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Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought

From Plato to Machiavelli

Kevin Dooley

Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought: From Plato to Machiavelli examines allegories and metaphors that best exemplify the ideologies of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Author Kevin Dooley’s approach allows readers to gain a greater understanding of each thinker’s ideas through the lens of metaphor, which stimulates imaginative discussions and more thoughtful reflections.

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Chapter 4: St. Augustine (354–430): City of God, City of Man


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ST. AUGUSTINE (354–430)

City of God, City of Man


Plato responded to the turbulence of the 5th century BC with an assessment of truth and justice. The chaos of the Peloponnesian War coupled with the life and death of Socrates sparked his philosophical impulse. Aristotle’s analytical demeanor coupled with his esteemed position with the king of Macedonia cultivated an interest in the physical world that sought to demonstrate that one’s nature is inextricably bound to one’s ends, attempting to determine not only the best state but also the best state within humanity’s grasp. In this chapter, we turn our attention to a thinker who in many ways is similar to Plato in his understanding of where perfection resides but different in his approach about how one arrives there. We will examine the grand allegory of St. Augustine: The City of God and the City of Man, an allegory that challenges traditional notions of civic virtue, human nature, the role of the state, and the reasons and justifications for war.

From the outset, it must be stated that few thinkers have embodied the spirit of their words more than Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Born and raised in Roman North Africa to a family of modest means, Augustine’s personal journey from depravity to redemption runs parallel to his most important theological/social contribution: the reconciliation of Christianity with ← 63 | 64 → Platonism.1 In St. Augustine, we see...

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