Aristotle's Great-Souled Man in Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Saint Augustine

Jan 26, 2023
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture
1025 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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J. Warren SmithDuke Divinity School

This event was co-sponsored by the Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies at the University of Chicago. 

Augustine famous referred to the classical virtues as "splendid vices". Although he stood in the tradition that valued virtue, he was concerned that the pursuit of greatness through the life of virtue - a theme dating back to Aristotle's ideal of the Great-Souled Man - could actually breed a sense of self-righteousness. Yet there is much to the Aristotelian ideal. The pursuit of greatness in the service of God seems preferable to complacent mediocrity that sadly characterizes so much of our life. This lecture, focusing on Dostoyevsky and Austen, seeks to discover the danger of the pursuit of greatness while examining how the category of "greatness" might be reconceived in Christian terms. 


J. Warren Smith is Professor of Historical Theology at Duke Divinity School and a United Methodist minister in the North Carolina Annual Conference. He is interested in the history of theology broadly conceived from the apostles to the present, but his primary focus is upon patristic theology. He is currently working on a volume for Eerdman’s Publishing that traces the development of theology from the Apostolic era with Ignatius of Antioch to the high-water mark of Byzantine thought with Maximos the Confessor, entitled Early Christian Theology: A History. Beyond that Dr. Smith is turning to a project, tentatively entitled Plato and Christ: Platonism in Early Christian Theologythat will examine the significance of the tradition called "Christian Platonism" for Christianity in a post-modern age.