Study Questions for the Readings by St. Augustine and St. Thomas
It is probably more difficult to wade through St. Augustine’s writing than through any of the readings that have been assigned thus far. Still, Augustine addresses some of the same questions that the other authors have discussed. In general, look for Augustine’s understanding of the cosmos (cosmology), of the nature of reality or the nature of things (ontology), and the origins of the world (cosmogony). The readings offer pretty clear answers to these general questions. Here are a few more specific questions related to the different parts of the assignment:
In Book VII, chapters 5 & 6, 29 & 30:
1. What does Augustine mean by Varro’s “natural theology” as opposed to Varro’s “civil theology”? (Note: “natural” and “physical” in this text are both translations of the Greek word phusis or physis. Though the Greek word is clearly the root of the English word physics and physical, it is usually translated as “nature.” Thus, physical theology is natural theology: reasoning about the existence and nature of God as part of what we would consider philosophy, not religion.) Ch. 5.
2. According to Augustine, what was Varro’s explanation of the difference between natural theology and civil theology? Ch. 5.
3. According to Augustine, what cosmological order of being did Varro suggest? Ch. 6.
4. According to Augustine, what is the fundamental difference between the way Christians view the world and the way Varro and the pagans view the world? Ch. 29.
5. According to Augustine, what is the relation of God to nature? Or, to turn the question around, what is the relation of each natural thing to God? Ch. 30.
In Book VIII, chapters 1 & 2, 4 & 5:
6. According to Augustine, is all pagan natural theology wrong? Is it all equally wrong? For a Christian, is it worth considering at all? Ch. 1.
7. What evidence does Augustine offer to prove that he is familiar with Greek philosophy? Ch. 2.
8. According to Augustine, which Greek philosopher is most worth of respectful consideration? Why? Ch. 4.
9. What is Augustine’s rebuttal of the Epicureans and the Stoics? Ch. 5.
In Book XIX, chapter 13:
10. According to Augustine, what—in one word!—is the basis of true peace? What synonyms for “peace” does Augustine use?
11. According to Augustine, what is the source of evil in the world?
In St. Thomas’s Question 91:
12. What is this “eternal law” that St. Thomas discusses in this question?