The conversion and therapy of desire in Augustine's Cassiciacum dialogues.
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Boone, Mark J.
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The philosophical schools of late antiquity commonly diagnosed human unhappiness as rooted in some fundamental disorder in our desires, and offered various therapies or prescriptions for the healing of desire. Among these only the neo-Platonic treatment for desire requires redirecting desire towards an immaterial world. Although Augustine agrees with the neo-Platonists on the need to redirect our desires to an immaterial world, he does not adopt their therapy for desire. Instead he adopts a thoroughly Christian approach to the healing of desire. The conversion of desire results from the Trinitarian God's gracious actions taken to heal our desires. Augustine does not recommend fleeing from the influence of the body, as neo-Platonism encourages, but fleeing to Christ, immersing ourselves in the life of the Church, and practicing the theological virtues. In this dissertation I examine Augustine's Cassiciacum dialogues. In Contra Academicos (Against the Academics), Augustine argues that we must vigorously desire wisdom in order to attain it; that we must have hope in the possibility of attaining wisdom; and that our desire for wisdom must be bound in faith to Christ. In De beata vita (On the Happy Life), Augustine argues that the Trinitarian God is the only perennially satisfying object of desire and shows that the pursuit of God is the activity of a prayerful community of believers who are practicing faith, hope, and charity. In De ordine (On Order), Augustine recommends that the reordering of our desires be pursued through a liberal arts education and through Christian morals. In Soliloquia (Soliloquies), Augustine says that we ought to love God and the soul. He also reminds us to submit to Christ's authority and practice faith, hope, and love. After discussing these things, I discuss in a concluding chapter the harmony of love for God and love for human beings, pointing to passages in the dialogues that suggest this harmony.