Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. II / by Ralph McInerny

Part I: The Age of Augustine

Chapter II

Saint Augustine

A. The Man and His Work

When Augustine died in 430, the Vandals were laying seige to Hippo, his episcopal city; the Roman Empire, overextended and moribund, was soon to be a thing of the past; the Western world stood at the edge of its Dark Ages. If the empire is taken as symbolic of past pagan splendor, the dying Augustine reciting the penitential psalms represents a major effort to juxtapose the Christian revelation and the wisdom of the ancients, an effort which would be renewed after the Dark Ages and would culminate in the thirteenth century in such men as Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Albert. Augustine has a lasting appeal because his own life is a dramatic representation of the triumph of grace over nature. In his Confessions Augustine has described his struggle against the flesh, a struggle which forms the background for his intellectual development.

Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste, Numidia, to Patricius, a pagan who was to die baptized, and Monica, already a Christian. Since infant baptism was not the custom, Augustine was simply enrolled as a catechumen, but his mother endeavored to instill in him a reverence and love of Christ which, as he attests, was indelible. Augustine had a Christian education and once even asked to be baptized when he fell ill, but he got well and baptism was put off. But if his mother was teaching him the tenets of Christian truth, his official education was quite another matter. Augustine does not paint a flattering picture of himself as a student, describing himself as giddy, lazy, and a hater of Greek. He studied grammar in his native city and then went to Madaura, where, in his early teens, his moral life went into decline. Despite his attachment to the flesh, Augustine did well at school, and his father decided to send him to Carthage. Since he could not immediately take on the expense, he brought his son home for a year of leisure before he continued his studies at Carthage. Augustine looked back on this year of idleness as a disastrous one. In 370 he went to Carthage where he was to study rhetoric. The pagan atmosphere of the city completed Augustine's downfall, and he seemed forever beyond the influence of Christian doctrine. In 372, Augustine's son Adeodatus was born of a woman with whom Augustine lived until his thirty-third year. A turning point in his life came in 373 when, at the age of nineteen, he read the Hortensius, a dialogue of Cicero, which exhorts to the love of immortal wisdom. He writes: "That book transformed my feelings, turned my prayers to you, Lord, changed my hopes and desires. Suddenly I despised every vain hope and desired with an unbelievable fervor of heart the immortality of wisdom and I began then to rise and return to thee." (Conf., III, iv, 7)

Augustine became a teacher of rhetoric in 373, first in Tagaste and the next year in Carthage, where he taught until 383. The change that the reading of Cicero brought about in him led him to embrace, not Christianity, but Manicheism. Augustine himself felt that he became a Manichean out of pride. The Manichean doctrine purported to be based on reason alone and did not demand that one first believe. This appeal to his intellectual pride was enhanced by the contradictions the Manicheans professed to find in the Scriptures. Perhaps the greatest attraction of the Manichean doctrine lay in the way it accounted for evil, lifting the burden of guilt from the sinner. Augustine was well disposed to accept the exoneration: "For before then it had seemed to me that it is not we who sin but some unknown nature within us and it soothed my pride to be guiltless and, having done something evil, not to have to confess I did it in order that you might heal my soul which sinned against thee; I loved to excuse myself and accuse that unknown something in me that was not I." (Conf., V, x, 18) Augustine was a Manichean through 383. During the time he belonged to the sect he was a listener as opposed to one of the elect, but he devoted himself to the study of the doctrine with great gusto. When he encountered difficulties, he was assured that they could be resolved by a Manichean bishop, Faustus. After nine years Augustine withdrew from the sect. He was prompted by a number of factors, among which was that Faustus had been quite unable to answer his intellectual difficulties with Mauichean doctrine; he found the Manichean bishop to be little more than a popular orator.

At the age of twenty-nine Augustine went to Rome to open a school of rhetoric. He hoped that he would attract more promising students than he had at Carthage, and, in a sense, he did. Whenever the fees came due, however, his clientele disappeared. Disgusted, Augustine applied for and received a position as teacher of rhetoric at Milan.

Having freed himself from the bonds of Manicheism, Augustine at first devoted himself to the study of Academic philosophy, but this led him only to doubt; he continued to associate with Manicheans for a time, but then drifted away from them. Having met St. Ambrose Augustine attended his sermons, became once more a catechumen, and pondered over arguments to refute the Manicheans. Fervor came into his life once more when he read some Platonic writings, probably translations of Plotinus made by Marius Victorinus. If the Academics had led him to despair of the possibility of finding truth, his present reading rekindled in his breast the hope he had first felt upon reading the Hortensius. Filled with a passion for philosophy, Augustine desired nothing but to devote his life to the quest for truth. He thought of a common life with friends of like mind, a community ordered to the pursuit of truth. But, alas, he had not yet conquered his flesh. He sent away the mistress of his youthful years, the mother of Adeodatus, and on the urging of his mother was contemplating marriage. In the meanwhile he took on another mistress.

The attraction of Platonism served to lead Augustine to a reading of Scripture, and he began to struggle against his passions. When he was told the story of the conversion of Victorinus to Christianity, Augustine yearned to be baptized; the story of St. Anthony of the Desert made Augustine see his own carnal enslavement and to long to be freed from it. A struggle at once intellectual and moral raged within him. All was resolved when he found himself in his garden, with the Scriptures beside him. From over the wall a child's voice repeated insistently, "Take and read, take and read." It occurred to Augustine that the phrase belonged to no child's game, that the voice was addressing him. He picked up the Scriptures and read from the Epistle to the Romans 13:13: "not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts." With one blow all Augustine's incertitude was swept away. It was 386; he was thirty-three years old.

Shortly after his conversion Augustine took the occasion of an illness and a vacation to resign his post at Milan; he retired with his mother and son and a few friends to the country home of one Verecundus located at Cassiciacum. There Augustine prepared himself for baptism while he and his friends engaged in philosophical disputes which were taken down and preserved. We shall turn to those dialogues in a moment. On Holy Saturday of 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine. We can imagine the joy her son's baptism gave Monica; it was truly the fulfillment of her lifetime wish. When they were returning to Africa shortly afterwards, she died en route at Ostia.

At Tagaste, Augustine set up what amounted to a monastic community, striving to realize that ideal which had presented itself to him shortly before his conversion. Augustine enjoyed this solitary life for a few years until he was ordained a priest by popular petition in 391. This caused Augustine to move to Hippo, but there he once more set up a monastery. His life was devoted to preaching and to writing against the enemies of the faith. He wrote polemical works against Manichean doctrines and against the Donatist heresy, beginning the literary activity which would continue throughout his long life. Augustine was consecrated coadjutor bishop of Hippo in 396 and succeeded the following year. He remained as bishop of this obscure diocese for the rest of his life, profoundly influencing the history of the Church in Africa, and finally that of the whole Church, becoming one of her most authoritative doctors. Augustine's inclination toward a monastic existence did little to prevent his ceaseless activity in the cause of truth. His conviction that there is a changeless truth made him an indefatigable adversary of anyone who would call that truth into question, pervert or dilute it in any way. Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians -- Augustine dealt with each in turn, but always with an eye to bringing the person in error into the truth. Augustine was seventy-six when he died on August 28, 430.

Writings. It is convenient to group Augustine's writings according to the major phases of his life. Augustine published one prose work prior to his conversion, De pulchro et apto. The writings dating from Augustine's stay at Cassiciacum (386-387) are Contra academicos, De beata vita, De ordine, Soliloquia, De immortalitate animae, De musica. The period from his baptism to his ordination (387-391) includes among others De quantitate animae, De libero arbitrio, De magistro, De vera religione. As a priest, Augustine wrote, among others, the following works: De utilitate credendi, De duobus animabus contra Manichaeos, De fide et symbolo. Only the very earliest works of Augustine could be called purely philosophical efforts, for as his life becomes that of priest and then of bishop, his interests become almost exclusively theological, homiletic, etc. We shall shortly say something about the possibility of distinguishing faith and philosophy in Augustine; for the moment we must cite, from the period of his episcopacy, the following works as pertinent to the history of philosophy: Confessions (400), De doctrina christiana (397-426), De trinitate (400-416), De civitate dei (413-426), Retractationes (427).

B. Philosophy and the Arts

One way of approaching Augustine's views on the nature of philosophy is to examine his teaching on the arts which are propaideutic to philosophy. This approach has chronological justification, since at Cassiciacum Augustine and his companions occupied themselves with the liberal arts. As he says in the Retractationes (I, 6): "At the same time, when I was preparing for baptism at Milan, I tried to write books on the arts (disciplinae) by interrogating those who were with me and who had no distaste for such pursuits, since they wished to arrive at the incorporeal through the corporeal by means of determinate stages. But of these I was able to finish only a work on grammar, which afterwards disappeared from my bookcase, six volumes on music, getting to that part called rhythm. But those six books were written after my baptism and return to Africa; I had only begun them at Milan. Of the other five arts begun there in much the same way, namely on dialectic, on rhetoric, on geometry, on arithmetic, on philosophy, only the beginnings remained, which indeed we have lost but I think others have them." With one notable exception, what Augustine has given here as the arts or disciplines are what came to be called the liberal arts. Before examining the role these arts play in the doctrine of Augustine, it will be wise to recall the remote and proximate background of the notions involved.

The remote background is to be found in Plato and Aristotle. Both men stress the need for an orderly approach to the inner sanctum of philosophy. It seems to be only in Roman times that these arts begin to approach the limited number and codification which became so familiar in the scholastic period.{1} Varro (B.C. 116-27), a contemporary of Cicero, was the author of the lost work Libri novum disciplinarum, in which, together with the latter seven liberal arts, were listed medicine and architecture. Seneca (B.C. 8 - A.D. 65), in his Epistle to Lucilius (Epist. Moral, Lib. XIII, Ep. 3, 3-15) mentions five arts: grammar, music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy -- in that order. Quintilian (A.D. 35-96), a highly influential author in the Gaul of imperial times, his Institutes of Oratory forming the programme of studies in the provincial schools (cf. M. Roger, L'enseignement des lettres classiques d'Ausone a Alcuin, pp. 7-18), mentions many of the liberal arts but does not seem to have settled on seven as their number. The work which seems to have fixed the number of the liberal arts is that of Martianus Capella entitled De nuptiis philologiae et mercurii; this is thought to have been written in Carthage between 410 and 439 A.D., which would put its composition in the very lifetime of Augustine. It is assumed that Capella's work is inspired by the lost work of Varro, although Capella explicitly excludes architecture and medicine from the list of liberal arts.{2} Capella comes up with exactly seven liberal arts which are ordered thus: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. These arts, we are told,{3} formed the basis of the curriculum in the imperial rhetorical schools -- such as that at Milan where Augustine taught.

The passage from the Retractationes already quoted expresses Augustine's intention, as he prepared for baptism at Cassiciacum, to write on each of the liberal arts, presumably in dialogue form. The passage certainly assumes that there are seven such arts, but it is noteworthy that "philosophy" takes the place usually occupied by astronomy. It has been plausibly suggested that this is a quite conscious substitution by Augustine prompted by his abhorrence of what we would nowadays call astrology. We can surmise that Augustine's whole career prior to his conversion would have put him into daily contact with the various arts. Indeed, we read in the Confessions (IV,xvi,30) that in his youth Augustine had read "all the books of the so-called liberal arts."

Following the lead of Marrou (S. Augustin et la fin de la culture antique, pp. 187-193), we can find a fairly uniform doctrine on the arts in various statements of Augustine. In the second book of the De ordine, St. Augustine describes reason as discovering progressively grammar (nn.36-37), dialectic (n.38), rhetoric (n.39), music (n.40-41), and geometry (n.42). Earlier in the same work mention is made of arithmetic and astronomy as well as of the relation of the arts to philosophy. "Now in music, in geometry, in the movements of the stars, in the fixed ratios of numbers, order reigns in such manner that if one desires to see its source and its very shrine, so to speak, he either finds it in these, or he is unerringly led to it through them. Indeed such learning, if one uses it with moderation -- and in this matter, nothing is to be feared more than excess -- rears for philosophy a soldier or even a captain so competent that he sallies forth wherever he wishes and leads many others as well, and reaches that ultimate goal, beyond which he desired nothing else (n.14, trans. R.P. Russell, O.S.A.) The acquisition of these arts is difficult, Augustine admits, but without them it is impossible to go on to philosophy. These arts comprise a twofold science, the science of reasoning and that of numbers; armed with this knowledge, one can turn to philosophy, "to which a twofold inquiry belongs, one having to do with the soul, the other with God." (n.47) These are the two great concerns of philosophy, to know ourselves and our origin, and the study of the liberal arts paves the way for the fruitful asking of those questions.

In the De quantitate animae Augustine is speaking of the seven degrees of the soul's perfection, and this prompts him to mention the liberal arts. The soul, in the first degree, vivifies the body; in the second, it makes use of the senses; thirdly, the degree proper to man, the soul is possessed of arts and sciences; then, by purgation, purity, and conversion to God, the soul finally comes into possession of the Supreme Good. It is the third degree that interests us now. "Rise now to the third plane of the soul's power and think of memory, which is proper now to man, not in the way of a habit of things usual, but by way of reverting to notes and signs of innumerable things treasured and retained: -- so many arts of skilled workers, the tilling of the soil, the building of cities, the manifold marvels of varied constructions and their achievement: the invention of so many signs in letters, in words, in gesture, in the sound of such things, in paintings and things moulded (or carved) . -- Note the languages of so many peoples, the manifold teachings, some new, some renewed. -- Note the great number of books and such like documents for the safeguarding of memory, and all this provision for posterity. -- Note the order of duties and powers and honors and dignities, in family life, in the state, in peace and in war; in the administration of things profane and things sacred. -- Note the power of reasoning and of thinking out reasons. -- Note the flowing streams of eloquence, the varieties of poetry; the thousands of means of imitation for purposes of play and of jest, the art of music, accuracy of measurements, the science of numbers, the conjecturing of things of the past and the future from the present. Great are these things and distinctively human. But yet this abounding property common to (rational) souls is shared in degrees by the learned and the unlearned, by the good and the bad." (Trans. F.E. Tourscher, O.S.A.) Augustine indicates at the close of this lengthy enumeration that he is not confining himself to the arts possessed by the learned; thus we find mechanical and fine arts side by side on his list. Also listed are grammar, reasoning (dialectic), eloquence (rhetoric), arithmetic, music, geometry, and astrology. So too in the Confessions Augustine mentions the liberal arts. "Whatever was written either on rhetoric, or logic, geometry, music, and arithmetic, by myself without much difficulty or any instructor, I understood . . . ." (IV,16) We find Augustine reflecting what appears to have been the common attitude of his time with respect to the liberal arts; of course, his enumerations of the arts have importance for medieval thought since his authority dictates that an interest be shown in the arts he mentions. More important for our present purpose is the attitude Augustine takes toward the liberal arts as conducive, not simply to the wisdom of the philosophers, but to Christian wisdom iself.

C. Philosophy and Beatitude

In his De civitate dei (XIX,1) Augustine writes, "Quandoquidem nulla est homini causa philosophandi nisi ut beatus sit." It is man's desire for happiness which explains his philosophizing. Thus, even while arguing for the role played by the liberal arts, Augustine does so by showing that they prepare the mind for the two great questions of philosophy which have to do with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. The ability to answer these questions gives one knowledge of the self, knowledge of whence he has come and whither he is going. The importance of these two questions, the fact that they sum up man's desire for truth, is clear in the following famous passage from the Soliloquies (I,ii,7) where Augustine and Reason are conversing. "A. My prayer is finished. R. What then do you wish to know? A. All those things I have prayed to know. R. Sum them up briefly. A. I want to know God and the soul. R. Nothing more? A. Absolutely nothing." Concern with God and the soul is what sets philosophy off from the liberal disciplines or arts; unlike them, apparently, philosophy is concerned with the intelligible order. It is because Plato stressed the existence of the intelligible order and its distinction from the sensible order that he was able to devise the perfect philosophy.

It was the failure to achieve this intelligible order which led to the skepticism of later Academic philosophy. Just as Augustine himself had been rescued from skepticism by the reading of Plato and Plotinus, so he felt each man must overcome the temptation to skepticism. Indeed, he sees the achievement of Plato precisely against this background:

Plato, the wisest and most learned man of his time, spoke in such a manner that whatever he said took on importance and he spoke of such things that, no matter how they were treated, they could not become trivial. This Plato, after the death of his beloved master Socrates, learned, we are told, much more from the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras, dissatisfied with Greek philosophy, at the time either quiescent or too obscure, was persuaded by the arguments of Pherecydes, a Syrian, to believe in the immortality of the soul. Plato listened, moreover, to a great many wise men in the course of extensive travels. He thus added to what he already possessed of socratic charm and subtlety in moral matters, the knowledge of things human and divine diligently learned from the men just mentioned. He crowned these elements with a discipline capable of organizing and judging them, namely, dialectic, which is, he thought, wisdpm itself, or at least that without which wisdom is impossible, and he composed thereby the perfect philosophy. Leaving that aside for now, it is sufficient for my present purpose that Plato thought there were two worlds, one intelligible, another manifest to us by sight and touch. The former is the principle of pure and serene truth in the soul which knows itself, whereas the latter can engender opinion in the minds of the foolish but not science.{4}

One's ability to grasp the existence of the intelligible world was dependent on one's moral condition; a person given over to sensuality would not be able to come to knowledge of intelligible truth. Skepticism and moral turpitude are rather closely linked.

Augustine's praise of Plato's achievement as the perfect philosophy would seem to indicate that he sees no difficulty in relating faith and reason. Philosophy, Augustine has said, is concerned with God and soul. Let us look at Augustine's appraisal of some philosophical statements about God. In the De civitate dei (VI,5) he accepts from Varro a threefold division of theologies. There is a mythical theology fabricated by the poets suitable for the theater; there is a natural theology taught by the philosophers; there is a civil theology which is for the people as citizens. Augustine has difficulty seeing the difference between mythical and civil theologies (VI,6) and goes into a lengthy criticism of the pagan deities. It is not until the eighth book that he returns to the question of natural theology. He notes that "philosophy" means love of wisdom. "But if God is wisdom, through whom all things are made, as the divine authority and truth have shown, the true philosopher is one who loves God. But since the reality of which this is the name is not to be found in all those who glory in the name (for surely not anyone who is called a philosopher is a lover of true wisdom), we should select from all those whose opinions and writings can be known by us those who have treated this question not unworthily." (VIII,1)

If we look to what philosophers have had to say on the matter of God, we find some who surpass Varro's notion of natural theology. He had defined natural theology as concern with the world and its soul; some philosophers, however, speak of a God above nature, cause not only of the sensible world but of souls as well, even of human souls which are beatified by participation in the divine light. "There is no one who has even a slender knowledge of these things who does not know of the Platonic philosophers who derive their name from Plato. Concerning this Plato, then, I will briefly state such things as I deem necessary to the present question, mentioning beforehand those who preceded him in time in this kind of writing." (VIII,1) Augustine praises the Platonists for recognizing that God is incorporeal, immutable, surpassing every soul, cause of all else, life, understanding, and beatitude. (VIII,6)

If God is beatitude and men philosophize only that they might become happy, is it possible that men can attain happiness by means of philosophy? But Christians have been warned about philosophy (Cf. VIII,10). St. Paul has said that we must be wary lest we be led astray by philosophy: "Take care not to let anyone cheat you with his philosophizings, with empty phantasies drawn from human tradition, from worldly principles." (Col. 2:8) We need not think that every philosopher falls under the censure of St. Paul, for the Apostle has also written: "The knowledge of God is clear to their minds; God himself has made it clear to them; from the foundations of the world men have caught sight of his invisible nature, his eternal power and his divineness, as they are known through his creatures." (Romans 1:19-20) The same Paul, speaking to the Athenians those difficult words "in whom we live and move and have our being," added "as some of your own have said." (Acts 17:28) Philosophers are to be feared only in their errors. It is a sad fact that even when they have come to know the existence of God, philosophers have not adored and thanked him as they ought; thus, their wisdom has been turned to folly. (Romans 1:21-23) Nevertheless, there is no reason to be suspicious of philosophers who teach truth and thereby agree with us. This is why Augustine singles out the Platonists for praise: "This, therefore, is the cause why we prefer these to all the others, because, whilst other philosophers have worn out their minds and powers in seeking the causes of things, and endeavoring to discover the right mode of learning and living, these, by knowing God, have found where resides the cause by which the universe has been constituted, and the light by which truth is to be discovered, and the fountain at which felicity is to be drunk." (De civ. dei, VIII,1O)

Augustine's defense of philosophy is not reluctant; the role that Platonism, or, more accurately, Neoplatonism, played in his own conversion led him to effuse and, as he later remarked, exaggerated praise of Plato and his followers. "Many centuries and much discussion were required in order that a perfectly true philosophy be achieved, but I believe it has been done. For this is not a philosophy of the world, which our mysteries properly condemn, but of another and intelligible world to which the subtlety of reason could never have led souls blinded by the manifold darknesses of error and weighted down by bodily sordidness, if the most high God, animated by mercy for his people, had not bent down and subjected the authority of the divine reason to a human body, so that souls, stirred up not only by his precepts but also by his deeds, might without the disputes of the schools turn within to themselves and find the kingdom." (Contra academicos, III,xix,42) This easy transition on Augustine's part from the efforts of the pagan philosophers to the Incarnation and Christian revelation has caused interpreters to multiply opinions as to Augustine's own position at Cassiciacum (was he converted to Christianity or to Neoplatonism?) and as to his doctrine on the relation between faith and reason.

D. Criticism of Platonism

While it is possible, particularly in his early writings, to find praise of Plato and Platonism flowing from the pen of Augustine, from the outset there are also criticisms of Plato. At the end of his career, surveying his various works and commenting on them in the Retractationes, the aging bishop regrets the unqualified character of his earlier praise. He expressed regret that he had spoken of learning as remembering and the soul's ascent after death as a returning, since this seems to involve acceptance of the Platonic view that the soul antedates its imprisonment in the body and that death is the soul's return to its natural habitat. Significantly too, he regrets the emphasis he had put on the liberal arts as propaideutic to philosophy, since the simple faithful are capable of attaining wisdom without them.

Augustine believes that the Platonists were aware of the difference between God the Father and the Word; in the Confessions (VII,ix, 13-14) he comments that he found in Neoplatonic texts the equivalent of the prologue to the Gospel of John in which we read, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." He found nothing in these texts, however, concerning the Word become flesh. As he brings these philosophic gropings toward revealed truth into perspective we sense that he thought that Neoplatonism paved the way for acceptance of revelation: it achieves knowledge of a realm above the sensible. While Augustine seems at times to suggest that the metaphysical success of pagan philosophy almost attains the supernatural order, this is not Augustine's true opinion. Although he once interpreted the remark "My kingdom is not of this world" as a reference to the world of Ideas, he later thought better of it. (Cf. Portalie, p.98.) He feels that the Platonists, though they knew the Father and Son, were ignorant of the Holy Spirit and thus of the doctrine of the Trinity. (De civ. dei, X,23) Portalie in his excellent guide to Augustine provides us with a list of items from Neoplatonism which were either accepted or rejected by Augustine. There are besides, as we have already indicated, a number of alterations in viewpoint on Augustine's part. Perhaps it is enough to indicate that Augustine, even while he was virtually overwhelmed by the reading of Plotinus, not only for the beauty he found in the style and thought but also for the crucial role this reading played in lifting him out of a stultifying skepticism and restoring the passion for truth earlier instilled by the Hortensius of Cicero, was nevertheless a critical reader. Portalie has put the matter succinctly: "The Confessions describe the enthusiasm enkindled in him by Platonic writings; this enthusiasm, a source of magnificent and repeated eulogies, was to die a slow death in the heart of Augustine." (p.95)

The same author has pointed out that Augustine borrowed the Neoplatonic conception of philosophy and never seriously questioned it. This can be seen quite clearly in the connection Augustine makes between moral rectitude and a grasp of the truth. The goal of philosophy, as we saw above, is happiness; not a dispassionate correctness of judgment, but the fulfillment of all our deepest aspirations, those of will as well as intellect. Thus, the beauty of order "will be seen by him who lives well, prays well, studies well." (De ordine, II,xix,51) One who wants to see the truth must take pains lest the eye of his soul be clouded by sensual attachments, by vanity and pride; with these beams removed, one may come to contemplate the truth and experience that gaudium de veritate which is the end and purpose of human life. Now the truth in which he must rejoice is none other than God. "The happy life consists in rejoicing in the truth, that is, rejoicing in you who are the truth, my God, my light, my salvation. All want this happy life, this life which alone is happy each one wants, everyone wants to rejoice in the truth." (Conf., X,xxiii,33)

To love truth is to love God; is philosophy then religion, is there a transition from philosophy to faith? At the end of the De beata vita to be wise and to be happy are identified, and true wisdom is identified with the Son of God, who is truth as well. In the De ordine (II,v,16) we find the following comparison of philosophy and faith. "There is a twofold path we can follow when the obscurity of things bothers us; reason or, in any case, authority. Philosophy promises us reason but it frees scarcely a few; nonetheless it leads them not only not to contemn the Christian mysteries hut to understand them as they ought to be understood. No other task falls to true philosophy, to authentic philosophy, if I may so put it, than to teach that there is a supreme principle of all things, itself without a principle, and how great an intelligence dwells therein and that all flows from it, without any diminution, for our salvation. This principle is the one God, omnipotent and tripotent, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, of which the venerable mysteries teach, the sincere and unwavering profession of which frees people, without confusion (as some assert) or humiliation (as many claim) In this passage Augustine sees philosophy as a fitting preparation for Christian faith, disposing the mind for it and equipping it to deal with mysteries as they deserve. Thus, in the Contra academicos (III,xx,43) he writes that truth can be approached by way of reason or authority. "Now in the matter of authority I have chosen Christ for my leader, from whose direction I will never deviate. As regards the matters which are to be investigated by close reasoning, I am such that I impatiently desire to grasp the truth not only through faith but also through understanding, and I am confident that there will be found in the Platonists nothing repugnant to our faith."

Despite fluctuating attitudes toward Platonism and some of its doctrines, Augustine teaches with increasing clarity a distinction between what is believed and what is understood: not everything that is believed by the Christian has been or could be known by the non-Christian philosopher, and one who believes may nevertheless concern himself with the arguments of philosophers as at least dispositional toward a more lively faith. Both philosophy and faith aim at the same goal, beatitude; if the latter is more efficacious, it is because it can direct man toward an incarnate wisdom unknown to philosophy. The two questions of philosophy remain the great questions of faith, however, and we want to turn now to what Augustine had to say of God and man, for this provides at least an outline of what can be called the philosophy of St. Augustine.

E. What Is Man?

When Augustine says that philosophy has two concerns, the soul and God, he does not mean that these are distinct and separable problems; indeed, we will find it quite impossible to concentrate on Augustine's doctrine of man to the exclusion of what he has to say about God, and vice versa. It is convenient to begin our discussion of what he had to say about man by examining what he had to say about the distinctive character of Platonic philosophy, the Ideas or Forms. In the forty-sixth of the 83 Diverse Questions St. Augustine discusses the Ideas in a way which was to be decisive for scholastic philosophy. The question turns on four points: the word "Idea," its definition, the location of the Ideas, how we can know the Ideas.

1. Augustine and Plato's Ideas. Augustine says that although Plato was the first to use the term "Idea" in the sense that now interests him, the Ideas existed before Plato and were known by men. It is inconceivable that philosophers did not know them since "unless these be known no one can be wise." The journey of Plato which took him to Southern Italy and Sicily and to the Pythagorean communities in those places makes it at least probable, Augustine feels, that these philosophers knew of the Ideas, though they might have had another name for them. If we are interested only in transliteration, the Latin terms "species" and "forma" are equivalents of the Greek "idea." To call them "rationes" (reasons, notions) is to give the Latin term for the Greek "logoi," but, for all that, "ratio" expresses what is often meant by "idea." This is clear from the definition of Ideas: "The Ideas are the chief forms or the stable and unchangeable notions of things which have not themselves been formed and thus are eternal and unalterable; they are contained in the divine intelligence."{6} We notice immediately some characteristics of the Platonic Ideas: they have not come to be and will not cease to be and consequently are necessary, incapable of being other than they are. However, the remark that the Ideas are in the divine intelligence goes beyond Plato. It makes little difference whether or not Augustine was the first to identify the Platonic Ideas and God's creative knowledge.{7} We are told that this identification was first made by Philo Judaeus (Opif. mundi 94) and was a commonplace among the Christian Alexandrines (see, for example, Clement, Strom., VII,2). Nevertheless, it is an identification of great importance, and it was largely thanks to Augustine that it became a commonplace in the Middle Ages; clearly, when by Ideas a writer means God's creative knowledge, it becomes almost equivocal to characterize his remarks as Platonist.

How can the Ideas be known by us? They are knowable only by the rational soul because of its inner or intelligible eye. (Cf. Soliloq., I,i,3.) The rational soul is not by its nature alone equipped to know the Ideas, however; it must be prepared for this vision by holiness and purity whereby its inner eye is made healthy, clear, serene. Before saying more on the fitness of the rational soul to see the Ideas, St. Augustine points out why the man of religion, even when he himself does not have the vision of the Ideas; cannot deny their necessity. He above all will know that God has created and gives being to all things. Thus he must admit that God had a notion of what he created and that the ratio of man is not that of horse. These different notions are precisely the Ideas of creatures, and they can exist only in the divine mind. Since whatever is contained in the divine mind is eternal and unchangeable, the Ideas must be so. Such precisely are the Platonic Ideas, St. Augustine concludes, and it is by participation in such Ideas that all other things exist.

Of all created things the rational soul, at least when it is pure, is closest to God. To the degree that the soul is united to God by charity it can contemplate the Ideas, and in this contemplation consists that beatitude which all men seek. When it possesses charity, the rational soul is illumined by an intelligible light which renders the vision of the Ideas possible. We are all free to select our own name for them, be it "Ideas," "Forms," "Species," or "Rationes." Few indeed are able to grasp them as they are.

Needless to say, this doctrine of St. Augustine is a very difficult one to interpret. He seems to be speaking of a terrestrial vision, a knowledge of the Ideas which man can attain in via. By linking this knowledge of the Ideas essentially to the theological virtue of charity and by speaking of illumination, Augustine seemingly prevents us from viewing his remarks as a philosophical doctrine. The Augustinian doctrine of illumination is as vexing a problem for historical interpreters as it is influential among philosophers and theologians. When Augustine speaks of illumination, he is not necessarily concerned with explaining some privileged kind of knowledge; rather, his concern is to defend the validity of knowledge as such. This is made quite clear in the De magistro.

How do we come to know what we did not know before? We can answer quite easily, it would seem; we come to know things by means of experience. Experience seems to connote sensation, and it is just that which would make Augustine hesitate. The knowledge he is interested in defending is unchanging knowledge, and the examples which come immediately to mind are mathematical. If we have certain knowledge of numbers, can we attribute this to experience, to the influence of sensible things? "In no wise; for even if I perceived numbers by the bodily senses, I was not able by these same senses to perceive the laws of the division and addition of numbers. For it is by the light of the mind [luce mentis] that I correct anyone who gives me the wrong result of adding or subtracting. Moreover, I know nothing of how long sensibly perceived things like the heaven, this earth, and the other bodies therein will endure, but seven and three are ten, not only now but always, nor was it ever true in the past that seven and three were not ten nor will seven and three sometime in the future not be ten. Such then is the incorruptible truth of number which, as I have said, is common to me and anyone else who reason." (De lib. arb., II, viii, 21) What distinguishes intellect from sense is that intellect grasps truth and the senses do not; if there are truths about numbers, and there are, they are not grasped by the senses. Knowledge of numbers is not drawn from sense perception, something easily seen when we consider that every number involves the one. A true notion of unity cannot be formed from perceptions of corporeal things.

These remarks may seem to owe their tone to the peculiar character of mathematical entities, yet Augustine speaks in much the same way of our knowledge of other things: "If therefore it is certain that we wish to be happy, it is also certain that we desire wisdom, for no one is happy without the highest good which is known and possessed in that truth we call wisdom. Thus, just as before we are happy, the notion of happiness is impressed on our minds (thanks to which we firmly and without hesitation know and say that we desire to be happy), so too before we are wise, we have impressed on our minds the notion of wisdom thanks to which each of us, asked if he wants to be wise, replies without a shadow of a doubt that he does." (Ibid., II,ix,26). The suggestion here that if we did not already know what wisdom is we could not seek it, is reminiscent of the Platonic doctrine of anamnesis which had particular application to knowledge of mathematicals and moral ideals. Learning was equated with recalling for Plato; if one already knew what he is said to learn, the problem of the genesis of knowledge is conveniently postponed; he can say that the soul came to the body with knowledge impressed upon it and has forgotten what it knew because of the drag and weight of the body.

In the De quantitate animae (XX,34) Augustine underlines a disagreement with Evodius: "You raise there a great problem, so great indeed that I know of none greater. With respect to it our opinions are quite opposed, for it seems to you that the soul brings no knowledge with it, to me that it brings with it every art. Nor is that which is called learning anything other than recalling and remembering." The same position is maintained more elaborately in the Soliloquies (II,xix,35). Despite the obvious reliance on Plato, Augustine does not accept from reminiscence the transition to the assertion that the soul existed before its union with the body, a transition made, we remember, in the Phaedo. In the Retractationes, it should be stressed, Augustine came to regret his youthful choice of words. He wishes that he had not spoken of the soul's "returning" to heaven because there are those "who think that human souls have fallen or been ejected from heaven and been placed in bodies as punishment for their sins." (I,i,3){8}

Augustine's reflections in the Retractationes on the Soliloquies and De quantitate animae bring the doctrine of illumination to the fore. Augustine is unhappy that he had suggested that students of the liberal arts were simply recalling knowledge which had fallen into oblivion. "I disapprove of that statement. Is it not more credible that those who are ignorant of certain disciplines and yet reply correctly when well interrogated do so because there is present in them, to the degree that they lay hold of it, the light of eternal reason [lumen rationis aeternae] in which they see immutable truths?" (I,iv,4) The remark that what is called learning is nothing but recalling and remembering "should not be understood as an approbation of the opinion that the soul at some time lived either here below in another body or elsewhere in a body or outside of a body, such that it would have learned in another life the answers to questions it has not studied here below." (I,viii,2) The idea of a light within the human soul replaces the idea of remembered knowledge. In the De trinitate (XII,xv,24) Augustine compares the mind with the eye and notes that just as the eye grasps things because a light is proportioned to it and its objects, the mind grasps incorporeal things with which it has affinity in a light of the same order as itself and its objects. We would not say that the eye, because it can distinguish black from white without being taught, must have known colors before receiving life in a body; no more should we say that the soul's grasp of truths previously unknown argues that it existed prior to its creation with the body. In each case it is the appropriate light which enables eye or mind to attain its objects.

2. Augustine on the Teacher. In the De magistro, a dialogue between Augustine and his son Adeodatus, there is a fairly extensive discussion of illumination. The dialogue begins with the fairly innocent question "What are we trying to do when we speak?" The answer, that we are trying to teach or be taught, leads to a discussion of what is happening when we learn something. Augustine prefixes this discussion of the learning process with a long section on words as signs. Although sensible things are incapable of bringing about thought, we make use of words, which are sensible things, presumably to express our thoughts. What effect do words have on the one hearing or seeing them? We might expect Augustine to brush aside the difficulty posed by language as quickly as possible; his actual procedure is quite the opposite, revealing, we may suppose, his former professional interests as a master of rhetoric. The greater part of the dialogue is concerned with words as signs and then with various other kinds of signs.

The De magistro contains fourteen chapters and can be conveniently divided into two parts at n. 33 of chapter ten; at that point the dialogue form is dropped and the apparent implications of the preceding discussion are dismissed. The dialogue begins by asking for the purpose of speech. We speak to teach, it is decided, for even when we ask questions we are teaching what we want to know. This teaching takes place by reminding. In speaking "we do nothing but remind, since memory in which words inhere causes by revolving them to come to mind the things of which the words are signs." (1,2) A sign is that which signifies something, and words are signs. What then of "nothing"? Augustine suggests (11,3) that this word signifies an affection of the mind, a point to which they can return. First, he draws his son's attention to the fact that when he asks him what one word ("de") means he answers with another word ("ex"), that is, a sign is explained by appeal to another sign. Is it possible to convey something without the use of a sign? Well, one can point, use gestures; in fact by means of pantomime one can dispense with words entirely. This does not dispense with signs, however, for gestures too are signs. Yet if someone should ask me what walking is, I could rise and show him the thing itself rather than a sign of it. Augustine allows this possibility, as long as we are not asked what walking is while we are walking, for then if we would speed up, the velocity and not the activity might be understood. Talking does not seem to be demonstrable in this way; nevertheless, persistence can make clear that it is the activity of speaking itself which we are trying to exhibit. At the beginning of chapter four Augustine divides things which can be shown without signs from signs which can be shown through other signs. The second class is discussed first.

Signs can be shown by means of signs. Words are signs either of other signs or of things. "Stone" is an example of the latter, "gesture" and "letter" of the former. Romulus is signified by "Romulus," "Romulus" by "noun," and "noun" by "word." Things which are not signs can be called signifiables. Some signs signify themselves as well as other signs, for example, "word" signifies itself and other things, as does "noun." Although "word" signifies noun and vice versa, there is a restriction on their reciprocity, since every noun is a word but not every word is a noun. Each signifies itself as well as other things and each is an instance of the other, but they do not appear to have the same extension. There is, however, a way of understanding "noun" and "verb" which gives them the same extension. If "noun" (nomen) is thought of as imposed from knowing (noscendo) and "word" (verbum) from reverberation (verberando), then any vocal sound is a word insofar as it is audible and a noun insofar as it makes something known. The dialogue has now to discover signs which are fully reciprocal, that is, signs which signify one another, which signify themselves as well as other parts of speech, and which differ only in sound. This has not yet been achieved with "noun" and "word" since they are imposed from different things, as we have seen. Perfect reciprocity of signification is thought to be achieved with "noun" and "vocable."

This summary conveys most inadequately the lively development of the dialogue, which contains, as every effective dialogue must, an artful balance of play and earnestness.{9} Chapter eight extracts the earnest by warning in effect that since signs sometimes signify other signs and sometimes things, what are to be called signifiables, it is important to be aware of this and in disputations honor only questions which bear on things. The reason for this is that signs are for signifiables, and that which is for something else should not be preferred to its end. But is this always true? Is it not better to know "filth" than filth? This objection enables Augustine to be more explicit about the triadic character of signification: there is the thing, the sign, and cognition, and the last consequently is the end or purpose of the sign and is always to be preferred to it.

Thus in the middle of chapter ten Augustine can say that they have settled a number of things: they have seen that some things can be shown without signs, they have asked whether some signs should be preferred to the things they signify, and they have concluded that cognition of things is always superior to signs. Indeed, the meager reward of their effort can be summarized as follows. "It is established therefore that nothing can be taught without signs and that the knowledge itself ought to be dearer to us than the signs by which we know, although not everything that can be signified is better than its sign." (X,31) At this point a major shift in the direction of the dialogue occurs. Augustine asks whether what they think they have established is beyond doubt. First of all, he attacks the contention that nothing can be taught without signs. The activities which had earlier been thought to manifest themselves when one asks for the meaning of a word have been argued to be signs of that meaning. Nevertheless, we do learn from observation. If I watch a man fish or hunt, observe his equipment, his movements, and so forth, I can come to knowledge of the arts involved. Some things then, indeed a veritable infinity of things, can be learned without signs. Now the fundamental question is posed: Can anything in fact be learned by means of signs? "If we should consider the matter more diligently, perhaps you will discover nothing which is learned through its sign." ( X,33) Augusfine will attempt to show this.

His point can be reduced to this. If I do not already know what the sign signifies, I cannot be apprised of that thing by the sign alone; but if an understanding of the sign presupposes knowledge of the signifiable, the signifiable cannot be conveyed by the sign. Words do not exhibit things; they can only remind, direct us to things. We learn, not from the signs, but from the truth within. "Concerning all things that we understand, we do not consult the one speaking without but the truth presiding within the mind itself, admonished perhaps by the words to do so. He who is consulted teaches: Christ it is who is said to dwell in the interior man, that is, the changeless power of God and the sempiternal wisdom, whom indeed every rational soul consults and he reveals himself to each according to his capacity due to his good will or bad. (XI,38) Thus, he vindicates the verse: Magister vester unus est Christus.

When speech is concerned with present sensible things, we learn from these things, not from the words; if speech is concerned with absent sensible things, we learn by consulting our memory for images of them. Finally, when speech is concerned with things perceived by the mind itself, these things are seen, if at all, in the interior light of truth by which the interior man is illumined. In no case, then, do the words themselves teach. If someone learns from me, he does so, not from the words I speak, but from the things which the words recall. Questions and discussion can he useful to direct the mind to things, and from the inner light it can learn. By learning within, the listener becomes a judge of the spoken word. Finally, Augustine observes that words are not always signs of what is in the speaker's mind; indeed, even when they are, the purpose of teaching is to exhibit, not what the teacher thinks, but the way things are. That words are an indispensable instrument of teaching Augustine does not wish to deny; his purpose has been to show that they are but instruments to remind, that they do not exhibit that of which they are signs, and that, consequently, the human teacher is not the principal cause of learning.

Augustine's interpretation of the nature of the Ideas and his doctrine of illumination exhibit his dependence on Plato as well as his originality. That his views on the guarantee of knowledge and the learning process owe much to Plato is obvious; nevertheless, we should stress that his identification of the Ideas with the creative ideas of God is an important adjustment of the Platonic doctrine. Moreover, it is productive of a number of problems. We may say that the Ideas played a double role for Plato, what can be called an ontological and an epistemological role. It is through participation in the Ideas that sensible things exist in the deficient way they do exist, and the Ideas give a fixed object of knowledge. This latter role led Plato to what may have been only a myth of the preexistence of the soul; prior to its incarceration in the body the soul was acquainted with things themselves, with the Ideas. The soul's incarnation induces forgetfulness, and learning is the recollection of what is already known, with sensible things playing a role similar to that assigned to words in the De magistro: they neither produce knowledge nor are they the objects of knowledge, but they can point the mind to its true object.

By identifying the Ideas with God's knowledge Augustine forces us to ask if we learn by contemplating the divine Ideas. He retains the Platonic vocabulary, speaking of learning as recalling. However, as he warns later (Retract., I,viii,2), this "should not be understood as an approbation of the opinion that the soul at some time lived either here below in another body or elsewhere in a body or outside of a body, such that it would have learned in another life the answers to questions it has not studied here below." The doctrine of an interior light is intended to replace the appeal to a previous existence and a view of learning as remembering what was once known. In the De trinitate (XII,xv,24) Augustine compares the mind with the eye and notes that just as the eye grasps things because a light is proportioned to it and to its objects, the mind grasps incorporeal things with which it has affinity in a light of the same order as itself and its object. We would not say that the eye, because it can distinguish black from white without being taught, must have known this distinction before being created with the body; no more should we say that the soul's grasp of truths previously unknown argues that it existed prior to its creation with the body. In each case it is the appropriate light which enables eye or mind to attain its objects. The participation in the divine light which enables man to come to knowledge of immutable truths is seen to be necessary since the mutable things perceived by the senses cannot be the cause of immutable truths in the mind. Is the divine illumination a miraculous intervention in the natural order? It seems perfectly clear that Augustine invokes the inner light to explain the natural activity of the mind. It is something at the disposal, so to speak, of Christian and pagan alike. As we shall see later, St. Thomas Aquinas in his own De magistro (Q.D. de veritate, q.11) will interpret the light of which Augustine speaks in terms of Aristotle's doctrine of the agent intellect, to which Aristotle was led for reasons analogous to those of Augustine. It has been objected that this is a misleading identification because Aristotle recognizes that our intellectual knowledge depends upon an abstraction from sense images, whereas Augustine explicitly denies that what is sensibly perceived can cause knowledge of eternal truths. Perhaps this difference is not as great as it seems. Although Augustine's light cannot be simply identified with what Aristotle and St. Thomas call the agent intellect, Augustine, nevertheless, arrived at his doctrine for much the same reason that prompted Aristotle to recognize the need for an agent intellect. In response to a difficulty raised a moment ago, it can be said with some certainty that Augustine does not wish to attribute our knowledge of truth to a knowledge of things in the divine creative Ideas. Augustine denies that our mind is capable, in the natural course of things, of seeing God directly. Some men have such knowledge due to a rare and mystical privilege. The divine illumination, on the other hand, is an abiding and natural phenomenon common to all men. On at least one occasion (Contra Faust., XX,7) Augustine explicitly denies the identity of the light in which we grasp the truth and the light which is the Divine Word. Speaking of the former, he says, "this light is not that light which is God."

Portalie, who does not think too highly of Augustine's doctrine of illumination (p.ll4), summarizes it as follows. "In our opinion, Augustine's doctrine is the theory of divine illumination of our understanding, so much in favor in the Middle Ages which borrowed it from him. It can be formulated this way: Our soul cannot attain to intellectual truth without a mysterious influence of God which does not consist in the objective manifestation of God to us, but in the effective production of a kind of image in our soul of those truths which determine our knowledge. In Scholastic language, the role of producing the impressed species which the Aristotelians attribute to the agent intellect is assigned to God in this system. He it is, the teacher, who speaks to the soul in the sense that He imprints that representation of the eternal truths which is the cause of our knowledge. The ideas are not innate as in the angels, but successively produced in the soul which knows them in itself." (pp.112-113)

3. Faith and Understanding. Earlier we touched on Augustine's apparently conflicting doctrine on the relationship between faith and understanding, authority and reason. It is important for us to grasp Augustine's thought on this matter in order to grasp better his teaching on the nature of faith and to see its implications for the possibility of philosophical truths apart from revelation.

Augustine teaches that there is a twofold impetus to learn: authority and reason (Contra academicos, III,xx,43). The question then arises as to the relation between these: Are they simultaneous or does one precede the other, and, if so, which takes precedence? "Likewise with regard to the acquiring of knowledge, we are of necessity led in a twofold manner: by authority and reason. In point of time, authority is first; but in the order of reality, reason is prior. What takes precedence in operation is one thing; what is more highly prized as an object of desire is something else. Consequently, although the authority of upright men seems to be the safer guide for the uninstructed multitude, yet reason ss better adapted for the educated. And furthermore, since no one becomes learned except by ceasing to be unlearned, and since no unlearned person knows in what quality he ought to present himself to instructors or by what manner of life he may become docile, it happens that for those who seek to learn great and hidden truths, authority alone opens the door." (On Order, II,9,26; trans. Russell [Chicago, Franciscan Herald Press]) What has been accepted and lived on authority can come to be understood. Faith in authority precedes understanding, and since it is reasonable that we proceed in this way, we can say that reason precedes the faith that precedes understanding. "God forbid that He should hate in us that faculty by which He made us superior to all other living beings. Therefore, we must refuse so to believe as not to receive or seek a reason for our belief, since we could not believe at all if we did not have rational souls. So, then, in some points that bear on the doctrine of salvation, which we are not yet able to grasp by reason -- but we shall be able to sometime -- let faith precede reason, and let the heart be cleansed by faith so as to receive and bear the great light of reason; this is indeed reasonable. Therefore the Prophet said with reason: 'If you will not believe, you will not understand' [Isa. 7:9]; thereby he undoubtedly made a distinction between these two things and advised us to believe first so as to be able to understand whatever we believe. It is, then, a reasonable requirement that faith precede reason, for, if this requirement is not reasonable, then it is contrary to reason, which God forbid. But, if it is reasonable that faith precede a certain great reason which cannot yet be grasped, there is no doubt that, however slight the reason which proves this, it does precede faith." (Letter 120; The Fathers of the Church: Saint Augustine, Volume 10, Letters 83-130; trans. Sr. Wilfrid Parsons, S.N.D. [N.Y., 1953], p.3O2) Prior to belief, reasons for credibility must be given, and these reasons bear, not on the content of the statements in question, but on the authority of the one uttering them. It will be noticed that the process Augustine outlines is applicable not only to revealed truth but also to philosophy. Thus, he will distinguish between human and divine authority; human authority, however, is often deceiving. Despite this parallel, Augustine's interest is the faith which bears on what God has revealed to us. Faith is cum assensione cogitare (On the Predestination of the Saints, 2,5), to think with assent, and although we know what we see and may believe what we do not see, the reward of faith is to see what we believe. (Sermon 43,1)

These few words indicate that Augustine's position on the relations between faith and understanding, while subtle and nuanced, has an obvious meaning and truth. The reasonableness of the assent of faith must be established before that assent is given; once given, the mind can go on to examine the believed truths with an eye to understanding them. Faith opens the door to greater understanding, even of things which in principle can be understood without divine faith.

It is possible to say that Augustine holds that divine faith is necessary even with respect to truths which the philosophers have been able to foreshadow. Thus, we have seen that Augustine held that Plato had arrived at striking truths in the absence of all supernatural aid. For the most part, however, men need the help of the Christian faith to overcome the mental darkness and proclivity to vice consequent upon sin. We have seen the stress he puts on the need for rectitude of life if one is to understand: the virtuous life removes the impediments to understanding, clears the eye of the soul so that it might contemplate truth. The Christian religion enables us to prepare for understanding. "Since the blindness of our minds is so great, by reason of the gluttonous excess of our sins, and the love of the flesh, that even those monstrous ideas [of some pagan philosophers] could make learned men waste their time discussing them, will you, Dioscorus, or anyone gifted with an alert mind, doubt that there was any better way to seek the welfare of the human race than that Truth Itself should have ineffably and miraculously become man and, playing His part on our earth by teaching right principles and performing divine actions, should persuade us to believe, for our own advantage, what could not yet be understood by human wisdom?" (Letter 118; ed. cit., pp.29l-292) In the same letter he indicates that Plato and Plotinus had arrived at truth, but since the faith was lacking to them, many of their followers fell into error. If we believe by divine faith things which philosophers were able to know, it seems to follow that the man of faith can search for cogent reasons and come to understanding. This does not mean that whatever is believed can he understood in the way in which the philosophers understand, however. Yet the possibility of philosophical proofs is not prejudiced by the role Augustine assigns to faith. What is most striking in his view, perhaps, is the implication that the Christian is in a privileged position with respect to philosophy itself.

4. Immortality of the Soul. To complete this sketch of Augustine's teaching with respect to the first great question of philosophy, What is man?, let us turn to his proof of the immortality of the human soul.

Man is composed of body and soul; neither alone is man. (De moribus eccl., 1,4,6) The view that the soul is in the body as a result of previous sins is vigorously repudiated. However, if the natural state of the human soul is to be in a body, the soul itself is not a body, but spirit. The soul, therefore, is far more perfect than body and is, indeed, similar to God himself: vicina est substantiae Dei. (En. in Ps., 145,4) It is the mind's ability to grasp truth which enables Augustine to maintain the preeminence of soul over body as well as the incorruptibility of the soul itself.

Augustine's discussion in On the Immortality of the Soul is not always persuasive; indeed, often his reasoning is sophistical. Perhaps the very fact that he piles argument upon argument indicates that he was far from satisfied with some that he sets forth. If we were to extract the common thread from all the arguments there given, it would run as follows. The mind is able to contemplate truth, and in this activity it turns away from body, for body can contribute nothing to this activity. In its operation the mind is capable of grasping truth, of knowing the unchangeable. Consider, for example, our knowledge of mathematical truths; of these we do not say that they were or will be but rather that they are, immutably, eternally. For the soul to know such immutable truths demands an affinity between it and its object. The subject of immutable knowledge must itself be immutable. This is not to say that knowledge of the truth is constitutive of the immutability of the soul, for the soul does not perish when it makes false judgments. The capacity of the soul is exhibited in its actual grasp of truth, its substantial affinity with what is immutable and eternal. Given this, the soul cannot perish; it must be as lasting as the truth which is its object.

Although Augustine is unwavering in his view of the destiny of the soul, the same cannot be said of his view of its origin. We have already seen that early in his career as an author he adopted Platonic modes of speech which suggest that the soul antedates its union with the body. While he later repudiated this, he had great difficulty in explaining the origin of the souls of the descendents of Adam, since any theory had to allow for the transmission of original sin. This is a problem which can best be treated when we speak of Augustine's view of creation and his doctrine of the rationes seminales.

F. God

Man is made for God and, as a rational creature, he is made to know God and to love him: "you have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Conf., 1,1,1) Given man's destiny, Augustine believes that only a few men can deny God's existence: "There can be found only a few of such impiety that these words of Scripture would be verified of them, 'The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.' This madness is restricted to a few." (Sermon 69,2,3) Even before the spread of the Christian faith most men knew of God; we can see in this a sign of the divine power. God cannot be wholly hidden to the man who uses his reason. Except for a few depraved individuals, the world called men to a recognition of God. (On the Gospel of John, 106,4) God is closer to us than is the world he made: "He who made us is closer to us than the many things which have been made. 'In him we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28); from which it follows that it costs us more labor to discover them than it does to find him by whom they were made (Literal Com. on Genesis, V,16,34) This is a hint of the distinctively Augustinian approach to a proof of God's existence; however, texts in great number can be cited which speak of the world as directing our mind immediately to its maker. The following is typical: "Behold the heaven and earth: they cry out that they have been made, for they are changed and altered. Whatever has not been made, yet is, contains nothing within itself which before was not, which would be to be changed or altered. So they cry out that they have not made themselves: Therefore we are because we have been made, nor were we before we were that we might have come to be by ourselves. The words of the speakers is evidence itself. You then, Lord, have made them, and you are beautiful since they are beautiful, you are good since they are good, you are since they are." (Conf., XI,4)

In connection with the idea that the things of this world call us to knowledge and love of God, Augustine makes frequent use of a famous passage of St. Paul: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those men who in wickedness hold back the truth of God, seeing that what may be known of God is manifest to them. For God has manifested it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen -- his everlasting power and also his divinity -- being understood through the things that are made." (Romans 1:18-20) Augustine explains that an inspection of this world, of the heaven and earth and the creatures in both, forces the mind to recognize that God exists. "It is this that noble philosophers have sought and from the art have known the Artificer." (Sermon 142,2,2) If men have known God and then not gone on to honor him, their wisdom is turned into folly; they make idols and fall into the most bestial vices. If we then say they are ignorant of God, this ignorance is consequent upon vice and is, as the Apostle says, inexcusable.

Augustine teaches that it is relatively easy for men to come to a knowledge of God from the world around them. This knowledge can become distorted and be an indictment if men take pride in their wisdom or fall into other vices. Augustine is very sensitive to the errors into which philosophers have fallen concerning the nature of God. He even attributes the materialism of Democritus to viciousness. This leads one to conclude that the recognition of God, which Augustine feels is widespread, is compatible with a good deal of error. Only a few philosophers, notably Plato and Plotinus, have arrived at a proper conception of God. In the absence of an authority to inform the multitude of what they had learned they made their doctrine a secret, a matter for the initiate. Christianity remedies this complex situation, for now the existence of God as well as his attributes are made known to all men on the authority of God himself, the Truth Incarnate.

Since the Christian accepts on divine authority many things which can be understood, he can go on to seek understanding. If the man of faith sets forth an argument to show that God exists, he will not have to proceed from what he believes or demand that the conclusion be accepted on faith. It is because Augustine attempts proofs of the immortality of the soul and of the existence of God which are of this nature that we can speak meaningfully of the philosophy of Augustine, despite the fact that it seems impossible to maintain that he taught a separation between philosophy and theology with anything like the clarity of an Aquinas. The note of Augustinian philosophizing is struck in the following remark: "Although I hold these things with unwavering faith, since I do not yet grasp them with knowledge, let us so inquire as if all these things were uncertain." (On Free Choice, II,ii,5) What will make them certain is evidence, not an appeal to the faith that has not wavered during the inquiry.

Augustine is clearly guided in his philosophizing by his faith; thus, if we define philosophy in terms of not knowing how the argument will turn out, Augustine will not be a philosopher. If we define philosophy in terms of the quality of the evidence adduced to support a proposition, however, evidence which can be grasped whether or not one has faith (Augustine would insist that good moral dispositions are supposed, although these are not constitutive of assent), then we can expect to find philosophy in Augustine. Much will be said later on whether one can understand and believe the same truth. Augustine does not seem to have been bothered by that question. Given the fact that one who believes God exists can seek to prove this fact, as can one who does not have divine faith, it seems to follow clearly that there is no formal difference in their mode of argumentation -- if both are unsuccessful. Whether or not Augustine succeeded in discovering proofs of the immortality of the soul and the existence of God, it seems clear that he was seeking proofs which did not require divine faith for their acceptance. The fact that philosophical proofs are advanced by a man who has the gift of faith does not add anything intrinsic to those proofs. These comments must suffice for now; the problem of a Christian philosophy is one to which we shall return later in terms of the efforts of the thirteenth century.

While the passages we have cited thus far indicate that Augustine feels we can be led directly from the world around us to God, this is not his most characteristic approach to the proof of God's existence. He usually maintains that one must retreat from the world to oneself and from thence to God. The role the mind plays in the ascent to God becomes central: "Go not abroad hut enter into yourself: truth dwells in the inner man; and if you should find your nature mutable, transcend yourself." (On True Religion, 39,72) The Augustinian approach to God receives one of its most developed expressions in On Free Choice (II, chaps. 3-18). His argument moves in steps to the assertion that God exists.

This argument exhibits how intimately the two great issues of philosophy, God and the soul, are intertwined in the thought of Augustine. The first point established is my certitude of my own existence. St. Augustine notes that the fact of my existence is indubitable since I would have to exist to doubt it or to be deceived in regard to it. (11,3) He says in the De trinitate (XV,12,21): "He who is not can certainly not be deceived; therefore, if I am deceived, I am." It is customary to suggest a parallel between these remarks and Descartes' cogito ergo sum. The resemblance is at best superficial. Augustine is not saying that things other than my existence are dubitable, for he adds immediately that other things are just as certain as the fact that I exist. Our awareness of our soul, of the principle of life in ourselves, is derived from observation of corporeal movements. (En. in Ps.,73,25) Augustine's principle was formulated to overcome the skepticism of others; it does not reflect even a methodical doubt of his own.{10}

It is indubitable that I exist; equally evident are the facts that I am living and that I understand. This indicates three levels of being: some things simply exist; others exist and live; yet others exist, live, and understand. Man falls under the final heading and is more perfect than things on the first two levels. In man there are bodily senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, each with its proper object. As well as these there is an inner sense. When we see we do not see seeing, so that if we are sensibly aware that we are seeing, this must be accomplished by another and, Augustine argues, interior sense. This inner sense is said to be common to beasts and men. In man, over and above the exterior and interior senses, there is reason. A sign of its presence is the fact that man seeks to define seeing and the interior sense, something which neither of these senses would themselves attempt. Augustine sums up: "These things have been shown: by the sense of the body corporeal things are sensed; this sense cannot be sensed by itself; however by means of an inner sense corporeal things are sensed through sense as well as the sense of the body itself. By reason all these things as well as itself are made known and brought under knowledge (De trin., 11,4,10)

This hierarchy is now elaborated. The object of the senses is something which is: sense itself is an instance of living being. Moreover, the inner sense is more perfect than the outer senses, and reason more perfect than sense. Now, if we can prove that there is something more perfect than our reason, something eternal and unchangeable, that will be God.

Augustine turns once more to the senses and notes this difference among them. Although several men cannot simultaneously touch the same portion of a body or eat the same food, several can hear the same sound and see the same color simultaneously. (11,7) In much the same fashion one truth is common to many minds. For example, many minds can possess a common truth about numbers; each man does not have his own private mathematics. (11,8) Is there one wisdom for all men? "If there is a highest good common to all, so too the truth whereby it is discerned and held, that is, wisdom, is one and common to all." (11,9) Truth is what is more perfect than our mind or reason, and if there is something more excellent than truth, that will be God. Or, if there is nothing more excellent than truth, God will be truth. (11,15)

We have already seen Augustine cite numbers to illustrate a truth which is common to many minds. This is not a casual allusion. The role of number in Augustine's proof is difficult to overestimate. We are asked to move from the number that we encounter in the sensible world to the eternal realm of number: "Every changeable thing you see can only be grasped by the senses or considered by the mind because it has received from number a certain perfection without which it would fall back into nothingness. If this is so, doubt not that for these changeable things not to cease to be but to continue with measured movements and a variety distinct from their perfection to travel the grooves of time, as it were, requires an unchangeable and eternal perfection which is not limited and extended in space or prolonged and diversified in time. By it all these things are capable of receiving their perfection and fulfill it while realizing, each according to its own species, the numbers of place and time." (11,16)

The argument reaches its crescendo in the following passage: "But if you can find creatures other than those which exist without life, those which exist and have life but not understanding, and those which have existence, life, and understanding, then you might dare affirm that there is some good which does not come from God. These three types can be designated by two names: body and life. The name 'life' applies properly either to those beings having only life without intelligence, like the animals, or to those having intelligence, like men. But these two, namely body and life, insofar as they pertain to creatures (for the creator too has life and that is life supreme), these two creatures, then, body and life, being perfectible, as we have seen above, and such that they would fall into nothingness if they should completely lose their perfection, sufficiently indicate that they derive their existence from that which exists ever the same. That is why every good, be it ever so great or ever so small, can come only from God. For what in creation is greater than the life of understanding and what less than the body? And no matter what their deficiency whereby they tend to nothingness, it is no less true that some form belongs to them such that in a certain manner they are. That which is from being, however little, is from the perfection which knows no deficiency and does not allow the changes of things which corrupt and are perfected to exceed the laws of number. Therefore, whatever worthy of praise be found in the natural world, whether it be deemed worthy of greater praise or less, ought to be referred to the ineffable and incomparable praise of the creator." (11,17,46)

Insofar as the rational soul recognizes truth as something more perfect than itself, for it is the measure of the soul, it has come to a recognition of God. (On True Religion, 30,56) The recognition of truth, of God, is the recognition of something immutable and eternal, and the good of the soul is seen to consist in being joined to God.

Augustine's view that recognition of God's existence is had by the majority of men has been seen not to exclude a good deal of error concerning the nature of God. This error, Augustine feels, can be largely explained in terms of moral turpitude. But of what quality is the knowledge of God that is had when knowledge is at its best, as with the philosophers whether Christian or not? This is a question we must pose, particularly since the supposed parallel between Augustine and Descartes on the certitude of our own existence may seem to suggest a further parallel with respect to our knowledge of God. Descartes suggests that the divine nature is known in much the same way as the nature of the triangle is known. Such a remark would be an abomination to Augustine.

Although nothing in this life is to be preferred to knowledge of God, our knowledge of and talk about God is quite imperfect: "God is known more truly than he is spoken of and he is more truly than he is known." (De trin., VII,4,7) It is not remarkable that when God is spoken of, we do not understand. If we could understand, it would not be God who is the object of our knowledge. When we speak of God, it is more pious to confess our ignorance than boldly to claim knowledge. Nevertheless, while comprehension of God is quite impossible, our happiness consists in whatever knowledge of him we can attain. (Sermon 117,3,5) We must come to realize that what we can know is what God is not rather than what he is. (Letter 120,3,13; On John's Gospel, 23,9) "We understand God, if we can, to the degree that we can, as good without quality, great without quantity, creating without needing to, present but not located, containing all things without 'having' (habitu), wholly everywhere but not contained, sempiternal without time, making mutable things without himself changing, altered by nothing. Whoever thinks thus of God, though he cannot yet discover in every way what he is, is piously cautious to think of him as far as possible in terms of what he is not." (De trin., V,1,2) God said to Moses "Ego sum qui sum" (I am who am); his name is "Qui est" ("He who is"). Being is God's proper name because God can not change; there is no past nor future for God, since the dimensions of time are revealed by change. God is wholly unchangeable and immutable: he is. (Sermon 6,3,4) The perfection of God is such that any perfections we encounter in creatures are one and simple in God, a fact which makes our language inevitably inept to express even our imperfect knowledge of God. Even the most common or universal terms tend to express a perfection distinct from others and

so fall short of expressing God; thus, to call God a substance connotes a perfection differing from accidents, from other perfections, and seems prejudicial to the divine simplicity. (De trin., VII,5,1O) It is better then to call God essence or being and to realize that he does not have the perfections attributed to him but is each of them, for example, God is wisdom.

The name God attributes to himself, being, indicates that in God there is no distinction between the divine nature and the various perfections we are constrained to affirm of God. The attributes Augustine stresses are the divine simplicity, immutability, omnipresence, eternity, and providence. Augustine insists that God's foreknowledge of our free acts does not lessen their freedom, since what God foresees is precisely our free choice. (On Free Choice, 111,3,8)

While we will not enter here into St. Augustine's remarkable and influential doctrine of the Trinity of Persons in the divine nature, something must be said of his procedure in discussing this mystery. We have seen that Augustine holds that man can come to knowledge of God even apart from revelation; indeed, the one who has the gift of faith can seek understanding of what he believes, can regard as doubtful things in which he has unwavering belief, in order to learn reasons for them. That God exists is a truth which can be known by philosophical reasons as well as by faith. Philosophical knowledge does not lead to comprehension of the divine nature; the term here is an understanding that our knowledge of God is its own kind of ignorance. The characteristically Augustinian approach to God proceeds via man. Now if the divine nature always retreats before our efforts to understand it, it surely follows that we cannot understand how there can be three persons in one divine nature. If we seek in creatures things to proportion this mystery to our minds, analogies to the Trinity, what we find will not be conclusive in the way arguments for the existence of God and for attributes of the divine nature may be. True, Augustine sometimes speaks as if philosophers had arrived at a recognition of the Trinity, but finally he denies that even the Platonists grasped this. The man to whom this truth has been revealed by God himself will seek created analogies of this truth, but any certitude concerning it will always be a result of faith. Typically, Augustine seeks analogies of the Trinity in man, who has been made in the image of God. Thus, he finds in man these trinities: mind, knowledge, love; memory of self, understanding, will; memory of God, understanding, love. (See Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine [New York, 1960], pp. 219 ff.) Concern with the Blessed Trinity thus leads Augustine to an extensive analysis of the human soul.

Our suggestion is that Augustine's procedure lays the basis for the later distinction between the praeambula fidei and truths which are of faith alone. The role of reason is appreciably different with respect to each of these. Although the distinction is not explicitly made by Augustine, he appears to have honored it in practice.

G. Creation

Augustine holds that an inspection of the world reveals at once that it has been made; things virtually cry out that they have been made, pointing beyond themselves to their maker. Not only have things been made by God, they have been made from nothing. They were made from no subject matter which was not also made by God; nothing apart from God is but what has been made by God. "Some have tried to argue that God the Father is not omnipotent; not because they have dared to say this, but they are convinced by their traditions to feel and believe this. For they say that there is a nature which the omnipotent God has not created and of which he fabricated this world . thus they deny that God is omnipotent, for they do not believe the world could be made unless in the making of it he made use of some other nature already given which he had not made. . . . In this way they understand that the fabricator of this world is not omnipotent, since they hold that he could not make the world save by using as matter some nature unmade by him." (On Faith and the Creed, 2,2) If God is omnipotent, he can create from nothing; if his creative action presupposes matter, God is not omnipotent.

That God creates from nothing is an index of his omnipotence. We know from Scripture that the world had a beginning. What is the relation of creation and time? "For if eternity and time are rightly distinguished by this, that time does not exist without some movement and transition, while in eternity there is no change, who does not see that there could have been no time had not some creature been made, which by some motion could give birth to change -- the various parts of motion and change, as they cannot be simultaneous, succeed one another -- and, thus, in these shorter or longer intervals of duration time would begin? Since then, God, in whose eternity is no change at all, is the creator and ordainer of time, I do not see how he can be said to have created the world after spaces of time had elapsed, unless it be said that prior to the world there was some creature by whose movement time could pass. And if the sacred and infallible Scriptures say that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, in order that it may be understood that he had made nothing previously -- for if he had made anything before the rest, this thing would rather be said to have been made 'in the beginning' -- then assuredly the world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time. For that which is made in time is made both after and before some time -- after that which is past, before that which is future. But none could then be past, for there was no creature by whose movements its duration could be measured." (Civ. dei, XI,6) Augustine says that the six days of creation cannot be understood as days in the ordinary sense, for then there would have been three days without the heavens according to which we measure our days. Creation is instantaneous. However, Augustine does not hold that a fully organized world came into being at once. He puts the notion of instantaneous and simultaneous creation together with the fact of the gradual appearance of things as a result of change and the coming into being of human souls which do not simply arise out of preexisting matter. "Contrary to most of his contemporaries, however, he does not presume that the instantaneous act of the Creator produced an organized universe such as we see today. He distinguishes between creation properly so called and the formation or development of the world. This second action is due, at least in great part, to forces placed by the Creator in the depths of nature which have gradually and progressively passed through the various phases to which the Mosaic account gives an approximation." (Portalie, p. 137)

God, in producing the world, has produced not only a certain numher of things but things which are causes of other things to appear in the course of time; the things which will come to be only in time are present in their causes at the very outset and, thus, do not escape the creative causality of God. Augustine speaks of the primitive elements, of seminal reasons (rationes seminales): "All things were created by God in the beginning in a kind of blending of the elements, but they cannot develop and appear until the favorable circumstances are realized." (De trin., 111,9,16) Just as there is invisibly present in the seed everything which will later appear fully developed in the tree, so the world at the beginning of time contained in seed everything which would one day appear, including what has not yet appeared.

Augustine does not hesitate to apply his interpretation to Adam and Eve, who were not made in the very beginning of time. He must make certain adjustments in his theory, however, since he will not allow that the human soul was precontained in a causal principle. A special intervention of God is required for the formation of man. Augustine is guided in his remarks by the account of creation in Scripture. Man's body is formed from the slime of the earth, but his soul does not come into being in this way. It must be created in the same way as the primitive elements, out of nothing. This is true not only of the souls of the first parents but of every soul. Augustine is careful not to suggest, however, that all human souls are created at the outset and exist prior to their union with a body.

H. The City of God

In 410 A.D. Rome was sacked by Alaric the Goth, himself a Christian. Historians assure us that this was not the worst invasion of Rome, but the effect of this fall on the times of Augustine cannot be underestimated. There was a great exodus from Rome and all of Italy, and refugees appeared in North Africa and in Jerusalem filled with tales of horror. What explained the fall of Rome, the seat of what had been so proud and farflung an empire? A conviction spread that the conversion of Rome to Christianity may have been responsible, that disloyalty to the old gods under whose aegis the city had been built and the empire spread accounted for the present ignominious fall.

The suspicion that Christianity had brought political and military disaster was not confined to pagans. Rickaby suggests that the Christianity of the converts within the empire could still have amounted to little more than a patina covering a good deal of latent paganism. This conjecture would explain the vigor with which Augustine undertook to refute the argument when he began composing The City of God in 412. This work was to occupy him sporadically over the next fifteen years. The polemic tone dictated by its immediate occasion and the fairly negative purpose with which he began were gradually replaced; thus, the work took on an uneven, frequently erratic tone but retained its fundamentally unified purpose. Augustine wanted not only to show the inadequacies of the pagan religion but to emphasize the perfection of Christianity. The book that had been occasioned by the fall of Rome became the tale of two cities, the city of man and the city of God. In the course of describing the origins, goals, and ends of these two cities Augustine brought to bear such immense erudition and indefatigible zeal that the result is one of the great classics of all times; The City of God is, perhaps, the most influential work of the great bishop of Hippo.

This is Augustine's own account, in the Retractationes, of the writing of The City of God:

Meanwhile Rome was overthrown by a raid of Goths, led by King Alaric, a most destructive invasion. The polytheistic worshippers of false gods, whom we commonly call pagans, endeavored to bring this overthrow home to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with unusual sharpness and bitterness. This set me on fire with zeal for the house of God, and I commenced to write the books Of the City of God against their blasphemies or errors. This work occupied me for a number of years, owing to numerous interruptions of businesses that would not brook delay and had a prior claim on me. At last this large work Of the City of God was brought to a conclusion in twenty-two books. The first five of them are a refutation of their position who maintain that the worship of many gods, according to the custom of paganism, is essential to the prosperity of human society, and that the prohibition of it is the source and origin of calamities such as the fall of Rome. The next five books are against those who, while allowing that such calamities are never wanting, and never will be wanting, to the page of mortal history, and are now great, now small, under varying conditions of place, time, and person, yet argue that polytheistic worship, and sacrifice to many gods, is profitable for the life that follows after death. These first ten books, then, are a refutation of these two vain opinions adverse to the Christian religion. But not to expose ourselves to the reproach of merely having refuted the other side, establishing our own position is the object of the second part of this work, which comprises twelve books; though, to be sure, in the former ten, where needful, we vindicate our own, and in the latter twelve we confute the opposite party. Of the twelve following books, four contain the origin of the two cities, the one of God, the other of this world. The next four contain the course of their history; the third and last four their several due ends. Thus the whole twenty books, though written of two cities, yet take their title from the better of the two, and are entitled by preference Of the City of God.

This succinct sketch of the work does not indicate its patchwork character, but it provides us with a generally accurate and convenient division for the following presentation.

Refutation of Paganism. As Augustine indicates, a twofold defense of pagan polytheism has been put forward. On the one hand, it is maintained that the worship of many gods is more profitable in this world; on the other, that it is more profitable for the next. St. Augustine attempts to dispose of the first contention by indicating that the plight of Rome at the hands of Alaric might have been far worse if it had not been for the Christian influence, thanks to which at least some mercy was shown the conquered. Although the women of Rome were objects of the conqueror's triumph, Augustine is concerned to dismiss the pagan belief that in such an extreme situation a woman should prefer death to dishonor. An unconsenting suffering of rape is preferable to the great sin of suicide, since if consent is not given, true chastity is not destroyed. Anticipating what will be conceded by the second defense of paganism, Augustine observes that in this life misfortune comes to both the just and the unjust and that even the true religion is no guarantee against external evils. We have here, after all, no lasting city, though another city whose destiny is eternal is intertwined with the earthly city.

This first allusion to the great opposition which is the theme of the work and the source of its title indicates that Augustine is not distinguishing between time and eternity, this life and the next. He has in mind the extension beyond this life of the option men make here below where the city of God is becoming a living reality in time, destined to continue in eternity. Men become citizens of the earthly city by preferring self to God; they become citizens of the eternal city of God by preferring God to themselves according to the true religion established by Christ. The populations of these two cities are fluid in time; not all those who are now members of the city of God will remain in that camp, and many who presently ally themselves with the earthly city will, with time and God's grace, become citizens of the eternal city. Thus, the import of the dichotomy goes beyond the political. Augusttine's view of history is a Christian one; beneath the visible and evident political dispositions he is able to discern the more meaningful politics constituted by the priorities recognized by men in their minds and hearts. The city of God is not, however, something hidden and secret. Its expression is the Church. The state is not, as such, opposed to the city of God. The earthly city is not a political reality but the congress of those whose lives are governed by self-love to the detriment of God.

Augustine describes in some detail the public spectacles of indecency which had been engaged in as worship of the pagan gods and indicates that the secret rites were even less worthy of men, let alone of gods. In a vein reminiscent of the Greek philosophers, Augustine says that such gods are not fit models of imitation for men. Indeed, the Roman heroes have been worthier models than the Roman gods. The vast number of pagan deities and the conflicting and confusing roles assigned them is discussed at some length. Under paganism Rome knew much adversity and injustice; moreover, under Christianity the city and empire enjoyed much success. The main point of these first five books is that good and bad fortune befall both the just and the unjust according to God's providence.

Providence is not to be confused with fate, however. Augustine is interested to show that human freedom is not jeopardized by God's causality. God has foreknowledge of the evil men will do, but that does not diminish their responsibility for it, and the same must be said of the good men do. Augustine does suggest that the Romans were rewarded with temporal goods for the natural virtues they practiced, but he sees this as a poor substitute for the eternal felicity which awaits the elect.

When he has finished his reply to those who would argue that worship of the pagan gods insures temporal success, Augustine turns to a variant of the argument. Some agree that good and bad fortune in this life come equally to pagan and Christian, but they maintain that we shall be better off in the next life if we worship the pagan gods in this. Augustine's reply to them is twofold. First, he shows that the pagan theology can scarcely pass as a spiritual religion. Second, he turns to the philosophers who have attempted to transform the popular religion into something more exalted. His principal concern here is Neoplatonism.

In books eight, nine, and ten of The City of God Augustine gives a sketch of ancient philosophy to which we have already had occasion to refer. A matter which looms large in these books is Augustine's interpretation of the airy spirits or daimons in religious Neoplatonism. These daimons occupy a middle region between the gods and men. Augustine interprets this teaching as a crude attempt to assign an intermediary between the human and the divine. A need for an intermediate is seen both from the point of view of man, who is so much less than the gods that he is sensible of his inability to approach the gods directly, and from the point of view of the gods, to whom it would seem unfitting that they should concern themselves directly with men. We are already acquainted with Augustine's praise of Plato, a good deal of which is to be found in these books. Though he praises Plato, Augustine feels constrained to reprimand the Platonists, especially Porphyry. From this critique emerges a deep appreciation of the fundamental inadequacy of any human attempt to bridge the gap between man and God. The attempts of the Neoplatonists, while partially commendable, seem a mere parody of the Christian revelation. Man is, indeed, in need of a mediator, but that mediator is Christ, and it was necessary for God to humble himself and lift man up if there was to be any intimate converse between creature and creator.

This is the negative or critical part of The City of God. The pagan religion has been shown to be no guarantee of good fortune in this life and wholly inadequate as a commencement of eternal life. Christianity cannot promise an absence of misfortune in this life, but by providing knowledge of the end that awaits us and the grace to achieve it, it enables us to assess both temporal goods and evils as of little moment when compared with permanent citizenship in the eternal city.

The Two Cities. "Two loves therefore have given origin to these two cities, self-love in contempt of God unto the earthly, love of God is contempt of one's self to the heavenly. The first seeks the glory of men, and the latter desires God only as the testimony of the conscience, the greatest glory. That glories in itself, and this in God." (XIV,28) With book eleven Augustine begins the discussion of the origin, progress, and ends of the two cities. First, the question arises as to how we can know God; this leads to a discussion of revelation and the canonical books of Scripture. After that, though not in an altogether orderly fashion, Augustine discusses the nature of God and the Trinity of Persons in God. He then turns to the doctrine of creation, speaking of the work of the six days. He writes of the fall of some angels and the consequent division of them in terms of light and darkness. The fall of the angels is portentous for the subsequent fall of man and the constitution of the city which is the opposite of the heavenly city. The creation of man and man's fall involve lengthy treatments of the nature and possibility of original sin, of man's state prior to it, and the consequences for the race of that first sin. With the advent of sin, two contrary courses open up for the human race: men divide themselves into the sons of flesh and the sons of promise, symbolized by Cain and Abel. Augustine sees a parallel in the fact that Cain, the murderer of his brother, founded the first earthly city, just as the founder of Rome killed his brother. Political society is seen by Augustine as a result of sin; he traces private property to the same root. Through book eighteen he provides a narrative of the history of the human race, which is derived largely from the Old Testament. The goal of part of mankind is the heavenly city and bliss with God, while the other part of mankind elects to find its lot with the fallen angels.

This is the main line that Augustine follows in the second part, the last twelve books, of The City of God. We shall discuss some points in detail, starting with book nineteen, which is an extended development of Augustine's view of order and is sometimes said to contain Augustine's notion of morality.

The controlling question is: In what does human happiness consist? Augustine accepts without question the Greek eudaimonistic interpretation of human action. In their moral life, in their choices and decisions, men aim for felicity or happiness. The philosophers have said much on this question. Augustine appeals to Varro, a favorite source of his in The City of God. (Unfortunately, Varro's Antiquities, a work of forty-one books, has been lost.) Augustine is clearly impressed by Varro's manner of asserting that there are 288 distinct views on the primary good held by philosophers, which can, nevertheless, be reduced to three. Either man's elementary desires are sought for the sake of virtue, virtue is sought for the sake of man's elementary desires, or each is sought for its own sake. Varro holds that human happiness consists in both bodily pleasures and the practice of virtue; thus, elementary desires are pursued for their own sake, although virtue is the best good of man. Human happiness, as described by Varro, is a well-rounded thing: health of body and soul, and a harmonious family life in the wider context of an ordered and peaceful society.

Augustine agrees that this is a most attractive statement of human happiness, but he adds that it is little like reality. Bodily health is at best imperfect, and even the most exemplary men seem to have but a tenuous hold on virtue. A man's wife and children are too often unfaithful, and in society at large, injustice seems rampant. There is never an end to lawsuits, which often cause the innocent to suffer. Worst of all is war, which seems endless. The Stoic may judge such evils to be of little or no account, but we know he is wrong. The absence of these evils is a very real good -- that is the strength of Varro's description of happiness. However, even if Varro's ideal could be reached, it would still not assuage the deepest desires of man.

The harmonious life that we accept as the ideal cannot be perfectly achieved in this life. Consequently, happiness must be redefined in terms of the degree of harmony possible to man in an exceedingly imperfect situation. God has given us a desire for human happiness, and it is unlikely that this desire is given only to be frustrated. In pursuing the peace and harmony of the good life we are, at least implicitly, longing for the true peace of the eternal city.

Peace is the key word in Augustine's account of what men finally seek. Even the evil man seeks it, though his goal may be but the parody of peace as found, for instance, in the domination of others. (Chap. 11) "The body's peace therefore is an orderly disposal of the parts thereof; the reasonable soul's, a true harmony between knowledge and performance; that of body and soul alike, a temperate and undiseased habit of nature in the whole creature. The peace of mortal man with immortal God is an orderly obedience unto his eternal law performed in faith. Peace of man and man is a mutual concord; peace of a family an orderly rule and subjection amongst the parts thereof; peace of a city an orderly command and obedience amongst the citizens; peace of God's city a most orderly coherence in God and fruition of God; the peace of all things is the tranquillity of order." (Chap. 13)

The concept of peace and harmony is the thread that must run through the whole of society. If we are to have a total view of the peace of society, our view must be theological. Again, we have here no lasting city; the ultimate purpose is achieved, if at all, only in an inchoative fashion in this life. We are destined for eternity, and only in the fullness of time will peace, order, and harmony establish themselves in a definitive way. The citizens of the city of God are one people here below in a far more perfect fashion than men can be citizens of a nation or empire. What constitutes one people is their union in pursuit of a common object of love. This community can transcend national boundaries and differences in language.

The last three books of The City of God deal with judgment, hell, and heaven. Hell and heaven are the respective terms of the earthly and heavenly cities; the goal of history is beyond history; in this life man is a pilgrim. The distinction between the two cities is not one between the political order here below and a heavenly city somewhere yonder; nor is it a distinction between two kinds of political organization here below. Charlemagne loved to have The City of God read to him, and it is thought to have played a great role in the elaboration of the concept of a Christian Empire, but this is an adaptation of Augustine rather than his own teaching. According to Augustine, what distinguishes the inhabitants of these two cities is their response to a basic moral choice. Does an individual serve himself to the detriment of God or God to the detriment of self? The earthly city consists of all those who make the first choice; the city of God claims all those who make the second choice. Membership in the city of God is not identical with membership in the Catholic Church. Many Catholics, nominal Catholics, as we should say, have actually made the first choice, and many of those currently outside the Church have or will make the choice that gives them membership in the city of God. Thus, here below in time the situation is fluid. With the end of time, at the final judgment, man's ultimate choice is ratified by God. One who has chosen the earthly city has chosen hell; one who has chosen to serve God rather than self has chosen heaven. Thus, what Augustine means, while it is not something covert or secret, cannot be translated into simple political terminology. He has any number of significant asides on the relation between Church and state, but that is not the real burden of his book and that is not the significance of the distinction between the earthly city and the city of God.

I. Conclusion

Augustine's influence on subsequent ages is due entirely to the force of his thought. While he lived, he was bishop of what has been called a third-rate city, and he had little or no impact on the course of practical affairs. In another see, in another post, he would have been attended as a matter of course. Surprisingly, as Bishop of Hippo, men turned to him constantly for the resolution of theoretical and principally theological difficulties, even though he did not seek their notice. However, the influence he had on the thought of his own times is as nothing compared with the undiminishing influence he has had through the centuries, even to our own day. The fact that he is today held in almost equal esteem by Catholics and Protestants suggests the hope that he may yet have his greatest role to play in the current movement toward Christian reunion.

Together with Boethius, who lived about a century after him and professed the hope that his doctrine would be identical with the great bishop's, Augustine was destined to be the vehicle whereby some knowledge of classical antiquity was transmitted to the men of the Dark and Early Middle Ages, when most direct contact with the early sources had been lost. This was a role that Boethius deliberately assumed, but in the case of Augustine it is merely one of the significant, if adventitious, effects of his prodigious scholarly efforts. In the High Middle Ages Augustinianism was the traditional approach to theology, and if his prominence seems temporarily eclipsed by the problems and opportunities consequent upon the introduction of the works of Aristotle into the West at the end of the twelfth century, this eclipse is, if not merely apparent, certainly temporary. Aquinas, the greatest of the thirteenth-century synthesizers of the old and new, is actually proceeding in the spirit of Augustine and doubtless would have been surprised to have what he was doing assessed as an alternative to Augustinianism. For, while it does not achieve the clarity in Augustine's thought that one might wish, the thirteenth-century distinction between philosophy and theology, as well as the conception of the nature of speculative theology, owes a great deal to the efforts of Augustine.

There can be little doubt that what is called the philosophy of Augustine is principally Platonic in inspiration, although some Aristotelian elements are apparent. The philosophy of Aquinas, on the other hand, is principally Aristotelian. Whether the Thomistic philosophical synthesis is devoid of Platonism or whether Platonism is one of its principal components is a point we shall examine later. What cannot be questioned is the massive impact of the thought of Augustine on Aquinas. Indeed, it may be said that anything like an understanding of Aquinas depends on a previous understanding of Augustine. Thus, these two chief Christian Doctors must be regarded as complementary, rather than opposed, inspirations in the continuing Christian task of bringing to bear on truths of faith whatever of validity can be found in natural thought.

Bibliographical Note

Augustine's works can be found in Migne PL, 32-46, but better editions of many of his works exist. For English translations one can go to M. Dods, The Works of Aurelius Augustinus, 15 vols. (Edinburgh, 1871- 1876). Individual works of Augustine have been put into English by so many hands and under so many imprints it would be impossible to mention anything like a representative sampling here. J. J. O'Meara has made a list of available translations in his version of H. I. Marrou, Saint Augustine (London, 1958). The excellent introduction to Augustine's thought written by Portalie for Dictionnaire de théologie catholique has been brought out in English by Henry Regnery: A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine (Chicago, 1960). Of profound importance, of course, is E. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine (New York, 1960). For recent work on Augustine see Augustinus magister: Communications et actes du congrès international augustinien (Paris, 1954). For the nonspecialist the Confessions, The City of God, the philosophical dialogues, are of first importance.

{1} Ozanam, La civilization chrétienne, p. 389, would trace the seven liberal arts to Philo Judaeus, De congressu. Cited in Rashdall, I, p. 34, n. 2.

{2} ". . .'sed quoniam his mortalium rerum cura terrenorumque sollertia est nec cum aethere quicquam habent superisque confine, non incongrue, si fastidio respuuntur.'" Eyssenhardt's edition, p. 333.

{3} See Margaret Deanesly, "Medieval Schools," Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 5, chap. 22, Pp. 765-779.

{4} Contra academicos, III, xvii, 37; cf. De civitate dei, VIII, 4.

{5} In chapter 2 of book VIII Augustine discusses the theories that Plato's theology resulted from hearing Jeremias when Plato was traveling in Egypt, or perhaps from reading his book. Augustine points out that he himself had embraced this theory in some of his works (cf. De doctrina christiana, II, xxviii, 43), but he feels it certain that Plato lived at least a hundred years after Jeremias and thus could not have listened to him. Nor could he have read his book, since it had not yet been translated into Greek. Nevertheless, Augustine argues, Plato could have learned of the Jewish faith through interpreters, and this would explain the similarities between Genesis and the Timaeus. In chapter 12, however, Augustine concedes that Plato could have come to his views about God without any contact with revealed truth, and he cites Romans 1:20 again. Augustine is reluctant to say that knowledge of God is easily attained except through revelation; indeed, his whole attitude here exhibits his conviction that it is a matter of the utmost difficulty to reason to the existence of God.

{6} See too Retractationes, III, 2: "Plato called the intelligible world the sempiternal and changeless plan according to which God made the world. If anyone should deny it he must by way of consequence maintain that God did irrationally what he did, since if there was in him no plan of making while he created or before he created, he would not know what he was doing. If there is such a plan, and there is, Plato seems to have called it the intelligible world."

{7} Cf. Oeuvres de S. Augustin, 1er Series, Opuscules, vol. 10, Melanges Doctrinaux (ed. Bardy, Beckaert, Boutet), p. 726.

{8} In De civitate dei (XI, 23) Augustine takes issue with Origen, who maintained that souls are consigned to bodies as punishment for sins committed in a pure state.

{9} In view of the fact that Wittgenstein begins his Philosophical Investigations by quoting a passage from the Confessions, which he then proceeds to criticize as expressing a whole theory of language, it is important to notice that Augustine has many extensive treatments of language and is highly sensitive to its many subtleties. Of course, Augustine does not come within hailing distance of the linguistic philosophy of Wittgenstein. {10} See Michael Mason, The Centre of Hilarity (London: Sheed & Ward, 1959), p. 88.

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