William Riordan O’Connor: THE UTI/FRUI DISTINCTION IN AUGUSTINE’S ETHICS

     Although there is considerable controversy regarding the correct way of interpreting Augustine’s ethics and, in particular, his theory of love, scholars tend to agree that the uti/frui distinction, by which Augustine divides the objects of love into those which ought to be used and those which ought to be enjoyed, plays a central role in his thought. Different ways of reading the uti/frui distinction must be seen against the background of a more general criticism of Augustine’s ethics, the radical critique initiated by Karl Holl and elaborated by Anders Nygren.
†1 Their attack upon Augustine’s ethics can be reduced to two fundamental charges. The first, and more basic of the two, is the charge of egocentrism. In attempting to develop a Christian ethics within a eudaemonistic framework, Augustine placed self-love, in the form of the individual human being’s desire for happiness, at the center of his ethics. In doing so, according to Holl and Nygren, he produced an ethics completely inadequate to the demands of Christian morality. Indeed, according to Nygren’s more elaborate criticism, Augustinian love—charitas—is not Christian love at all but rather a synthesis of Christian agape, the selfless love of the New Testament, and pagan eros, the self-seeking love of the Platonic tradition.†2
     This charge of egocentrism is accomplished by a charge of what can be termed “instrumentalism” regarding all objects of love other than the self.†3 Since self-love and the desire for happiness are at the very heart of Augustine’s ethics, his critics claim that everything else that is loved is actually loved as an instrument, i.e., as a means to the end of the individual’s happiness. This, of course, violates the well-known Kantian principle of always treating persons as ends and never merely as means.†4 Augustine has received some sharp criticism on this point. This charge pertains particularly to the uti/frui distinction and so we shall be especially concerned with it.
 
     However, we cannot avoid some discussion of the charge of egocentrism, which is, after all, the more fundamental of the two. The charges are interrelated and one can argue for egocentrism in Augustine on the basis of an instrumentalist reading of the uti/frui texts or appeal to Augustine’s texts on self-love and the desire for happiness to ground an instrumentalist reading of the distinction. For these reasons we shall have to address the issue of egocentrism in Augustine. Our task is made somewhat easier, however, since the charge of egocentrism has been answered in a recent study by Oliver O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine.†5 In his final chapter, O’Donovan shows that it is eudaemonism that Augustine’s opponents find objectionable and that the important question here is the metaphysical one of whether or not there is an immanent teleology in the created universe.†6 While this is certainly correct, it obscures the fact that there is another level of conflict here, a clash between eudaemonism and deontology. Since there are deontological as well as eudaemonistic elements in Augustine’s system, we will do well to begin by sorting out three patterns of ethical thought; teleology, eudaemonism, and deontology. We will then be in a position to see how these patterns can combine to form conflicting models of love.
 
II. Conflicting Models of Love: Eudaemonism vs. Deontology.†7
     Before discussing the eudaemonistic and deontological models of love it will be necessary to distinguish teleology from them. Teleology is not quite a separate pattern of ethical thought but rather a third factor that can be found in the field of ethics in conjunction with either eudaemonism or deontology.†8 Teleology is the study of tele, or purposes. In natural philosophy it posits the existence of purposes in nature and attempts to analyze natural phenomena in terms of them. In ethics teleology presents itself in the idea that human beings have, or ought to have, a purpose, the fulfillment of which is the goal of the moral life. Now the idea that the moral life has a goal can be developed in a number of ways. One possibility is to say that the purpose of the moral life is to live in harmony with the moral order. Another possibility is to say that its purpose is the happiness of the individual human being. Thus teleology can subtend either a deontological or a eudaemonistic system of ethics. We must now turn to a consideration of each of these.
     Eudaemonism we may consider rather generally as any system of ethics that bases moral obligations in the tendency of virtuous actions to produce happiness in the individual who performs them. A concern for happiness, of course, is not peculiar to eudaemonistic thinkers and it can be found among philosophers who deny that happiness is the goal of the moral life.†9 What is distinctive about eudaemonism is just the idea that moral obligations can be derived from the knowledge of what produces true happiness in the individual.†10
     We may consider deontology, once again rather generally, as the position that duty is the foundation of all moral actions, which are to be performed regardless of their consequences for the individual who performs them. It is important to realize, however, that this position does not rule out the existence of a teleology operating in nature, reason, or the moral life. Thus, the Stoics, the foremost proponents of deontology in ancient philosophy, tended to conceive of virtue as a conformity to the order of Nature or Reason, clearly a teleological notion, since it implies that the goal of the moral life is to achieve that conformity.†11 The essential thing here, however, is the insistence that this conformity is to be an end in itself. The moral life, if it is to be a truly moral life, must not involve any calculation of profit or reward.†12 A consideration of personal welfare or advantage is thus ruled out as a motivation for the truly moral person. This obviously puts deontology into immediate opposition to eudaemonism.
     But the conflict between the two runs deeper still. The central theme of deontological ethics is that of duty. The sacredness of duty and the absolute necessity of single-minded devotion to it are recurring themes among deontological thinkers.†13 Respect, reverence, awe for what is holy, these are the feelings that characterize the deontological attitude. The insistence upon a respect for duty and the holiness of the law becomes paramount. A closely related theme, which is also important for deontological theorists, is the clash between duty and inclination.†14 The psychological inclinations of the human being often oppose his sacred moral duty. Wealth, pleasure, safety, convenience, reputation can all serve to distract a person from his duty. Consequently, the notion of sacrifice for the sake of duty is especially prominent in deontological ethics. This clash between duty and inclination in deontological ethics is important because it introduces a further level of conflict with eudaemonism, especially with eudaemonism when it is combined with a natural teleology.
     The conflict between eudaemonism and deontology becomes clearer to us when we see how these three patterns of ethical thought, eudaemonism, deontology, and teleology, can interweave to determine possible love theories. Let us consider some of the possible combinations.†15 If we combine eudaemonism with a natural teleology, we have the foundation for a theory of love like that of Augustine. Such a theory could view love as a psychological inclination directed towards some good, real or apparent. Obtaining the real good results in happiness, while obtaining an apparent good at the expense of a genuine good results in misery. The important thing to notice is that there are both good and evil inclinations according to such a theory. It could interpret selfishness in terms of the qualities of the objects of love. Real goods can be shared and produce harmony among those who have them in common. Apparent goods must be appropriated exclusively. Consequently, the competition for apparent goods breeds selfishness and strife. All this could be seen as part of the working out of a universal teleology.
     From the deontological point of view, on the other hand, any following of inclination is at best non-moral and more often than not immoral. But it is precisely the following of inclination that is emphasized in eudaemonism and in the case of genuine goods it is approved. For the deontologist moral activity, doing one’s duty, involves overcoming one’s inclinations rather than following them. That is why the notions of self-mastery and self-sacrifice are so central to the deontological attitude. Selfishness for deontologists tends to be a matter of following inclinations against the claims of duty, of refusing to make sacrifices.
     We find an interesting relationship between deontology and teleology in regard to the motivation of moral actions. When deontology occurs in a system that views human actions within the context of a thorough-going natural teleology—as is the case with Stoicism—the question of motivation is not stressed, although there are frequent invocations of duty and shame and suggestions that the moral person is not concerned with reward or personal gain. But with Kant the question of motivation becomes all-important. True, he allows a teleology in nature.†16 But he posits a distinct teleology for the practical reason, a teleology that dictates that an action must be done for the sake of duty if it is to have any moral worth. All other considerations must be excluded.†17
     In Anders Nygren we find the closest thing to a “pure” deontology. All immanent teleology in creatures has been rigorously excluded. And in the moral life, agape is spontaneous and unmotivated. Nygren assures us that this does not mean that it is arbitrary and fortuitous. Agape has no motivation outside of itself, which is to say, outside of God’s holy will, which is hidden from us and mysterious.†18 God’s purposes are unknown to us, we cannot study them. Teleology is thus impossible for such a pure deontology.
     Perhaps now we can understand the nature of the conflict between Nygren’s agape and Augustine’s charitas. It is the clash between a pure deontology and a teleological eudaemonism. Each theory of love speaks its own language. One theory sees love as a duty, the other as an inclination of the will. One sees love as a sacred and mysterious phenomenon, beyond the power of human comprehension, the other sees love as a very human phenomenon, revealing the best and the worst in us, readily inteligible as the human being’s response to goodness in all its forms. For the pure deontologist, all inclinations are tainted by selfishness. For the eudaemonist, selfishness can only be overcome by following an inclination to the highest good. Physics has given us two incompatible theories of light: light as particles and light as waves. Philosophy has given us two incompatible theories of love: love as duty and love as inclination.
 
III. The Distinction in Augustine.
     Having sorted out the relations among eudaemonism, deontology, and teleology, we can now examine the way in which Augustine uses the uti/frui distinction in his ethics and be sensitive to the different strands in his thought. The distinction was developed by him within the context of his theory of love, according to which there are two kinds of love. Charity is the term Augustine uses for the good love. The connection between eudaemonism and Augustine’s theory of love is established at the outset when charity makes its appearance as the desire for the beatifying vision of God.†19 An evil love is also present from the beginning and eventually it receives the name cupidity.†20 Augustine makes numerous attempts in the early works to make room for the love of neighbor within the context of the desire for vision. His attempts meet with little success but can discern a line of development.†21
     A breakthrough of sorts comes with De Vera Religione, in which Augustine asserts that we “use” others as objects of benevolence.†22 Temporal relations come under the category of use and this remains Augustine’s consistent teaching.†23 In the same work, he gives us what becomes his standard way of reading the “as yourself” clause of the dual commandment of love. The Christian loves his neighbors as he loves himself because he wants them to attain the same vision of God that he hopes to enjoy himself. There are two important insights here which ought to be noted. The first is that a conscious use of others is quite consistent with an attitude of benevolence. A person can quite consciously manipulate others for their benefit or even for a mutual benefit and there is no reason to suspect that such actions are in themselves wrong. This is because there is a difference between instrumental actions which include the other in their ends in the sense of having the other enjoy the benefits produced by such actions and instrumental actions which exclude the other from their ends.†24
     The second insight is related to the first. Augustine says that we have an inner relationship with those whom we love as ourselves. They too can share in the desired vision.†25 Now Augustine had a tendency to describe the telos of charity indifferently as God, Truth, Beauty, the happy life, etc.†26 But there is a decidedly collectivist element in Augustine’s thought, one which became stronger as time went on. It is a triune God, after all, that human beings desire to see and the Trinity is itself the archetype of all community.†27 This is a point to which we shall return.
     The uti/frui distinction first occurs in the 390’s and the first major exposition of it occurs in the treatise De Diversis Quaestionibus 83:
 
Just as there is a difference between a good-in-itself [honestum] and a useful good [utile], so also is there between enjoying [fruendum] and using [utendum]. Although one might try to show by subtle argument that every good-in-itself is useful, and that every useful good is a good-in-itself, nevertheless it is more correct and in keeping with good usage to say that honestum means what ought to be sought after for its own sake [propter se ipsum], while utile designates that which is desired because it is directed toward something else. This is the distinction in our present explanation, keeping in mind of course that the good-in-itself and the useful good are in no way mutually exclusive. Sometimes inexperienced and unsophisticated people think that they are so opposed but we say that we enjoy [frui] that from which we take pleasure [voluptas]. We use [uti] that which we refer to an object from which pleasure is to be taken. Thus every instance of human perversion (we could also say vice) consists in willing to use the objects of enjoyment [fruendis uti velle] or in willing to enjoy the objects of use [atque utendis frui]. So, all good order [omnis ordinatio], (in other words, all virtue), requires that the object of joy be enjoyed [fruendis frui] and those of use be used [et utendis uti]. That is, goods-in-themselves [honestis] are to be enjoyed, while useful means are to be used. I call goodness in itself [honestatem] intelligible beauty, that which we term spiritual in the proper sense; on the other hand usefulness [utilitas] pertains to divine providence.†28
 
     Here Augustine indicates the source of his distinction by starting from the honestum/utile distinction of the Stoics. But he takes pains to indicate that instrumental values need not be purely instrumental, ascribing the view that they must be to the inexperienced and unsophisticated. It is also interesting to note the interplay between eudaemonism and deontology in Augustine’s thought. He immediately relates his distinction to the deontological concept of order. All human perversion inverts the proper order, objects of use are enjoyed and objects of joy are used, while the moral person respects the proper order. Thus in charity we find a right use and enjoyment, in cupidity a wrong use and enjoyment.
     Augustine’s first extensive treatment of the distinction occurs in De Doctrina Christiana and this is the classical exposition of it:

Some things are to be enjoyed, others to be used, and there are others which are to be enjoyed and used. Those things which are to be enjoyed make us blessed. These things which are to be used help, and, as it were, sustain us as we move toward blessedness in order that we may gain and cling to these things which make us blessed. If we who enjoy and use things, being placed in the midst of things of both kinds, wish to enjoy those things which should be used, our course will be impeded and sometimes deflected, so that we are retarded in obtaining those things that are to be enjoyed, or even prevented altogether, shackled by an inferior love.†29
 
     The uti/frui distinction is now explicitly made threefold: there are things to be both enjoyed and used. Clearly Augustine wishes to allow for some kind of enjoyment of human beings. But it is not at all clear how uti values can possess any but a purely instrumental role. That they are mere instruments is the clear implication of the journey image that Augustine employs. We need vehicles to return home and we must not be delighted by the amenities of the journey.†30 But interestingly, the collectivist side of Augustine’s thought comes in almost immediately. He stresses that our end is a social one, a community of persons enjoying a Trinity of Persons.†31
     When it comes to the love of neighbor, however, Augustine seems to retract his concession that they may in some sense be enjoyed. For now he emphatically denies that human beings are to be enjoyed. Humans are to be loved propter aliud, for the sake of something else, i.e., they are to be used. They must not be loved propter se, for the sake of themselves. They are not to be enjoyed:
 
There is a profound question as to whether men should enjoy themselves, use themselves, or do both. For it is commanded to us that we should love one another, but it is to be asked whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake or for the sake of something else. If for his own sake, we enjoy him; if for the sake of something else, we use him. But I think that man is to loved for the sake of something else. In that which is to be loved for its own sake the blessed life resides; and if we do not have it for the present, the hope for it now consoles us. But ‘cursed be the man that trusteth in man.’†32
 
     Consistently, Augustine goes on to assert that no one ought to enjoy himself either. The person who loves himself on his own account [propter se] is turned toward himself, a mutable thing. But this prevents him from attaining the immutable peace of the happy life. Here we have a clear indication that Augustine sees the love of anything that is mutable to be dangerous, to threaten one’s salvation.
     Once again, however, the collectivist side of Augustine’s thought comes to the fore. The love of neighbor occurs within the context of the desire for visions, which has a social dimension to it. We have spoken of the difference between instrumental action with an inclusive end and instrumental actions with an exclusive end. Augustine now emphasizes the inclusive nature of charity with an odd analogy. He compares the actions of those who love God to the way in which an actor’s fan club would behave. This is an important passage since it reveals some of the tensions in Augustine’s thought. It illustrates the relationship between the love of God and the love of neighbor. Here the love of neighbor is interpreted as a kind of spiritual fellowship grounded entirely upon the love for God, the desire to see him. The shared love for God is the basis for a genuine communal feeling. At the same time the notion of stirring up the love for God in others reflects the idea that charity has an inclusive end.†33 Yet Augustine’s eudaemonism takes over at the end of the passage when he speaks of God’s eternal reward as the object of charity:
 
If in the idle following of the theater a man loves a certain actor and enjoys his art as a great good or even as the greatest good, he loves all those who share his love for the actor, not on their own account, but on account of him whom they love together. And the more fervent is his love for the actor, the more he will behave in every way possible so that he will be loved by many, and the more he will wish that many people can see him. If he sees anyone more indifferent, he excites him as much as he can with the praises of the actor. If he finds anyone opposed to the actor, he most vehemently hates in that man the hate of his beloved, and he strives to remove that feeling in every possible way. Does not this pattern of behavior befit the action of us who are united in the brotherhood of the love of God [in societate dilectionis Dei], to enjoy whom is to live the blessed life, and to whom all who love him owe not only the fact that they exist but also the fact that they love him? We have no fear that anyone who knows him could be displeased. And he wishes to be loved, not for selfish ends, but so that he may confer an eternal reward on those who love him, which is the very object of their love.†34
 
     Now Augustine comes to an important point. He compares our love for God and neighbor with God’s love for human beings. God’s love for human beings is a love of use that has their benefit in mind. God’s desire to share himself with human beings is an inclusive end. This divine love for human beings is the model for the Christian’s love of neighbor. The neighbor is to be loved with his benefit in mind. But there are some significant differences as well. The Christian’s use of other persons is referred to the enjoyment of the goodness of God. The love for neighbors has an ultimate term that is independent of the Christian and external to him. God’s love for human beings, on the other hand, is referred to his own goodness, there being no goodness independent of God. Secondly, while God does not benefit from loving humans, humans benefit from loving each other. But note that they benefit themselves indirectly and “in a curious way.” The motivation in neighborly love is a desire to promote the neighbor’s welfare. Notice also that Augustine now uses a collectivist formula—enjoying God and one another in God—to describe the reward of charity:
 
For God loves us, and the divine Scripture comments on his great love for us. How does he love us? So that he may use us, or so that he may enjoy us? … He does not enjoy us but uses us…. But he does not use a thing as we do. For we refer the things that we use to the enjoyment of the goodness of God; but God refers his use of us to his own good … That use which God is said to make of us is made not to his utility but to ours, and insofar as he is concerned refers only to his own goodness. When we are merciful to anyone and assist him, we do so for his utility, which is our goal; but in a curious way our own utility follows as a consequence when God does not leave that compassion which we expended on one who needs it without reward. The greatest reward is that we enjoy him and that all of us who enjoy him may enjoy one another in him.†35
 
     But trouble returns when Augustine specifies what he means by enjoying another “in God.” Here he states that the enjoyment is entirely of God, rather than the human being. He also focuses upon the subjective, personal happiness of the individual enjoying God. Finally, he states that enjoyment is very like use with delight. This seems to imply that enjoyment is really a kind of terminal use, which seems to give an instrumentalist cast to the love for God, who would be used by humans for the sake of the happiness he gives them. The charges of egocentrism and instrumentalism are not without textual foundations:
 
When you enjoy a man in God, it is God rather than the man whom you enjoy, for you take joy in him who will make you blessed, and you will rejoice that you have reached him in whom you place your hope that you may come … However, enjoyment is very like use with delight. When that which is loved is near, it necessarily brings with it delight also. If you pass on through this delight and have referred it to that goal where you should remain, you are using it and may only improperly be said to be enjoying it. And this kind of enjoyment should not be indulged except with reference to the Trinity, which is the highest good and is immutable.†36
 
     Let us close our consideration of De Doctrina Christiana with a look at two passages that seem to reveal an inconsistency in Augustine’s theory of love. In the first passage, Augustine tells us of a difference between the love of temporal things and the love of eternal things. Temporal goods cease to interest us once we acquire them but the eternal good is loved even more when we possess it:
 
Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul, whose true and certain rest is eternity; but the eternal is more ardently loved when it is acquired than when it is merely desired.†37
 
     This passage, however, seems to conflict with the formal definition of charity and cupidity given in Book III. Both types of love are described as movements of the soul, emphasizing the dynamic quality of love:
 
I call “charity” the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor for the sake of God; but “cupidity” is a motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of one’s self, one’s neighbor, or any corporal thing for the sake of something other than God.†38
 
But if charity is a motion of the soul, how is it possible for it to still exist, still less increase, in the soul at the time of the final vision when, Augustine also assures us, the soul will be at rest? This would seem to indicate that charity takes a different form when the soul is brought to perfection and enjoys the sight of God. This is a point we shall have to address later.
     The uti/frui distinction is also present in the two great works of Augustine’s later period, De Trinitate and De Civitate Dei. The key texts from both of these works show that Augustine continues to apply it in the same overall manner. Human life is governed by charity and cupidity. Our fellow humans may be loved but only with the correct intention of charity, only within the context of the desire for God. The neighbor may be enjoyed, but only “in God.” Any love that occurs outside the context of the desire for God is an instance of cupidity. Thus, in De Trinitate Augustine tells us:
 
(E)ither by desire [cupiditas] or love [charitas]: not that the creature ought not to be loved, but if that love for him is referred to the Creator, it will no longer be desire but love. For desire is then present when the creature is loved on account of himself. Then it does not help him who uses it, but corrupts him who enjoys it. Since the creature, therefore, is either equal or inferior to us, we must use the inferior for God and enjoy the equal, but in God.†39
 
     In De Trinitate Augustine explores the human psyche in an effort to discover in it the image of the triune God. In the course of his examination of the mental life he discusses the relationship between memory, understanding, and will. This is important because the will bears directly upon the uti/frui distinction. Here Augustine is speaking of objects of knowledge but his remarks apply to any object of the will. It would appear that the will is present in both use and enjoyment, the difference between them now being explained in terms of whether the will goes beyond its object in desiring something else, or rests in its object as satisfying its desires. In the one case we are using something, in the other we are enjoying it. Note also that Augustine retains the ordered and disordered loves of the early works:
 
In two of these three, therefore, in the memory and the understanding, the knowledge and science of many things are contained; but the will is present by which we may enjoy or use them. For we enjoy the things that we know when the will rests by rejoicing in them for their own sake; but we use things by referring them to something else which we are to enjoy. Neither is the life of man vicious in any other way than in enjoying things badly and in using them badly.†40
 
     In another passage, Augustine spells out exactly how use and enjoyment relate both to the will and to each other. In De Doctrina Christiana, he had stated that enjoyment was “very like” use with delight. Now he makes it clear that enjoyment is indeed a kind of terminal use. To use something, he tells us, is to take it up into the power of the will, while to enjoy something is to use it with the joy of the actual thing.†41 It is a passage that can easily be exploited by those who would charge Augustine with instrumentalism and egocentrism. Now it appears that even God is to be “used”:
 
(U)se, lies in the will which disposes of those things that are contained in the memory and the understanding, whether it refers them to something else, or rests satisfied in them as an end. For to use is to take something into the power of the will, but to enjoy is to use with the joy, not of hope, but of the actual thing. Therefore, everyone who enjoys, uses, for he takes up something into the power of the will and finds pleasure in it as an end. But not everyone who uses enjoys, if he has sought after that which he takes up into the power of the will, not on account of the thing itself, but on account of something else.†42
 
     Finally, in De Civitate Dei we find a passage in which Augustine reiterates the uti/frui distinction in its main lines, here stating that it is temporal things that are to be used and eternal things that are to be enjoyed. It is true that he does not say directly here that human beings ought to be used. But when he has spoken of enjoying a human being, he has been careful of adding the qualification “in God.”†43 Further, Augustine has consistently maintained that purely temporal relationships, and the temporal aspects of the human being, are not to be enjoyed.†44 There is thus no reason to suspect that this passage represents any change of opinion. Indeed, we once again find Augustine relating the distinction to his notion of the order of love.
 
I am aware that, properly speaking, fruit is what one enjoys, use (practice) what one uses. And this seems to be the difference between them, that we are said to enjoy that which in itself and, irrespective of other ends, delights us; to use that which we seek for the sake of some end beyond. For which reason the things of time are to be used rather than enjoyed, that we may deserve to enjoy things eternal; and not as those perverse creatures who would fain enjoy money and use God—not spending money for God’s sake, but worshipping God for money’s sake. However, in common parlance, we both use fruits and enjoy uses. For we correctly speak of the “fruits of the field,” which we certainly use.†45
 
IV. The Charge of Instrumentalism.
     Our first task in assessing the charges against Augustine’s ethics will be to find out to what extent instrumentalism is a feature of his theory of love. That he advocates a definitely instrumental attitude toward temporal goods cannot be denied. One can see it emerging clearly in the early works and it continues throughout his career.†46 Furthermore, there does seem to be some sort of continuity in the attitude that Augustine advocates with regard to things and people. At the very least, this would seem to be an implication of his bringing them both together under the category of things to be used. This implication is reinforced by the various means/ends analogies he uses to contrast use and enjoyment.†47 On the other hand, we have seen that Augustine is aware of the difference between instrumental action with an inclusive end and instrumental action with an exclusive end. But the charge of instrumentalism gains considerable plausibility when Augustine tells us in De Doctrina Christiana that enjoyment is very like use with delight.†48 Conclusive evidence seems to be found in De Trinitate, in which he admits that enjoyment is really a type of use.†49 The upshot of this would seem to be, as we have noted, that even the love for God is instrumental in nature, God being desired for the sake of the happiness he bestows upon human beings.
     The answer to this requires a close examination of what Augustine means by “usus.” It may very well be the case that the term does not imply an instrumental attitude in all cases. We would do well here to recall that according to Augustine’s own definition to use merely means to take up something into the power of the will, i.e., to apply the will to something, consciously to allow the will be to become engaged with it.†50 This in itself does not dictate an instrumental attitude.

     But the instrumentalist interpretation of Augustine’s category of use, according to which the primary sense of usus is exploitation or manipulation, is ruled out by a consideration of the following text from De Trinitate, in which he discusses the internal relations of the Persons of the Trinity:
 
This ineffable embrace of the Father and the Image is, therefore, not without pleasure, without love, or without joy. Consequently, this love, this delight, this happiness, if indeed it can be worthily expressed by any human word, is briefly defined as Use by the above-mentioned writer [Hilary of Poitiers].†51
 
     Here we find a number of Augustine’s ideas about love coming together.
     Charity in Augustine also works as a vis unitiva, expressing itself as a desire for union, the desire of the human soul to join itself to the triune God and to enjoy God in communion with others.†52 That a joyful unity should be called usus is quite consistent with Augustine’s description of use as an engagement of the will. Moreover, in as much as the internal relations of the Person of the Trinity serve as the model for all relations among persons, this non-instrumental sense of usus as joyful unity must be considered the primary and exemplary sense of the term.†53 Clearly, there is no question of an exploitative relationship existing within the Trinity. The instrumental sense of usus, which is certainly part of its overall meaning, can only be a derivative sense.
     A clue to how it can be derived from the primary sense of usus as joyful unity appears when one recalls Augustine’s concept of the order of love. The person who respects the right order of love loves God above all else and his neighbor as himself in that he hopes that his neighbor attains what he himself desires. If he “uses” his neighbor, it is with an inclusive end in mind. Since he does not now enjoy being united with his neighbor in the actual vision of God, he directs him toward that inclusive end, allows that end to determne his relations with his fellow human beings. On the other hand, Augustine makes it quite clear that the person ruled by cupidity inverts the order of love. He seeks to enjoy a temporal good and his appropriation of it implies the exclusion of other from that good.†54 Here we find a purely instrumental attitude in which the other, including God, is viewed merely as a means to an end.†55 In short, a purely instrumental attitude toward other persons occurs when one inverts the proper order of love.
     To summarize, then, Augustine’s primary sense of usus point to the unity of the Persons in the Trinity as the model of all intersubjective unions. In the course of this earthly life, however, true intersubjectivity is impossible to achieve. This is an important point for Augustine, the major stumbling block for personal, temporal relations.†56 The neighbor in this life is always in some sense an object for us, whatever the degree of intimacy we have with him. A kind of instrumental attitude, then, is present in all temporal relationships. In charity, however, we treat the neighbor with a regard for his eternal destiny and include him in the desired end, while in cupidity he is excluded from the desired end. It is in cupidity, in the final analysis, that we discover a purely instrumental, exploitative attitude towards other persons. But we do not find it in Augustinian charity.
 
V. The Charge of Egocentrism
     Much of what we have already said in reply to the charge of instrumentalism applies as well to that of egocentrism. Although Augustine will speak of the goal of charity variously as God, the happly life, peace, etc., his conception of charity as a vis unitiva—and this function of charity becomes increasingly important in his later thought—makes it clear that the telos of human life is the communion of saints enjoying the vision of God.†57 This also relates to his notion of enjoying another human being “in God.” The neighbor is enjoyed not as he is, fraught with imperfections, but as he shall be, purified and brought to perfection.†58 The ultimate ground for the communion of saints united in charity is the triune God as the very archetype of community. The Holy Spirit functions as the principle of unity not only within the Trinity but within the Christian community as well.†59 Augustine’s eudaemonism is ultimately an intersubjective eudaemonism.
     Sometimes we find that Augustine’s teaching that charity persists, or rather increases, in the experience of the final vision is brought forth as evidence that his system is based upon an egoistic eudaemonism. If charity is a desire for the vision of God as producing happiness then its persistence in the final vision indicates that even then a kind of self-seeking attitude endures.†60
     Now we have had occasion to note a seeming inconsistency in Augustine’s theory of love regarding his position that charity increases in the final vision. For if charity is a motion of the soul how can it exist when the soul rests in the vision of God? It is quite true that Augustinian charity is closely tied in with need and desire. Yet Augustine also follows Scripture in claiming that God is charity.†61 But how can God be identified with charity, with its connotations of need and desire, when God stands in need of nothing? We must remember, however, that charity is also identified with enjoyment and delight, which imply no deficiency in themselves, and so God can be legitimately identified with charity.†62
     This also helps us to understand how charity increases in the final visions. It is not the imperfect charity of need and desire that is experienced in the vision but charity brought to perfection, the charity of joyful union. In defining human emotions as they occur in one with a “rightly-directed will” in De Civitate Dei, Augustine tells us: “Love, yearning to have what is loved is desire; and having and enjoying it, is joy.”†63 But short of that perfection, there is always an element of need and desire in charity, for the human soul is not satisfied by temporal goods.
 
VI. Eudaemonism, Deontology, and Christian Ethics
     We have examined the main charges against Augustine’s theory of love. But we must remember the origin of these charges. There are two incompatible models of love to be found in the history of Christian ethics, the deontological model of love as duty and the eudaemonistic model of love as inclination. Let us discuss the possibilities and limitations of each of these abstract models of love for a theory of Christian love.
     The great appeal of the eudaemonistic model of love lies in the intelligibility it gives—or rather, presupposes in—God’s creation. We can see this clearly if we look at what Augustine accomplished in conjunction with a eudaemonistic model. He was able to set Christianity against the various philosophical sects of his time and argue for the superiority of Christianity to them as promising genuine happiness.†64 The significance of this as a proselytical device should not be overlooked. But more importantly, it recognized that Christianity can and should compete on an intellectual level with secular system of thought. Augustine even related his theory of love to the physics of his day. Indeed, it provided him with one of his leading images for the power and effect of love.†65 He developed a philosophical psychology explaining human actions in terms of the inclinations of cupidity and charity.†66 He developed a theory of human society within the context of a comprehensive theology of history, explaining the rise and fall of nations with reference to God’s plan of salvation.†67 All of this, of course, relates to Augustine’s positing an immanent teleology in the created universe.
     It is this immanent teleology that Augustine’s critics reject, referring all to God’s mysterious will. But what the deontologists lose in intelligibility they gain in mystery. The appeal of the deontological model of love for Christian thinkers lies precisely in its elevation of the non-rational factor in love, emphasizing the fact that no matter what efforts we make to understand the phenomenon of Christian love it yet remains something mysterious to us, something more than human, something not quite explicable. If this were not in some sense so, such love would lose its power to fascinate us.†68
     These, then, are the issues involved in the choice of a deontological or a eudaemonistic model of love by a Christian thinker: Does the doctrine of creation allow for a immanent teleology? To what extent are God’s purposes hidden in his inscrutable will? What are the proper roles of mystery and understanding in the Christian faith?
     The deontological model of love seems fitted for a more theocentric theology, one that tends to maximize the role of God and to diminish the role of the human being. With its tendency to take a dim view of all human inclinations, deontology is particularly well-suited to a theology which sees the Fall as a devastating event, leaving the human being without resources, completely helpless until the mysterious intervention of divine grace. This helps to explain the appeal of deontology to Protestant critics of Augustine such as Nygren.†69
     But human reason has its own obligations, follows its own inclinations. In the face of what is mysterious to it, reason must still attempt to understand it the best it can. Augustine knew well that the true mysteries are those that have an intelligibility that remains hidden from us.†70 He was well aware of the role of mystery in Christianity as well as of the need of the Christian to understand his faith. In choosing eudaemonism in his attempt to come to an intellectus fidel, Augustine, it is true, restricted the role of mystery in Christianity somewhat, but he allowed for more of an understanding. In choosing eudaemonism, he made Christianity a more intelligible and appealing religion to the people of his time. In choosing eudaemonism, Augustine chose wisely.†71
William Riordan O’Connor
Bronx, N.Y.
 
Notes

1. Karl Holl, “Augustins Innere Entwicklung,” Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Kirchen geschichte, III (1928), pp. 54–116; Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros, trans. P.S. Watson, (London: S. P. C. K., 1953).

2. Nygren, pp. 449–451.

3. John Burnaby, “Augustine of Hippo. St., and Augustinian Ethics,” Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ed. John Macquarrie, (Philadelphia: Westminister, 1967), p. 23 (citing Holl); Hannah Arendt, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin: Versuch einer philosphischen Interpretation, Philos, Forsuchungen, hrs. K. Jaspers, 9, (Berlin: J. Springer, 1926), pp. 68–71; Nygren, pp. 551–553, esp. p. 551, n. 5.

4. Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. Thomas K. Abbott, The Library of Liberal Arts, 16, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1949), p. 46: “Accordingly, the practical imperative will be as follows: So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only.”

5. The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).

6. O’Donovan, pp. 158–159.

7. For a fuller treatment of these strands of ethical thought as they occur in theories of love in ancient philosophy, see the present author’s “Augustine’s Philosophy of Love,” Diss. Fordham 1982, pp. 1–29.

8. This fact has been obscured by the tendency in modern ethics to oppose deontology and teleology as mutually exclusive options in ethical theory. See Paul W. Taylor, Principles of Ethics: An Introduction, (Belmont, California: Dickenson Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), pp. 55–58. As Taylor points out, moral reasoning can involve both teleological and deontological factors, which indicates that the two may not be incompatable. Historically, both Stoicism and Kant afford examples of a deontology subtended by teleology.

9. This is particularly true of the Stoics. See Seneca, De Beata Vita VIII, 13.

10. Such knowledge, of course, is not universal and hence it is not part of the eudaemonistic position as such that all morality can be deduced from a consideration of self-interest.

11. Cf. Epictetus, Discourses I, xxvi and Marcus Aurelius, Meditations II, 16.

12. A good statement of this idea can be found in Cicero, De Finibus II, 45–46.

13. Cf. Epictetus, Discourses I, xiv; Marcus Aurelius, Meditations VII, 45; and Kant, Fundamental Principles, pp. 15–18.

14. Cf. Epictetus, Discourses I, xviii; Marcus Aurelius, Meditations III, 12; and Kant, Fundamental Principles, pp. 15–18.

15. It should be clear that we are considering abstract types of ethical theories. Nevertheless, these abstract types do suggest certain actual positions, viz., eudaemonism with teleology (Aristotle, Augustine), eudaemonism without teleology (Democritus, Epicurus), deontology with teleology (the Stoics, Kant), and deontology without teleology (Nygren).

16. The Critique of Judgment, second part.

17. See Kant’s conception of the “kingdom of ends”: Fundamental Principles, pp. 50–52.

18. Nygren, p. 75: “Agape is spontaneous and ‘unmotivated.’ This is the most striking feature of God’s love as Jesus represents it. We look in vain for an explanation of God’s love in the character of the man who is the object of his love. God’s love is ‘groundless’ —though not, of course, in the sense that there is no ground for it at all, orthat it is arbitrary and fortuitous. On the contrary, it is just in order to bring out the element of necessity in it that we describe it as ‘groundless’; our purpose is to emphasize that there are no extrinsic grounds for it. The only ground for it is to be found in God himself. God’s love is altogether spontaneous.”

19. Soliloquia I, 12.

20. It appears as libido, the love of temporal goods, in De Libero Arbitrio I, 10.

21. In the earliest works the love of temporal goods is roundly condemned. Temporal goods are to be “tolerated” but not loved. See Soliloquia I, 17–22. De Libero Arbitric I, 33 approves the use of temporal goods as opposed to loving them. (O’Donovan is quite right when he asserts, p. 25, that use and enjoyment are used independently in the earliest works. Furthermore, “use” seems to have a purely instrumental sense in these works.) The work De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae et de Moribus Manichaeorum in many ways reveals the general trend of Augustine’s thought toward accommodating the love of neighbor to the desire for God. At I, 13 he states that God must be loved as the supreme Good and that we must not stop at anything below God. He approved of the love of neighbor at I, 48 as a “step” to the love of God. Finally, in the second book (II,27) he develops a morality of intention that allows temporal goods to be loved with the correct intention of charity.

22. De Vera Religione, 91.

23. Cf. De Libero Arbitrio I, 33 and De Civitate Dei XI, 25.

24. This possibility is implicitly recognized by Kant’s formula, which condemns treating persons “as means only.”

25. De Vera Religione: Of True Religion, trans. Louis O. Mink, (Chicago; Henry Regnery Company, 1959), 86–87; p. 83: “For he loves God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind, and his neighbor as himself. Rather he even helps him as much as possible. He cannot lose his neighbor whom he loves as himself, for he does not love even in himself the things that appear to the eyes or to any other bodily sense. So he has inward fellowship with him [apud seipsum habere] whom he loves as himself. The rule of love is that one should wish his friend to have all the good things he wants to have himself. He shows this benevolence to all men.”

26. Cf. De Ordine I, 23; Soliloquia I, 17; De Libero Arbitrio II, 37–38; De Moribus I, 18 and I, 46.

27. A classic statement of this, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit as the principle of unity both within the Trinity and the Christian community, is De Trinitate: The Trinity, trans. Stephen McKenna, C.SS.R., The Fathers of the Church, vol. 45, (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963), VI, 7; p. 206: “Wherefore the Holy Spirit also subsists in this same unity and equality of substance… Through him both are joined together; through him the begotten is loved by the begetter, and in turn loves him who begot him; in him they preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace, not by a participation but by their own essence, not by the gift of anyone superior to themselves but by their own gift. And we are commanded by grace to imitate this unity, both in our relations with God as well as among ourselves.” See also Mary T. Clark, Augustinian Personalism, The Saint Augustine Lecture 1969, (Villanova: Villanova University Press, 1970), pp. 13–20.

28. De Diversis Quaestionibus LXXXIII, q. 30, cited and translated by Vernon J. Bourke, Joy in Augustine’s Ethics, The Saint Augustine Lecture 1978, (Villanova: Villanova University Press, 1979), pp. 30–31.

29. De Doctrina Christiana: On Christian Doctrine, trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr., Library of Liberal Arts, 80, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958), I, 3; p. 9.

30. Ibid., I, 4; pp. 9–10.

31. Ibid., I, 5; p. 10: “The things that are to be enjoyed are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a single Trinity, a certain supreme thing common to all who enjoy it.”

32. Ibid., I, 20; p. 18.

33. [? location of text ref.] Ibid., I, 21; pp. 18–19: “But if he loves himself on his own account he does not turn himself toward God, but, being turn toward himself, he does not care for anything immutable … He is better when he adheres to and is bound completely to the immutable good than when he lapses away from it, even toward himself.”

34. Ibid., I, 30; pp. 24–25.

35. Ibid., I, 34–35; pp. 27–28.

36. Ibid., I, 37; pp. 28–29.

37. Ibid., I, 42, p. 32.

38. Ibid., III, 16; p. 88.

39. De Trinitate IX, 13; p. 282.

40. Ibid., X, 13; pp. 307–308.

41. O’Donovan claims (p. 29, n. 53) that this is a different meaning of the two terms than they have in the pair usus-fruitio and in support of this claim he cites De Civitate Dei XI, 25 (quoted above, p. 18). But in this text Augustine seems merely to be recognizing that in common speech the two terms overlap, something he has recognized from the beginning (Cf. De Diversis Quaestionibus LXXXIII, q. 30, quoted above, pp. 8–9). Furthermore, it is unlikely that De Trinitate X, 17 is anything but an elaboration of the distinction in X, 13. But O’Donovan has his own reasons for trying to avoid the obvious implications of the text: He regards “using friends” as a “scandalous formula” (p. 28).

42. De Trinitate X, 17; pp. 310–311.

43. Augustine gives his reason for this in De Doctrina Christiana I, 37; p. 28: “… Paul wrote to Philimon, ‘Yea, brother,’ he said, ‘may I enjoy thee in the Lord.’ If he had not added ‘in the Lord’ but had said merely ‘I enjoy thee,’ he would have placed his hope of blessedness in Philemon.”

44. Cf. De Libero Arbitrio I, 32; De Vera Religione 88–89; De Civitate Dei XIX, 8.

45. De Civitate Dei: The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods, D.D., (New York: Random House, The Modern Library, 1950), XI, 25: pp. 369–370.

46. See above, n. 21.

47. The most important of these is the “journey image” of De Doctrina Christiana I, 4. Cf. De Beata Vita, 1–5.

48. De Doctrina Christiana I, 37, quoted above p. 14.

49. De Trinitate X, 17, quoted above, p. 17.

50. See above, p. 17.

51. De Trinitate VI, 11; p. 213.

52. Ibid., IV, 12; p. 146: “For they human beings could not be one in themselves since they were separated from one another by conflicting inclinations, desires, and uncleanliness of sin. They are, therefore, purified through the Mediator, in order that they may be one in him, and indeed not only through the same nature in which all mortal men become equal to the angels, but also through the same will working together most harmoniously towards the same blessedness, and fused together in some way through the fire of charity into one spirit.”

53. See above, note 27. Augustine recognized such joyful unity as part of the experience of friendship. Confessiones: The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. John K. Ryan, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Image Books, 1960) II, 10; pp. 70–71: “The friendship of men, bound together by a loving tie, is sweet because of the unity that it fashions among many souls.”

54. Augustine contrasts eternal goods and temporal goods in De Libero Arbitrio* On Free Choice of the Will, trans. Anna S. Benjamin and L. H. Hackstaff, The Library of Liberal Arts, 150, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976), II, 38; pp. 69–70: “For truth receives all its lovers without arousing their envy. It is open to all, yet it is always chaste. No one says to the other, ‘Get back! Let me approach too! Hands off! Let me also embrace it!’ … Whatever you take from truth and wisdom, they still remain complete for me. I need not wait for you to return the source of your inspiration in order that I too can be inspired by the truth. No part of truth is ever made the private property of anyone; rather, it is entirely common to all at the same time.”

55. De Civitate Dei XI, 25, quoted above, p. 18.

56. De Civitate Dei XIX, 5 is a late statement of this theme, which is present from the very beginning of his career. Cf. Soliloquia I, 7.

57. Perhaps this is best expressed by the first person plural of the climax of De Civitate Dei, XXII, 30: “There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise. This is what shall be in the end without end.”

58. De Trinitate, I, 21; pp. 32–33: “God loves us such as we shall be, and not such as we are … But through what merit on our part, if not that of faith through which we believe before we see that which is promised? For by this we shall arrive at sight, so that he may love us because we are, and he exhorts us and enables us to will that we may not always remain such as we are.”

59. See above, note 27.

60. Nygren, pp. 511–512.

61. De Trinitate VIII, 12; p. 263.

62. See above, pp. 19–20.

63. De Civitate Dei XIV, 7; p. 449.

64. Ibid., XIX.

65. The amor/pondus image: See De Civitate Dei XI, 28. Cf. Confessiones XIII, 10.

66. The autobiographical books of Confessiones can be read as a psychological “case history,” illustrating the effects of the two loves.

67. De Civitate Dei IV, 33; p. 140: “Therefore that God … himself gives earthly kingdoms both to good and bad. Neither does he do this rashly … but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to himself; which same order of times, however, he does not serve as subject to it, but himself rules as lord and appoints as governor.”

68. See Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, trans. John W. Harvey, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), which is a connecting link in the deontological traditions between Kant and Nygren.

69. The great irony here, of course, is that the Doctor of Grace had a great influence upon the reformers. See Nygren, pp. 559–562. Cf. Bourke, pp. 18–21.

70. De Diversis Quaestionibus ad Simplicianum: “To Simplician on Various Questions,” in Augustine: Earlier Writing, ed. John H. S. Birleigh, The Library of Christian Classics, Vol. VI, (London: SCW Press, 1953), II, 22; p. 406: “Only let us believe it if we cannot grasp it, that he who made and fashioned the whole creation, spiritual and corporeal, disposes of all things by number, weight, and measure. But his judgments are inscrutable and his ways past finding out.”

71. The author wishes to thank the De Rance Foundation and the American Catholic Philosophical Association for a generous grant which helped in the research for this paper.