Human and christian love in the thought of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas

Authors: Fabio Massaioli
Language: Italian
Pages: 74

This is my undergraduate thesis for the Bachelor degree in Philosophy.


It is often believed that christian thinkers, and especially medieval ones, conceive of love either — negatively — as a contemptible passion, a morally disordered appetite for one’s own gratification, or — positively — as virtuous form of abnegation, a holy disposition to complete self-sacrifice in the service of God’s will and the good of others. Orthogonally, western culture is inclined to think of love (in both senses) as a completely irrational force, often at odds with the conclusions of pragmatic, rigorous thought. Such opinions appear both in popular culture and in the intellectual sphere: consider for example the Rationalist and Romantic schools of philosophy.

This undergraduate dissertation in Medieval Philosophy (in Italian) investigates the concept of love in the works of medieval philosophers and theologians Augustine of Hippo (354–430 AD) and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274 AD). While they often offer differing perspectives on the same subjects, both thinkers present love as a unifying concept, tying together the three spheres of life: the biological, the psychological and the intellectual. This runs directly counter to the ideas recalled above. Aquinas in particular explores and emphasizes the traits of love in the intellectual sphere of life, grounding it in the knowledge and understanding of people and the world around us. Love is — in other words — not an opposite of reason, but a different and complementary mode of it: one focused on the concrete and actual over the abstract and hypothetic, acting as the bridge between theoretical and practical judgement, and deeply intertwined with the psychological sphere of affectivity.