Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Matthew Walz
Dr. Daniel Burns
Fr. John Bayer, S.T.D., O.Cist.
In Augustine’s De beata vita: On Christianity and Philosophy, I articulate how Augustine understood the relationship between Christianity and philosophy at the time of his conversion, in light of the dialogue De beata vita. In the dialogue, Augustine and his interlocutors take up a philosophical genre, a philosophical mode of inquiry, and a philosophical question: this is a work on the happy life, in dialogue form, in which the interlocutors are asking what it takes for a person to be happy. Augustine is writing as one in a tradition of philosophers seeking to understand and pursue happiness, and makes ready reference to the arguments and conclusions those philosophers have made. The completion of the human inquiry in the dialogue is theological in nature: while happiness is seen by philosophers to be the possession or having of God, the fulfillment of this comes from Christianity in the form of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity—a revealed truth.
While philosophy is, in some modes, theological, revealed theology outstrips the capacities of philosophy. The two are consonant, however. To see this consonance, I engage in a close reading of the dialogue. Then, I look at the various authors whose influence on this particular dialogue are clear. The most notable of those are Ambrose, Cicero, and Plotinus. Finally, I make my argument that Augustine sees Christianity and philosophy as consonant: that is, Christianity encompasses true philosophy, and a Christian engaged in the activity of philosophizing is a philosopher par excellence. However, Christianity is not only philosophy, nor is philosophy a requirement for being a Christian, and Augustine’s mother Monica demonstrates that. She plays an important role both as her particular status as a fully initiated Christian, and as a representative of the Church. Without formal philosophical training, she has attained to the summit of philosophy, and under her maternal care she shares her wisdom with all persons who are chastely seeking it.
Heil, Kimberly D., "Augustine's De Beata Vita: On Christianity and Philosophy" (2021). Electronic Dissertations & Theses. 24.