus would do when he came as well.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" Preface

The goal of this book is the understand the "transition from the world of Augustus and Vergil to that of Theodosius and Augustine." (v)
Cochrane explains that he will begin with Augustus' claims of the eternality of Rome and explore the place of the state in Classical thought as compared and contrasted with Christian thought. (iv)

Specifically, we will see how the Classical quest to find (and Augustus' claim to have found) the eternal and lasting state is directly challenged by the Christian Christ. (iv)
To them [Christians] the state, so far from being the supreme instrument of human emancipation and perfectibility, was a straight-jacket to be justified at best as a 'remedy for sin'. To think of it otherwise they considered the grossest of superstitions. (iv)


"City of God" XVIII.32-33

Chapter 32-33:
Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah all likewise prophesied about the coming of Christ.

[And yes, these are shorter summaries, if I were studying these texts specifically I'd have more to say. At the end of Augustine's analysis, I'll have some extended remarks.]

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Christianity and Classical Culture" Prologue

Having finished blogging through The City of God, I've decided to do something similar with another, non-classic work: Charles Norris Cochrane's Christianity and Classical Culture. There are basically three reasons for this:

  1. I hope to be teaching a course on Roman government with a colleague of mine in the near future, and this will be a good review.
  2. I have the notes written out already, and need to get them typed up so they're in a more permanent place.
  3. A friend of mine asked for a copy of the notes, and this is FAR easier than scanning/photocopying/etc.
So, over the next few days/weeks/however long it takes, I'll be posting a summary of one of the greatest interpretations of ancient political thought ever written. 

"City of God" XVIII.29-31

Chapter 29-31:
Augustine continues his discussion of the prophecies that pointed to Christ through Isaiah and several more of the minor prophets.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.26-28

Chapter 26:
Again, we see surface-level similarities between the two cities--the Jews were freed from Babylon just as the Romans were freed from their tyrannical kings.

Chapter 27-28:
One difference is that the City of God was preparing to take over through the prophesies that told of the coming King, Jesus.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.23-25

Chapter 23:
The city of man is aware of the presence and nature of the City of God, as we see in some of the Sibylline prophecies which point to Christ (though Augustine has his doubts about some aspects of this prediction).

Chapter 24:
The philosophers followed the theological poets, including Thales. This in no way helped the city of man worship the true God, and in fact drove them farther into idolatry. King Numa of Rome is the best example of this, as he "stuffed heaven with divinities" so much "that there was no room left for him."

Chapter 25:
As the Israelites went into captivity, philosophers and law givers worked in the city of man.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.19-22

Chapter 19-21:
Augustine parallels the development of the Roman monarchy from Aeneas with the development of the Jewish monarchy through Saul, so highlighting the fact that there are on the surface certain similarities between the two cities.
This parallel breaks down, however, when we see that in the city of man, kings are made into gods, while in the City of God, God makes men kings.

Chapter 22:
This is not to say that the city of man is without its uses: "To be brief, the city of Rome was founded, like another Babylon, and as it were the daughter of the former Babylon, by which God was pleased to conquer the whole world, and subdue it far and wide by bringing it into one fellowship of government and laws."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.16-18

Chapter 16-18:
Even war grows the pagan delusion concerning the gods, as we see in the Trojan War and its aftermath where people are elevated to the divine, and lowered to the beasts almost indiscriminately. And we shouldn't necessarily dismiss these as pure fancy--after all, God can do what He wishes with the human form, including delegating to demons the ability to deceive our senses to lead us further astray. That we do not see these things and turn instead to Him is just a further sign of the depths of our depravity.