Much of my academic work in 2016 has focused on shaping a proposal for my dissertation requirement. After many weeks and months of research, writing and rewriting my committee has approved my research thesis proposal. This post is the result of these past months of work.
Subsequent blog posts over the next 6 to 7 months will be chapters of the dissertation as they are approved by my committee. In the end, I hope to post a record of the progress of this dissertation. May our Lord Jesus Christ alone receive the glory for this academic work.
Saint Augustine of Hippo sought an inner harmony of the intellect with the knowledge of God, which influenced his philosophy of interpretation — or “hermeneutics.” His hermeneutic intended to direct a student of Christian doctrine in uncovering the obscure meaning of Scripture through reason guided by faith, hope, and love. Such a method was deemed necessary by the Bishop of Hippo as an apologetic against heretical movements birthed from false interpretation. A study of Augustine’s investigations into biblical interpretation reveals that he sought the Beauty of understanding as evidenced through caritas, meaning charity or love. Augustine’s philosophical battles with the dualist Manichees, the puritanical Donatists, and the self-reliant Pelagians showcase his belief that interpretation of Scripture through caritas leads to what he calls a “proper” model of understanding for Christian philosophy. Augustine equated the platonist ideal of True Love as searching for Beauty alone with the Christian caritas and philosophy of interpretation. The Augustinian hermeneutic is the result of defending against opposition to Orthodox Christian doctrine and argues that the sense, or spirit, of Scripture as caritas is the truth to which all Christian philosophy must cohere. Augustine defends Christian wisdom claiming that without a proper hermeneutic of caritas, false interpretation of scripture results in dangerous philosophy and the loss of understanding. Controversy, according to Augustine, provides sharpening of the hermeneutic of caritas necessary to avoid heretical conclusions. This dissertation will first seek to define Augustine’s explanation of caritas in his interpretive philosophy and then will attempt to demonstrate that this hermeneutic can be a fruitful means of gaining wisdom and a guide in understanding how then to live.
This dissertation will be a study of the influence of the Christian tradition of caritas on the philosophy and the subsequent hermeneutic of Saint Augustine of Hippo.
Mortimer J. Adler’s Syntopicon of great ideas observes that “Love” is represented in almost all contributions to Western thought. Aristotle classifies various kinds of love with his analysis on friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics and explores “whether a man should love himself most, or someone else.” Because of the multifaceted nature of the idea, definitions of love can be misleading. Augustine clarifies that the Christian Scriptures “make no distinction between amor, dilectio, and caritas.” For the purpose of this study, the definition of love will depend on the translation of ἀγάπη as caritas following the philosophy of Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate in key passages of Scripture, such as 1 Cor. 8 and 13. The characteristic of humility in the Christian understanding of caritas will also be a focus of this study. An attempt will be made to connect the influence of orthodox Christian emphasis of humility upon Augustinian philosophy of interpretation.
A study of modern philosophical hermeneutics can reveal definitions of love more akin to cupiditas (self-love or desire) rather than the traditional view of caritas (love toward others). The opposing concepts, caritas and cupiditas, provide grounds for discussion in what the Christian understanding of love entails and the subsequent benefits to interpretive thought. Furthermore, this study will seek whether modern concepts of love possess relativist views contrary to the medieval, more traditional, concept of charity. If this is the case, then a conclusion will be sought as to the effects of this shift in critical philosophy. Augustine’s philosophical method, as modeled after the Platonic tradition, will reveal a stark contrast to interpretations of the fourth century dependent on relativist-like philosophy. Augustinian philosophy will reveal a dependence on logical conclusions proving that heretical interpretations result in logically incoherent conclusions. This study seeks to not confuse a hermeneutic of love with the potential self-serving definition of love. The ideas of Saint Augustine of Hippo will serve, selflessly, as the framework for a hermeneutic of charity.
Augustine’s hermeneutic of love becomes the standard by which he taught understanding derived from biblical texts. Alan Jacobs considers this method the means by which one is, “To read with intelligent charity.” Jacobs claims a lack of sufficient scholarship in Christian theology about such a hermeneutic; “An account of the hermeneutics of love is one of the great unwritten chapters in the history of Christian theology.” N. T. Wright also speaks to this subject briefly. His views in support for the traditional Christian philosophy that love defined as the intent that God and creation are united rather than separated, will further shape the approach to the study of Augustinian hermeneutics. N. T. Wright’s argument seems to be a contemporary call for the returned application of the Orthodox Christian view of caritas to the reading of Scripture. His call for, “a critical-realist account of the phenomenon of reading in all its parts” is a call to develop a, “both-and theory of reading, not an either-or one.” Wright’s suggestion for the critical-realism hermeneutical model is, “to be explored more fully in another occasion.” This critical-realism, he states, “is the hermeneutic of love.” This dissertation will serve to support the thesis that Augustine emphasized this approach to interpretation in his De doctrina Christiana. In conclusion, this chapter will concur with N. T. Wright’s call for a return to love as the model of reading Scripture, but will seek to connect the argument specifically in relation to the discussion of Augustine’s doctrine of caritas.
A further review of works by Christian historian Helmut David Baer, theologian Ernest L. Fortin, David Glidden’s work in Augustine’s Hermeneutics and Charity, Karl F. Morrison, and Ingrid Shafer will also serve to establish possible academic contributions of this topic.
Brian Stock’s work on Augustinian ethics of interpretation will also serve as a reference to the investigation of moral philosophy and hermeneutics. Stock’s thesis on Augustine’s philosophy of reading will show how kenosis and the orthodox Christian view on love influenced Augustine’s approach to interpretation. Through Augustine’s ethical emphasis of selfless action, hermeneutics is not solely dialectic, it is also kenotic. The hermeneutic of caritas requires sacrifice of the self, inspired by the incarnation, modeled after the regula dilectionis and seeks to be understood in this investigation of Augustinian hermeneutics.
While the philosophy of caritas is well established as central to Christian theology by thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Dante, and more, this dissertation will seek to find application of this theology in the interpretive philosophy of both Scripture and secular works.
The answer to the question of how hermeneutics governed by the, regula dilectionis, law of love, is employed, can be found by emphasising the need to harmonize differences of opinion. Jacobs argues that “the preservation of difference is absolutely central to a hermeneutic of love. I am to love my neighbor as myself, but this is a challenge precisely because the neighbor is not myself.” The differing hermeneutical approach between caritas and cupiditas is a debate of ethics. Either the spiritual life or the carnal life determine the approach to interpretation. Further, this study will seek to cohere the influence of caritas on other aspects of Augustinian philosophy notably how signs and symbols affect the understanding of reality in his metaphysics as well as understanding in his epistemology. By examining Augustinian works and their influence within seminal texts of Western Civilization pertinent to philosophy, this study seeks to contribute to the discussion of a philosophical hermeneutic of love. A survey of some of the developments resulting from Augustine’s opinions regarding caritas on the philosophy of hermeneutics will serve to bring clarification of the intent of interpretation.
Additional research will consider an overview of the influence from Plato’s dialogues, Aristotelian works on ethics and interpretation, and finally works on love and creation from the Stoics and platonists. Primary research will come through the examination of Christian Scripture, Augustine’s Confessions, De doctrina Christiana, De civitate Dei, The Enchiridion, De Trinitate, De spiritu et littera, and numerous letters written by the Bishop of Hippo in reply to doctrinal inquiry in the fourth century.
This dissertation will show that in defending the Christian faith, Augustine employed reason to argue against theological error while preserving differences of opinion. Augustine’s genius in employing a hermeneutic of caritas shaped his philosophy of Visio Beatifica and is a logically coherent philosophy which must be reconsidered. The charge of relativism in modern philosophical hermeneutics could be valid; and an Augustinian hermeneutic of caritas can provide a renewal of the classical approach in pursuing a love of wisdom which seeks not to take a text apart to understand its meaning, but to place together the pieces of propositions to see what they mean.
The proposed outline of this dissertation will seek to connect the controversies Augustine faced in defending Orthodox Christianity with the development of caritas as the focus of his philosophy and, subsequently, his hermeneutic.
1) The first chapter will be a brief overview of the understanding of Love in the history of classical Greek philosophy and its possible influence on Augustine’s thought. Because many scholars feel that Augustine’s knowledge of Platonic thought came through scholars such as Cicero, Plotinus and Porphyry, this chapter will center more on these thinkers rather than on Plato’s work directly. The thought of the platonists concerning True Love and the search for Beauty alone will serve as influence for Augustine’s connection of caritas in search for the Visio Beatifica. This chapter will strive to show that this philosophical influence in Augustine’s education served as the basis for his method of hermeneutic discovery of the obscure meaning of Scripture.
2) The second chapter will investigate the young Augustine’s misguided understanding of love, as influenced by his lustful attraction to eros. This chapter will also seek to connect the influence of the Manichees, and Augustine’s subsequent break with the sect, as depicted in the Confessions with the influence of the bishop’s evolution of thought. Did his encounter with caritas during his conversion lead to an awakening of understanding True Love? Did that experience influence his hermeneutic expressed in De doctrina Christiana, the Enchiridion, and other works? This chapter will seek to reconcile the gracious effect of caritas in the development of Augustine’s thought as the divine understanding which influenced his hermeneutic.
3) The third chapter will be the cornerstone of the dissertation as an exploration that defines Augustine’s hermeneutic of caritas as the spirit of interpretation. This study will seek to clarify Augustine’s view of how the will is governed by what it loves as caritas determines the will and finally how the will governs interpretation. A thorough study of both the De doctrina Christiana and the Enchiridion will seek to show that how one interprets directly influences how one is influenced by that interpretation. The bishop’s epistemology emphasizes that the knowledge of the truth is pursued as one desires true happiness, or true beatitude, rather than pursuit of knowledge for pure academic purposes. Likewise, Augustine’s thought on the self will show that reading in the spirit of caritas contrasts how understanding is inseparable from the limits of sense perceptions. The liberation brought through the presence of an authoritative text results in a higher understanding and improvement of the human spirit.
Likewise, if selflessness is the cornerstone of caritas, then one’s interpretive approach to a text must be modeled after kenosis, or the selfless emptying of one’s self-serving pride in order to serve the authorial intent of the text. Kenosis implies not the abandonment of divine authority, but rather is the intended fulfillment of caritas to unite what was separated through pride. A study of Augustinian thought on critical reading and interpretation will seek to show how the mind is liberated from sensory illusion where the interpreter crosses from dependence of the outside senses to the inner world of the Truth. The telos of this process requires the student of scripture to abandon all previous linguistic and literary concepts of the self, cupiditas, to embrace the liberating concept of selflessness, caritas.
4) The fourth chapter will seek to be a focused explanation of Augustine’s rebuttal of heretical theology and how these challenges shaped the emphasis of a Christian spirit of caritas in responding to opposing thought. This chapter will seek to describe how the true spirit of caritas might shield any critical spirit, after the model of carditas, toward adherents of heretical conclusions. This chapter will seek to show how pride can guide heretical interpretations, no matter how unintentional, and briefly summarize the false conclusions of the heretical teachings of Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. Examples of the prideful rhetoric from persuasive teachers will be contrasted with the humble spirit of instruction after the model of caritas. One example from Augustine’s preface to De doctrina Christiana warns against the pride of self-knowledge so often the center of heretical rhetoric. Augustine states, “No, no; rather let us put away false pride and learn whatever can be learnt from man; and let him who teaches another communicate what he has himself received without arrogance and without jealousy.” In addition, a comparative review of De civitate Dei will seek to show how the results between pagan Roman philosophy, the City of Man, and the Christian philosophy, the City of God, express Augustinian thoughts toward caritas. Book fourteen of De civitate Dei will provide support for the how the fall of Rome and the eternity of the City of God compares with heretical interpretation of love and Christian orthodox hermeneutics of caritas.
This chapter will seek to provide a complimentary comparison between the regula fidei, rule of faith, the regula dilectionis, rule of love, and the application of caritas as part of Augustine’s philosophy of interpretation. Since Augustine clarifies that the Christian Scriptures “make no distinction between amor, dilectio, and caritas,” a review of the hermeneutic of caritas and the regula dilectionis is necessary to determine similarities or differences. Since Scripture has two types of authoritative regulation, rules for living and rules for believing need diligent comparison. A review of these doctrines will show that Augustine insists on caritas and dilectionis as the applications of the regula fidei. Love is the telos of scripture and regula fidei, rule of faith, or the analogia fidei, analogy of faith, is the beginning of how one interprets man’s appropriate relation to God’s Word as it applies to His creation. This comparison will show that in addition to the regula fidei, Augustine emphasizes the regula dilectionis. The regula dilectionis corresponds to the appropriate love of the res, things, of which scripture speaks. Since both rules are authoritative, it will be beneficial to illustrate how Augustine views their relationship. This study will reveal that caritas is the criterion by which ambiguities of the text are understood figuratively to align with the double-love aspect of the greatest commandment as seen in Matt. 22:37–39, Lev. 19:18, and Deut. 6:5. The requirements of love by Augustine are the standard of communal understanding necessary for interpretation. These regula humble intellectual pursuit allowing the influence of the author’s thought to shape the mind. This argument will also be supported by the Apostle Paul’s teaching to the Church at Corinth, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”
5) The fifth chapter will explore the ideas of The Law of Love found in seminal philosophical texts of the Western World and how this journey of thought evolved in ways both different and similar to Augustinian influence. Augustinian admirers inevitably altered his views. Brian Stock argues that “scholastic theologians used Augustine’s critical vocabulary to engage in a philosophical type of hermeneutics that rarely appears in his writings.” The role of kenosis is the basis of the traditional understanding of The Law of Christ. A key point of hermeneutical understanding involves the character of a person and this chapter will explore the moral aspects of the Law of Love. A further exploration of this concept will seek to understand how the nature and character of the interpreter must be addressed as one seeks to understand an author or the author’s work. Just as important is the moral aspect of receiving knowledge obtained in this process. This chapter will seek to show how The Law of Love influenced Western thought from Augustine through the Medieval Period to the early modern thought of Thomas Hobbes.
6) The sixth chapter will be a critique of the influence of Augustine’s hermeneutic through a review of what David C. Steinmetz calls, “precritical exegesis,” from philosophers of the Protestant Reformation in contrast to the literary criticism of modern philosophical hermeneutics. The importance of the regula fidei, in Reformation hermeneutics will show a strong connection to and validity to Augustinian thought. A further study will involve Augustinian influence in the philosophia Christi of Desiderius Erasmus, and the biblical interpretation through weakness, per infirmitate, of Martin Luther. In addition, the views of Thomas Hobbes (Behemoth) and Blaise Pascal (Pensées) will seek to discern who displays Augustinian hermeneutics and whether it is fruitful or problematic. While theologians of the Reformation expressed admiration to Augustine’s approach to Biblical study, Augustine’s views on Christian education were not often replicated.
This chapter will seek to understand the perspectives of opponents to Augustinian thought with a look at Cartesian Hermeneutics. Hermeneutical methods such as Schleiermacher’s higher criticism, and the philosophical hermeneutics of Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Gadamer may also have reinterpreted the Law of Love to a point of departure from Augustinian perspectives. In addition, Gadamer’s essay, The Relevance of the Beautiful, will serve as a comparative study of Augustine’s doctrine of Visio Beatifica. A conclusion from these premises will either confirm or refute the dependence on Augustine by philosophical hermeneutics.
7) The seventh, and final chapter, will be a conclusion focused on my assessment of the Augustinian hermeneutic of caritas as a model of Christian philosophy within the discipline of philosophical hermeneutics. If the purpose of critical interpretation is to influence the growth of the intellect, then a humble approach to the thought of an author is necessary rather than relying solely on the preconceived experiences and interpretation of the self. The spirit of caritas, as applied by Augustine to interpretive thought, can be a renewed model of Christian thinking not only for Biblical interpretation, but in philosophical thinking as well. This chapter will seek to advocate the importance of Augustinian consolidation of the role of reading meditation in Western mystical thought to edify the intellect “through patient, line-by-line exegesis.” Authority of the text, guided by reason, for Augustine, will direct interpretation to the goal of a higher rationality. The work of philosopher E.D. Hirsch, on the primacy of authorial intent, will also serve as support for this conclusion. My assessment of Augustinian hermeneutics shaped by caritas will seek to serve as a foundation for interpretation dependent on means apart from the self rather than approaches shaped by relativist positions in philosophy.
In conclusion, the role of Augustine’s hermeneutic of caritas, as centered on 1 Corinthians 8:1, could be the focus of a reminder of the Classical Christian approach to interpretive standards. “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (KJV). If the pursuit of wisdom is the purpose of philosophy, then the hope of this dissertation will be to contribute to the academic pursuit of philosophical hermeneutics through a renewed humility of the self in order to embrace the edification brought through caritas.
 Controversy, according to Augustine, would have shaped the hermeneutic of Tichonius and possibly avoided heretical conclusions in the Donatists Book of Rules. Augustine argues that the warning of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:19, concerned that heresies “made us much more watchful and diligent to discover in Scripture what escaped Tichonius, who, having no enemy to guard against, was less attentive and anxious on this point.” Augustine, De doctrina Christiana 3.33.46.
 Mortimer J. Adler, “Love,” in The Syntopicon: An Index to the Great Ideas, vol. 2, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica International, 1992), 811.
 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9.8.
 Augustine, De civitate Dei 14.7.
 “Ultimately, then, if not immediately, disregard of the intentions of the Biblical authors will lead to the failure of charity our self-love or cupiditas will usurp our commitment to caritas.” Alan Jacobs, A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001), 19.
 Jacobs, 1.
 “Among the scholars to approach the issue, though not in my view to offer serious and thorough consideration of the Augustinian understandings of either love or interpretation, are Baer, Fortin, Glidden, Morrison (ch. 6), and Shafer.” Ibid., 155. (footnote #3).
 N. T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (New York: Harper Collins, 2014), 129-148.
 N. T. Wright, New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 61.
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 64.
 Helmut David Baer, “The Fruit of Charity: Using the Neighbor in De Doctrina Christiana.” Journal of Religious Ethics 24, no. 1 (spring 1996): 47–64.
 Ernest Fortin, “Augustine and the Hermeneutics of Love: Some Preliminary Considerations,” In The Birth of Philosophic Christianity: Studies in Early Christian and Medieval Thought, 1–21. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996.
 David Glidden, “Augustine’s Hermeneutics and the Principle of Charity,” Ancient Philosophy 17, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 135–157, doi:10.5840/ancientphil199717123.
 Karl F. Morrison, I Am You: The Hermeneutics of Empathy in Western Literature, Theology, and Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
 Ingrid Shafer, “From the Senses to Sense: The Hermeneutics of Love.” Zygon 29, no. 4 (December 1994), 579–602.
 Brian Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996).
 The idea of kenosis as it relates to Christian expression of humility and self-sacrifice comes from Phil. 2:1–7. Augustine’s philosophy of interpretation insists on the ‘emptying’ of one’s own prideful knowledge in exchange for the humility of interpreting the wisdom of the authorial intent. In the case of Biblical interpretation, God’s intended meaning comes through divine authorship and revelation through Christ’s kenosis as a servant.
 Jacobs, 14.
 “Pure Love seeks the beauty alone.” Plotinus, Enneads III.5.1.
 First Corinthians 13:11–13 provided a theological basis for Augustine’s philosophy of caritas. Understanding in De doctrina Christiana receives its foundation through this passage. Understanding grows from childhood to maturity. But the best understanding of the Scriptural text and God’s presence one can have is ambiguous. Faith alone gives understanding and motivation to embrace what the platonists call True Love, or caritas, for Augustine. The desire for Beauty alone results in a Beauty that is defined by Augustine as the Visio Beatifica.
 Augustine, De doctrina Christiana, Preface.5.
 Augustine, De civitate Dei 14.7.
 Augustine, De doctrina Christiana, 1.38.42, 3.15.23.
 “For this is the law of love that has been laid down by Divine authority: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;’ but, ‘Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ ” Augustine, De doctrina Christiana 1.22.21.
 Augustine, De doctrina Christiana 3.10.14.
 1 Cor. 8:1.
 Stock, 2.
 David C. Steinmetz, “The Superiority of Precritical Exegesis,” Theology Today 37 (1980–1981): 27-38.
 Stock, 2.
 Stock, 2.
 Augustine, De Ordine Book 2.