Saint Augustine and Hannah Arendt on Love of the World: An Investigation Into Arendt's Reliance on and Refutation of Augustinian Philosophy

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation argues that Hannah Arendt’s first study of Augustine in her 1929 dissertation, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin, had an enduring and significant influence on the development of her political theory. It was in her dissertation that she first became interested in — the relevance of the other, — or what she would later call the human condition of plurality. Arendt’s concern for human plurality guided her inquiry into the origins of totalitarianism, namely anti-Semitism and imperialism, as well as her analysis of totalitarianism in power. Her first study of Augustine also provided key theoretical resources that she later reappropriated to develop her more mature political theory in The Human Condition. There she drew upon Augustinian resources to develop her concept of the man-made world, labor and work, plurality and natality. She also critiqued what she views as Augustine’s worldlessness and the anti-political character of Christian charity. Ultimately, what is most interesting about Arendt’s persistent reliance on Augustinian resources, is that she used these resources to develop a political theory that is decidedly in opposition to Augustine’s own. Her political theory admonishes us to create meaning in the here and now and in being with others in the world, while Augustine countenances us to look not to this world, but to eternity as the source of meaning for human existence. Finally, this dissertation agrees with Arendt that Augustine’s thought does not provide adequate resources for understanding the significance of human plurality, but also argues that Arendt discounts the great value an ethic of love can provide as a guide for political action.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-06252014-231118

Author Sarah Elizabeth Spengeman
Advisor Dana VIlla
Contributor Dana VIlla, Committee Chair
Contributor Mary Keys, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Catherine Zuckert, Committee Member
Contributor Michael Zuckert, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Political Science
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2014-05-19

Submission Date 2014-06-25
  • United States of America

  • love and politics

  • Augustine

  • totalitarianism

  • Arendt’s dissertation

  • Arendt

  • plurality

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Embargo Release Date
  • 2015-07-21

Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units

Digital Object Identifier


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