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Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

7. St Augustine  

Jean Bethke Elshtain

This chapter examines Augustine of Hippo's political thought. After providing a brief biography of St Augustine, it considers the fate of his texts within the world of academic political theory and the general suspicion of ‘religious’ thinkers within that world. It then analyses Augustine's understanding of the human person as a bundle of complex desires and emotions as well as the implications of his claim that human sociality is a given and goes all the way down. It also explores Augustine's arguments regarding the interplay of caritas and cupiditas in the moral orientations of persons and of cultures. Finally, it describes Augustine's reflections on the themes of war and peace, locating him as the father of the tradition of ‘just war’ theory.