A Personal Journey Part IV: A History of Knowledge (Augustine of Hippo)

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Charles van Doren (1926- )
Charles van Doren (1926- )

This is the fourth post to do with my personal journey to do with the Age of Limits. Posts in this series are shown below. Those that have an associated hyperlink have already been published at this site. One of the books that had a great influence on my thinking was A History of Knowledge by Charles van Doren. In it he discusses some of the major thinkers who changed the world. In this post I look at what he had to say about Augustine, Bishop of the north African town of Hippo.

  • The Machine Stops
  • A Chemical Engineering Magazine Article
  • Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World
  • A History of Knowledge
    • Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
    • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
    • Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
    • Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    • Isaac Newton (1642-1726)
  • Twilight in the Desert
  • Down The Hubbert Curve
  • The Archdruid Report
  • Hard Times for These Times
  • Oil Price Collapse
  • Hegelian Synthesis
  • Jevons Paradox
  • Sustainable Growth: An Oxymoron
  • Peak Prosperity
  • Post Carbon Institute
  • Cassandra’s Legacy
  • Resource Insights
  • Francis I
  • The Last Question
  • The Journey
  • The Ladder of Awareness

van Doren describes how Augustine, bishop of Hippo, developed the concept of a ‘City of God’ — a city that was fundamentally different from the City of Man. (It is this theme that provided the inspiration for my book.)

Aurelius Augustine was the son of a pagan, Patricius of Tagaste, and his Christian wife, Monica. While studying to become a rhetorician, he plunged into a turmoil of philosophical and psychological doubts, leading him to Manichaeism. In 383 he moved to Rome and then Milan to teach rhetoric. Despite exploring classical philosophical systems, especially skepticism and Neoplatonism, his studies of Paul’s letters with his friend Alypius, and the preaching of Bishop Ambrose, led in 386 to his conversion from mixed beliefs to Christianity. He soon returned to Tagaste and founded a religious community, and in 395 or 396, became bishop of Hippo.

Augustine – Bishop of Hippo

Augustine had a ring-side seat for the decline of city of Rome. He understood that all cities of men eventually fail (just look at the “failed states” in the Hebrew bible). Only the City of God, he argued, is permanent. It is this concept that is central to the theme of my interpretation as to what is going on now in our society. Our current ‘City of Man’ — an industrial culture based on the gift of stored energy in the form of fossil fuels — is winding down. So what will our new ‘City of God’ look like? Along with two other of his books — De Mendacio and Confessions — we are provided with guidance for the coming Age of Limits.