Augustine's Unfinished Work Against Julian: The Ancient and Contemporary Dispute Over Concupiscence
Augustine of Hippo's account of sexuality and concupiscence (concupiscentia; libido) has long been both praised and vilified. Even so, scholars often cannot agree about what positions Augustine holds on fundamental issues within his account of concupiscence. The first issue is whether Augustine thinks concupiscence is caused exclusively or primarily by the soul, or whether concupiscence is often caused by the body. The second issue is whether Augustine thinks concupiscence in the form of sexual desire is wholly an effect of the fall or was present and good before the fall. Within these interpretive debates, Augustine's final book, contra Iulianum opus imperfectum (Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian), has been relatively neglected, especially in moral theology and ethics. Focusing on Augustine's later works and drawing significantly on contra Iulianum opus imperfectum, I argue that the bodily element of concupiscence is central to Augustine's mature theology of sexuality and is central to understanding Augustine's final position on Edenic concupiscence. Chapter one shows that rival interpretations of Augustine's claims about bodily desire and sexual desire in Eden often underlie rival evaluative claims about Augustine's views on sexuality and concupiscence. Chapter two examines Augustine's dispute with Julian of Eclanum and shows how Augustine's views on concupiscence and the fallen body emerge from Augustine's broader theological commitments regarding God, creation, and God's original plan for human nature. Chapter three shows that Augustine's mature theology holds that concupiscence is very often a desire of the body distinct from desires of the will. Here I show how Augustine's theory of bodily desire fits well with his broader anthropological commitments regarding sensation and embodiment. Chapter four applies Augustine's account of bodily desire to his development on the issue of sexual desire in Eden. I show that Augustine develops significantly on the issue, with his final position in contra Iulianum opus imperfectum being that sexual concupiscence might or might not have been present in Eden. I show how Augustine's final ambivalent position results from tensions within Augustine's account of bodily desire. Overall, the project is in conversation with scholarship in theology, philosophy, history, and gender and sexuality studies.
StatsViewed 22 times
Downloaded 2 times