Excerpt #10 — Augustine on (What We Would Call) The State

We have earlier summarized what is perhaps the best book in English on Augustine’s politics (may this excerpt illuminate what is found there, and vice versa), began a summary of Book 19 of his City of God (part one here; pingbacks at the bottom for all other current and future parts), and offered an excerpt of Peter Brown writing about Augustine’s understanding of the Libido Dominandi; here I offer one excellent quote to summarize Augustine’s political vision. Continue reading

Excerpt #7 — Dean Hammer on Cicero on the Res Publica

We use the word “Republic” for a number of things in modern American English — to designate a kind of political system (i.e., a Republican form of government), to designate a U.S. political party (vi&, the Republican Party) — we even use it in our collective mythologies to positively describe fictional periods of bliss (e.g., Star Wars, where the good Republic gives way to the evil Empire).

The English word comes from two Latin words: Res publica. It might be rendered into English as “a thing of (or belonging to) the people”, but even with this clunky phrase, the meaning of the Latin “does not translate easily”. [1]  Continue reading

The Monastic and Ecclesio-political Origins of Some Elements of our Modern Polities, Part 2a (Revision 1)

Two important features of all modern polities are (1) an emphasis on proper procedure and (2) a systematic ensurance of popular consent. Contrary to common expectation, these do not come directly from ancient Greece, leapfrogging into the present, nor do they spring ex nihilo from later Enlightenment conceptions of political life. Rather, they first take on their later forms by way of Late Antique and Medieval monastic and ecclesiastical environments. While we should not wish to make history tidier than it is –the lines of influence are messy ones– this particular line is significant enough that, even if it is later joined by other tributaries, it deserves to be singled out.

In this set of posts we shall look at a trajectory from roughly Benedict of Nursia to Marsilius of Padua, looking over our shoulder, later on, at Aristotle and Cicero. At the end, we shall ask some questions about the meaning of the secular, secularism, and secularity, as illuminated by this history.

In the previous entry, we looked at the Rule of Benedict. Here, we look at the lead-up to a crucial stage in the secularization (i.e., an exportation into the saeculum) of features of the Rule in the writings and life of Gregory I, Roman Pope, also known as Gregory the Great, or (less fortunately) as Gregory the Dialogist.  

Continue reading

The Monastic and Ecclesio-political Origins of Some Elements of our Modern Polities, Part 1 (Revision 4)

Two important features of all modern polities are (1) an emphasis on proper procedure and (2) a systematic ensurance of popular consent. Contrary to common expectation, these do not come directly from ancient or Enlightenment conceptions of political life, but first take on their later forms by way of Late Antique and Medieval monastic and ecclesiastical environments. 

In this set of posts we shall look at a trajectory from roughly Benedict of Nursia to Marsilius of Padua, looking over our shoulder, later on, at Aristotle and Cicero. 

Continue reading

The Origins of Political Authority in Augustine of Hippo, City of God 19 (Part 3)

Part 1 here; this post continues part 2. Here, we cover the second half of 19.4. Continue reading