Augustine: Philosopher and Saint

Course No. 611
Professor Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
Eastern University
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Course No. 611
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Course Overview

Long before he was declared a saint by the Church, Augustine gained profound influence as both a Church Father and a Christian Platonist philosopher—defending the doctrine of the Trinity, defining the epochal idea of religious grace, delving into the inner relationship between God and soul, and much more.

Today, according to Professor Phillip Cary, Augustine is recognizable even to non-Christians as the most important Christian writer outside of the Bible.

Yet Augustine was also a man—a rhetorician trained in the Roman way whose life and discovery of his calling make for one of the most fascinating stories in the history of religious philosophy.

Explore Augustine's Life, Teachings, and Doctrine

This course paints a rich and detailed portrait of the life, works, and ideas of this remarkable figure, whose own search for God has profoundly shaped all of Western Christianity.

You learn what Augustine taught and why he taught it—and how those teachings and doctrines helped shape the Roman Catholic Church.

These lectures are rewarding even if you have no background at all in classical philosophy or Christian theology. This is because Professor Cary, who has taught Villanova's nationally recognized seminars on ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern thought, has organized an entirely self-contained course.

Professor Cary (Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religious Studies, Yale University) is a scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, where he is director of the Philosophy program and teaches a year-long Great Books seminar. He is author of Augustine's Invention of the Modern Self (Oxford University Press).

Professor Cary explains any special religious or philosophical concepts you need to know in order to appreciate Augustine's impact, with real-life examples and analogies that make even the most subtle concepts clear and easy to understand.

You'll gain a sense of what Augustine was saying, how his own experiences led him to say it, and how his thoughts fit into the theological, philosophical, and political worlds that swirled around him.

Who Was Augustine? A Brief Biography

Augustine was born in 354. Early in his life he was inspired by the works of Cicero to devote his life to the pursuit of truth. He started this pursuit as a Rhetorician, then he became a Manichaean, and later a Skeptic.

Ambrose, bishop of Milan, and Augustine's mother, Monica, were among those instrumental in his conversion to Catholic Christianity in 386. In North Africa he founded a small monastic community and in 391 was elected Bishop of Hippo at a time when people still had some say in who would lead their religious community.

From 395 to 430, he served as bishop. He wrote many treatises among which we find the celebrated Confessions, published in 400 as an open letter to his congregation and a prayer to God. His works also include The City of God and On the Trinity.

Many of his writings were directed against heresies, particularly Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

He is noted for founding the Western theological tradition and establishing doctrines of the Trinity and Christology.

The Life, Works, and Significance of Augustine

The course begins with two extremely helpful lectures that help place Augustine in context as both a Church Father (interpreter of the Bible and teacher of Christian doctrine) and philosopher (one who has given us new conceptions of the human heart and its depths).

In Lecture 1 you meet Augustine the Roman Christian, one of the Church Fathers responsible for the transition from Bible stories to actual Christian doctrine, a man writing with the end of the Roman Empire at hand.

In Lecture 2 you also meet Augustine the Christian Platonist and learn the Platonic concepts—including the idea of a non-bodily, eternal mode of being and the way that concept applies to God—which so deeply influenced him and other religious thinkers of the time.

With Augustine's role in—and debt to—these two worlds established, Professor Cary then looks at Augustine's life and legacy in three parts.

Part 1: Augustine's Life

Lectures 3 through 6 are devoted to a study of Augustine's life. You look at the Confessions, his great spiritual autobiography, written when he was a 45-year-old bishop reflecting on the spiritual path of a questing young man of whom the grown Augustine might not always approve.

You examine the Confessions from three angles:

  • The intellectual angle spotlights his passionate search for truth.
  • The emotional angle focuses on the love that drives this search, and the aching sense of loss, grief, and yearning which the Confessions evokes in order to show how love can go wrong.
  • The religious angle explores Augustine's search for truth that leads him to Christ and the Christian life, conceived as a journey toward heaven.

The section on Augustine's life ends with a focus on his career as a Christian writer following the period of his life covered by the Confessions, which culminated in his almost 15-year effort to write the 22 books of The City of God.

Part II: Augustine's Thought

The next series of three lectures explains key concepts of Augustine's thought, all related to his epochal doctrine of grace.

You examine how Augustine relates the human qualities of faith and love to the divine gift of grace (Lecture 7); how his doctrine of grace addresses troublesome issues like the origin of evil, original sin, and predestination (Lecture 8); and how he relates the inward gift of grace to the external side of human life in his teachings about signs, words, sacraments, and the Church (Lecture 9).

Part III: Augustine's Concept of Persons

The final three lectures address Augustine's concept of persons, both human and divine.

You look at Augustine's distinctive conception of the human soul as a private inner world (Lecture 10); then his distinctive way of relating his concept of the soul to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the orthodox Christian conception of God (Lecture 11); and finally his understanding of God's relationship to specific human communities in history, specifically focusing on The City of God (Lecture 12).

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Church Father
    This introductory lecture situates Augustine in late antiquity, the historical period between the ancient classical world and the Middle Ages. Augustine is a Church Father, one of the early Christian theologians who established orthodox Christian doctrines and interpretations of the Bible. His lifelong project is to combine key emphases of the Church Fathers about the Trinity and Christ with his philosophical interest in the inner connection between God and the soul. x
  • 2
    Christian Platonist
    Like other Church Fathers, Augustine combines concepts from Christianity and philosophy, especially the philosophy of Platonism. This lecture centers on an extended thought experiment designed to introduce the student to key elements of Platonist thought which were attractive to Augustine, especially the concept of a nonbodily, eternal mode of being, and how that concept applies to God. x
  • 3
    Confessions—The Search for Wisdom
    We begin now to look at Augustine's life as written in his autobiogra­phy, the Confessions. In this lecture we examine the Confessions from the first of three thematic angles, the intellectual angle, where the theme is the philosophical love of wisdom. We follow his intellectual develop­ment from the point at which a book by Cicero sparked his initial inter­est in philosophy, through the long period in which he sought the truth in the Manichaean heresy, up to the time he encoun­ters "the books of the Platonists," which provide him with a key to un­derstanding God but do not give him the strength he needs to get back to the God he has lost by his sin. x
  • 4
    Confessions—Love and Tears
    This lecture examines the Confessions from an emotional angle, looking at its portrait of love and loss and its diagnosis of human grief as a symptom of the soul's wandering far from God. The key focal points from this angle are the character of Augustine's mother, Monica, and the death in Confessions of the unnamed friend. x
  • 5
    Confessions—The Road Home
    In this lecture we look at the Confessions from a religious angle; we focus on how the soul returns to God. We study the role of Christ incarnate (the end of Book 7), the indispensability of the Church (Book 8), the shape of the Christian life (Book 10), the meaning and interpretation of the Scriptures (Book 12), and what Christians really mean by "going to heaven" (Book 13). In particular, Augustine's famous conversion comes under consideration. x
  • 6
    Augustine’s Career as a Christian Writer
    We examine Augustine's life after the period covered in the Confessions. Focusing primarily on his career as a Christian writer, we can divide Augustine's life into three periods. In the early period, up to the writing of Confessions, he works on philosophical issues and on refuting the Manichaeans; in the middle period he focuses on the nature of the Church and its Sacraments, refuting the Donatists; and in the last period of his life he is preoccupied with the doctrine of grace, in refutation of the Pelagians. x
  • 7
    Faith, Love, and Grace
    We begin to examine Augustine's doctrine of grace, his most important contribution to Western thought. In this lecture we examine the key concepts of Faith (and related concepts such as Authority and Understanding) and Love (and related concepts such as Charity, Beauty, and Will) and look at grace as the inner connection between Faith and Love. x
  • 8
    Evil, Free Will, Original Sin, and Predestination
    We continue our examination of Augustine's doctrine of grace by looking at its dark side, the way it deals with evil and sin. Much of what is most troubling about Augustine is found here, close to what is most beautiful. Augustine uses the concept of free will to explain where evil comes from; he uses the concept of Original Sin to explain why we need grace; and near the end of his life he finds that his concept of grace leads him to the concept of predestination. x
  • 9
    Signs and Sacraments
    In this lecture we connect Augustine's doctrine of grace with externals such as words and Sacraments, the Bible, and the rituals of the Church. The overarching concept Augustine uses to explain the value of these external things in a Christian's religious life is the concept of signs. Hence the lecture focuses on Augustine's theory of signs (or semiotics) and its application to the Bible and the Sacraments. x
  • 10
    The Inner Self
    In this lecture we look at what is most original in Augustine's view of human nature, his concept of the self as a private inner space. Augustine's version of the inner self must be distinguished both from its ancient predecessors and from its modern descendants. Unlike others who developed modern versions of the inner self, Augustine believes that in turning inward we can find God. But Augustine does not believe the Soul is divine; hence God is not only within but also above the soul—to find God we must not only enter within ourselves but look above ourselves at something superior to us. x
  • 11
    The Trinity and the Soul
    Having examined Augustine's concept of human persons, we turn now to Augustine's concept of God as three persons yet one God in accordance with the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. After summarizing Augustine's approach to the Nicene doctrine, we will look at his most distinctive contribution to trinitarian theology, the notion that there are traces (vestigia) of the Trinity that can be discerned in the triadic structure of the soul. x
  • 12
    The City of God
    We look at Augustine's view of how human and divine persons interact in history. This brings us to Augustine's social and political theory, his account of the nature of fallen human society (the "Earthly City"), and the restoration of true human community by God (the "City of God"). From this standpoint we cast a glance over the whole structure of Augustine's thought, note some of its problems, and think a moment about its future. x

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Your professor

Phillip Cary

About Your Professor

Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
Eastern University
Dr. Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, where he is also Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honors College. After receiving his B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Professor Cary earned his M.A. in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University. Professor Cary is a recent winner of the...
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Augustine: Philosopher and Saint is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 91.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accessible and Excellent As a layman, I have read some of St. Augustine's works so some of the material Dr. Cary covered in his lectures was familiar. He clearly has a tremendous grasp of Augustine's voluminous works, as well as a full appreciation of Christian faith. The lectures are clear and accessible, and cover works that I am not likely to tackle.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from First steps with a giant of theology & philosophy When I sit down to write a TGC review, I usually read over what others have already written, especially those who gave a course a low rating. The critics of this course seem to have a few major beefs: that the professor takes theology seriously, that the course isn’t deep enough, and that it doesn’t include enough bad things about Augustine. I don’t see those things as negatives in a course like this. First of all, Prof. Cary is a student of theology and is not going to treat Christian doctrine as he might treat Greek mythology. If that bothers you, don’t take the course. As far as the “depth” of the course goes: what do you expect from a 12-part series? Augustine wrote dozens of volumes of philosophy and theology; this course provides an introduction so you can choose which of his writings you might want to study further. And as far as not delving enough into Augustine’s less savory views: the folks who demand that kind of study are those raised on Howard Zinn and other historians who think it is their duty to throw down every historical figure from his or her pedestal. Prof. Cary focuses on some of the key events in Augustine’s life, and the major subjects he wrote about. He does mention some of the troublesome writings, but doesn’t dwell on them. I took the audio version of this course, which was fine. I took Prof. Cary’s “Luther” course a few years ago on video and found it a bit tiresome (think “talking head”). But with audio only, it was easier for me to focus on the ideas and not be distracted by the static visuals. As with other TGC philosophy offerings, I would not recommend this to the casual listener.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I was very disappointed with course. It was a restatement of Augustine's religious writing without any critical analysis. It was like going to a Sunday school class rather than attending a scholarly course.
Date published: 2017-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cary's teaching is the best! I have eight or nine Great Courses classes and this is my third course by Philip Cary and his courses are my favorites. Augustine is an important figure to understanding the history of Christianity and culture in the West. Cary is a true scholar and this is made evident in his lectures.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Make Me Chaste; But Not Yet audio download version I had read some of "Confessions" years ago, and most of "City of God" somewhat recently (but not in the Latin). So I thought that I knew a bit, but wished to know quite a bit more. Professor Cary really provided quite a bit that I did not know about Augustine, especially his early life and his conversion. And about his mother's influence. Unlike many of the reviewers, I did not find Dr. Cary to have much of a polemic, but rather provided biographical information and his insight and analysis of Augustine's writings. I was especially appreciative of how he tied Greek philosophers (notably Plato) into Augustine's writings. It really gave me an appreciation of his intellect and background. I still find much of Augustine's reasoning convoluted where he tries to defend certain Church principles (and for me some of that logic persists to this day), but I now have a better understanding of his foundation and arguments.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An solid course but not about electronics From the title of this course, some people might think it is about modern electronics. It's not. It's about Augustine who was a philosopher and, according to some, a saint. This is the second course by Cary that I have listened to. I haven't reviewed the other one yet, but as soon as I reconstruct my memories of it, I will. This course is focused almost exclusively on Augustine's philosophical influences (mostly Plato via Plotinus), his influence on Christian theology, and his theory of electron-magnetism. Actually, scratch that last one -- I forgot that Augustine is not an electrical engineer. In fact, that's one of the things I learned in this course, which was important because I always thought he was the one who discovered volts and ohms. Now I know that's not correct. There is not much of anything else besides the theology and philosophy. I see that there are two other courses on Augustine offered by The Great Courses company, and maybe I'll listen to those to fill in some blanks. There is a good bibliography in this guide book, too. I'm giving this course 5 stars because these days I'm satisfied with anything that doesn't cause headaches or abdominal pain. Also, I thought Cary did a convincing job of showing why Augustine was important to know about regardless of one's particular religions convictions (or lack of them). His influence on western culture is such that he must be taken into account. Cary is also enthusiastic. At times, he's a bit breathless, but that's okay because there is some exciting stuff here. I'll probably listen to more of Cary's lectures. He's effective and clear and I seem to understand him pretty well. I spend most of my life confused and walking around muttering to myself, so a little clarity goes a long way for me. In response to some reviewers, I have to say that I didn't find this course too preachy or religious. The topic is religious, but I didn't get the feeling that someone was trying to convert me or anything like that. The only downside I can think of is that I didn't learn as much about electronics as I thought I would.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Augustine: Father of Medieval Intolerance? Audio download As other reviewers have noted, these lectures are better suited for a Sunday school session (Christian, of course), or maybe just a very long sermon. The lectures were not the subject for which I was seeking. While Dr Cary is very knowledgeable about his subject, and speaks clearly with emotional energy, he comes off a bit preachy...not a good thing, in my opinion. I was seeking a bit of context about the man who is considered to be THE driving intellect of the early middle ages. A man responsible for the clarification of the early Roman Catholic Church...and that he was, however, maybe not in the way specifically intended. Augustine (November 354 – 28 August 430), a Manichean until his (convenient) conversion in 387 (Theodosius I had earlier...382...made it difficult for the Manicheans by ordering the execution of Manichean clerics. I might have converted as well). But Augustine learned well of these, and other official church actions (see the First Council of Nicaea in 325 during which Arianism was abolished and the concept of the trinity established as official church orthodoxy) to set the stage for centuries of heavy-handed church doctrines that limited the growth of secular culture in most of western Europe. In my opinion, Augustine's writings set the stage for religious intolerance for the next few centuries, until the reformation. The writings were the basis for judging who was worthy of the pope's blessing...who was to be grilled by the inquisition...even who would become the 'secular' leaders of early nations. He wrote the rule book... At this point, I'll stop being a critic, and just continue as a reviewer, keeping my ever-growing debate with the course material to myself (but I am reminded of Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave'...not to mention the out-of-context writings from Plotinus' 'Enneads'). Good course if you like Christian religious dogmas and a slanted view of history, ...a bad course if you're looking for the logical philosophy and history of possibly the most influential man of the early middle ages It's often on sale and, with a coupon, you can get it for less than $0.50 a lecture...I wouldn't pay any more than that.
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from good course for a Catholic priest Augustine's theological theories (an enormous and intricate edifice floating in the air, untethered from any evidence or historical facts) are discussed in great, mind-numbing, detail. What a wasted life; he could have used his intellect to invent things, build things, manage a business, or help run the government. Unbelievably, the professor never gives Augustine's dates of birth and death. I didn't know when he lived, so I listened carefully for that, and it was never stated. The precise dates, 13 November 354 – 28 August 430, are found in Wikipedia; this professor teaches a whole course on one person and never says when he lived.
Date published: 2016-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great value buy for bible study This course was bought on impulse due to very low price! Pros: Good price Unique Professor Interesting subject, a must for your bible study. Cons: Shorter then most Great Courses I regard this course as a tool to be used with Augustines writings. Overall: Very happy with my purchase and i hope see more from Professor Philip Cary in the future!
Date published: 2016-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brief life sketch and major doctorinal themes. Knowing nothing about St. Augustine I enjoyed this course as an introduction to his life and thoughts.
Date published: 2016-02-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor quality audio A lot of the lecture is hard to understand due to the poor quality. I don't know if this is poor enunciation on the part of the professor or due to the recording process but it is difficult to hear all that is said.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Augustine: Philospoher and Saint I enjoyed this course and will continue to study Augustine in more depth.
Date published: 2015-08-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Vague Introduction to Augustine I purchased this course because I was almost totally ignorant of the life and writings of Augustine. As a result of this course, I feel confident in my knowledge of his life but still feel ignorant of his teachings. I felt that Cary was surprisingly vague when it came to philosophical points. Or, at least, I hope he was vague because the arguments provided didn't seem to stand up to a cursory examination let alone close scrutiny. I found this surprising because his course on Luther was much better. Perhaps he was trying to cover too much material in too few lectures and, as a result, didn't have time to develop things as much as he would have liked. While I am happy to have learned so much about his life and times, I had looked forward to a better introduction to his works. I do not recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unmoved I had this lecturer before on a broader religious topic and enjoyed him. Augustine is his specialty. But I guess I just don't like Augustine. I am a serious traditional Roman Catholic for what that is worth.
Date published: 2015-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was a great course. Excellent course in in St Augustine's life and contributions to Christianity and western culture.
Date published: 2015-01-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Whitewash Of Life of Augustine First, let me say that the professor is an excellent lecturer and is enthusiastic about the material. Unfortunately, the content is extremely misleading and morphs into what must be termed preaching. The course would better be titled "Apologetics for Augustine". As the professor states at the open. Augustine has had a great influence on Western thought. However, he only tiptoes around the negative aspects. There is no discussion of Augustine's concept of the transmission of original sin by the procreative act and the problems arising from such a mindset. Augustine can be considered the "father of religious persecution" with his concepts of "righteous persecution" and the use of the state to repress the enemies of the church. This concept alone gave rise to innumerable persecutions that, over the centuries, blotted much of Augustine's positive contributions. His statements about Jews are also horrific (although he has apologists for those statements as well). Finally, from a philosophic standpoint, most of Augustine's arguments are so vague they could be reversed using his own premises. This could be due to his training in "rhetoric" aka sophistry. In summary, you will not get a balanced, reality-oriented picture from this course.
Date published: 2014-12-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good introductin to the teachings of Augustine My main interest so far in the TGC has been to study history: I started from ancient Egypt and Sumer, took many of the courses on ancient Greek culture, and then went on to hear Classical Roman, early Christian and early medieval courses. It was in the latter three groups that Augustine is mentioned really frequently, and so I decided that it might be worthwhile to take the time and get at least a basic understanding of his teachings. Augustine lived in in the late 4th early 5th century, during the late Roman period. The backdrop to his biography is that Constantine’s conversion to Christianity had already taken root and the majority of the population was already Christian. There were, however, still quite a few Pagans around. Furthermore, classical Greek philosophy was still a hot topic, especially Platonism. The course outlines Augustine’s main ideas in broad strokes. His unique contribution was that he was a great Platonic philosopher, while at the same time being one of the major Church Fathers of the era. The course explains the great extent to which his teachings are still considered to be his unique contribution even in today’s modern world, and how they still impact us in profound ways. Naturally, one can only scratch the surface in a twelve lecture course, but the man himself, and the material of his thought provided for an extremely interesting and thought provoking six hours. I have to say that I struggled with Professor Cary’s presentation style… On the positive side, the lectures were clear and well-structured and quite readily understandable (not an easy feat considering the content material). I simply did not connect with his personal presentation style: I found his gestures and intonations were way over the top. A prime example is when he described the Manichean’s dichotomy when considering spiritual and material, with everything material considered evil and filthy; he sort of speaks their thoughts out loud during the lecture saying roughly “yuck, this material body these bodily secretions, yuck, yuck!!”. Now this is not an exact quote simply because I was too lazy to find it in the course to quote precisely, but this is the gist of how he spoke it. I get it! I don’t need the first person role playing!!! Now, this could be only me personally, and there could be many others who even like this presentation style. Other than this criticism, the course as I said was interesting and well worth the time.
Date published: 2014-11-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good on Philosophy, Poor in Other Respects Professor Cary is a pleasant and congenial presenter who knows his Augustine. I learned a lot about Augustine’s thought and philosophy from this short course. That said, three things diminished this course for me. First, he did not adequately develop the immense impact his thinking had on the next 1000 years of doctrinal development. In other words, why should we care about what he thought about baptism, the trinity, predestination, etc. if we don’t have an appreciation of the impact these thoughts had on future generations? Second, I felt he was often talking to a Christian audience who already understood what he meant by some things he says in passing. For example, what are “blessed angels”? That is not an important point, but there were many other little things that needed explanation if he is going to mention them. (Not that it matters, but perhaps this can partially be explained by his statement in an interview online that he is a Christian.) I’ve read a lot about Christianity, but I still like a presenter to explain what they mean by the terms they use. Third, and most importantly, often it was not clear when he was talking about what Augustine wrote and thought, and when he was offering his own thoughts on Augustine’s thoughts. I frequently got the two confused. And lastly, though this did not diminish the course for me, but why does the course have the name that it does? He never talks about Augustine being a “saint” in his lectures.
Date published: 2014-03-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from For Beginners Only The professor is very well-versed in the course material, but I found it to be beneath my level of growth. I've already studied St. Augustine, and was hoping this course would take me to the next level, but failed to deliver. Sometimes the theology was so elementary, I felt like I was listening to a 6th grade Sunday school teacher. If you know nothing about Augustine, this course is good, if you've already studied him, don't buy it.
Date published: 2014-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best course. No any complains whatsoever. Will recomend to anyone to learn the basics on "the Road to God" Clear, focused, great speech.
Date published: 2013-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterly Introduction Several courses I have completed with TTC covering philosophy, religion and intellectual history have covered St Augustine and his thought albeit briefly- usually in a single lecture. I have been inspired enough to have since read "The Confessions" which was deeply illuminating. My aim in this course was to gain a deeper understanding of the many strands of St Augustine's philosophy who is one of the most important if not the most important intellectual figure in Western Christian thought. This couse from Professor Cary is just ideal in that it covers a lot in just 12 highly focused lectures. The life of St Augustine is explored as are some of his key works #Confessions, City of God and On Christian Doctrine# and his vital contribution to Western Christian thought including the problem of evil#theodicy# as well as original sin. The course guidebook is also excellent; it provides useful summaries of the lectures in pretty good detail and the bibliography is also helpful. This course is now more than 12 years old and if Professor Cary was to produce a revised course #ideally extended to 24 lectures given how important St Augustine is#I would buy it immediately. Highly recommended to anyone seeking an informed overview and a signpost to further avenues of enquiry about this truly great Father of the Church.
Date published: 2013-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid, Informative, and Challenging AUDIO This must be one of TC’s oldest courses, dating from 1997. I purchased it on audio tape in 2004 and have listened to it from beginning to end twice, and to selected lectures as I felt the need. Professor Carey does a great job in this 12-lecture course on St. Augustine, treating not only the thought of “the most influential Christian writer outside of the Bible,” but also his life and historical context. This is a great introduction St. Augustine. A note of caution is, however, in order. St. Augustine’s thought (including his “epochal doctrine of grace” and his positions on the origins of evil and Original Sin, predestination, and his masterful explications of the Trinity and the human soul as a private inner world) will require close attention, both in listening and in reviewing the course guide. This is a TC course where reading the course guide is a must in order to get the most out of the audio lectures. I do not know if there is an easier way to render the complexities of St. Augustine’s thought, but Professor Carey does the heavy lifting for us in explaining developments, concepts, and terminology. Carey’s background in philosophy is definitely a plus here as Platonist influences, as well as the Bible, abound in St. Augustine. I particularly appreciated Professor Carey’s three lectures on Augustine’s ‘Confessions.’ I had read the ‘Confessions’ back in the early 1990s, but found re-reading it enriched by what I learned in this course. I also like Professor Carey’s willingness to address (though not always resolving) problematical issues in St. Augustine’s thought, most notably his dreadfully tough-minded predestination (aka eternal election). This course prompted me to go on and learn more about St. Augustine, including reading the biography by Peter Brown, ‘Augustine of Hippo’, so highly recommended by Professor Carey, and purchasing Thomas Noble’s TC course on ‘The Crisis of Late Antiquity’. I liked Professor Carey’s teaching style and clarity of presentation so much that I have also purchased his TC course ‘Philosophy and Religion in the West’.
Date published: 2013-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Challenging Course The subject matter is challenging, especially in the CD format, but Professor Cary does an outstanding job in presenting difficult concepts in a clear manner. His analogies are interesting and useful in understanding the theological and philosophical ideas of St. Augustine. Discussions involve the Trinity, the sensible and insensible world, and the existence of evil in the world. The idea that evil is not a "thing" but rather the "lack of something" is explained using an analogy of evil being like a hole in a fabric, or a missing portion of something whole. He describes the time and place of Augustine's life in North Africa as the "Bible Belt" of the Roman Empire. I found his ideas to be fresh, and were useful to further understand the complexities in the establishment of the traditions of the Catholic Church in the early centuries of its existence. In the context of the courses discussing the early Church History, as well as the History of the Papacy, this course is an interesting supplement that adds additional depth to those courses.
Date published: 2013-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great piece of church history This is an excellent overview of a major piece of church background and history that affected most Christian denominations in one way or another. Very good in CD audio only format.
Date published: 2013-03-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The "Catholic" Augustine I have another course by Carey that I like very much. It's really annoying though that Carey refers throughout this course to Augustine as "a Catholic." Augustine, in Carey's words doesn't become a Christian, he becomes a "Catholic." That's an anachronism though because "Catholics" were the only kinds of Christians there were back then and they referred to themselves as "Christians," not "Catholics." A scholar shouldn't make that kind of mistake. It's misleading to non-scholars and annoying to scholars.
Date published: 2012-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Smattering of Augustine audio download Prof. Cary presents a brief review of Augustine's philosophy in this course. He is clear in his presentation. He picked his topics well and provided a nice bibliography. While I realize that Prof. Cary had only 12 lectures for this topic, it would have been interesting if he had spent a bit of time reviewing the historical and politcal situation of Augustine's time. I don't know much about philosophy, so I found it useful that he explained how Augustine's thought was influenced by other philosophies -- such as neoplatonism. I did find that this course helped me understand Augustine's thought. However, its 12-lecture format only allows the briefest review of the his writings ("City of God" gets less than one lecture). If one is choosing between this course and Professor Cook's and Herzman's course, "St. Augustine's Confessions." I would lean toward the latter because the 24-lecture format allows them to go deeply into the "Confessions" as well as to give appropriate historical background. In fact, they also spend roughly the same amount of time on the "City of God" that Prof. Cary does.
Date published: 2012-09-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I forgot that I don't like philosphy Took one semester of college philosophy and hated it. 50+ years haven't changed my mind, I think someone who has taken a phi8losophy course and liked it would like this.
Date published: 2012-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Augustine My fifth course. CD. I read a paperback book on Augustine many years ago and was not impressed by the playboy turned theologian. Nor was I impressed with all of his theological beliefs. This course has changed my opinion of the man and has given me deeper insight into the origins of Christian theology influenced by Greek thought. I can even now see Greek thought in the Apostle Paul's letters. I still do not agree with all of Augustine's theological beliefs but I can now see how other Christian’s get their beliefs. One of the reasons I purchase the Great Courses is to expand my understanding of things I think I already know. This course has done just that. It was easy to listen to and easy to understand. I highly recommend this course to people who have a grasp on Christian Theology and want to know more. Like where it came from.
Date published: 2012-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of a Great Thinker Both important to Christianity and western thought, study of Augustine is a must. Where are great thinkers like him in our age? This course gives a detailed overview. Of course, there is much more. His book City of God is only touched upon last and is one of Augustine's works that students should check out. Sometimes I wished the professor would discuss where modern theology has evolved from Augustine's. This study is mainly in the context of his era. The difficulties of the trinity, and Augustine's important discourses on, receive a good treatment here. However, the professor makes the "3 can't = 1" fallacy. Skeptics like to use this fallacy, but it doesn't apply because this isn't a math problem. It is a physical reality issue. See Hugh Ross' "Beyond the Cosmos" for the modern resolution to this centuries' old paradox.
Date published: 2012-05-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Best for Prof Cary Professor Cary is passionate about St Augustine and it comes through in this presentation. I have more than one of his courses and by far this is his best. In this course his annoying teaching tics of digression, over analsis and distracting deep breaths are mimimized allowing the listener a very pleasant learning experience. I recommend this course and wish he would do the same presentation for St Thomas Aquinas.
Date published: 2012-04-04
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