Talk:Augustine of Hippo

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Augustine and "dubito ergo sum"Edit

Is there a Vol 20 of De Trinitate? Per this source, Augustine is indicated as stating "Dubito, ergo sum" at De Trinitate 20:21. Some time back, I had tracked down a document that appeared to be the source, but was uncertain re its provenance and can no longer locate it. Can someone help? (It would make a nice addition to the Cogito, ergo sum page. Thanks Humanengr (talk) 00:38, 13 May 2018 (UTC)

No, there are only 15 books in the De Trinitate. The most relevant passage I've found is this, from book 10:
Etiam si dubitat, vivit; si dubitat, unde dubitet meminit; si dubitat, dubitare se intellegit; si dubitat, certus esse vult; si dubitat, cogitat; si dubitat, scit se nescire.
Even if he doubts, he lives; if he doubts, he remembers why he doubts; if he doubts, he understands that he doubts; if he doubts, he wishes to be certain; if he doubts, he thinks; if he doubts, he knows that he does not know. (talk) 16:28, 17 April 2019 (UTC)
There is also: De Civitate Dei (book XI, 26): "If I am mistaken, I am" ("Si…fallor, sum"). --Omnipaedista (talk) 12:56, 29 August 2020 (UTC)

The DonatistsEdit

The single thing Augustine is most remembered for--and misunderstood about, considering--is his relation and response to the Donatists. People who actually know nothing about Augustine still think they understand what he actually said about coercion. They rarely do, but they write on it anyway, so why isn't a discussion of Augustine's writings on coercion here? Can anyone explain? I would like to see a section added and would be happy to volunteer to do that work. Jenhawk777 (talk) 04:24, 14 June 2020 (UTC)

If the lovely people who have created and contributed to this wonderful article will allow it, I have about 8 paragraphs on coercion that it seems to me should be here under theology. If you are unwilling to have it here, I can create a sister article instead, but I wanted to see if there was strong feeling one way or the other before acting. If you want to read it first, it's in my sandbox [1], which I am happy for you to take a look at, or I am happy to post it here in Talk. Don't leave me on my own to decide! Jenhawk777 (talk) 22:03, 23 August 2020 (UTC)
So, no immediate response. I think this material needs to be included as it is one of Augustine's most influential and certainly his most controversial teaching, but I am concerned that, in order to properly present it, this is simply too long. There are already some long sections here--which can either be an argument for or against having it--but it needs its own section if included. Just to be sure everyone knows what I'm talking about, I am posting it here:

Augustine on coercionEdit

Peter Brown says Augustine had to deal with issues of violence and coercion throughout his entire career and is one of very few authors in Antiquity who ever truly theoretically examined the ideas of religious freedom and coercion.[1]:107 It is this teaching on coercion that has most "embarrassed his modern defenders and vexed his modern detractors,"[2]:116 making him appear "to generations of religious liberals as le prince et patriarche de persecuteurs."[1]:107

Historical backgroundEdit

During the Great Persecution, "When Roman soldiers came calling, some of the [Catholic] officials handed over the sacred books, vessels, and other church goods rather than risk legal penalties" over a few objects.[3]:ix Maureen Tilley[4] says this was a problem by 305, that became a schism by 311, because many of the North African Christians had a long established tradition of a "physicalist approach to religion."[3]:xv The sacred scriptures were not simply books to them, but were the Word of God in physical form, therefore they saw handing over the Bible, and handing over a person to be martyred, as "two sides of the same coin."[3]:ix Those who cooperated with the authorities became known as traditores. The term originally meant one who hands over a physical object, but it came to mean "traitor."[3]:ix

According to Tilley, after the persecution ended, those who had apostatized wanted to return to their positions in the church.[3]:xiv The North African Christians, (the rigorists who became known as Donatists), refused to accept them.[3]:ix,x Catholics were more tolerant and wanted to wipe the slate clean.[5]:xiv,69 For the next 75 years, both parties existed, often directly alongside each other, with a double line of bishops for the same cities.[3]:xv Competition for the loyalty of the people included multiple new churches and violence.[note 1] No one is exactly sure when the Circumcellions and the Donatists allied, but for decades, they fomented protests and street violence, accosted travelers and attacked random Catholics without warning, often doing serious and unprovoked bodily harm such as beating people with clubs, cutting off their hands and feet, and gouging out eyes.[6]:172,173,222,242,254


Augustine became coadjutor Bishop of Hippo in 395, and tried appealing to the Donatists verbally for several years believing that conversion must be volunatry. He used popular propaganda, debate, personal appeal, General Councils, and political pressure to bring the Donatists back into union with the Catholics, but all attempts failed.[6]:242,254

The harsh realities of the Donatist-Catholic conflict can be found in the recently discovered Letter 28 written to bishop Novatus around 416. Donatists had attacked and cut out the tongue and cut off the hand of a Bishop Rogatus who had recently converted to Catholicism. An unnamed count of Africa had sent his agent with Rogatus, and he too had been attacked; the count was "inclined to pursue the matter."[2]:120 Russell says Augustine demonstrates a "hands on" involvement with the details of his bishopric, but at one point in the letter, he confesses he does not know what to do. "All the issues that plague him are there: stubborn Donatists, Circumcellion violence, the vacillating role of secular officials, the imperative to persuade, and his own trepidations."[2]:120,121 The empire responded to the civil unrest with force, and thereafter, Augustine changed his mind on using verbal arguments alone, and instead came to support the state's use of coercion.[1]:107

The primary 'proof text' is from a Letter 93 written in 408, as a reply to the bishop Vincentius, of Cartenna (Mauretania, North Africa). This letter shows that both practical and biblical reasons led Augustine to defend the legitimacy of coercion. He confesses that he changed his mind because of "the ineffectiveness of dialogue and the proven efficacy of laws."[7]:3 He had been worried about false conversions if force was used, but "now," he says, "it seems imperial persecution is working." Many Donatists had converted.[8]:116 "Fear had made them reflect, and made them docile." [7]:3 Augustine continued to assert that coercion could not directly convert someone, but concluded it could make a person ready to be reasoned with.[9]:103–121

In Letter 93 and in Letter 185, Augustine makes use of the parable of the Great Feast in Luke 14.15-24 and its statement compel them to come in to legitimize coercion.[7]:1 Russell says, Augustine uses the Latin term cogo, instead of the compello of the Vulgate, revealing his thinking on this, since to Augustine, cogo meant to "gather together" or "collect" and was not simply "compel by physical force."[2]:121

According to Mar Marcos, Augustine makes use of many other biblical examples to legitimize coercion as well, because in Augustine's view, there is such a thing as just and unjust persecution. Augustine explains that when the purpose of persecution is to lovingly correct and instruct, then it becomes discipline and is just.[7]:2 He said the church would discipline its people out of a loving desire to heal them, and that, "once compelled to come in, heretics would gradually give their voluntary assent to the truth of Christian orthodoxy."[2]:115 Frederick H. Russell[8] describes this as "a pastoral strategy in which the church did the persecuting with the dutiful assistance of Roman authorities."[2]:115

Augustine placed limits on the use of coercion, recommending fines, imprisonment, banishment, and moderate floggings, preferring beatings with rods which was a common practice in the ecclesial courts.[10]:164 He opposed severity, maiming, and the execution of heretics.[11]:768 While these limits were mostly ignored by Roman authorities, Michael Lamb says that in doing this, "Augustine appropriates republican principles from his Roman predecessors..." and maintains his commitment to liberty, legitimate authority, and the rule of law as a constraint on arbitrary power. He continues to advocate holding authority accountable to prevent domination, but affirms the state's right to act.[12]

H. A. Deane,[13] on the other hand, says there is a fundamental inconsistency between Augustine's political thought and "his final position of approval of the use of political and legal weapons to punish religious dissidence" and others have seconded this view.[note 2][14] Brown asserts that Augustine's thinking on coercion is more of an attitude than a doctrine, since it is "not in a state of rest," but is instead marked by "a painful and protracted attempt to embrace and resolve tensions."[1]:107 Russell says "Augustine's attack upon the Donatists was a precariously balanced blend of external discipline and inward nurturance."[8]:125

In 1970, Robert Markus[15] argued that, for Augustine, a degree of external pressure being brought for the purpose of reform was compatible with the exercise of free will.[2] Russell asserts that Confessions 13 is crucial to understanding Augustine's thought on coercion; using Peter Brown's explanation of Augustine's view of salvation, he explains that Augustine's past, his own sufferings and "conversion through God's pressures," along with his biblical hermeneutics, is what led him to see the value in suffering for discerning truth.[2]:116,117 According to Russell, Augustine saw coercion as one among many conversion strategies for forming "a pathway to the inner person."[2]:119


  1. ^ French archaeology has shown the north African landscape of this time period became "covered with a white robe of churches" with Catholics and Donatists building multiple churches with granaries to feed the poor as they competed for the loyalty of the people.
  2. ^ see: C. Kirwan, Augustine (London, 1989) pages 209-218 and J. M. Rist Augustine: Ancient Thought Baptized (Canbridge, 1994) pages 239-245


  1. ^ a b c d Brown, Peter Robert Lamont. "St. Augustine's Attitude to Religious Coercion." The Journal of Roman Studies 54.1-2 (1964): 107-116.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i R. A. Markus, Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St.Augustine (Cambridge, 1970), pages 149-153 Cite error: The named reference "Markus" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference "Markus" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Tilley, Maureen A. (1996). Donatist Martyr Stories The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 9780853239314.
  4. ^ Tilley, Maureen A. "Faculty Spotlight Maureen A. Tilley". Faculty Spotlight. Fordham University. Retrieved 4 August 2020. President of the North American Patristics Society, wrote over 70 academic articles and 50 book reviews, and was known as one of the world's most accomplished scholars of Christianity in North Africa.
  5. ^ Cameron, Alan (1993). The Later Roman Empire, AD 284-430 (illustrated ed.). Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674511941.
  6. ^ a b Frend, W.H.C. (2020). The Donatist Church. Wipf and Stock. ISBN 9781532697555.
  7. ^ a b c d Marcos, Mar. "The Debate on Religious Coercion in Ancient Christianity." Chaos e Kosmos 14 (2013): 1-16.
  8. ^ a b c "Frederick Russell". School of Arts & Sciences-Newark Faculty Emeriti. Rutgers University Newark. Ph.D., Johns Hopkins
  9. ^ Park, Jae-Eun (August 2013). "Lacking love or conveying love?: The fundamental roots of the Donatists and Augustine's nuanced treatment of them". The Reformed Theological Review. The Reformed Theological Review. 72 (2): 103–121. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  10. ^ Hughes, Kevin L.; Paffenroth, Kim, eds. (2008). Augustine and Liberal Education. Lexington Books. ISBN 9780739123836.
  11. ^ Herbermann, Charles George, ed. (1912). "Toleration, History of". The Catholic Encyclopedia An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church. University of Michigan. pp. 761–772.
  12. ^ Lamb, Michael. "Augustine and Republican Liberty: Contextualizing Coercion." Augustinian Studies (2017).
  13. ^ "Herbert Andrew Deane". Prabook. listed as a noteworthy Political Philosophy educator by Marquis Who's Who.
  14. ^ H.A.Deane, The Political and Social Ideas of St.Augustine (New York,1963) pages 216-219
  15. ^ Liebeschuetz, Wolf. "Robert Markus: Medieval historian noted for his writings on the early Church". Independent.

Jenhawk777 (talk) 19:00, 24 August 2020 (UTC)

Come on guys, nothin'? Really? I've put it up for review as a draft but it really belongs here. Jenhawk777 (talk) 22:16, 27 August 2020 (UTC)
Please WP:BEBOLD and add it. --Omnipaedista (talk) 12:32, 29 August 2020 (UTC)
@Omnipaedista: That's all I needed! Thank you! Jenhawk777 (talk) 04:13, 1 September 2020 (UTC)

Infobox philosopherEdit

Re this edit: we have to place the Infobox philosopher template below the Infobox saint template as per common Wikipedia practice. See Albertus Magnus, Anselm of Canterbury, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas. Both infoboxes should go at the top of the article. --Omnipaedista (talk) 10:50, 11 August 2020 (UTC)


I apparently did this incorrectly in the addition on coercion, or it would have shown up in your list, which it wouldn't--it wouldn't show up at all without the separate group=note, but I didn't know how to fix that--so someone who does--please fix it and tell me what I did wrong! Jenhawk777 (talk) 04:38, 1 September 2020 (UTC)

Done. group=note is a bit redundant, I used Template:Efn instead. --Omnipaedista (talk) 06:19, 1 September 2020 (UTC)
A thousand blessings upon your head! Thank you! Jenhawk777 (talk) 06:36, 1 September 2020 (UTC)

Ken Wilson Scholarship used uncritically-Violation of NPOVEdit

I have done a couple of edits that have removed most of the quotation of the work of one Ken Wilson from the article in the "Philsophy: Free will" section. His scholarly view that all the Fathers affirms what he calls "traditional free choice" and that Augustine's views are essentially Manichean are not affirmed by most scholars, either of Augustine or of Patristics generically. Certainly the assertions that "Every early Christian author with extant writings who wrote on the topic prior to Augustine of Hippo (412) advanced human free choice rather than a deterministic God.(Cites Wilson) Augustine taught traditional free choice until 412, when he reverted to his earlier Manichaean and Stoic deterministic training when battling the Pelagians."(Citing Wilson again) require far more evidence than one scholar who has a known agenda. Particularly when it comes to earlier fathers, Wilson is known to really reach with them (for example, he argues that Ignatius of Antioch taught his doctrine of free will, because he said that he went to martyrdom willingly) and sometimes downright misquote the fathers entirely.

It is true that Augustine has a more pessimistic anthropology towards the end of his life; but Ken Wilson's view has a very specific bias (Free Will Baptist) that isn't very subtle. As a result the article should not essentially quote him verbatim without any opposing scholarship with regard to Augustine or any other Father on Free Will. The terminology he uses is itself requiring definition, and such defintions would not be appropriate for an article on Augustine.

This is unsigned, and IMO the decidedly wrong approach that itself evidences bias. I do not support it.
1. See [2]: As a general rule, do not remove sourced information from the encyclopedia solely on the grounds that it seems biased. Instead, try to rewrite the passage or section to achieve a more neutral tone. Biased information can usually be balanced with material cited to other sources to produce a more neutral perspective, so such problems should be fixed when possible through the normal editing process. Remove material only where you have a good reason to believe it misinforms or misleads readers in ways that cannot be addressed by rewriting the passage. This is the approach that should be taken. Replace and rewrite please. And sign it.
2. Wikipedia aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation in reliable sources on the subject. Even if this is a minority view, it should have a place in the discussion, since it has a place in the secondary sources.
3. Even if the source is biased, that is not by itself a reason for exclusion. It is a reason for a recognition of that possibility within the text instead: [3] says biased sources are not inherently disallowed based on bias alone, although other aspects of the source may make it invalid. Neutral point of view should be achieved by balancing the bias in sources based on the weight of the opinion in reliable sources and not by excluding sources that do not conform to the editor's point of view.
4. Different interpretations need to be included as there is not universal agreement on this particular topic. Jenhawk777 (talk) 18:15, 26 October 2020 (UTC)


Since I believe it is abundantly obvious that Augustine lived and died in the Anno Domini range of years, unambiguously, I am inclined to remove "AD" from wherever it appears in this article, and avoid WP:ERA disputes entirely. Comments? Elizium23 (talk) 04:55, 23 October 2020 (UTC)

I agree. Articles about 4th century figures have no reason to include AD notifications. Dimadick (talk) 18:32, 24 October 2020 (UTC)

Agreed. Jenhawk777 (talk) 17:49, 26 October 2020 (UTC)
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