An Exegesis of an Augustinian Quote...
"...nam non vincit nisi veritas: victoria veritatis est caritas."
...for nothing conquers but truth: the victory of truth is love.


Meaning is always, to a certain extent, subjective. I will attempt to provide enough insight to understand the meaning I find in the quote above.

The victory of truth is love at first sight

I'm pretty sure the first time I encountered the quote, it was in the abbreviated and English form: "the victory of truth is love". This appears to be the most common form found on the internet, often quoting the Latin "victoria veritatis est caritas". From just that, I wrangled a meaning out of it to the effect that "wherein truth is victorious, virtuous love is a result". This does make sense to me, since I think that true understanding of all things can lead nowhere else. Even a small amount of empathy makes it easy to care about and for people... how much more so would a full understanding?

In original context

To the extent I understand it, Augustine is speaking to a situation with certain detractors of the Catholic church, the Donatists, as well as making a general statement. The question seems to be if one should accept a dissenting voice when you firmly believe them to be wrong. If you defeat them in their argument, you win them to the benefit of everything you have to offer. If you let them 'win', they hold on to whatever they began with and gain nothing. If they are actually wrong, by granting them a 'win' they have not actually won, because no matter how much their view is accepted, they are still wrong. To make truth prevail is a loving act... allowing people to continue in error provides them no benefit and is not really loving in a godly fashion.

I have no problem appreciating this, even if I think that the Catholic church is wrong in many ways. Looking at the apparent views of the Donatists, I disagree with them even more than I do the Catholics.

Pursuing this kind of firm stance on truth (or belief) isn't particularly fun to have to live out. Appeasement is a very easy way to make life easier, and it's not an easy thing to make 'non-appeasement' have a desired outcome in any case. It's also far too easy for some people to go past 'sticking to your guns' and move toward 'sticking your guns toward someone else' in both figurative and literal senses. Both senses are wrong. Attacking the enemies of your beliefs does nothing to defend your beliefs, unless you are under threat of bodily harm. Even if you are (correctly) opposed to ideas, trying to act in opposition to ideas is actually very hard. In many issues, the truth is vary hard to "nail down". Even if the truth of a matter may appear to be fairly easily seen, people can cling to ideas and beliefs for a lot of reasons, and what one person finds to be a logical discourse will be meaningless rubbish to another.

In short, the victory of truth is hard.

The depth of caritas

Caritas is the Latin word that the greek 'agape' is translated into. It is the virtue of godly, caring love, and the root of the modern English word 'charity'. Agape (pronounced uh-ga-peh), itself, was a rather rare word in ancient Greek, appearing, for instance, twice in the Odyssey. Perhaps because it was used as a translation for a commonly found word for 'love' in the Septaugint (the widely available Greek version of the Judiac scriptures), it was co-opted by early Christians as a word for the highest, most virtuous love. It is not any weaker than 'phileo' the other common type of non-sexual love, but it seems to be of a different character... phileo being based on the appreciation and enjoyment of the qualities of the object of love. Agape seems to draw as much on the character of the one who loves. Agape was used where the Christ gave the "greatest commandment": to 'agape' God (though it seems likely that Jesus would have been speaking Aramaic, making 'agape' a first-level translation). Eventually, 'agape' as used in Christianity is mostly defined by its use in Christianity, where the context of its use provides the most specific definition for the word of anything available from ancient times.

So, caritas is a weighty way of saying love... and I deem to be a nice one.