Augustine on Pagan Virtue

Michael Moriarty

in Disguised Vices

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199589371
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728808 | DOI:
Augustine on Pagan Virtue

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The chapter examines Augustine’s criticism of pagan virtue, both that of Roman heroes and that of philosophers, in De civitate Dei. The first he stigmatizes as driven by the lust for glory, the latter as suffused with pride. The issue of pagan virtue recurs in his controversy with Pelagius and his follower Julian, who cited virtuous pagans as proof that human beings are naturally capable of doing what is right. To defend his contrary position (that we can do no good without divine grace) Augustine is committed to maintaining his negative analysis of such virtue as inauthentic because not subordinated to God. But how are we to take his claim that such virtue is vice, and the resultant actions sins? Different interpretations of this point are discussed.

Keywords: Augustine; pagans; philosophers; Romans; Pelagius; Julian of Eclanum; sin; grace

Chapter.  13478 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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