Plutarch and Augustine on the Battlestar Galactica: Rediscovering Our Need for Virtue and Grace through Modern Fiction

Imaginatio Et Ratio: A Journal for Theology and the Arts 2 (1) (2013)
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Two ancient sages show how even the most salacious fiction can be spiritually beneficial, for it shows our need for virtue and for grace. The first is the Roman philosopher Plutarch. Among ancient moral philosophers who were concerned with the effects of bad behavior in fiction, Plutarch distinguishes himself by showing how we can benefit morally from such stories. To do so we must approach them with a critical mind and from the right perspective; only then will we have the discernment to separate the good from the bad, to learn to embrace and imitate virtue but flee from vice. The second is Augustine. A comparison of his writings with Plutarch’s produces not only a valuable theological extension of Plutarch’s thought, but also a valuable Christian perspective on the arts. According to Augustine, the pursuit of virtue only gets us so far, and on its own it cannot get us to a happy life. In particular, fiction such as this shows us that we need virtue; but it also shows us that we are not virtuous; so it also shows us that we need grace. I first expound the concerns of ancient philosophers with the epic fiction of their own day. Then I consider Plutarch’s advice on how to benefit from bad behavior portrayed in fiction. Next, I apply his advice to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Finally, I show that Galactica illustrates Augustine’s argument in The City of God that happiness cannot be found in this life and how it thus points to our need for grace. Note: The attached file does not have the same pagination as the published article. If you need to cite this article by page number, please consult Volume 2, Issue 1 of Imaginatio et Ratio.

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Mark J. Boone
Hong Kong Baptist University


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