Augustine was a Christian philosopher, who lived in the 4th and 5th century A.D.,
on the fringes of the rapidly declining Roman Empire in the North African town of Hippo.
He served as bishop for 35 years,
proving popular and inspirational to his largely uneducated and poor congregation.
In his last days, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals burnt Hippo to the ground,
destroyed the legions, made off with the town’s young women,
but left Augustine’s Cathedral and library entirely untouched
out of respect for the elderly philosopher’s achievements.
He matters to us non-Christians today because of what he criticised about Rome,
its values and its outlook,
and because Rome has so many things in common with the modern West,
especially the United States.
The Romans believed in two things in particular.
One, EARTHLY HAPPINESS.
They were on the whole an optimistic lot.
The builders of the Pont du Gard, and the Colosseum had faith in technology,
也对人类的自控力 掌控自然的能力 以及为自身
in the power of humans to master themselves and in their ability to control nature
and plot for their own happiness and satisfaction.
Writers like Cicero and Plutarch had a degree of pride, ambition and confidence in the future,
which with some revisions wouldn’t be out of place in modern-day Palo Alto or the pages of Wired.
The Romans were keen practitioners of what we would nowadays call SELF-HELP
training their audiences to greater success and effectiveness.
In their eyes, the human animal was something eminently open to being perfected.
Two, A JUST SOCIAL ORDER.
For long periods, the Romans trusted that their society was marked by justice
– JUSTITIA –
people of ambition and intelligence could make it to the top.
The army was trusted to be meritocratic.
The capacity to make money was held to reflect both practical ability and also a degree of inner virtue.
因此 炫耀自己的财富被认为是值得尊敬的 也是值得骄傲的
Therefore showing off one’s wealth was deemed honourable and a point of pride,
and fame, was considered a wholly respectable ideal.
Augustine disagreed furiously with both of these assumptions.
In his masterpiece, The City of God, he dissected each of these two points,
that human life could be perfected and the societies were just,
in ways that continue to prove relevant to us today.
奥古斯丁提出了 原罪 这一概念
It was Augustine who came up with the idea of ORIGINAL SIN.
他指出 所有人都是扭曲的 而不仅是将某一个不幸福的人作为特例
He proposed that all humans, not merely this or that unfortunate example,
因为我们所有人 尽管未意识到 都是亚当的罪恶的继承人
were crooked because all of us are unwitting heirs to the sins of Adam.
Our sinful nature gives rise to what Augustine called a LIBIDO DOMINANDI,
也就是支配欲 其在我们用残酷 狭隘 而无情的方式对待身边的人的时候
a desire to dominate, which is evident in a brutal, blinkered, merciless way
we treat others in the world around us.
We cannot properly love, for we are constantly undermined by our egoism and our pride.
Our powers of reasoning and understanding are fragile in the extreme.
Lust haunts our days and nights.
最终 我们没能了解自己 我们追逐着幻影 被焦虑所困扰着
We failed to understand ourselves. We chase phantoms. We are beset by anxieties.
通过责备那些哲学家 奥古斯丁结束了他的批判 用他的话来说
Augustine concluded his assault by chiding all those philosophers in his words
“have wished, with amazing folly, to be happy here on earth and to achieve bliss by their own efforts.”
It might sound depressing, but it may turn out to be a curious relief
被告知我们的人生是扭曲的 不是因为巧合 而是因为单纯地因为我们是人类这一定义
to be told that our lives are awry not by coincidence but by definition simply because we are human,
and because nothing human can ever be made entirely straight.
We are creatures fated to intuit virtue and love,
but never quite being able to secure them for ourselves.
Our relationships, careers and countries are necessarily not as we’d want them to be.
It isn’t anything specific we have done – the odds are simply stacked against us from the start.
Augustinian pessimism takes off some of the pressure we might feel
when we slowly come to terms with the imperfect nature of pretty much everything we do and are.
我们不应该愤怒 不应该觉得自己受到了迫害 或者觉得受到了不合理的惩罚
We shouldn’t rage or feel we’ve been persecuted or singled out for undue punishment.
It’s simply the human condition, the legacy of what we might as well,
even we don’t believe in Augustine’s theology, call ORIGINAL SIN.
Romans had, in their most ambitious moments, thought themselves to be running a meritocracy –
a society where those who got to the top were deemed to have done so on the back of their own virtues.
After the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity,
the philosopher Eusebious even proposed that earthly power was God’s instrument for establishing Christianity on earth,
因此 罗马的权贵们现在不仅享有特权 而且会被上帝赐福 在上帝的眼中他们是正义的
so that the powerful in Rome were now not just privileged, but also blessed and righteous in God’s eyes.
奥古斯丁则回应 这是傲慢 自负且残酷的主张
What arrogant, boastful and cruel claims, responded Augustine,
there never was nor ever could be justice in Rome, or indeed anywhere else on earth.
God didn’t give good people wealth and power, and nor did he necessarily condemn those who lacked them.
Augustine distinguished between what he called TWO CITIES,
人之城 和 神之城
the CITY OF MEN, and the CITY OF GOD.
The latter was an ideal of the future, a heavenly paradise where the good would finally dominate,
在这里 权力将与正义正确地结合 依道德统治
where power would be properly allied to justice, and where virtue would reign.
But men could never build such a city alone,
and should never believe themselves capable of doing so.
They were condemned to dwell only in the city of men
which was a pervasively flawed society,
where money could never accurately track virtue.
In Augustine’s formulation, true justice has no existence,
save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ.
Again it may sound bleak, but it makes Augustine’s philosophy extremely generous
towards failure, poverty and defeat, our own and that of others.
It’s not for humans to judge each other by outward markers of success.
From this analysis flows a lack of moralism and snobbery.
It’s our duty to be skeptical about power and generous towards failure.
We don’t need to be Christians to be comforted by both these points.
They are the religion’s universal gifts to political philosophy and human psychology.
They stand as permanent reminders of some of the dangers and cruelties
of believing that the life could be made perfect
or the poverty and obscurity are reliable indicators of vice in a city of men.