8 - Augustine's will  pp. 167-199

Augustine's will

By Alistair McFadyen

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Throughout the discussion so far, the phenomenon of willing in pathological situations has appeared both more complex and more extensive than is capable of description within a moral framework. In particular, the capacity of supra-personal and extra-personal pathological dynamics to sequester the personal dynamics of life-intentionality (including the will) is much more radical than may be allowed for by the supposed identity of willing and freedom (construed as the formal capacity to choose freely between competing options). In the face of the inadequacies and limitations of moral language for describing and interpreting concrete pathology, would a theological language fare any better? In order to test whether theological modes of interpretation, expression and discernment might prove more appropriate to these tasks, I turn to Augustine. Why Augustine? Is this merely the conventional move to engage with the dominant voice in Western Christianity? a theologian's reflex back into the familiar territory of the dominant strand of his own tradition, having charted a course until now through so much unfamiliar terrain? Augustine's understanding of sin is the conventional, and arguably even obligatory, point through which to engage the tradition on account of his unequalled role in shaping Western Christianity's understanding of sin, including its doctrine of original sin. Indeed, the debt that the Western tradition owes to Augustine in relation to its understanding of sin is measured by the fact that he could – indeed, often does – stand in for the tradition as a whole, whether to be attacked or venerated.