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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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Private Goods

Private Goods

(p.107) 4 Private Goods
Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine

Joseph Clair

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to Augustine’s advice on using wealth to form and tend the various circles of oikeiōsis (e.g. familial piety, almsgiving/works of mercy, poverty). An illustration of competing goods appears in Augustine’s advice to wealthy householders on the negotiation of their interrelated responsibilities to care for the poor as well as their own private interests. Failure to discern the good in such cases is often highly contextual—as, for instance, when the good of familial obligation creates a false cover for material or spiritual greed. In the case of Ecdicia, one sees how the good of poverty can be pursued in such a way that it actually damages the goods of marriage and family life. Because Augustine scarcely discusses wealth and care for the poor outside his letters and sermons, this chapter fills a major lacuna in the received picture of what Augustine cares about.

Keywords:   wealth, familial piety, works of mercy, almsgiving, the poor, poverty, greed

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