In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Augustine

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Life and Chronology
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Online Resources
  • Series
  • Collected Studies
  • Texts
  • Commentaries

Philosophy Augustine
Giovanni Catapano
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0422


Augustine of Hippo (Thagaste, b. 354–Hippo, d. 430 CE) brings the very person of the thinker onto the philosophical scene for the first time in the history of philosophy, with his existential vicissitudes, his spiritual travails, and his incessant search for truth. Augustine is the ancient figure we know better than anyone else, thanks to the fact that he himself has narrated in the Confessions the external and internal events of his life, from his childhood spent in Roman Africa to his conversion to a radical and demanding form of Christian existence in 386. His conversion also marks the moment in which faith is consciously and programmatically assumed as the starting point of a rational itinerary that aims at understanding the most important truths about God and the human being. Augustine’s contribution to philosophical and theological thought is broad and manifold, from the theory of knowledge and language to the conception of evil and freedom, from the doctrine of creation and time to the analysis of the mind and its acts, from the most difficult questions concerning divine grace and the Trinity to the reading of human history as the interweaving of two mystical ‘cities’. Fundamental terms of the intellectual language of the West—such as ‘sign’, ‘free will’, ‘original sin’, ‘predestination’, ‘relation’—bear the indelible imprint of Augustine’s reflection. Especially sensitive to the influence of Plotinian and Porphyrian Neoplatonism, the gigantic work of this Father of the Church—an essential link between Antiquity and the Middle Ages—has in turn influenced Western Christianity like few others, and through it European culture, right up to modern and contemporary times. Although in Augustine’s thought one cannot clearly distinguish between philosophy and theology, in this article only his works and themes that have greater philosophical prominence today are considered. Therefore, purely theological topics such as the doctrine of divine grace are excluded. Only books published or republished after 1970 are cited, with a few rare exceptions. The remaining bibliography (earlier books, essays contained in collective volumes, and journal articles) can be found by consulting the section Bibliographies.

General Overviews

Gilson 2020 is probably the most read introduction to the study of Augustine, written from the perspective of a historian of medieval philosophy. The point of view in Rist 1994, on the other hand, is that of a scholar of ancient philosophy. Fuhrer 2004 and Fuhrer 2018 place Augustine’s writings in their Late Antique philosophical and literary context. Kirwan 1989 and Flasch 2013 are quite critical of Augustine’s doctrines. Horn 2015 and Matthews 2005 are brief but thought-provoking. Catapano 2010 considers Augustine’s entire oeuvre. Tornau 2019 is a concise and up-to-date presentation.

  • Catapano, Giovanni. Agostino. Rome: Carocci Editore, 2010.

    A comprehensive profile of Augustine’s thought, based on a textual approach. Indicates and expounds the main topics of philosophical interest found in all of Augustine’s works, presented in chronological order and in their biographical and cultural context.

  • Flasch, Kurt. Augustin: Einführung in sein Denken. 4th ed. Nördlingen, Germany: Reclam, 2013.

    Fourth edition of the book originally released in 1980. A historical-genetic treatment and a critical evaluation of Augustine’s philosophical doctrines. Identifies in the theology of grace contained in the Ad Simplicianum (396 CE) the fundamental turning point of his thought.

  • Fuhrer, Therese. Augustinus. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftiche Buchgesellschaft, 2004.

    A clear and useful presentation of the life and works of Augustine. In German.

  • Fuhrer, Therese. “Augustinus (§144).” In Philosophie der Kaiserzeit und der Spätantike. Edited by Christoph Riedweg, Christoph Horn, and Dietmar Wyrwa, 1672–1750. Basel, Switzerland: Schwabe Verlag, 2018.

    An excellent and useful outline of Augustine’s life and thought. In German. See pp. 1828–1853 for additional bibliography.

  • Gilson, Étienne. The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine. Translated by L. E. M. Lynch. Providence, RI: Cluny, 2020.

    A republication of the 1960 Random House edition (which is available online). The original French edition is from 1929 (Introduction à l’étude de saint Augustin). The most famous introduction to the study of Augustine, written by the greatest historian of medieval philosophy of the 20th century.

  • Horn, Christoph. Augustinus. 3d ed. Munich: Beck, 2015.

    Third edition of the book originally released in 1995. A monograph divided into three parts: (I) life and writings, (II) philosophical and theological themes, (III) reception.

  • Kirwan, Christopher. Augustine. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

    A critical examination of Augustine’s philosophical arguments, from the perspective of an analytic philosopher.

  • Matthews, Gareth B. Augustine. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470776001

    A clear and stimulating profile of Augustine’s philosophy.

  • Rist, John M. Augustine: Ancient Thought Baptized. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511520228

    An acute interpretation of Augustine’s thought, regarded as the most powerful and comprehensive version of Christianization of ancient philosophy.

  • Tornau, Christian. “Saint Augustine.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2019.

    An excellent summary of Augustine’s philosophy with selected bibliography.

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