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For Augustine, eternal goods are the virtues and goods of genuine friendship as they will exist in eternity—as the full expression of love for God and neighbor-love. This chapter considers such goods in their plurality and temporality. That is, it treats them as human beings are able to comprehend and pursue them—and sometimes even obtain and experience them—in this life. To do so, this chapter revisits Augustine’s letters to Ecdicia and Macedonius to take a closer look at where each succeeded and failed in their pursuit of higher, eternal goods. Augustine’s vision of obtaining eternal goods involves a process in which the practice of virtues in this life begins to mirror more directly the way virtues will exist in eternity. The chapter also highlights elements of Neoplatonism in Augustine’s theory of the virtues that shed new light on his understanding of the relationship between religion and society.


Originally published as chapter five of Discerning the Good in the Letters and Sermons of Augustine by Joseph Clair, 2016, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198757764.001.0001