Philosophy Class

"The Truth will make you odd."

Outline of St. Augustine' philosophical journey

Augustine of Hippo - Born in Africa around 354 to 430 AD.

"One of the key figures in the transition from classical antiquity to the

Middle Ages." says the encyclopedia of Philosophy. Lived through the

upheaval called the decline of the Roman Empire. Lived through the

transition of Roman paganism to Christianity.


Died near 410 AD when the barbarians invasion was near his home.

His mother was a Christian and father was a pagan Roman.

He was educated in literature and rhetoric. (Public speaking.)

Young men were educated that way if they wished to pursue a career in

politics. This study developed forceful public speaking.



1. Why it is good to study Christian and Jewish philosophy.  The Arabs

also made contributions.


2. Not all philosophers are atheists or agnostics, as some believe.

There was Moses Maimonides, for example in medieval times, a Jewish

philosopher. There was Kierkegaard, Protestant existentialist in more

modern times. There was Avicina and Averros, the medieval Islamic


These are only to name a few.


3. Just because one professes a religion doesn't mean that he lacks a



4. Remember, the claim of philosophy is to be that which is discovered by

reason alone.


5. St. Augustine believed in Faith and reason. called the dialectic of Faith

and reason.

He said they complemented each other.

He said the better your faith, the better your reason.

He said the better your reasoning, the more your Faith.


6. Augustine had joined the Manichees in his youth. And was influenced

by their views on matter and spirit.


7. However, thru reading of the scripture, he came to believe that both

matter and spirit were good, because they were from God.


8. He was also influenced by Plato, as were most of the intelligentsia,

Christian and Roman etc. of his time. (In the west Aristotle came to be

accepted in 13th century, and not without much dispute and conflict.)


9. Later, Influenced by Plato, he saw in God, the Good, the Beautiful, and

The True, that Plato placed separately in the world of forms.


10. He said that Plato was of good will and tried to find the truth as much

as he could by human reason alone. However he did make mistakes.


11. Ambrose, Augustine's mentor had been involved in Platonic

philosophical circles . Both Christians and followers of the Roman state

religion attended these discussion sessions. It was called the "Circle of



12. Christians used Platonic ideas to help explain compatible doctrines to

the polytheists.


13. They said that the forms of Plato, beauty, truth, the horse, were

really exemplars existing in the mind of God before they were created as

individuals in this material world.


14. In Augustine's time Platonists and Neoplatonists were the prevailing



15. Why did an intelligent person such as Augustine fall to the doctrines

of the Manichees? He was living a typical life of debauchery and this fitted



16. Majorly, they claimed on the outset that their system could be proved

by reason alone.


17. Aug. started reading the scriptures but could not accept them from

his haughtiness. They were translated into poorly grammatical Latin

which turned off the elite. Remember, Latin was the language of the

age. Later a more correct Latin translation was Jerome.


18. Remember, Augustine was educated in Rhetoric which may have

prepared him for public service.


19 He said that pride lead him to fall into the Manichee system.  He

followed their teachings awhile.


20. "I fell among the Manicheans who said they would demonstrate all

teachings and required no Faith."


21. When he was leisurely reading, he found other opinions more

reasonable than those of the Manichees.


22. He then went from Manicheanism to Academic Skepticism. Academic

Skepticism: "Man cannot attain certainty."


23. Then he studied Plotinus' system (Plotinus was a Neoplatonist) which

lead him to believe in certitude again.


24. He then read a now lost work by Cicero called "The Hortensius" and

was changed by reading this work.


25. In a prayer he said, "That book changed my whole outlook to you,

Lord and changed desires, longings. Suddenly every vain hope became

cheapened and I was set on fire with immortality of wisdom, with an

incredible burning of heart. I was beginning to return to Thee."


26. Some of his famous writings are : Confessions, City of God,

1. His Confessions are an example of what the moderns call



2. That is philosophy by description. Personal experience.


3.  He was the forerunner of Descarte's "I think therefore I am." (which

we don't have the time to study here.) (Aristotle would probably say, "I

am, therefore I think" (He said existence presupposes action.)