Volume 21, 2001
Augustine and Arendt on Love
New Dimensions in the Religion and Liberalism Debates
This paper illustrates the need for a more integrated theoretical account of two large but typically isolated subjects in twentieth century Augustine studies: love and the ambiguous relation of Augustinianism to liberalism. The paper is divided into three parts. First, by aligning Augustinian caritas with a feminist "ethic of care," it presents a morally robust ethics of liberalism that differs from both liberal-realist and antiliberal extrapolations of the Augustinian tradition. Second, and most extensively, it presents Hannah Arendt's provocative reading of Augustine that issues both "Kantian" and "Nietzschean" challenges to a political ethic that moves beyond liberal reciprocity and relates love for neighbor to love for God. Finally, and more tentatively, it argues that Augustine's much maligned categories of "use" and "enjoyment" should be redeemed by those who defend a version of Augustinian liberalism that does not sentimentalize or privatize love.