Back: Epicureans, Stoics, & Sceptics

St. Augustine of Hippo 354-430 AD


Doctrines & Discoveries

Notes & Quotes


Life & Times

RE: Diogenes further adventures. {4}

Life & Times

Born in Africa: Christian mother (St. Monica) & pagan father

Trained in rhetoric; taught it

Carthage (the students unruly)

Rome (skipped payment)


party times {1}

mistress & child (at least 10 years living together)

St. Monica's ultimatum: a suitable (rich Christian) wife;

separation; brief fling; conversion & vow of chastity {3}

Catholicism's Primary Publicist (MM: 4n24): allegiant to scripture; City of God written in defense of Christianity upon sack of Rome.

consolidation of doctrine amidst veritable Babel of philosophies

Christian "Heresies"

Donatist: sacraments not automatically efficacious

Pelagian: emphasized choice vs. grace in salvation {5}

Manichaeism {2}


1.        Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.

2.        And it appeared to me more devout . . . to confess thee finite, than  . . . to believe that anything could emanate from thee of such a kind as I considered . . . evil to be.

3.        Where is he who, reflecting upon his own infirmity dared to ascribe his chastity to his own strength, so that he should love Thee for less, as if he had been in less need of Thy mercy...?

4.        This lawful [sexual] act of nature is (from our first parents) accompanied with our penal shame.”

5.        Our will is by the law revealed to be weak, that grace might heal its infirmity





JTB Theory


Belief: You don’t know what you don’t believe, obviously.

Truth: What’s known has to be true, obviously.

Justification: What’s known is believed with warrant or reason.

Contra the (Academic) Sceptics: Contra Academicos

Academic Sceptical Thesis: There's no certain knowledge of anything

Certain of two types of things:

Eternal logical & mathematical truths {2}

Particular subjective facts

My own existence {5}

Either I'm deceived (in thinking "I am") or I'm not

If I'm not deceived, I am (that's what I think).

If I am deceived, I am (si fallor sum)! {3}

Facts of Appearance

Judgments concerning objective particulars is uncertain

 for practical purposes no reason not to accept the appearances ... with a grain of salt {7}

not too considerable a grain

pace belief in miracles {1}

"this ... this ... this" of {4}

scientific study -- possibly leading to greater certainty --  not  a great concern


Ideas (eternal transcendent Realities or Essences)

Exist in the mind of God: they're God's concepts. {6}

Eternal truths

immutable relations among Ideas

are thoughts in God's mind

Require Illumination for us to Grasp (compare: "Reminiscence")

1.        I heard the voice as of a boy or a girl, I know not which, from a neighboring house, chanting and oft repeating, "Take up and read; take up and read."  . . .  I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell, -- "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. "

2.        I am certain . . . if there is more than one [world], then that there is either a finite or an infinite number of worlds.

3.        [I]f you did not exist, you could not be deceived in anything.

4.        I know that this object seems white to me, . . .  this sound gives me pleasure, . . . this smell is pleasant to me, . . . this tastes sweet to me, . . . this feels cold to my touch.

5.        We exist and we know that we exist and we love that fact and our knowledge of it; in these three things which I have enumerated no fear of deception disturbs us; though we do not attain them by any bodily sense as we do external objects.

6.        The ideas are certain archetypal forms of stable immutable essences of things, which have themselves not been formed but, existing eternally and without change, are contained in the divine intelligence.

7.        [F]ar be it from us to doubt the truth of what we have learned from the bodily senses; since by them we have learnt to know the heaven and the earth.


God & True Being


works under added constraints -- to square views with


(1) creatio ex nihilo

(2) Divine


(3) Miracles

(4) Incarnation

(5) Damnation

& Salvation

Argument from Eternal Truths

Eternal Truths => Eternal Thoughts or Ideas. {1, ii6}

Eternal Thoughts require an Eternal Thinker

God -- Eternal Being/Thinking -- grounds these Truths

Attributes of God

Perfectly Good therefore Unchangeable (a la Plato) {2,3}

Perfection (Good) = Being

Imperfection (Evil) = Negation



Transcendent: OF the World but not IN the World {2}

contra Immanence: God IN The world

Pantheism: View that the world is made (or "emanates") from God

God is the Soul of the World-Body (Stoics)

God made the world not from Himself but from nothing {4}

Benevolent (God our Father, loves us)

doesn't just conceive/contemplate the laws of nature

directs the particulars: obvious with miracles

Eternal {5}

Incarnation: flesh per se not evil: nothing truly bad but bad will.

1.        [Eternal truth is such] which thou can'st not call thine or mine or any man's, but which is present to all and gives itself to all alike.  . . .  [Such] truth is neither inferior nor equal to our minds . . . but . . . superior and more excellent.

2.        There is no unchangeable good but the one, true, blessed God; . . . the things that he made are indeed good . . .  yet mutable because made not out of him, but out of nothing.

3.        [T]he one God of gods [is] something than which nothing more excellent or sublime exists.  . . .   All concur in believing God to be that which excels in dignity all other objects.

4.        That out of which God has created all things is what possesses neither species nor form; and this is nothing other than nothing.

5.        Nor does thou by time precede time; else wouldest not thou precede all times.  But in the excellence of an ever-present eternity, thou precedest all times past, and survivest all future times.



Providence, Evil, and Free Will




Problem: God is Omnipotent & Benevolent

Bad things happen (even to good people)

Misfortunes: explainable as trails, chastisements, etc.? {2}

Moral evil: why should the will go astray?

Fundamental problem: if we have -- or Satan, whoever, has -- any real independent initiative, then God is not omnipotent.

contra the Pelagians: salvation requires grace

miraculous circumstances of his own conversion

Providence: the elect are saved by the grace of God

Unavailability of Stoic-Heraclitean Solution: Evil must be really bad  (not just apparently so) to square with eternal damnation

Neo-Platonic Solution: Evil is Nothing {1,5}

Being is Good

God created the world out of nothing (pace Genesis) {3}

Evil is nothing (& moral evil noth-ing?)

Case Study: Original Sin

God made Eve with a certain willpower

God foreknew that this was insufficient for her to resist temptation & God allowed her to be tempted {4}

God is responsible: should have given her more willpower or not caused her to be tempted.

Evil will has no efficient cause -- just a deficient cause. {6}


nature (God-given)

environment (Providentially ordained)

if God acts through us, still God who acts

If God refrains from acting through us? {6}

1.        [Evil is] that which falls away from essence and tends to non-being.  . . .  It tends to make that which is cease to be.

2.        For this concealment of the use of things is itself either an exercise of our humility or a leveling of our pride; for no nature at all is evil, and this is a name for nothing but the want of the good.

3.        Now, against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it.

4.        He whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew . . . that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not.

5.        I inquired what iniquity was, and ascertained it not to be a substance, but a perversion of the will, bent aside from Thee, O God, the Supreme Substance.

6.        If the further question be asked, What was the efficient cause of the evil will? there is none.  . . .  And consequently, the bad will is the cause of the bad action, but nothing is the efficient cause of the bad will.

(V) Time


354: Augustine Born

371-78: Studies at Carthage, birth of Aeodatus, flirtation with Manicheism., teaching at Charthage,

378-384: Teaching at Rome

384: Augustine appointed professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan;  betrothed & mother of Aeodatus sent packing back to Africa.

386: Sojourn at Cassicum:  “take up and read”

387: Baptized by Ambrose.

389: Death of Aeodatus, back to Tagaste then Hippo.

391: Emperor Theodosius ends formal publid worship of pagan gods.

395: Made Bishop of Hippo

410: Fall of Rome to Visgoths under Aleric.

411: Donatism outlawed.

413: City of God begun

430: Augustine dies during Vandal  siege of Hippo.

Omniscience Alone Incompatible with Freedom?

(K) God knew before t that Eve would sin at t

Of necessity, what's known is true. 

So Eve's sin was necessarily a consequence of what was already the case (that God foreknew)

Paradoxes of Time

The past -- being gone -- doesn't exist {3}

The future -- since it is not yet -- doesn't exist

The present -- since it's only a moment -- has no duration (it exists but It's not temporal {2}

Subjective Theory {4}

past = presently remembered

future = presently expected

present = presently experienced or considered

Microcosm: Macrocosm

human subjective synthesis of time

is the dim image of Eternal knowledge of temporal events {5}

what's remembered by God is "objectively" past?

what's anticipated by God is "objectively" future?

what's experienced by God is present: here's the rub


God doesn't Really foreknow: eternity is not a moment in time

Makes time merely subjective -- a kind of illusion

Else God's present (experience) would change

But God's now = eternity; God's experience is unchanging

1.        What, then, is time?  If no one ask of me I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.

2.        If any portion of time be conceived which cannot now be divided into even the minutest particles of moments, this only is that which may be called present; which, however, flies so rapidly from future to past that it cannot be extended by any delay.  For if it is extended, it is divided into the past and future; but the present hath no space.

3.        [B]ut past times, which now are not, or future times, which as yet are not, who can measure them?  Unless, perchance, anyone will dare to say, that that can be measured which is not.

4.        What now is manifest and clear is, that neither are there past or future things.  Nor is it fitly said, "There are three times, past  present, and future"; but perchance it might be fitly said, "There are three times, a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future."

5.        Thou should know all things future and all things past.  Far, far, more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously, Thou knowest them.  . . .  Thou, in the Beginning knewest the heaven and the earth without any change of Thy knowledge.



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