The failure of affectus : Affectiones and constantiae in Augustine of Hippo

Book chapter


Teubner, Jonathan. (2019) The failure of affectus : Affectiones and constantiae in Augustine of Hippo. In In Feros Ruys, Juanita, Champion, Michael W. and Essary, Kirk (Ed.). Before emotion : The language of feeling, 400-1800 pp. 9-25 Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429023279
AuthorsTeubner, Jonathan
EditorsFeros Ruys, Juanita, Champion, Michael W. and Essary, Kirk
Abstract

[Extract] ‘Longing for the other world puts people to sleep in this world.’ 1 Echoing Nietzsche, Martha Nussbaum presents what is the most common criticism of Augustine’s theology of the affections: an otherworld-directed appetite that disregards commitments to this world. 2 Nussbaum is not alone in her disapproval. Thomas Dixon offers a more pointed censure. Because Augustine, according to Dixon, theorized the affections as a single movement to God, ‘not a drop of affection was to be spilled on barren earthly terrain.’ 3 One must admit that these ethical criticisms of Augustine’s theology of the affections can sting, if not wound, an Augustinian account of the affections. Recent scholarship on the affections in Augustine’s thought has attempted to rescue Augustine from Nussbaum, Dixon, and Hannah Arendt. 4 While there is value in this programme of rehabilitation, 5 most scholars ignore the deep ambivalence towards the affections in Augustine’s thought. Nussbaum and Dixon (as well as Hannah Arendt) are picking up on a perplexing aporia in Augustine’s account: affections are both necessary and necessarily a failure. In light of this, I don’t think Augustine really needs saving, but rather needs clarification of how and why he thinks the affections fail and to what extent he sees their failure as intrinsic to human ways of knowing, loving, and living. In other words, how is it that Augustine is both a champion of the affections and a pessimist for their ultimate utility?

Page range9-25
Year2019
Book titleBefore emotion : The language of feeling, 400-1800
PublisherRoutledge
Place of publicationNew York
London
EditionFirst edition
SeriesRoutledge studies in medieval literature and culture
ISBN9780367086022
9780429023279
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429023279
Publisher's version
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All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online2019
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Jun 2021
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