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Camus on St. Augustine: The Second Revelation

Camus On St. Augustine: The Second Revelation

[Sartre] is not interesting. He’s not to be compared with Albert Camus; He was a thinker!

-Eric Voegelin, “In Search of the Ground” 


The Psychological Experience of St. Augustine

Before demonstrating how the evolution that we have attempted to retrace finds in Augustinianism one of its most admirable formulas, it is necessary for us to consider the Neoplatonism of Saint Augustine. Let us first state the problem: the new Platonic philosophy has exercised its influence over the great doctor. He cites several texts of the Enneads.1 We can compare a certain number of Augustinian texts and Plotinian thoughts.

The most suggestive in this regard concern the nature of God. On God’s ineffability: Sermon 117, 5; De civitate Dei IX, 16 with Enneads VI, 9, 5; De Trinitate, VIII, 2 and XV, 5 with Enneads V, 3, 13; on his eternity: Confessions XI, 13 and Enneads III, 6, 7; on his ubiquity: Sermon 277, 13 and 18 with Enneads VI, 4, 2; on his spirituality: De civ­itate Dei XIII, 5 and Enneads VI, 8, 11.

From this influence some have been able to draw excessive conclusions.2 However, Saint Augustine’s testimony is sufficiently explicit. And the celebrated passage of the Confessions on the “books of the Platonists” gives us a very clear account of the question.Despite its length, permit us to quote the passage in full. Everything that follows will be instructive for us:

“I read . . . that at the Beginning of time the Word already was; and God had the Word abid­ing with him, and the Word was God . . . [and that] the Word, who is him­self God, is the true Light, which enlightens every soul born into the world . . . . But I did not read in them that the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us . . . [and] they do not say that he dispossessed him­self, and took on the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men, and presenting himself to us in human form; and then he lowered his own dignity, accepted an obedience that brought him to death.”3

Opposing Incarnation to Contemplation, Saint Augustine had clarified for the first time the oppositions and similarities between these two forms of thought.

But at least how far does this influence reach? What is striking in Augustinian thought is that it gathers, in a few years,4 the hesitations and reversals of Christian thought. Highly passionate, sensual, the fear of not being able to maintain continence, all these delay Augustine’s conversion for a long time.5 But he also has a taste for rational truths. It is this concern for reason that leads him to adhere to Manichaeanism, and even to Carthage, in the midst of an exuberant and voluptuous life.6

St. Ambrose and Plotinus

On many points, Manichaeanism merely continued Gnosticism, but it promised demonstrations. This is what attracted Saint Augustine.7 But the problem of evil obsessed him as well: “I was still trying to dis­cover the origin of evil, and I could find no solution.”8 And he is haunted by the idea of death. “[These were the thoughts which I turned over and over in my unhappy mind,] and my anxiety was all the more galling for the fear that death might come before I had found the truth.”9 Greek in his need for coherence, Christian in the anxieties of his sensitivity, for a long time he remained on the periphery of Christianity.

It was both the allegori­cal method of Saint Ambrose and Neoplatonic thought that convinced Saint Augustine. But at the same time they did not persuade him. The conversion was delayed. From this it appeared to him that above all the solution was not in knowledge, that the way out of his doubts and his disgust for the flesh was not through intellectual escapism, but through a full awareness of his depravity and his misery.

To love these posses­sions that carried him so low: grace would raise him high above them. Saint Augustine found himself therefore at the crossroads of the influ­ences that we are here attempting to determine. But what is the precise extent of these influences? This is what must be defined.

What Saint Augustine demanded beside faith was truth, and be­side dogmas, metaphysics. And through Augustine, Christianity itself demanded it. But if one moment he adopts Neoplatonism, this was in order soon to transfigure it. And through Augustine, Christianity itself demanded it.10 Our task is to clarify the meaning of this transfiguration.

As we have seen, Plotinus provides Saint Augustine with a doctrine of the intermediate word and, what is more, a solution to the problem of evil. The hypostasized intelligence actually clarifies the destiny of Christ as the word of God. “We have learned from a divine source that the Son of God is none other than the Wisdom of God–and most certainly the Son of God is God . . . but what do you think the wisdom of God is if not truth. And indeed, it has been said: I am the truth” (De Beata Vita, ch. IV, no. 34, P.L.I. 32, col. 975). As for evil, Plotinianism teaches Augustine that it is tied to matter and that its reality is entirely negative (Conf. VII, 12, VIII, 13). And by this all Saint Augustine’s doubts seem to have van­ished. But for all that, conversion did not come.

There is this curiosity about the author of the Confessions, namely, that his experience remains the perpetual reference for his intellectual pursuits. Satisfied but uncon­vinced, he himself remarks that it is the Incarnation and its humility that Neoplatonism has been unable to offer to him. Only after having under­stood this did an outburst of tears and joy come to deliver him in the garden of his home. It was virtually a physical conversion, so total that Saint Augustine moves progressively toward renouncing all that was his life and to consecrating himself to God.

It is therefore this place, given to Christ and the Incarnation in Christianity’s originality, that one must note in Augustine. These are the formulas and themes that he asked of Neoplatonism. The figure of Jesus and the problem of Redemption will transfigure everything. It is this conjunction of Greek themes and Christian dogmas that we must attempt to examine in a few points of Augustine’s doctrine.

Hellenism and Christianity in Saint Augustine

Evil, Grace, and Freedom. In the examination of such specifically Christian problems, our constant task will be to bring to light, in Augustinianism, the fundamental themes of Christianity. To tell the truth, a simple reminder will suffice, since we have already studied these themes.

We will not go back over the importance that the problem of evil assumes for Saint Augustine. However, it is necessary to note the extreme fecundity of this obsession. It is by beginning from this point that our author has been able to develop his most original doctrines. This same wealth will force us to divide our material. On the one hand, Saint Augustine’s thought is maintained doctrinally; on the other, in reaction to Pelagius.

Let us examine first his general doctrine, and then the controversy with the Pelagians will clarify, under the harsher light of polemics, the profound tendencies of Augustinianism. Neoplatonism maintains that evil is a privation and not a true reality. Saint Augustine agrees with this view.11 But still it is necessary to distin­guish two types of evil: natural evil (the misery of our condition, the tragedy of human destinies) and moral evil, that is to say, Sin. The for­mer is explained to the extent that shadows are justified in a painting.12 It serves the universal harmony.

Concerning the latter type, the ques­tion is more complex. How is it possible that God has endowed us with free will, that is to say, a will capable of doing evil: “Because [man] is what he now is, he is not good, nor is it in his power to become good, either because he does not see what he ought to be, or, seeing it, has not the power to be what he sees he ought to be.”13 It is that sin, the consequence of original sin, is attributable to us.

God has given us the free will of Adam, but our will has acquired the desire to serve evil. And we are so pro­foundly corrupted that it is from God alone that comes all good use of free will. Left to himself, man would possess in himself only wickedness, falsehood, and sin: “No one has anything of his own except falsehood and sin.”14 It is God who restores him when he deigns to do so.

This is why the virtues that reside in us only have meaning and value through God’s assistance, special and suited to our weakness; namely, through his grace. Saint Augustine lays great stress upon the vanity of virtue itself. First grace, then virtue; here we recognize an Evangelical theme.

Thus it is that pagan virtues are ineffectual. God has given them virtues in order to urge us to acquire them if we lack them, and to hum­ble our pride if we possess them. In Christianity, virtue, in the Hellenic sense, was never so severely tried and never on such frequent occa­sions.15 Moreover, these natural virtues instead become vices when man glorifies himself through them.16 Pride is the sin of Satan. On the con­trary, our only legitimate end is God.

And the gift God makes of his grace is always the result of his generosity. This grace is free. Those who believe they can acquire it through good works take things the wrong way. Grace would not be free if it were possible to merit it. It is necessary to go even further. To believe in God is already to experience his grace. Faith begins with Grace.17

Free Will and Pelagianism

We see to what extremes Augustine can go in his thinking. He never spares himself any of the problem’s difficulty. Of course, there is still no problem where there is only submission. Nevertheless, as is the rule in what concerns evil, this absolute dependence gives rise to great diffi­culties. Here divine grace is absolutely arbitrary: man must only have faith in God. How then can we speak of human freedom? But the diffi­culty is that our only freedom is precisely the freedom to do evil.18 Saint Augustine’s final word on this question, vital for a Christian, is an admis­sion of ignorance. Divine arbitrariness remains intact.19

It is this theory that Saint Augustine has been led to develop in all its detail in the face of the Pelagian heresy. In this case, he has been able to surpass his own thought for the needs of the cause. But it is also that his pessimism and his renunciation have retained all their bitterness. It is in this way, then, that his doctrine of freedom takes shape.

The fierceness that Saint Augustine puts into his fight against Pelagianism will be explained if we summarize the latter’s thought.20 It is from his profound experience, from his acute awareness of the wickedness in man, that Saint Augustine was suffering. A Breton monk, Pelagius feared at bottom a certain complacency in sin that can be drawn from the doctrine of predestination. A man of con­science rather than of ideas, these especially are his disciples: Celestius and Julian, who propagate his doctrines.

According to Pelagius, man had been created free. He can do good or evil as he pleases. This freedom is an emancipation from God. “Freedom of will, whereby a man was emancipated from God, consists of the abil­ity to commit sin or refrain from sin.”21 The loss of this freedom was for Saint Augustine a consequence of original sin. On the contrary, the Pelagians thought that Freedom, being governed entirely by the will, implies that man could, if he desired it, avoid sin. “I say that it is possible for a man to be without sin.”22

But then the doctrine of original sin loses all significance. And the Pelagians reject this doctrine absolutely as leading to Manichean con­clusions. If Adam has injured us, it is only through his poor example. We must not even accept the secondary consequences of the fall, like the loss of the soul’s immortality. According to Pelagius, Adam was born a mortal. Nothing of his error has been passed on to us. “New-born infants are in the same condition as Adam was before the fall.”23

If we sin easily, it is because sin has become in us a second nature.24 As the Pelagians see it, and strictly speaking, grace is useless. But as always according to Pelagius, creation is already a form of grace. For all that, grace retains its usefulness not “in order to accomplish” but “in order to accomplish more easily [the works of God].”25 It is an aid, a rec­ommendation with which God provides us.

This doctrine is found summarized in the nine points of accusation accepted by the Council of Carthage (April 29,418).26 In a general way, it demonstrates confidence in man and rejects explanations by divine arbitrariness. It is also an act of faith in man’s nature and independence. So many things that should make a man indignant fill the cry of Saint Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”27

But graver consequences followed from this. The fall denied, Redemption lost its meaning. Grace was a pardon and not a type of pro­tection. Above all, this was to declare the independence of man in rela­tion to God and to deny that constant need of the creator that is at the heart of the Christian religion.

The Loss of the Freedom Not to Sin

Against this doctrine, Saint Augustine concluded his theories with a certain number of affirmations. Adam possessed immortality.28 He was free in that he had the “ability not to sin”29 and enjoyed already a cer­tain divine grace. Original sin came to destroy that happy state. Scripture is strict on this point, and Saint Augustine himself relies on it.30 Our nature is tainted, and without baptism, man is destined for damnation (according to John II, 54). Saint Augustine sees proof of this in the uni­versal desolation of the world and in the misery of our condition, of which he paints a powerful picture.31

But these are the secondary effects of original sin. Others more inti­mate and more irremediable will indicate the extent of our misfortune. First, we have lost the freedom of the “ability not to sin.” We depend on divine grace. On the other hand, damnation is, in prin­ciple, universal. Humankind as a whole is doomed to the flames. Its only hope is divine mercy.32 From this, there follows another consequence: the damnation of unbaptized children.33

Grace is then made more urgent. And we are dependent on this grace from three points of view: in order for us to preserve our tainted nature, in order to believe the truths of the supernatural order,34 and in order to make us act according to those truths.35 But this highest grace which is faith we do not merit by our works.

However, we can merit, to a cer­tain extent, that of beneficence.36 In all cases, what determines our entire fate is Predestination. And Saint Augustine constantly returns to the gratuity of this doctrine.37 The number of the chosen, just as that of the outcasts, is set once and for all and invariably. Only then does God consider our merits and demerits in order to determine the degree of our punishment.

What we cannot know is the reason why this is so. Our freedom is a freedom to refuse the highest graces on the one hand, and to merit the secondary graces on the other. Our spontaneity applies only to the interior of divine omnipotence.38 

The Word and the Flesh: The Trinity. We have grasped in reality what in Saint Augustine is specifically Christian. If we think back to Plotinian metaphysics, we will see the infinite distance that separates the two attitudes. Thus, at least we will not be misled by the frequent parallels between the two, and we will know to make allowances for Saint Augustine’s Christianity in his Neoplatonism.

As we have seen, what he has drawn from the Platonic authors is a certain conception of the Word. But his role was to include Christ in this conception and from there to develop it into the Word made Flesh of the fourth Gospel. We must there­fore follow closely to understand what Saint Augustine has been able to ask of Neoplatonism. We will then show how these borrowed concep­tions were transformed by the doctrine of the Incarnation.

The Word and the Flesh

The Word: ” [A soul of this kind (that is, a pure soul) will be where substance and reality and the divine are]–that is in God–there it will be with them and in Him.”39 But Saint Augustine says: “The ideas are cer­tain original and principle forms of things, i.e., reasons, fixed and unchangeable, which are not themselves formed and, being thus eter­nal and existing always in the same state, are contained in the Divine Intelligence.”40 He understands God through the heart, but also through intelligence.

We see clearly that his conception is thus entirely philo­sophical, because the intelligible world that we marvel at reveals to us its secret. Our spirit, before the world, performs a double movement. Before the variety of beings produced by the intelligible, it distinguishes the idea that it encompasses, but its second effort synthesizes these ideas into a single reality that expresses them thus: “Then not only are they ideas, but they are themselves true because they are eternal and because they remain ever the same and unchangeable.”41

“This reality,” which Saint Augustine understands in this way as pure intelligence and the highest truth, “is God.”42 It is a Plotinian conception. What is at work here is the principle of participation. The ideas partici­pate in everything divine. They are in it, and yet it is something more than them.

We will reveal this relation better still through a vigorous text of de Trinitate:43

“So because there is but one Word of God, through which all things were made (Jn. 1:1-6), which is unchanging truth, in which all things are primordially and unchangingly together, not only things that are in the whole of this creation, but things that have been and will be; but there is not a question of ‘have been’ and ‘will be,’ there they simply are; and all things there are life and all are one, and indeed there is there but one ‘one’ and one life.”44

The Plotinian method shows through here. But the moment Saint Augustine incorporates this doctrine of the Word Intelligence into the theory of the Trinity, things change their meanings. Plotinus actually arranges his hypostases in a hierarchy and affirms the distance that separates the One from Intelligence. Saint Augustine, in his account, started from God, not as the source of the other two essences, but as the only nature of the Trinity. “The one God is, of course, the Trinity, and as there is one God, so there is one creator.”45

The three persons of the Trinity are therefore identical. From this there follow three fundamental consequences: the three persons have only one will and one operation. “They are supremely one without any dif­ference of natures or of wills.”46 “It is therefore not the Word alone that has appeared on earth but the entire Trinity.” “In the Incarnation of the Son it is the whole Trinity that is united to the human body.”47

Each of the three persons is equal to the entire Trinity and to God himself, who contains the other two persons: “Therefore the Father alone or the Son alone or the Holy Spirit alone is as great as the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”48 This theory of the Trinity attempts there­fore to reconcile the equality and distinction of the Persons. This is a problem that already goes beyond Plotinianism but which makes use of its method. Moreover, Augustine connects his Christology to this doctrine of the Trinity, and it is thus that the Word is separated from Neoplatonic Intelligence.

The Flesh: The Word has already been made Flesh, its body is real, earthly and born of a woman.49 This union of body and word is inde­structible. Man and Christ are one, and this is the whole Christian mys­tery:

“The fact that the Word became Flesh does not imply that the Word withdrew and was destroyed on being clothed with flesh, but rather that flesh, to avoid destruction, drew near to the Word . . . The same One who is Man is God, and the same one who is God is Man, not by a confusion of nature but by unity of person.”50

What one must note here is that the Word in Saint Augustine is increasingly Plotinian, and it is increasingly separated from Neoplatonism to the extent that the union of this Word and this Flesh becomes more miraculous. But everything is justified by one fact: Jesus’ incarnation. Though the idea is contradictory, at least the fact is obvious. And moreover, considering the grandeur of the task, the grandeur of the miracle is understandable.

Faith and Reason in Saint Augustine

Admittedly it is not an exposition of Augustinian thought that we have claimed to offer, but just as well the task does not escape us. Regarding our subject, what was important was to examine a certain conjunction of two thoughts in our author, to attempt to define in them the living part and the acquired part, and to draw from them conclusions that concern the relation between Neoplatonism and Christianity.

This is why we have centered our study of Augustinianism around the two par­ticularly suggestive themes for this subject. It remains for us only to draw the conclusions from this particular study. By so doing, we will have the opportunity to recount the general features that, up to now, we have examined in detail.

And by placing ourselves on the inside of Christian metaphysics at this point in its evolution, we will be able to envision the latter and to see how all its effort ends, with the assistance of Saint Augustine, with the reconciliation of a metaphysics and a religion, of the Word and the Flesh, without, to tell the truth, Christianity’s original physiognomy being lost in that reconciliation.

Let us summarize here only the significance of Augustinianism in relation to this evolution:

“But in all the regions where I thread my way, seeking your guidance, only in you do I find a safe haven for my mind, a gathering-place for my scattered parts, where no portion of me can depart from you. And sometimes you allow me to experience a feeling quite unlike my normal state, an inward sense of delight which, if it were to reach perfection in me, would be something not encountered in this life, though what it is I cannot tell.”51

Saint Augustine arrives at the point where Plotinian conversion comes to an end. It is the same goal that both of them seek, but their paths, though crossing occasionally, are nevertheless different. Augustinianism declares at each step the inade­quacy of philosophy. The only intelligent reason is the one that is enlightened by faith:

“True philosophy begins by an act of adherence to the supernatural order which will liberate the will from the flesh through grace, and thought from scepticism through revelation.”52

One could not emphasize this point too much.

The dialogue between Faith and Reason is placed, for the first time, in full view by Saint Augustine: this was the whole history of Christian evolution. One often wants Christian thought to be something super­fluously added to Hellenic doctrine. The claim is true. Faith has ended by accepting the Reason of which it knew nothing. But if we believe Saint Augustine, this was in order to give it a very remarkable standing:

“If thou hast not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”53

This reason is dulled. It is clarified by the light of Faith. There are two things in Augustinian faith: the adherence of the spirit to supernatural truths and the humble aban­donment of man to the grace of Christ. One must believe, not that God exists, but in God.

“But you will probably ask to be given a plausible reason why, in being taught, you must begin with faith and not rather with reason.”54 Reason must be humbled: “The beatitudes begin with humility. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ that is to say, those not puffed-up, while the soul submits itself to divine authority.”55 Thus we can grasp that the Alexandrian Word had served Christian thought without harming it. By understanding Saint Augustine, we can understand the entire course of Christianity’s evolution: to soften pro­gressively Greek reason and to incorporate it into its own edifice, but in a sphere in which it is inoffensive. Beyond this sphere, it is obliged to yield its authority.

In this regard, Neoplatonism provides Saint Augustine with a doctrine of humility and of faith. This was its role in the evolution of Christianity: to assist this relaxing of Reason, to lead Socratic logic into religious speculation, and in this way to pass on this ready-made tool to the Fathers of the Christian church. In this sense, it is possible to consider Augustinianism as a second rev­elation, the revelation of a Christian metaphysic that follows the initial revelation of Evangelical faith. The miracle is that the two may not be contradictory.

Christian Thought at the Threshold of the Middle Ages

Here ends the evolution of primitive Christianity and begins the his­tory of Christian doctrine. Augustinianism marks both an end and a beginning. We have indi­cated by what path evangelical thought has reached this point. The prin­ciple fact in its evolution is its break with Judaism and its entrance into the Greco-Roman world.56 From that moment on, the fusion begins.

Prepared by Oriental religions, Mediterranean thought is inclined to be impregnated by this new civilization. Though Neoplatonism can be con­sidered as the artisan of this fertilization, it is true that it too is born of this Greco-Oriental syncretism. The dogmatic formulas of Christianity are products of a combination of this syncretism and Evangelical faith’s own givens.

Announced by Paul and John, elaborated by the Greeks, con­verted to Christianity, these formulas find their fullest expression in Augustinianism, but not, however, before a group of Christians had been lost in false reconciliations. At bottom, the enigma is that this fusion had worked at all, because though the Greco-Roman world’s sensibility was open to the Gospel, Reason itself refused to accept a certain number of postulates. Providentialism, creationism, philosophy of history, a taste for humility, all the themes that we have pointed out run counter to the Greek attitude.

This Greek naïveté of which Schiller speaks was too full of innocence and light to abdicate without resistance. The task of the conciliators was to transform the very instrument of this attitude, that is to say, Reason, governed by the principle of contradiction, into a notion shaped by the idea of participation. Neoplatonism was the unconscious artisan of this reconciliation.

But there is a limit to the flexibility of intelligence. And Greek civilization, in the person of Plotinus, stopped halfway. It is in this gap that it may be possible to sense precisely Christianity’s origi­nality. Of course, it is the Alexandrian Word that Christian thought has transported into its dogmas. But this Word is not distinguished from God himself, and it is generated and not emanated.

But the Word is in direct contact with its creature, for whom it came to die. And that which would appear contradictory to a Greek spirit is justified in the eyes of Christians by one fact: Jesus’ appearance on Earth and his incarnation. This is the word we find at the beginning and the end of the evolution of Christian metaphysics. It is also proof that Christianity has given up none of its primitive flavor in order to veil itself in Greek thought.

On the eve of the Middle Ages, the ancient human theme of the jour­ney of a God on the earth is applied, for the first time, to the metaphysi­cal notion of divinity. And the more the metaphysic is developed, the greater will be the originality of Christianity, insofar as it will increase the distance between the Son and Man and the notions that it transfigures.



1. Enneads I, 5, On Beauty; III, 6, [sic] On Providence; III, 4, On Our Allotted Guardian Spirit; IV, 3, On Difficulties about the Soul; VI, [sic] On the Three Primary Hypostases; V, 6, On the Fact that That Which is beyond Being Does Not Think.  [The reference for On Providence should be 3.2, 3, and for On the Three Primary Hypostases, 5.1.)

2. Alfaric, L’Évolution intellectuelle de Saint Augustin.

3. Confessions VIII, C, IX: “Je lus . . . que le verbe était des le commencement; que le verbe était en Dieu et que le verbe était Dieu; qu’aussi des le commencement le verbe éta-it Dieu … que le verbe de Dieu, qui est Dieu, est cette lumière véritable qui illumine tout homme venant en ce monde … Mais je n’y lus pas le verbe a été fait homme et a habité parmi nous . . . mais je n’y lus pas qu’il s’est anéanti soi-même en prenant la forme d’un esclave; qu’il se soit rendu semblable a l’homme en se revêtant de ses informités; qu’il s’est humilié et a été obéissant jusqu’à la mort.” [Saint Augustine, Confessions, 7.9, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), 144-45.]

4. 354, 430.

5. ConfessionsVIII, ch. 1: “Adhuc tenaciter colligabar ex femina.” [Saint Augustine, Confessions, bk. 8, ch. 1: “I was still held firm in the bonds of woman’s love,” ibid., 158.]

6. Cf. Salvian, De Gubernatore Dei, Patrologie Latine, VII, 16-17: “Débordants de vices, bouillonnants d’iniquité”, des hommes engourdis par le vice et enflés de nourriture puaient la sale volupté.”

[Salvian, On the Government of God, bk. 7, ch. 16, trans. E. M. Sanford (New York: Octagon Books, 1966), 211: “(For I see the city] overflowing with vice, boiling over with every sort of iniquity–full indeed of people, but even fuller of dishonor, full of riches but fuller still of vice.” Camus’ reference should be De Gubernatione Dei, Patrologia Latina. It seems odd that Camus would offer a French translation of this passage when he claims to be citing a Latin text.]

7. ConfessionsVII, 67,24. Tes. col. 739 [sic]: “Il me persuadait que je devais me fier à des maîtres qui m’instruiraient plutôt qu’à ceux qui procéderaient par autorité.”[Saint Augustine, Confessions: “He persuaded me that I must have confidence in the mas­ters who instruct me rather than in those who would proceed by authority.”]

8. De Beata vita 4 [sic] “Je cherchais d’où vient la mal et je n’en sortais pas.” [Saint Augustine, Confessions, 7.7, trans. Pine-Coffin, 142. Nowhere in De Beata Vita have I been able to find the remark Camus cites. The passage I have offered in its place is found in the Confessions, which seems to be its real source.]

9. Confessions LVII, col. 152 [sic], Patrologia Latina, vol. 33, col. 737: “J’étais rongé par la crainte de mourir sans avoir découvert la vérité.” Cf. also his fear of death: Confessions VI, 16; VII, 19-26; Soliloquia I, 16; II, 1. [Saint Augustine, Confessions, 7.5, trans. Pine-Coffin, 139.]

10. J. Martin, Philon, 1907, p. 67: “After St. Paul, the fathers naturally had to adopt the language that Greek and Alexandrian speculation had created; and by means of this lan­guage they expressed the truths that neither Philo nor any Alexandrian had conceived”; and Puech, Les Apologistes grecs du IIe siècle de notre ère: “The essential fact is that in prin­ciple, the doctrine of the Apologists is religious and not philosophical; they believe first of all in Jesus, the Son of God. And they thus understand his divinity by the pre-existenceof the word.” And finally Le Breton, Les Origines du Dogme de la Trinité, 1910, p. 521: “If the Theology of the Logos appeared to be so profoundly transformed, it is because the person of Jesus to whom it had been applied imposed upon it these transformations.”

11.DeNatura Boni IV, P.L. vol. 42, col. 553. [The full title of this work is De Natura Boni Contra Manichaeos.]

12. Contre Julianum 111, 206, P.L. 45, col. 334. [The text to which Camus is referring is not Augustine’s Contra lulianum but rather his Contrasecundam Iuliani responsionem imperfectum 111, 206, P.L. 45, col. 1334.]

13. De libero arbitrio L 3, chap. 18, no. 51, P.L. 32-1268. [Saint Augustine, On Free Will, 3.51, in The Library of Christian Classics, vol.6, ed. J. Bailie and J. T. McNeill, trans. J. H. S. Burleigh (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 201.]

14. In Johann. V, 1 [sic], P.L. 18, vol. 35, col. 414: “Nemo habet de suo nisi mendacium atque peccatum.” Also, Sermones 156,11,12; P.L. vol. 38, col. 856: “Cumdico tibi: Sine adju-torio Dei nihil agis nihil boni dico, nam ad male agendum habes sine adjutorio Dei lib-eram voluntatem.” [Saint Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 5.1, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, ed. P. Schaff, trans. J. Gibb and J. Innes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), 31. The full Latin title of this work is loannis Evangelium.]

15.De civitate Dei V, 18,3, P.L vol.41.col. 165 [sic];V, 19,P.L.vol.41,col. 165-66;Epistolae 138, II, 17, P.L. vol. 33, col. 33; De Patientia XXVIl, 25, P.L. vol. 40, col. 624. De gratia Christi XXIV, 25, P.L vol. 44, col. 376.

16. De civitate Dei XXl, 16, P.L, vol. 41, col. 730, and XIX, chap. 25, untitled: “Quod non possint ibi verae esse virtutes ubi non est vera religio” (vol. 41, col. 656). Cf. also De diver-sis quaestionibus 83, 66, P.L. vol. 40, col. 63.

17. Above all De diversis quaestionibus bk. I, 2, P.L. vol. 40, col. 111.

18. On the metaphysical plane. In psychology, Saint Augustine concedes free will.

19. De diversis quaestionibus 1, 2, 16, P.L. vol. 40, cols. 120, 121.

20. For the works of Pelagius (Commentarium in Epistulas Sancti Pauli; Epistula ad Demetriadem; Libellus Fidei ad Innocentium papam) and those of Julian and Celestius, see P.L. vol. 30.

21. Julian, according to Augustine, Contra lulianum I, 78, P.L. vol. 45, col. 1101. See also Pelagius, Libellus Fidei 13.

[“Libertas arbitri qua a Deo emancipatus homo est, in admittendi peccati et abstinendi a peccato possibilitate consistit [sic].” This passage is not from Augustine’s Contra lulianum, as Camus suggests, but rather from his Contra secundam luliani responsionem imperfectum 1.78. The passage should read: “Libertas arbitrii, qua a Deo emancipatus homo est, in admittendi peccati et abstinendi a peccato possibilitate consistit.” There is no standard English translation of this text. The English translation I offer here is by Guy Chamberland, Laurentian University.]

22. Pelagius, according to Augustine, De natura et Gratia. Cf. also De Gratia Christi 1,5, and De gestis Pelagii.[“Ego dico posses esse hominem sine peccato.” Saint Augustine, On Nature and Grace 8, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. P. Schaff, trans. P. Holmes and R. E. Wallis (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), 123.]

23. According to Augustine, Degestis Pelagii 23. [Saint Augustine, On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 23, ibid., 193.]

24. Epistula ad Demetriadem 8,17.

25. According to Augustine, De gratia Christi I, 27, 30: “ad operandum” “ad facilius operandum.” [Saint Augustine, On the Grace of Christ, 1.27, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Schaff, trans. Holmes and Wallis, 228.]

26. According to Tixeront, Histoire des Dogmes dans l’antiquité chrétienne, ch. XI.

27. Romans 7:25 [sic]  [The reference should read Rom. 7:24.]

28. De Genesi contra manichaeos II, VIII, 32.

29. De concept, et gratia [sic], 33: “posse non peccare. [The title of this work is actually De correptione et gratia, or in English, On Rebuke and Grace.]

30. Psalm 50; Job 19:4; Ephesians 2:3; above all Romans 5:12; John 3:5.

31. Contra lulianum I, 50, 54, P.L. vol. 45, col. 1072; De civitate Dei XXII, 22; I, 3.

32. “Universa massa perditione.” De diversis quaestionibus ad simplicianum I, quaestione ll, 16.

33. Contra lulianum III, 199, P.L. vol. 45, col. 1333. [Camus mentions this teaching in a lecture he gave at the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg entitled “The Unbeliever and Christians,” later published in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 72. The con­text is Camus’ defense of himself against the charge of pessimism: “I was not the one to invent the misery of the human being or the terrifying formulas of divine malediction. I was not the one to shout Nemo bonus or the damnation of unbaptized children.”]

34. De praedestione Sanctorum 5, 7, 22.

35. Epistulae CCXVII.

36. Epistulae CLXXXVI.

37. Enchiridion XCVIII and XCIX. Epistulae CLXXXVI, 15. De dono perseverantiae, 17.

38. De Gratia et libero arbitrio 4.

39. Plotinus Ennead IV, III, 24: “C’est en Dieu, dit Plotin que l’âme pure habile avec les intelligibles.”

[Plotinus Ennead 4.3.24, trans. A. H. Armstrong, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 111.]

40. De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII,quaestione 46, no. 2, P.L. vol. 40, col. 30: “Les idées sont comme les formes premieres ou les raisons des choses, stables et immuables, n’ayant point recu leur forme eternelle par suite et toujours de meme qui sont contenues dans 1 intelligence divine.” [Saint Augustine, On Various Questions, 46, no. 2, in The Fathers of the Church: Saint Augustine: Eighty-Three Different Questions, ed. H. Dressier, trans. D. L. Mosher (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 80.l

41. De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII, quaestione 46, no. 2, P.L. vol. 40, col. 30: “Non solum sunt ideae sed ipsae verae sunt, quae eternae sunt, et ejus modi atque incom-mutabiles manent.” [Saint Augustine, On Various Questions 46, no. 2, ibid., 81.]

42. “I think, therefore he is.” If this has been compared to the cogito, it is also because the Augustinian God is an interior God.

43. In comparison to Enneads V,VII, 3;VI,VII, 3.

44. De Trinitate L, 4, G. I, no. 3. P.L. vol. 42, col. 888: “Puisque le Verbe de Dieu par qui tout a été fait est un; puisqu’il est la vérité immuable c’est en lui comme dans leur principe immuable que sont a la fois toutes choses: non seulement celles de ce monde present, mais encore celles qui ont passe et celles qui viendront. En lui elles ne sont ni passées ni futures. Elles sont simplement et toutes sont vie et toutes sont un ou plutôt c’est une seule chose qui est, et une seule vie.” [Saint Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.1, no. 3, in The Works of Saint Augustine, vol. 5, ed. J. E. Rotelle, trans. E. Hill (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1991), 154.]

45. Contra Sermone 3. [“Unis quippe deus est ipsa Trinitas et sic unus deus quomodo unus creator [sic].”This passage is actually from Saint Augustine Contra sermonem Arianorum 3.4. The text should read: “Unus quippe deus est ipsa Trinitas, et sic unus Deus, quomodo unus creator.” Saint Augustine, Contra Sermonem Arianorum, in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. 18, Arianism and Other Heresies, ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Roland J. Teske (New York: New City Press, 1995), 142.]

46. Contra Maximinum II, 10. [“Ubi nullam naturam esse, nulla est diversitas voluntatum (sic).” The full title of Augustine’s text is Contra Maximinum haereticum Arianorum Episcopum. The passage should read: “Ubi nulla naturarum, nulla est diversitas voluntatum.” Saint Augustine, Contra Maximinum haereticum Arianorum Episcopum, in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, 18: 274.]

47. De Trinitate II, 8, 9, P.L, vol. 42, col. 85. [Although Camus’ reference suggests that these quotations are taken from De Trinitate, they are actually a paraphrase of a passage from Tixeront’s Histoire des dogmes dans l’an-tiquité chrétienne, 2:364-65: “Ce n’est pas le Verbe seul qui a apparu, mais toute la Trinité”, mais Dieu . . . Dans 1’Incarnation du Fils, 1’acte qui a uni le Fils avec la nature humaine et qui 1’a ainsi envoye dans le monde est le fait de tout la Trinité.]

48. De Trinitate VI, 9, P.L. vol. 42, col. 93: “Tantus est solus pater, vel solus Filius, vel solus spiritus Sanctus, quantus est simul Pater, Filius et Spiritus Sanctus.” [Saint Augustine, On the Trinity 6.9, in The Works of Saint Augustine, vol. 5, ed. Rotelle, trans. Hill, 211.]

49. Sermone CXC, 2.

50. Sermone CLXXXVI, 1 (“Quod Verbum caro factum est, non Verbum in carnem pereundo cessit, sed caro ad Verbum ne ipsa perire, accessit . . . idem deus qui homo et qui deus, idem homo, nonconfusione naturarum, sed unitate personae [sic].”The Latin text should read: “Quod Verbum caro factum est, non Verbum in carnem pereundo cessit; sed caro ad Verbum, ne ipsa periret, accessit… Idem deus qui homo et qui Deus, idem homo; non confusione naturae, sed unitate personae.” [Saint Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, trans. Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1959), sermon 186.1, p. 10.]

51. Confessions L. X, chap. XL: “Dans aucune de ces choses que je parcours à votre lumière, je ne trouve un lieu de repos pour mon âme, si ce n’est en Vous; en Vous ma dis­persion se recueille et de vous plus rien de mieux n’échappe. Et quelquefois vous me faites entrer dans un état intérieur très extraordinaire, et goûter je ne sais quelle douceur, qui si elle se consomme en moi sera je ne sais quoi qui ne sera pas la vie présente.” (Saint Augustine, Confessions, 10.40, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), 249.]

52. Etienne Gilson, conclusion to Introduction a I’Étude de Saint Augustin.

53. In Joannis Evangelium, tractatus 29, 6, P.L. vol. 35, col. 1630: “Si non potes intel-ligere, crede ut intelligas, praecedit fides, sequitur intellectus. Ergo noli quaerere intel-ligere ut credam, sed crede ut intelligas.”

[Saint Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 29.6, vol. 7, p. 184. The first sentence of this quotation is not, as Camus indicates, from Homilies on the Gospel of John, but from Sermon 118.1.]

54. “Quam tibi persuadetur non prius ratione quam fide te esse docendum (sic).” Camus offers no reference for this text. It is from Saint Augustine De Utilitate Credendi ad Honoratum. The Latin text should read: “Qua tibi persuadeatur non prius ratione quam fide te esse docendum.” Saint Augustine, On The Usefulness of Believing, in Library of Christian Classics, vol. 6, Augustine: The Early Writings, trans. John H. Burleigh (London: SCM Press, 1953), 308.

55. De sermone domini in mente I, chap. III, no. 10, P.L. vol. 34, col. 1233: “La beatitude commence par 1’humilité. Bienheureux les pauvres en esprit c’est-à-dire ceux qui ne s’en-flent pas, mais qui se soumettent à 1’autorité divine.” [Saint Augustine, Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount 1.3, no. 10, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. P. Schaff, trans. W. Findlay (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), 6.]

56. [Camus repeats this account of Christianity’s break with Judaism and entrance into the Greco-Roman world in his essay “The New Mediterranean Culture”: “In the begin­ning Christianity was an inspiring doctrine, but a closed one, essentially Judaic, inca­pable of concessions, harsh, exclusive, and admirable. From its encounter with the Mediterranean, a new doctrine emerged: Catholicism.” In Lyrical and Critical Essays, 192.]


This excerpt is from Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism (University of Missouri Press, 2008)

Albert CamusAlbert Camus

Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-60) was a French-Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist. His best known works are The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), The Rebel (1951), The Fall (1956), and Exile and the Kingdom (1957). He was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature in 1957.

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