Augustine on the Body
194 Pages

Augustine on the Body



Margart R. Miles was formerly Bussey Professor of Historical Theology at the Harvard University Divinity School. She is the author of Augustine on the Body, Image as Insight, and Carnal Knowing.



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Published 18 November 2009
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EAN13 9781725227231
Language English
Document size 15 MB

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Augustine on the Body By Miles, Margaret R. Copyright©1979 by Miles, Margaret R. ISBN 13: 9781608991952 Publication date 11/13/2009 Previously published by The American Academy of Religion, 1979
Foreword:Augustine on the Body
ortly after my 1979 dissertation,Augustine on the Body, wSo introduced us mentioned te title of my dissertation to was publised, I was introduced to te Roman Catolic teologian Karl Raner at a reception. he person Raner, wo commented in one word, “Scwer.” He was rigt; Augustine was a difficult tinker, made even more difficult by is abit of talking about body differently in different contexts. Wen urging attentiveness to spiritual matters e made disparaging remarks about body, but e could wax euporic about te beauty of bodies and te natural world wen praising “te grace of te Creator in giving us a body.” Proof-texts are not an adequate indication of Augustine’s evaluation of bodies. Schwer” indeed! Soon after te dissertation was publised, te Dean of Harvard Divinity Scool (were I was teacing) urged me to stop working on “te body.” “Enoug,” e said, “Wy don’t you go on to someting more interesting?” I did not take is well-intended advice. Rater I ave continued to seek ever more nuanced and vivid understandings of bodies. Attention to bodies and senses as opened te istory of “te Word made fles” for me. Beyond language and texts I ave studied liturgical and devotional practices, music, and images, tus gaining access to powerfully attracting features of Cristianity.
Augustine on the Body
Two emendations (if not more) ofAugustine on the Body are especially necessary. First, I would rename te book! In subsequent publications I ave stopped referring to someting labeled “te body.” he prase seems to assume and imply tat tere is suc a ting as a generic (uman) body, a body witout sex, skin color, etnicity, ealt or illness, nourisment or its lack, or any number of oter variables tat make for radically different bodies and different bodily experiences. No one as ever seen or touced “te body;” we see and touc particular bodies, bodies wit intelligence and experience. So I refer now simply to “body” or “bodies.” If I were to retitle te book, te title would beAugustine on Body. Second, and more fundamentally, wen I wrote te dissertation in 1978 I accepted too easily Augustine’s idea of te person ascomposed of body and soul/mind. As described in te capters tat follow, Augustine saw tat a description of person as stacked components, valued in ascending order— body on bottom, ten irrational soul, topped by rational soul —was an inadequate teory of person for Cristian fait. He set out to tink troug to a ricer appreciation of body, one tat was more consonant wit Cristian doctrines of creation, Incarnation, and te resurrection of body. Wat Augustine did not see, and wat I ave understood subsequent toAugustine on the Bodytat a ric sense of is person cannot be acieved by ordering, validating, or enancing components. Rater, te idea ofpersoncannot be dissected into components at all witout losing te specific integrity of te living person, irreducibly an intelligent, moving, feeling, body.
New Foreword
It is even more difficult for people wo live in an intellectual world eavily influenced by Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” tan it was for Augustine, influenced by classical tinkers, to tink beyond te “obvious” idea tat uman beings are composed of components. But we ave lost “person” as soon as we begin to tink in terms of parts. I ave never regretted beginning my formal intellectual career by studying Augustine. No oter autor could ave prepared me better for teacing te istory of Cristianity. His influence on Western Cristian ideas, institutions, and practices is ubiquitous. Altoug in te decades following my dissertation, I ave studied, taugt, and publised broadly across te centuries in wic te Cristian movements formed and grew, I ave returned again and again to conversation wit Augustine. It was Augustine wo taugt te importance of staying close to te object of one’s deligt: “Deligt is, as it were, te weigt of te soul. For deligt orders te soul. Were te soul’s deligt is, tere is its treasure.” For me, scolarly deligt began witAugustine on the Body. —Margaret R. Miles November, 2009