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Philosophies Of Augustine, Descartes, Arendt On Morality

1648 words - 7 pages

Philosophical musings on the nature of morality are often expressed by thinkers who focus on human nature. Among the factors which determine human behaviour, a moral analysis of the concepts of right and wrong is often prominent. In investigating human behaviour through the relationship between reflection and action, this morality is often observed. Therefore, in the course currently entitled Human Sciences 101: Reflection and Action, both phiolosophy and morality are key themes. However, the calendar description for the course is as follows, “What is the relationship between thinking and action? Do they pull us in different directions? Can they be integrated? This course investigates how our own dialogue with core texts, from antiquity (e.g., Homer, Plato, Christian Scriptures) to the present (e.g., Joyce, Arendt), offers ways of understanding the dilemmas and issues raised by these texts and present in our culture” (Waterloo 2013). The description lacks a mention of the philosophical concepts of morality within the course's content. One of the core texts of the course where morality can be seen is Saint Augustine's Confessions, where Augustine explores a theological philosophy. The theme of morality is also seen in René Descartes' Discourse on Method and Related Writings, where Descartes proposes a scientific moral philosophy. Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem also explores morality through a philosophical examination of the relationship between thinking and committing evil. Therefore, the writings of Augustine, Descartes and Arendt each exhibit a philosophical perspective on morality which can be tied to the course's central theme of reflection and action. [END OF INTRODUCTION]
[AUGUSTINE START] In Confessions, Saint Augustine articulates a theological philosophy of morality by contemplating the natures of good and evil in relation to God. However, before Augustine could explore concepts relating to God, he attempts to grasp an understanding of God as a being. This proves to be problematic since he could only picture God as “some kind of bodily substance” (Augustine 1961, 133), rather than a spiritual, incorporeal substance. At the same time, Augustine struggles with comprehending the nature of evil. He “was told that we do evil because we choose to do so of our own free will, and suffer it because [God's] justice rightly demands that we should” (Augustine 1961, 136). However, this answer to the origin of evil only raises a new question: Why would God's omnipotence permit humans to choose evil over Him? Augustine describes how he once “thought of spiritual things, too, as material bodies, each in its allotted place” (1961, 138). In thinking that everything is comprised of tangible matter, while believing that God created all matter, Augustine could find no answer to the question of why God would create evil matter at all.
Augustine's philosophy of morality begins forming after he reads the Platonists' books, which “remind [him] to...

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