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Once Out of Nature

Augustine on Time and the Body

Once Out of Nature offers an original interpretation of Augustine’s theory of time and embodiment. Andrea Nightingale draws on philosophy, sociology, literary theory, and social history to analyze Augustine’s conception of temporality, eternity, and the human and transhuman condition.
In Nightingale’s view, the notion of embodiment illuminates a set of problems much larger than the body itself: it captures the human experience of being an embodied soul dwelling on earth. In Augustine’s writings, humans live both in and out of nature—exiled from Eden and punished by mortality, they are “resident aliens” on earth. While the human body is subject to earthly time, the human mind is governed by what Nightingale calls psychic time. For the human psyche always stretches away from the present moment—where the physical body persists—into memories and expectations. As Nightingale explains, while the body is present in the here and now, the psyche cannot experience self-presence. Thus, for Augustine, the human being dwells in two distinct time zones, in earthly time and in psychic time. The human self, then, is a moving target. Adam, Eve, and the resurrected saints, by contrast, live outside of time and nature: these transhumans dwell in an everlasting present.
Nightingale connects Augustine’s views to contemporary debates about transhumans and suggests that Augustine’s thought reflects our own ambivalent relationship with our bodies and the earth. Once Out of Nature offers a compelling invitation to ponder the boundaries of the human.

264 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Ancient Studies

Philosophy: Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of Science


“Two valuable insights lie at the heart of Once Out of Nature. The first is that Augustine is always concerned with the body and embodiment. The second is that Augustine’s valuing of, and serious thought about, the body leads to his dual notion of time as experienced in the body, earthly time and psychic time. Nightingale’s lucid exposition is an important contribution to the study of Augustine’s thought. This is a clear, compelling, and at times quite moving book.” —Catherine Conybeare, Bryn Mawr College

Catherine Conybeare

“This is a beautifully written, engaging, and original book that demonstrates Augustine’s complex views on the human body while emphasizing the importance of temporality on his account of the body’s origin, vicissitudes, and future. Andrea Nightingale discusses several aspects of the relationship between body, soul, and time in Augustine as she moves freely and illuminatingly through his major works. Once Out of Nature is simply a pleasure.”

Alexander Nehamas, Princeton University

“Nightingale offers a stimulating introduction to profound existential issues in Augustine’s philosophy. . . . Highly recommended.”


“For those who enjoy their study of ancient thought straight up with a zestful contemporary twist, Nightingale’s work always combines intellectual satisfaction with a pleasantly astringent kick.”

The Classical Review

 “By putting forward a new structural framework to read Augustine’s body-mind doctrine, Nightingale introduces an innovative and intriguing approach and succeeds in unraveling a complex puzzle. Her sharp and scholarly analysis will undoubtedly find its way to all who are interested in the (history of) philosophical anthropology in general, and for researchers in the field of Early Christianity and Augustine in particular.”

Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses

“Nightingale’s brilliant, nuanced book explores connections between time, memory, and the body in the works of Augustine of Hippo. . . . The book is an important contribution to the study of Augustine’s thought and will shed new light on the continuing debates about faith and embodiment in Christian theology.”

Religious Studies Review

“Groundbreaking. . . . In this elegant and fascinating book, Nightingale discovers new ways of thinking about the body and time in ways that are grounded in the Christianity of late antiquity, but that also continue to resonate today.”

Journal of the History of Philosophy

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1. Edenic and Resurrected Transhumans
2. Scattered in Time
3. The Unsituated Self
4. Body and Book
5. Unearthly Bodies

Epilogue: “Mortal Interindebtedness”
Appendix: Augustine on Paul’s Notion of the Flesh and the Body


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