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in: Philosophy, Podcast

December 18, 2019 Last updated: January 14, 2020

Podcast #570: St. Augustine’s Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts

Do you feel restless? Have you ever lied in bed at night looking up at the ceiling wondering “Is this all there is to life?” Or have you ever achieved a big goal in life only to feel let down?

Over 1500 years ago, Catholic bishop, philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo had those same feelings of angst and wrote down some insights on how to deal with them and they’re just as relevant today as they were then. 

My guest today has written a book about Augustine’s ancient insights on the anxiety of modern life and how this famous Catholic theologian has had a profound impact on Western philosophy, including among 20th-century existential philosophers. His name is James K. A. Smith and his book is On the Road with Saint Augustine. We begin our show discussing Augustine’s biography and his oft-overlooked influence on atheistic existential philosophers like Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus. 

We then dig into the big ideas that Augustine hit on his famous book Confessions including how to deal with existential angst, how to find your true self, what it means to be truly free in life, and how to deal with our restless ambition. Along the way, James shows how 20th-century existential philosophers dealt with these questions, why he thinks existentialism falls shorts to answering them, and why Augustine’s solutions might be better.

Lots of great insights about big life questions in this episode.

Show Highlights

  • Who was St. Augustine? Why are we still talking about him?
  • Augustine’s influence on 20th century existentialist philosophers
  • How did these philosophers respond to restlessness?
  • Why being on the road all time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be 
  • Mankind’s perpetual search for home 
  • How does Augustine deal with the tension of living life now vs. longing for the eternity to come? 
  • Why existentialism is both attractive and exhausting 
  • The utterly scandalous idea of grace (especially in the midst of our American religion of independence) 
  • Augustine’s take on the idea of freedom 
  • Agency vs. autonomy 
  • What does it mean to become who you are? What is authenticity?
  • How people can help us find our authenticity 
  • Curbing the restlessness of ambition 
  • The restless pursuit of knowledge 
  • Why you should doubt your doubts
  • Dealing with the anxiety of death 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

On the road st Augustine book cover James KA smith

Connect With James

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