|Augustine's Thought On Morality
Augustine analyzes the root of evil
in an act such as adultery as consisting in "inordinate desire." Whereas
"cupidity desires its object," fear drives us to avoid its object. Good and
wicked people alike "desire to live without fear." But this desire motivates
good people to "turn their love away from things that cannot be possessed without the
fear of losing them," such as beauty, money, and earthly power. "The wicked, on
the other hand, try to get rid of anything that prevents them from enjoying such things
securely." It is evil to sacrifice higher goods out of cupidity for lower ones.
Augustine defines "Good will" as one "by which we desire to live upright
and honorable lives and to attain the highest wisdom." He regards the good will as
more valuable than all earthly goods and as leading to the exercise of the four cardinal
virtues of prudence.
Because of the original sin of our
first ancestors, "human nature was altered for the worse," which fallen state
"was transmitted also to their posterity," leaving us with two alternative ways
of living our lives. These ways fall into "two cities." The earthly city, and
the city of God. "the one consists of those who wish to live after the flesh, the
other of those who wish to live after the spirit"; each approach pursues its own
distinctive kind of peace.