Augustine believed that human nature was naturally inclined to sin, he claims that this is a trait that humans have inherited from Adam, ‘we are all seminally present in the loins of Adam’, and that our inclination to vice comes for original sin. Many people would disagree with this stating that, there are more good people in the world than bad and that even though we may be inclined to sin most people tend to do good. Augustine also has an impersonal and cold view of love, categorizing it into two forms Cupiditas (Selfish love) and Caritas love (generous love). He believes that all love should lead towards an end, such as being closer to God. People disagree with his view some saying that all love can be good and its impossible to categorise it.
The two categories that Augustine classifies love into are Cupiditas, the love of selfish things and needs. He claims that people who choose this are ignorant and often unhappy because they have subjected themselves to laws of the world which are human laws of social life. Although love of selfish things on the surface seems to wrong choice and bad, it can be said that we must love selfish things to love and care for ourselves. Many psychologists would claim that you can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself, suggesting that to reach Caritas love we must first have Cupiditas. Augustine claims that Cupiditas is at the heart of human nature, as Adam and Eve chose Cupiditas and this led to all future generations inheriting an inclination to sin, showing that human nature is directly influenced by love.
His other category of love is Caritas, the Latin equivalent of agape which means the highest form of love and is normally used in relation to the love of God. It includes the generous love of others and is normally seen as an expression of God’s wills of eternal law and is reached through virtues to lead to spiritual happiness. Clearly for theists this seems to be the best form of love because it leads God. But Augustine states that it is not as simple as just following rules to achieve Caritas as we are all (due to original sin) in a permanent state of ignorance and are inclined towards Cupiditas. This makes us beyond rescue through our own efforts and can only be saved from sin by God’s Grace. The issue that many people have with this is that if we cannot be saved through our own actions then why should we try? Also, the idea of predetermination suggests that no matter what we do, or the type of love we conform to; God is the only one that can save us, so it seems disadvantageous to work towards a goal that has already been granted to us or forbidden from us. This view has an astronomical effect on human nature according to Augustine it makes us inclined towards sin and leads us away from God. For his it all stems from original sin and their choice of Adam and Eve (Cupiditas) has corrupted all human nature. With the view of the modern world we can reject that there are only two types of love one good and one bad, but we can also accept that love is directly connected to human nature in some way. We all look for love and appreciation for others and in some situations – it is how we judge if an action is right or wrong based on how much love and happiness it creates (utilitarianism). In this view Augustine could be considered correct.
Augustine’s view on human nature is that we corrupted the love that God gave us through original sin and the fall and that the free-will which God granted us can lead us towards him in love but also away from him (much like Adam and Eve). Augustine argued that humanity is sinful and at the mercy of ‘concupiscence’- sexual desires and lust for material things which are distractions from loving God. Augustine has examples of this in his own life; he slept around with many women and led a ‘sinful’ life, with a modern world view he could be considered a sex addict. In his later life he was celibate and wouldn’t allow any women in his home. While drastic he believed that this was the best way to purely focus on reaching God. Many have an issue with this view as it is rare to have an addiction such as Augustine’s and his way of life is not realistic for everyone. One thing his addiction did offer evidence for was the connection between human nature and love and lust as we are all inclined to find love. Cutting it out of our lives such as Augustine does, therefore seem to go against our nature.
Often Augustine is labelled a sexist, although his views on women are outdated now we must remember the time in which he wrote. His creation of original sin has affected women for centuries and has a greatly negative effect seeming to show women to be the cause of humanity’s sins. But he was more sympathetic towards women than other people at the time, he didn’t see women as weaker or evil because of the sins of Eve ‘all created in God’s image’. His view on the love of women is controversial, as he agreed that women should have more passive roles and men more dominant ones. God intended women to be subordinate to man but originally this did come from love, for Eve was created to abate Adam’s loneliness. Augustine took this as women being there for the aid of man, which translated into his view on loving them. The love of woman is purely for the pleasure of men and the creation of children. He stated that sex within marriage is purely for the creation of children, but Kant would disagree with this, saying that people should not be used as a means to an end but an end in themselves. So, the love of women for the creation of children is wrong in Kant’s view.
The main principle for Augustine is that all love must lead to God. Although our human nature inclined to sin and move away from God it is our aim to complete actions that lead us back to God. Many people would agree with Augustine on the basis that we are created at an epistemic distance from God that means we cannot understand everything about God. It is still our aim to get closer to him, however, and the way to do this is through our actions, often believed to be the purpose of love (to reach God.) Richard Dawkins would disagree that our purpose is to reach God and the purpose of love is to bring us closer to this goal. On the basis that he is atheist, but also that he doesn’t believe that everything must have a purpose to exist. It is likely that more people would agree with Dawkins as the idea that everything must have a purpose is difficult to understand, especially for love, along with the question what is loves effect on human nature.
Augustine saw God’s grace as a form of love towards his creation. It showed that God always chooses Caritas and that humanity is always in the control and debt of God. The only way in which we can escape our sins in through the grace of God. Although this seems to show God as loving, does it not simply show him as a controlling ruler? If the only way, we can escape our sins is through the grace of God and we must follow rules to achieve this grace, are we not just slaves to the so called ‘love’ of God. This is not to say that Augustine is completely wrong, as it is reasonable to accept that we earn the love that is given to us; we see this concept in the world around us. It is also in our human nature to obtain this love. Mostly we naturally learn that actions that earn us love our good and those that cost us love are wrong. It’s not a huge leap to assume we our human nature is directly affected by love on this basis.
To conclude, Augustine’s view on love and its effect on human nature is valid but extreme. It can be seen that we all aim to achieve love and that actions that lead to love are normally good. But his view that we should move away from selfish love and only love generously is controversial -while Caritas is a good love, is not the best kind of love, because selfish love is needed to function. I also agree more with Dawkins with his suggestion that love doesn’t need purpose and neither does human nature. It seems more plausible that everything just is and that it has different meanings to different people.
Author – Year 12 Student – CR