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Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine$
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Joseph Clair

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198757764

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198757764.001.0001

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Public Goods

Public Goods

(p.75) 3 Public Goods
Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine

Joseph Clair

Oxford University Press

Augustine’s advice to public officials on how to reconcile Christian ethical commitments with role-specific obligations clarifies his conception of competing moral responsibilities as a choice between higher and lower goods,and as a process whereby the wider circles of oikeiōsis (relationship with God and with all other human beings) transform the narrower circle formed in the political community. This chapter examines three cases: Augustine’s exchange with Marcellinus, an imperial official, on the incompatibility of the Christian ideal of nonviolence with the ethics of citizenship; Augustine’s correspondence with Boniface, an army commander, on the conflicting goods of enemy love and military security; and Augustine’s advice to Macedonius, imperial vicar of Africa, on whether pardoning a criminal condemned to capital punishment is consistent with protecting the common good. It also introduces Augustine’s conception of the universal duty of love as an obligation to treat others on the basis of their humanity.

Keywords:   ethics of citizenship, duty of love, common good, humanity, public officials, political community, nonviolence, military, enemy love, capital punishment

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