Author(s): Alan Ryan
It would be almost impossible to exaggerate the influence of Augustine—the once-hedonistic pagan turned ascetic theologian and defender of the early Christian Church—over all the subsequent history of Europe. Augustine ’s political philosophy is pregnant with arguments that racked not only Christian Europe but also much of the modern world. Whether it was his essential skepticism about the value of earthly politics when contrasted with eternity, the role of a Christian within the State, or the nature of just war and the folly of imperial ambitions, Augustine articulated distinctive and long-lived thoughts on controversial subjects that remain embedded in our political discourse. In On Augustine: The Two Cities Alan Ryan carefully lays out the complicated political, philosophical, and religious context of Augustine and traces the history of his impact on Western thought both within and beyond the Christian tradition.
Excerpted here are: The City of God, Confessions.
Alan Ryan was warden of New College, Oxford University, and professor of political theory. The author of On Politics, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism and Bertrand Russell: A Political Life, he currently teaches politics at Princeton University.