Augustine’s Law of the Heart: Thieves’ Honor

  • Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle


This study investigates historically the notorious, perplexing episode in Augustine’s Confessions about his collaborative theft of pears. It interprets his law of the heart as conformity to human custom in distinction to the biblical law of the heart as obedience to divine command. It locates his indictment of himself and his companions in its Roman socio-cultural contexts, especially the customary adolescent sexual play, in imitation of Jove’s rapes as thefts. It explains Augustine’s law of the heart as social affinity, in the proverbial thieves’ honor, which acted as a law unto itself anarchically. Its outlawry was outside both divine and human laws, operative anthropologically as a social code that determined precedence in a group. Augustine’s law of the heart was customary behavior from social sympathy.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Medieval StudiesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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