Augustine Archives



More Generally: Historical Thinkers (226)

August 3, 2012

Quote of the Day: Augustine on Philosophy

Many things certainly do I muse upon in this earthly tabernacle, because the one thing which is true among the many, or beyond the many, I cannot find.

- Augustine, City of God, tr. Dods, 12.15


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June 13, 2012

Quote of the Day: Augustine on Bad Science and Bad Biblical Interpretation

In fact, it often happens that even a non-Christian has views based on very conclusive reasons or observations about the earth, heaven, the other elements of this world, the motion and revolutions or the size and distance of the stars, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of years and epochs, the nature of animals, of plants, of rocks, and similar things. Now, it is very scandalous, as well as harmful and to be avoided at all costs, that any infidel should hear a Christian speak about these things as if he were doing so in accordance with...
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May 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: What is a Soul?

In my last post, I discussed a variety of conceptions of the soul in the history of Christian thought and of Western philosophy more generally. One of the points I was making is that, for an ancient Greek (or Latin) writer, talking about a 'soul' (Gr. psuche, Lat. anima) does not automatically mean believing in something immaterial. Today (while reading Antoine Arnauld's On True and False Ideas, ch. 24), I came across a passage from Augustine which makes this quite clear. Augustine is arguing that the soul is immaterial, i.e. he's defending substance dualism. Here's how he describes his opponents'...
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May 17, 2012

A Brief History of Christian Conceptions of the 'Soul'

It is sometimes said that Christianity presupposes the existence of a soul, that, due to the progress of science, this view is no longer credible, and that, therefore, Christianity can no longer be taken seriously. It is very probable that there are some combinations of views, widely held among self-identified 'Christians', which can be effectively criticized along these lines. However, there are several puzzling features about this line of thought. The first is that it is not clear what the relevant 'progress of science' is supposed to be. Neuroscience is indeed advancing, but it can hardly be considered so advanced...
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November 29, 2010

Leibniz and Frankfurt on Freedom

The history of the debate on free will is sometimes narrated as follows: first, we have the 'classic compatibilists', starting from Hobbes, through Locke, Hume, and the positivists. At first these fellows square off against libertarians like Bramhall and Reid, who are (so the story goes) deservedly obscure. The debate is terribly unsophisticated: the compatibilists hold that freedom just is the ability to do what you want to do, the absence of any sort of external constraints. The libertarians require some kind of magic 'contra-causal' agent causation they can't explain. They slowly die out as English language philosophy is purified...
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December 26, 2007

Aristotle and Transubstantiation (Some More)

Tim Troutman (formerly known as "The God Fearin' Fiddler") of The God Fearin' Forum has responded to my latest discussion of Eucharistic theology and Aristotle. Perhaps I have not been very clear. Whatever the case, Tim persistently misunderstands both my claim and my argument for it. I am going to try to make what I am claiming very clear here:
The doctrine of transubstantiation, as expounded by Trent, is rendered incoherent by any system of metaphysics sufficiently different from Aristotle's.
This should not be confused with any of the following claims, which I do not make...
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November 2, 2007

Transubstantiation vs. Real Presence

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on the historical significance of transubstantiation which has led to some interesting discussions. The principle problem with this post and the discussion that follows it, however, is that no one seems to understand the difference between transubstantiation and the Real Presence. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on this either, but I do think I know enough to clear up some historical and metaphysical confusion. I am going to use two principal sources - session 13 of the Council of Trent, and the relevant article from the Catholic Encyclopedia - to explain the historical development and specific content of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and then attempt to show two things...
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August 13, 2007

Original Sin-Original Guilt, Christ's Righteousness-Imputation of Righteousness

Peter Kirk has posted a discussion of the Latin text Augustine was familiar with and its effect on his doctrine of original sin. The claim is, effectively, this: Augustine believed in the doctrine of original guilt because of an ambiguity introduced by an excessively literal Latin Bible which persists in the Vulgate and later theologians have a propensity to read original guilt into the text of Scripture because Augustine did. The passage in question is the end of Romans 5:12. The English translations are pretty much all the same: "in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned." But Augustine's translation says...
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March 21, 2007

Sola Scriptura in Augustine

As previously promised, this post will treat the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in Augustine. First, let me state that by Sola Scriptura I do not necessarily mean a particular formulation by Luther or Calvin or any particular church, but rather I mean to show that the cluster of doctrinal positions into which all of these fall exists in the early church. So I really mean the doctrines (plural) of Sola Scriptura, and not some particular doctrine. I define these as follows: A teaching is a Sola Scriptura doctrine if and only if it asserts that the contents of the canonical books of Scripture possess divine authority and/or sufficiency...
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February 28, 2007

Quote of the Day: Augustine on Reading the Bible in Translation

An important antidote to the ignorance of literal signs is the knowledge of languages. Users o the Latin language - and it is these that I have now undertaken to instruct - need two others, Hebrew and Greek, for an understanding of the divine scriptures, so that recourse may be had to the original versions if any uncertainty arises from the infinite variety of Latin translators ... There are certain words in particular languages which just cannot be translated into the idioms of another language. This is especially true of interjections, which signify emotion rather than an element of clearly...
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November 15, 2006

On Synergism

Gerald has a piece on Augustine and the synergism/monergism distinction up at Iustificare. Gerald believes that the real question is not about synergism vs. monergism, but rather about the resistability of grace. I think he is probably right about this, but I question his definition of synergism, since synergism is working together, but he seems to interpret it as simple concurrence. If I want God to do something, but have no power in myself to make it happen, it's not clear that this is synergism. However, Jesus does say "this is the work of God: that you believe in the One He has sent" (John 6:29). So let's suppose that believing or willing is a "work" (ergon) for the purpose of synergism. I have two points to make...
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July 12, 2006

Infallible vs. Irresistable Grace

Gerald at Iustificare has written several posts on grace and free will in recent weeks. The latest post, a discussion of Augustine's treatment of the issue, introduces an interesting distinction I had not heard before: the distinction of infallible vs. irresistable grace. Gerald describes the distinction as follows: Infallible grace is �grace that always accomplishes it purpose� �nothing more or less. Infallible grace can be resisted, but is not. Infallible grace can fail, but does not...
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