CultureLab • International Seminar

Caleb Cohoe

Augustine’s On The Trinity as Protrepticus and Spiritual Exercise: The Christian Pursuit of Inner Wisdom

15 November | 4 PM (UTC)

11 AM New York
1 PM Brasilia
4 PM Lisbon
5 PM Berlin
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I argue that books XII-XIV of Augustine’s On the Trinity are a Christian continuation of the protreptic tradition of exhortations towards the pursuit of wisdom. In them, Augustine holds that the human imago dei comes from our possession of reason and advocates for the superiority of contemplative reason over practical reason, drawing on Platonic and Peripatetic traditions. We are to become like God through developing our minds and turning from the temporal to the eternal and from the external to the internal. However, on Augustine’s Christian view, hope and faith play new roles in our moral and intellectual lives. Faith is needed because Augustine thinks we do not have direct proof or intellectual access to many of the most important truths for conducting our lives and achieving wholeness and salvation. Hope is needed because we cannot achieve happiness through our own powers and so must rely on God’s grace and the divine promises of a fulfilled and perfected future life. While, as in previous Greco-Roman philosophical traditions, wisdom remains the goal of human life, we are now called to seek it through a mediator who connects the eternal and the temporal, Jesus Christ, who, for Augustine, is incarnate Wisdom.


Caleb Cohoe is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since receiving his doctorate in 2012 from Princeton University’s Program in Classical Philosophy, he has published on ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, medieval philosophy, and philosophy of religion in journals including ApeironBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Philosophical Quarterly, and Phronesis. Cohoe is the editor of Aristotle’s On the Soul: A Critical Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2022). He has served as one of the Lead Faculty Advisors for the Philosophy as a Way of Life Project, co-authored two articles with Stephen R. Grimm on living philosophically, and defended Augustine’s otherworldly approach to happiness in an Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy article. Cohoe has ongoing projects on Aristotle’s theory of understanding and Augustine’s views on philosophical and religious ways of life.

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