Augustine and the Final Good

To Augustine the final good is the eternal happiness and peace of man, which is only attainable by being subordinate to God and living your life piously to him. Unlike that of the philosopher who claims that the highest good is virtue, which is good for not only its own sake but also for the natural goods that such virtues bring about. To Augustine this is incorrect because such virtues and goods cannot attain the final good in this life. The only way that the final good may be reached is by living correctly. “To attain the one and avoid the other we must live rightly” (Augustine, 446).
Augustine believes that the greatest good is peace in the eternal happiness with God, but because this life is fleeting and that it is assailed by miseries happiness cannot be fully attained and peace cannot be held. Although absolute happiness is not achievable in this life there can be some sort of happiness. “The household of human beings living by faith looks forward to the future, to those things which are promised as eternal” (Augustine 454). Those who hope and look forward to what is to come, as long as they live rightly, may find some happiness and peace of mind in this life, knowing that there is a chance of eternal happiness and bliss in the life to come. Because peace is such an extreme good and is paramount to mans’ happiness, he seeks it in this world. It is mainly sought through the social life. We live amongst others and when we are at peace with them all is well. Augustine however, is well aware of the problems that arise in this temporal world that bring damage to the social life and the peace that it can foster. No matter how much peace there is in this world there is also still lingering fear and the possibility of that peace being shattered. Furthermore, the simplest things such as different languages or cultures can disrupt that peace. Yet, the City of God is not concerned with such differences, for they all work toward the same goal. “So long as this heavenly city journeys on earth, it calls forth citizens from all peoples and gathers a society of foreigners speaking all languages” (Augustine, 4544). The difference of cultures, traditions and institutions do not concern the city of God, as long as they are not at odds with the praise of the true God. To Augustine the earthly peace is utilized by the heavenly city and directs this peace to the heavenly peace. The true peace that Augustine claims we should strive for is a perfectly ordered society that is in harmony with God and with neighbor. “… The only peace, at least of rational creatures, is the most ordered and most harmonious society, enjoying God and each other in God” (Augustine 454).
Augustine’s philosophy of the final good, being eternal happiness and peace with God and neighbor is only possible in a life that is not assaulted by such evil that is present in our own life. Evil, being a manipulation of the good, a disordered world led by selfish intentions and pride of man. This pride seeks to mimic the will of God. It is through pride that man seeks to subjugate other man under his will, instead of subjugating himself to the divine. When we submit to the will of God, instead of our own, only then can we begin to journey to the final good and although this life is full of misery and darkness, the hope of the attainment of that final good in the future is what fuels the city of God. This life cannot offer us the happiness and peace we seek, because no matter how much virtue and good we attain in the end death sweeps it away. Only by attaining eternal life in union with God can the fulfillment of such peace and happiness be claimed. Without such hope, things will ultimately lead to despair no matter what we peruse, if it is not God then it is futile. So for Augustine, the final good is hope and peace, which is only attained by eternal life. This eternal life is only attained by living rightly, and although virtue cannot bring us happiness in this life, it can, when done properly, bring about the happiness and peace we seek in the life to come.


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