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Saint Augustine

"Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all"

Saint Augustine was one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. His work The Confessions is often called the first Western autobiography.

For Augustine love is the supreme law. All virtues are defined in terms of love. For him, the first love must be love of God, and all other loves must be subordinated to this. His words taught that love signified order and that all action is activity according to love. He believed that any sin is an act of hatred, for sin is separation from the order or love. Consequently, every good action is an action according to love. However, this quote is more popularly known as the title of a song Better to Have Lost in Love by the British band, The Eurythmics.

Augustine remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought. In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, he was greatly influenced by Stoicism, Platonism and Neoplatonism. His early and influential writing on the human will, would become a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzche. Augustine was canonised by popular recognition and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he is thought to have died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.

Our Expert Says...
Professor David Crystal

This is one of those quotations which turns up in all kinds of contexts, ascribed to all kinds of characters and authors. I have heard it used, for example, as a rallying cry in one dramatized version of Alexandre Dumas's Three Musketeers. The subject-matter of the quotation predisposes us to think of it as coming from a great romantic - a Shakespeareian lover, say. When we read that it is from Saint Augustine, the quotation takes on a fresh allure, as we reflect on the implications on how such words could emanate from one of the world's greatest saints

Saint Augustine

Debate on St Augustine

St Augustine's theories

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