Augustinian Studies

Volume 48, Issue 1/2, 2017

Reconsiderations Conference V

Jesse Couenhoven
Pages 23-44

Augustine’s Moral Psychology

This essay addresses common misunderstandings about the part of Augustine’s theological anthropology one might call his “moral psychology.” It particularly seeks to distance Augustine’s mature account of human agency from influential faculty psychologies. I argue that it is misleading to talk about Augustine’s view of the “will,” given what we typically mean by that term, and that “choice” is not central to Augustine’s account of human freedom. These claims hold not least because of the way Augustine thought about what he called the uoluntas, in which affect and rationality are combined. The disunity of the Augustinian self is found, as a result, not in battles between “higher” and “lower” faculties but in the tensions that exist within whole persons. Such insights influence Augustine’s interest in the complexity of intentional and unintentional desires—sexual and otherwise—and the essential role played by relationships in making us who we are.