The Limits of Grief in Augustine of Hippo’s Sermones 172-173 and Sermo 396
This contribution explores select sermons of Augustine relating to the pastoral and existential phenomena of grief and human mortality (ss. 172-173 and s. 396). In particular, it evaluates these themes in conversation with philosophical reflections on human nature in the City of God, Books 13-14. Drawing upon Platonic and Stoic views in the latter, St. Augustine prefers a more compassionate and permissive understanding of human emotion in the former. Nevertheless, the author argues that while Augustine makes extensive textual appeal to Pauline and Johannine sources, which is likewise evident in his philosophical work, he remains implicitly committed to a cognitivist theory of emotion also in his preaching. In order to support this claim, I first present the philosophical traditions at work within the biblical horizon of the City of God, through a careful reading of pertinent texts, including work of Sarah Byers. Second, I attend to shifts of tone and emphasis detected in three public sermons, two of which have been successfully dated to 418 and 419, where evident differences of genre and audience help to account for Augustine’s heightened pastoral sensitivity. This comparative approach illuminates, finally, how the bishop of Hippo maintains philosophical continuity and navigates his pastoral responsibilities.
Augustine of Hippo; Preaching; Cognitive Theory of Emotions; Stoicism; grief
Augustinus, Sermones ad populum, ed. J.-P. Migne, PL 39, Paris 1841-1855, transl. E. Hill: Sermons 341-400, WSA III/10, Hyde Park 1997.
Augustinus, De ciuitate dei libri I-X, XI-XXII, ed. B. Dombard – A. Kalb, CCL 47-48, Turnhout 1955, transl. W. Babcock: The City of God (Books 1-10, 11-22), WSA I/6-7, Hyde Park 2012-2013.
Austin E., Plato on Grief as a Mental Disorder, “Archive Geschicte Philosophie” 98/1 (2016) p. 1-20.
Byers S., Perception, Sensibility, and Moral Motivation in Augustine: A Stoic-Platonic Synthesis, Cambridge 2013.
Cary P., Love and Tears: Augustine’s Project of Loving without Losing, in: Confessions of Love: Ambiguities of Greek Eros and Latin Caritas, ed. Craig J.N. de Paulo et al., New York 2011, p. 39-54.
Colish M., The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, vol. 2: Stoicism in Christian Latin Thought through the Sixth Century, Leiden 1985.
Cooper J., Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus, Princeton 2012.
Dupont A. Augustine’s Anti-Pelagian Interpretation of Two Martyr Sermons. Sermones 299 and 335B on the Unnaturalness of Human Death, in: Martyrdom and Persecution in Late Antique Christianity: Festshrift Boudewijn Dehandschutter, ed. J. Leemans, BETL 241, Leuven 2010, p. 87-102.
Duval Y.-M., Consolatio, AL 1 (1994) fasc. 7/8, ed. C. Mayer et al., Basel 1994, p. 1244-1247.
Hultin N., The Rhetoric of Consolation: Studies in the Development of the ‘consolatio mortis’, Baltimore 1965.
Layton R., Propatheia: Origen and Didymus on the Origin of the Passions, VigCh 54 (2000) p. 262-282.
Houghton H.A.G., The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts, Oxford 2016.
MacCormack S., The Shadows of Poetry: Vergil in the Mind of Augustine, Berkeley 1998.
Oppel C., “Why, my soul, are you sad?” Augustine’s Opinion on Sadness in the City of God and an Interpretation of his Tears in the Confessions, AugSt 35 (2004) p. 199-236.
Van Riel G., Mens immota mota mane: Neoplatonic Tendencies in Augustine’s Theory of the Passions, “Augustiniana” 54 (2004) p. 506-531.
Sorabji R., Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation, Oxford 2000.
Sorabji R., Stoic First Movements in Christianity, in: Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations, ed. S. Strange - J. Zupko, Cambridge 2004, p. 95-107.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.