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Augustine and the Cure of Souls

Revising a Classical Ideal

Paul R. Kolbet

Publication Year: 2010

Augustine and the Cure of Souls situates Augustine within the ancient philosophical tradition of using words to order emotions. Paul Kolbet uncovers a profound continuity in Augustine’s thought, from his earliest pre-baptismal writings to his final acts as bishop, revealing a man deeply indebted to the Roman past and yet distinctly Christian. Rather than supplanting his classical learning, Augustine’s Christianity reinvigorated precisely those elements of Roman wisdom that he believed were slipping into decadence. In particular, Kolbet addresses the manner in which Augustine not only used classical rhetorical theory to express his theological vision, but also infused it with theological content. This book offers a fresh reading of Augustine’s writings—particularly his numerous, though often neglected, sermons—and provides an accessible point of entry into the great North African bishop’s life and thought.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Content s

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgment s

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pp. xi-xii

A project of this scope is only possible because many people have been exceedingly generous with their time, energy, and expertise. Its best insights have their source in more conversations and readings than I can acknowledge adequately either here or in notes. It was the late Jaroslav Pelikan who first brought to my attention the intriguingly complex relationship between Christianity and the classical world. The personal and...


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pp. xiii-xviii

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pp. 1-16

The sudden, extraordinary influence of Christian bishops in the fourth and fifth centuries was due in no small part to their ability to make the publicly recognized practices and strategies of the Greco-Roman orators and philosophers their own—even as they adapted them to conform to Christian principles.¹ Christian bishops who were versed in classical rhetorical and philosophical literature became a public presence as Christianity...

Part One: A Classical Ideal

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pp. 17

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Chapter 1: Classical Therapy: Its Origins, Tasks, and Methods

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pp. 19-40

On the 18th of September, 96 CE, the Roman emperor, Domitian, was stabbed to death. Since Domitian had no heir, the conspiracy resulted in the end of the Flavian dynasty and raised the perilous problem of succession. Indeed, as he executed senators and banished philosophers to undermine any opposition to his power, Domitian feared that such a thing would happen. He was known to say that “the lot of rulers...

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Chapter 2: Hellenistic Refinements

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pp. 41-61

The influence of the Platonic dialogues continued to be felt well into the second sophistic.¹ An epitaph attested in the Hellenistic world refers to how Plato “healed human minds by letters. As the god’s son Asclepius is a healer of the body, so is Plato of the immortal soul.”²The exceptional popularity and influence of the Phaedrus has been well documented. Michael Trapp aptly observes, “As a treatise...

Part Two: Revising and Recontextualizing Classical Therapy

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pp. 63

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Chapter 3: Augustine’s Early Formation

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pp. 65-87

In the autumn of 384 CE, the prominent senator and prefect of the city of Rome, Symmachus, was charged with making an appointment for the chair of rhetoric in Milan. The city was the imperial residence and had been the functioning capital of the Western Empire for nearly a century. The person who would have the coveted chair would associate with the most powerful figures in the Empire,...

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Chapter 4: Christianizing Classical Therapy

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pp. 88-117

The Milanese public learned in 386 CE that their municipal orator had retired for a time from his duties on account of ill health.

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Chapter 5: A New Context for Classical Therapy

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pp. 118-138

While in Rome in 388, prior to his departure for North Africa, the recently baptized Augustine wrote a treatise extolling the superior way of life found among various groups of Catholic Christians. The active life of bishops, priests, and deacons is depicted by him as “exceptionally difficult” (difficillimus) since it is lived out under circumstances that make it problematic “to hold to the best way of life,...

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Chapter 6: Signs Eliciting Love

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pp. 139-163

In De doctrina christiana the contours of Augustine’s mature psychagogic theory are worked out with the most precision and applied with the widest purview. Over the course of thirty years, Augustine came to write a book revising the very psychagogic tasks enumerated by Plato in the Phaedrus; namely, how one discovers truth (modus inueniendi) and passes it on to others (modus proferendi).¹...

Part Three: Augustine’s Homiletical Practice

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pp. 165

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Chapter 7: The Christian Rhetor

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pp. 167-197

Sometime in the middle of the second century, a sizable crowd gathered in a theater in Carthage to witness the rhetorical performance of the celebrated sophist and author Apuleius. The speaker drew attention to the large numbers in attendance and congratulated the city “for possessing so many friends of learning among her citizens.”¹ He then dazzled his audience by declaiming successively...

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Chapter 8: Therapy and Society

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pp. 198-209

Others have noted that although Augustine remains known for his forceful critique of a Roman Empire that had too often come to see its hegemony as eternal in duration, he never anticipated the extent to which classical institutions, especially those concerned with education, would decline soon after his death.¹ The great irony of Augustine’s reception and transformation of classical...


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pp. 210-309


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pp. 310-337


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pp. 338-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780268084578
E-ISBN-10: 0268084572
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268033217
Print-ISBN-10: 0268033218

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2010