Augustinian Studies

Volume 54, Issue 1, 2023

Oriol Ponsatí-MurlàOrcid-ID
Pages 57-76

From “Mors Pro Summo Munere Desideretur” to “Occidere Se Ipsum”: An Overall Approach to Augustine on Suicide

This article aims to offer an overview of the problem of suicide in Augustine of Hippo, from the anti-Manichean texts of the late 380s CE to De ciuitate dei and the rejoinder to Gaudentium (Contra Gaudentium). A transversal analysis of the evolution of the concept of voluntary death throughout the work of Augustine allows us to identify up to four different conceptions of suicide, each of them corresponding to a rather well-defined chronological period: a philosophical conception, that we find in De libero arbitrio; a moral one, that we can excerpt from De mendacio; a polemical approach in the context of controversy against Donatism, which we can retrace in a set of writings from 400 to 412 CE, and especially in Contra epistulam Parmeniani; and, finally, the conception of suicide as homicide, that appears in De ciuitate dei and that will define the decisive and most widespread doctrine of Augustine in this matter. In this way, this paper aims to enrich, from a transversal and chronological perspective, the studies that have been carried out over the last decades on suicide in Augustine.