Augustine (354–430 CE) was a philosopher, religious thinker, prose writer, and historical figure of immense influence. As philosopher, he introduced the notion of free will and changed how we think about such fundamental matters as war and peace. As theologian, he framed the basic problems that any Christian thinker must face, and did so in a way that touches the concerns of all people, Christian or otherwise. As writer, he grappled directly and frankly with life, and so produced a wholly new style of literature. When we study Augustine's work, then, we engage with a strikingly contemporary figure who also contributed to the foundations of contemporary Western culture. Moreover, because his work is so personal, we also gain unusually intimate knowledge of life at the end of the Roman empire. Readings will include selections from some of Augustine's major works, as well as religious, philosophical, and literary texts that influenced him or that contrast revealingly with his work. And we'll watch some movies.
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