HomeAugustinianvol. 21 no. 1 (2020)

Making Sense Out of What’s Happening in the World: Augustine’s Philosophy of History

Prof. Rev. Fr. Czar Emmanuel V Alvarez, OSA



This paper aims to present one aspect of the thought of Augustine – namely, his interpretation of history. It also aims to demonstrate how Augustine, in his interpretation of the unfolding of events in the present world, uses an interdisciplinary approach in integrating Theology and Philosophy and using other information derived from both sacred and secular sciences. The author uses a descriptive approach in his presentation, sifting through many writings of Augustine to reconstruct what may be called “Philosophy of History”. Augustine’s interpretation of historical events is inspired by Salvation History as contained in the Bible and presupposes a linear view of history – meaning it is seen to have a clear beginning and a definitive end. Historical events are seen as propelled and motivated by two fundamental “motors” – namely, self-love (amor sui) and love of God (amor Dei). These two types of love account for the constant tensions and conflicts that characterize the way peoples interact and the societies or cities they build. The African Bishop appeals to a responsible exercise of human free will, in this regard. He remains optimistic, upholding the final triumph of goodness in the end. Augustine adapts a critical approach to the various sources he uses. He accepts what he thinks is not opposed to what the Bible says and rejects what is contrary to it. In the end, he provides us with a well-defined Christian way of interpreting history and of discerning the direction towards which events in the present world are moving.