The Conversion and Therapy of Desire: Augustine’s Theology of Desire in the Cassiciacum Dialogues

By Mark J. Boone

An exploration of St Augustine’s insights into human desire and happiness, as revealed by his earliest theological writings.

ISBN: 9780227176665


The first fruits of the literary career of St Augustine, the great theologian and Christian philosopher par excellence, are the dialogues he wrote at Cassiciacum in Italy following his famous conversion in Milan in AD 386. These four little books, largely neglected by scholars, take up the ancient philosophical project of identifying the principles and practices that heal human desires in order to attain happiness, renewing this philosophical endeavour with insights from Christian theology. Augustine’s later books, such as the Confessions, would continue this project of healing desire, as would the writings of others including Boethius, Anselm, and Aquinas. Mark J. Boone’s The Conversion and Therapy of Desire investigates the roots of this project at Cassiciacum, where Augustine is developing a Christian theology of desire, informed by Neoplatonism but transformed by Christian teaching and practices.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 210

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Dr Mark J. Boone (PhD, Philosophy, Baylor University) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College. He is also an occasional book reviewer, a blog writer and the author of several articles on philosophy and religion.


Foreword by Michael P. Foley

1. Augustine at Cassiciacum
2. Desiring Wisdom
3. Desiring and Having God
4. The Desire to Know Order and to Be Ordered
5. Desiring God and the Soul
6. The Love of God and Human Beings



Endorsements and Reviews

In this age when ‘desire’ is denied in ways that are destructive to souls and families, we could hardly do better than to retrieve understandings of the word from Augustine. Mark J. Boone’s new study is both historically rich and eminently timely.
Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican Chair of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

Meticulously researched and well argued, Mark Boone presents a lucid account of the early Augustine’s theology of desire. After situating Augustine’s moral theory in the context of competing pagan descriptions of the good life, Boone walks the reader through each of the Cassiciacum dialogues to show how, at every turn, Augustine’s faith in the Trinitarian and incarnate God has prompted him to adapt and to transform this central moral category.
Ryan Topping, Fellow of Thomas More College, New Hampshire

What is a human being? Mark J. Boone, in this new book also asks this question. Mark J. Boone tells us in his investigation of the early Augustine at Cassiciacum shortly after his conversion, the answer to this question – one asked by the ‘sweet psalmist of Israel’ in Psalm 8:4 – what is man? We are lovers. By God’s grace, we all need converting and a therapy of our desires. In this book, Mark J. Boone speaks eloquently about Augustine’s early (and lifelong) views. We learn about Augustine’s perspective of true happiness, and we have an answer to a most puzzling question. Five stars for this volume.
David Naugle, Professor of Philosophy and Distinguished University Professor, Dallas Baptist University

In this fascinating and meticulously researched study of Augustine’s Cassiciacum dialogues, Mark Boone shows Augustinian scholars a productive way forward for better understanding how these philosophical texts can and should be analyzed both on their own terms and as part of Augustine’s evolving ideas about ancient philosophy and Christian theology. Boone’s work is a valuable contribution to Augustinian studies, and especially to the study of the Cassiciacum dialogues. It is carefully researched, well-written, and easy to follow even by a generalist Augustinian scholar.
Jennifer Ebbeler, Associate Professor of Classics at University of Texas, in Reading Religion, 21 August 2018

The book is warmly recommended for the introductory and intermediate study of the Cassiciacum Dialogues. May it above all serve to encourage the reading of the dialogues themselves so that the long tradition of debate, advocated by Boone, never dies.
Josef Lössl, in Theologische Literaturzeitung, Vol 143, No 11, November 2018