Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

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hlawson38
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Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by hlawson38 » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:04 pm

Context: Augustine is attacking the traditional polytheistic religion in his day being supplanted by Christianity. He has just cited Varro to the effect that the superstitious beliefs of the common people should not be corrected by the learned. Then Augustine declares:
Praeclara religio quo confugiat liberandus infirmus, et cum veritatem qua liberetur inquirat, credatur ei expedire quod fallitur.
Although I have a sense of the meaning, I can't quite get the words matched up with English meaning. Here is my effort. Augustine expostulates sarcastically:

Some distinguished religion, where the weak man ought to flee for liberation, and when he asks what should free him, the very thing that would deceive him is believed expedient!

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:30 am

I read the clauses introduced by quo as relative clauses of "characteristic" with subjunctive verbs.

"A fine religion indeed, where a man on shaky footing (infirmus) takes refuge seeking liberation, and when he asks for the truth by which he might be liberated, the fact that he is deceived (quod fallitur) is thought to be helpful to him."

"A fine religion indeed, such that where a man on shaky footing takes refuge in it seeking liberation, and when he asks for the truth by which he might be liberated, the fact that he is deceived is thought to be helpful to him."

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by hlawson38 » Sat Aug 25, 2018 2:21 am

Most helpful, Hylander. Esp. I was having trouble with credatur ei expedire, but your translation presented a meaning credible to me.

I wondered, who is the agent of the passive verb credatur? The second problem was that I had trouble assigning a meaning to expedire, so in my translation I gave it the meaning of the English cognate, which was a act of desperation.

A satisfactory meaning general meaning was clear enough. Augustine is deriding a religion that, in his view of it, comforts the spiritually anxious by knowlingly deceiving them. It just had to mean something like that, I thought, but I couldn't quite match up this meaning with the words and the grammar.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by RandyGibbons » Sat Aug 25, 2018 6:29 pm

Praeclara religio ... Pause. Certainly with just these two words you feel the sarcasm dripping! And you're expecting to follow a characterization of the religion that will explain why.

Hylander, I basically agree with your take, with these observations or questions.

+ If it's helpful (I'm a skeptic) to use grammatical labels, then technically I'm not sure I understand the subjunctives confugiat and inquirat in quo confugiat liberandus infirmus, et cum veritatem qua liberetur inquirat, as relative clauses of characteristic. You said "the clauses introduced by quo" and I'm not sure which clauses in the plural you mean. Surely we all agree that cum governs the subjunctive inquirat. So leaving the subjunctivity of inquirat aside, I read the quo clause as an indirect question, not so much "governed" as influenced by inquirat - the clauses are not parallel in construction, thanks to Augustine's prose skill, but in meaning and must be taken together: "What a religion! - when he (Varro's superstitious lay person) wonders where he should go for liberation, and what the truth is by which he would be liberated - ..."

+ Is it then possible that credatur is impersonal? and that the antecedent of ei is not the liberandus infirmus but the praeclara religio? That credatur is the actual relative clause of characteristic?: "What a religion! That when the liberandus infirmus makes [these inquiries], (this oh to be sure "praeclara" religion is such that) faith is put in it to proffer a falsehood by way of replying (i.e., to expedite the solution to the hapless inquirer's questions)."

incertus sum,

Randy

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by mwh » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:29 pm

Randy, Sometimes a little grammar helps. The quo clause is not an indirect question, and is not at all “inflenced” by inquirat. The quo clause is in two parts (so Hylander unobjectionably spoke of the quo clauses): quo confugiat … et … credatur. Those are the two verbs in parallel, both introduced by the quo (meaning “where” or “whereby”) and linked by et. cum inquirat is a subordinate clause within the second half of the quo clause. You misconstrue the sentence.

So you see you are not in fact “basically agreeing” with Hylander. But you should.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:34 pm

I should have been more precise. In my reading:

--The subjunctives confugiat and credatur are the verbs of parallel relative clauses of "characteristic" or "general" relative clauses.

--inquirat is subjunctive in a circumstantial cum clause.

--liberetur is subjunctive in a relative clause of "purpose".

--There could be a slight syntactic anomaly in that quo really only goes with confugiat, and credatur actually has no relative pronoun or adverb, but it's joined with confugiat by et.

Also, I should have removed "where" in my second formulation of the translation:

"A fine religion indeed, such that a man on shaky footing takes refuge in it seeking liberation, and when he asks for the truth by which he might be liberated, the fact that he is deceived is thought to be helpful to him."

Edit: cross-posted with mwh.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:41 pm

mwh solves the quo problem (though it isn't a problem) by taking the second, implied instance of quo to mean "whereby". That seems right to me. The first instance, I think, has to mean "where", or to be precise but archaic, "whither" (motion to, not location), with confugiat.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Aug 26, 2018 11:37 am

it's joined with confugiat by et
Thanks, Hylander. I wasn't seeing that. incertus eram, nunc mihi persuasum est.

(Hugh - At least in the editions I've looked at, this quote is from chapter 27, not 28.)

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 27

Post by hlawson38 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 2:16 pm

Randy Gibbons wrote:

(Hugh - At least in the editions I've looked at, this quote is from chapter 27, not 28.)
Much thanks to Randy for the correction. Now I restate the quotation:
Praeclara religio, quo confugiat liberandus infirmus, et cum ueritatem qua liberetur inquirat, credatur ei expedire quod fallitur.
Let me ask for the grammatical rationale for quod in:
credatur ei expedire quod fallitur
I ask because I often stumble over quod, but my dictionary work isn't helping me on this.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:04 pm

Hugh, I have the same question. If it helps, expedire in that final clause echos the expedire of a couple sentences earlier:
Haec pontifex [Scaevola] nosse populos non vult; nam falsa esse non putat. Expedire igitur existimat falli in religione civitates. Quod dicere etiam in libris rerum divinarum Varro ipse non dubitat. Praeclara religio, quo confugiat liberandus infirmus, et cum veritatem qua liberetur inquirat, credatur ei expedire quod fallitur!

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:39 pm

The grammatical rationale for quod in credatur ei expedire quod fallitur:

The clause introduced by quod is a "substantive clause". It functions as the subject of credatur: "the fact that he is deceived is believed to be helpful to him."

Allen & Greenough 572:
572. A peculiar form of Substantive Clause consists of quod (in the sense of that, the fact that) with the Indicative.

The clause in the Indicative with quod is used when the statement is regarded as a fact:—

“alterum est vitium, quod quīdam nimis māgnum studium cōnferunt ” (Off. 1.19) , it is another fault that some bestow too much zeal, etc. [Here ut cōnferant could be used, meaning that some should bestow; or the accusative and infinitive, meaning to bestow (abstractly); quod makes it a fact that men do bestow, etc.]

“inter inanimum et animal hōc maximē interest, quod animal agit aliquid ” (Acad. 2.37) , this is the chief difference between an inanimate object and an animal, that an animal aims at something.

“ quod rediit nōbīs mīrābile vidētur ” (Off. 3.111) , that he (Regulus) returned seems wonderful to us.

“accidit perincommodē quod eum nusquam vīdistī ” (Att. 1.17.2) , it happened very unluckily that you nowhere saw him.

“opportūnissima rēs accidit quod Germānī vēnērunt ” (B. G. 4.13) , a very fortunate thing happened, (namely) that the Germans came.

“praetereō quod eam sibi domum sēdemque dēlēgit ” (Clu. 188) , I pass over the fact that she chose that house and home for herself.

“mittō quod possessa per vim ” (Flacc. 79) , I disregard the fact that they were seized by violence.

[*] Note.--Like other substantive clauses, the clause with quod may be used as subject, as object, as appositive, etc., but it is commonly either the subject or in apposition with the subject.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... 99.04.0001

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:53 pm

Expedire igitur existimat falli in religione civitates.

This probably could be rewritten as: Expedire igitur existimat quod falluntur in religione civitates, using the same type of quod clause as in the later sentence. It's worth considering why he has changed the syntax in the later sentence to say essentially the same thing. Here's what I think:

In the first sentence, the infinitive falli is the subject of expedire and would presumably be accusative as the subject of an(other) infinitive, namely expedire, in indirect speech. A. makes his point somewhat neutrally, from a rhetorical point of view, with words that are not particularly important at the beginning and end of the sentence.

In the later sentence, which repeats and sharpens the point of the earlier sentence, he reserves fallitur -- the punch line, so to speak -- for the end. Rhetorically, this is somewhat like an exclamation mark, pointing out the absurdity of Varro's argument. But if he used an infinitive, credatur ei expedire falli, he would have two infinitives next to one another in a collocation that might be confusing even to a Roman reader, especially when one would be the subject of the passive verb credatur. So here he uses the quod construction, which also brings the verb fallitur into sharper focus than an infinitive would.

Of course, all of that probably didn't go through his mind--what was probably at least half-conscious for A. was the placement of some form of the verb fallor at the end of the sentence. This is the sort of thing that outstanding writers do naturally, almost without giving it any thought.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:19 pm

Thanks, Hylander. I'm following you crystal clear on the quod as substantive clause, including your hypothetical rewrite of the earlier sentence, and thanks for the reference to A&G. And I like your explanation of how he returns to and reserves quod fallitur as a punch line.
The infinitive falli is the subject of expedire and would presumably be accusative as the subject of an(other) infinitive, namely expedire, in indirect speech.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by this.

Here's how I understand Expedire igitur existimat falli in religione civitates, and I think how you understand it? Please tell me if I'm right. :

existimat governs the indirect speech construction expedire falli civitates, where falli civitates is the subject infinitive, in the accusative, of expedire.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by Hylander » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:50 pm

You understand it correctly. I should have written that the whole phrase falli in religione civitates is the subject of expedire, not just falli. What I meant to say was that if the phrase with its verb could be put into a noun case, it would be accusative as the subject of an infinitive expedire in indirect speech.

And another point. It's not just fallitur that ends the sentence: expedire and fallitur are nearly juxtaposed at the end -- almost an oxymoron. As noted above, the quod construction allows this without confusion.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Aug 26, 2018 7:25 pm

Thanks, Hylander. Let's see if Hugh is satisfied.

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Re: Augustine, City of God, Book4, ch. 28

Post by hlawson38 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 7:27 pm

Thanks to Hylander for the explanation and the reference to no. 572 in Allen and Greenough. I see now that had I looked under "quod" in the A&G index I might have found it, but I also might not have understood the relevance. Incidentally, a brief discussion of the same point appears in Moreland and Fleischer, Latin: An Intensive Course, and can be reached by consulting their index.

Thanks to Randy Gibbons for the note on previous use of that verb. I'm still working so hard to get the literal meaning, sentence-by-sentence, that I usually miss such features. But, some day, I hope . . .

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