Proceedings chapter

Augustine's Incarnational Appropriation of Plotinus: A Journey for the Feet

Published inSixteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies, Editors Vinzent, M., p. 165-178
Presented at Oxford, 2011
PublisherLeuven : Peeters
  • Studia Patristica; 63
Publication date2013

Augustine appropriates the image of the journey to God as a voyage to the homeland from Plotinus's “On Beauty,” but he modifies it in several striking ways. I examine Augustine's explicit and implicit description of his relationship to “the Platonists” through his appropriation of the journey imagery. According to Augustine, the Platonists attain a glimpse of the homeland but do not know the way to get there, for they do not know the Word-made-flesh. In “On Beauty,” the voyage to the Fatherland is a path of interior flight, guided by an inner vision of Being; it is a movement beyond the material world to a blissful vision of the One. For Augustine, the voyage is a communal pilgrimage undertaken by embodied believers following the incarnate Christ. Whereas for Plotinus the voyage to the homeland is “not a journey for the feet,” I argue that for Augustine it is precisely this. Augustine's modifications to the Plotinian image in Confessiones form a literary and polemical articulation of the Christological core of his theology and of the crucial juncture at which Augustine departs from the Neo-Platonic philosophical tradition in favor of the Christian moral life. The Word-made-flesh enables all who believe (and not merely those few clear-eyed intellectuals) to walk home together along the road paved by his human-divine feet. In this paper I will undertake a reading of Augustine's appropriation of the Plotinian image in the context of his own account in Confessiones of his engagement with the Platonists.

  • Augustine
  • Plotinus
  • Pilgrimage
  • Christology
NoteVol.11: Biblica, Philosophica, Theologica, Ethica
Citation (ISO format)
STEWART-KROEKER, Sarah. Augustine’s Incarnational Appropriation of Plotinus: A Journey for the Feet. In: Sixteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies. Oxford. Leuven : Peeters, 2013. p. 165–178. (Studia Patristica)
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Proceedings chapter (Published version)
  • PID : unige:101269

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