St. Augustine


 

 

 

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Augustinian Paradigm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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elcome to the St.Augustine Website.

 

 

St.Augustine's Knowledge Methodology

The site concerns itself primarily with the ideas of Divine Illumination of the Intellect and the Self- Revelation of God. 

The aim is to define how God is known and how, therefore, Christianity achieves knowledge of God. However, since the knowledge processes are uniform for all knowledge the site explains how any and all knowledge is achieved, including knowledge of God. It is, in other words, a complete Theory of Knowledge.

 

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The Meaning of Knowledge

Non-believers are sometimes puzzled as to why otherwise intelligent and educated people should believe in God. Why one person claims to know something, and another asserts its opposite, is an interesting problem for epistemologists. If people come to different conclusions on exactly the same evidence the problem is merely methodical, but it may also be the case that there are significant reasons that influence one and not another. For practical individuals the interest is limited to the question of whether those who disagree know something more than they do. The question is whether there is additional evidence for theist belief that the non-believer has, for whatever cause, failed to consider.

For the materialist everything is, in principle, explainable on the assumption that all observations are of matter only and therefore only physical entities can be known. Since believers in God concede that God is immaterial, the materialist concludes that if He exists He is unknowable. If the grounds for believing in materialism were beyond dispute the non-believer's case would be made. In fact materialism is no more than a supposition and frays rapidly under philosophical criticism. But the non-believer is still entitled to ask a believer in God the question, "how do you know about this god?" This is a question about reality and truth and the demand is for a theoretical justification of the claims that God exists and can be known by human beings. 

The idealist asserts the opposite view to that of the materialist; that the human intellect can only know of ideas and God may be known through the flow of ideas. The explanation for why some believe and some don't depends on what goes on inside the human intellect. A Theory of Knowledge must explain how the intellect processes experience in the form of observations to arrive at conclusions about reality and truth, and, in particular, about how it arrives at knowledge of God.

 

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Introduction to the Problem of Knowledge of God

Communication between individuals is, nowadays, a minimal problem and improving technology makes it even less of a problem as time goes by. If communication with others is easy, communication with God has usually been seen to be difficult or impossible.

Allowing that God created the universe, it would be quite reasonable to expect that God incorporated within the Creation a method for intelligent individuals to communicate with Him, or that, at the very least, He left a message explaining those things that human beings ought to know. Isaac Newton, by one account, believed that the universe contained a coded message from God. If there is such a message Newton was eminently qualified to find it, and he didn't. 

St.Augustine refused to believe that the universe was a possible source of information from God, or about God. His view was that the point of contact with God is the intellect. Communications from God appear in the mind which is, equally with the physical universe, the creation of God.

The website investigates St.Augustine's claim the God places true understandings of both Himself, and the Creation into individual intellects. The objective is to discover and explain how any individual can, by following St.Augustine's methods, come to contact God and understand what is going on in their own lives. 

 

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The Problems of Knowledge Theory

There are long-standing problems of what is and is not knowledge and of the method by which knowledge is, or can be, achieved. Science, it may be judged, has found out  much that is both true and useful about the Universe. It has not been possible to say precisely how the discoveries of science are known to be true and therefore have the status of knowledge. This inability to define knowledge has led to disputes with some radical critics counter-claiming, for example, that science is a kind of myth.

Similarly, since it has not been possible  to say precisely how God is known critics have labelled religious claims as mythological. What has been needed, for most of the second millennium, is an Epistemological Theory which defines what knowledge is and shows how thinkers and researchers, both scientific and religious, achieve knowledge.

The Significance of the Knowledge Processes.

The knowledge of how Einstein and other creative thinkers approached their problems and solved them would be beneficial to studies in many different fields but it has not yet been possible to define the methodology of science in theoretical form. The problem of knowledge is not confined to State-of-the-Art research. Infants, starting from a state of total ignorance,  achieve knowledge of the world of experience.  In the first years of life children conceptualise space and time, language, numbers, and human relationships. Just how they do this is a problem that needs to be explained. The understanding of the subjective knowledge processes involved in the intellectual development of children would help to clarify many of the problems of knowledge methodology as well as contributing to the prevention of educational failures. 

The problems of science theory and the education of children have a common ground in the intellectual knowledge processes. The question to be answered is just how experience of reality is turned into knowledge of reality within the human mind.

Knowledge in Western Culture

Since the inception of the Romantic Movement there has been a conflict between Knowledge and Intuitive Ideas in Western Culture. Intuition takes form as motivating ideas and prejudices and offers a challenge to the claim that correct and effective human thinking and behaviour can only be, and should be, determined by knowledge and truth.

Intuitive ideas such as Freedom, Justice, and Democracy are the issues at the roots of many violent conflicts and yet their meanings are obscure, with opposing parties claiming that they offer the only correct interpretation. Many millions of human beings have died for intuitive ideas, with little or no gain in human progress. However, the present state of knowledge offers no better options for political action.

The lack of a valid theory of truth and knowledge has very real consequences in Western Culture and the world generally.  Human disagreements may be settled by argument or by combat. Where there is no theory of truth no argument may be seen to be true and all attempts to progress by intellectual arguments must therefore fail. Where there are no valid rational arguments the only arbiter left in human affairs is the appeal to force. When force is the only effective argument the world belongs to the strong and the ruthless. 

The violence and mass murders of the 20th century show that something is wrong with our ideas about ourselves and our function in the world. A rethink is overdue. A new world view is necessary with rational principles and moral ideals fundamentally different from those that have driven the modern world through its violent history. 

Only knowledge, based on valid methods, can offer the correct theoretical explanations and methods necessary for the achievement of the Western cultural ambition to improve the human condition. A new theory of knowledge is the prerequisite to the implementation of the strategy of peaceful progress. 

The theory of knowledge must discern some pattern in human experience which will make sense of human existence, and which will impart meaning, purpose, and direction both to individual lives and to the development of the culture. This sense of purpose will shape the search for knowledge.

 

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The Augustinian Theory of Knowledge

Augustinian knowledge theory shows the world to be a development system created by God, and describes how humanity can reach the better knowledge necessary to bring peace and improve the human condition in the world.

Augustinian knowledge theory is open to experience of reality and coheres easily with the scientific work of the Oxford Franciscans and their modern successors. It is based on solving the problems given in experience. Problems when solved correctly give knowledge of both God and the Creation. 

New knowledge in the form of problem solutions is achieved through creative psychological processing, and is the result of the ongoing creative work of God as the Inner Teacher. God teaches every individual who wants to know the truth.

 

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The Scientific Approach to a Valid Theory of Knowledge

The philosophical solution to the problem of objective or cultural knowledge methodology  is science. Science is the study of human experience and is not limited to Physics. Epistemology, as the study of knowledge is, itself, objective knowledge, and is a science. It is, in fact, the Science of Science. 

The responsibility of  Philosophy in the field of epistemology is to produce a framework for scientific research which may take the form of a meta-narrative or proto-theory.  This constitutes a requisition and terms of reference for the empirical investigation of the problem of knowledge as a prerequisite to the inquiry into the nature of reality.

The scientific study of the problems of knowledge leads to the attainment of the theory of knowledge of God and the Creation that Western Culture has needed for the past thousand years. 

This Website offers an explanation of Augustinian Method in the form of a Theory of Knowledge. It is not some new way of achieving knowledge but simply a better definition of the method by which human beings have always come into knowledge of God and the world.

 

For more on this subject Click Here. [2.3.2}

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St. Augustine's Explanation of Knowledge

St.Augustine claimed that God teaches and guides the people and He does this more directly and practically than by any material means. He offered the theory of Divine Illumination of the intellect as his explanation of how the individual can know of God. The problems of Divine Illumination and Revelation are examined and solutions are offered to the various difficulties that stand in the way of the complete acceptance of St.Augustine's claims. Of necessity, the solutions must draw on Christian experience before and after St.Augustine's time. The composite approach is essential because St.Augustine's own explanation, adequate perhaps for the religious meditative, is too sketchy to form the only basis for a theory of knowledge of God.

The psychology of knowledge, the part taken by God in knowledge creation and intellectual illumination, and the conditions under which God reveals the Truth are problems, and as such can be approached using Augustinian problem solving methodology. The Holy Spirit, Who teaches us all things, tells us the answers to these problems through intellectual enlightenment and this teaching forms the explanations that are given here.

 

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The Augustinian Method

 

t.Augustine, who was for nearly 1000 years the pre-eminent theologian of the Church, set out the method by which the ultimate reality of God may be known.

According to St.Augustine God speaks directly to man in a non-material way.

"For when God speaks to man in this way, he does not need the medium of any material created thing. He does not make audible sounds to bodily ears; nor does He use the kind of 'spiritual' intermediary which takes on a bodily shape... But when God speaks in the way we are talking of, He speaks by the direct impact of the truth, to anyone who is capable of hearing with the mind instead of with the ears of the body." 

The mind or intellect which is open to the truth is presented by God with truthful ideas. This is the concept of Divine illumination of the intellect.

"It was through that Wisdom that all things were made; and that Wisdom 'passes' also into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets, and tells them, inwardly and soundlessly, the story of God's works."

By Wisdom Augustine means the Holy Spirit. The source of knowledge of God is the Holy Spirit. Revelation is, then, the result of Divine illumination of the intellect by the Holy Spirit, and  describes the purposes and acts of God.

"We apprehend material things by our bodily senses, but it is not by our bodily senses that we form a judgment on them. For we have another sense, far more important than any bodily sense, the sense of the inner man, by which we apprehend what is just and what is unjust, the just by means of the 'idea' which is presented to the intellect, the unjust by the absence of it. The working of this sense has nothing to do with the mechanism of the eye, ear, smell, taste, or touch. It is through this sense that I am assured of my existence; and through this I love both existence and knowledge, and am sure that I love them." St Augustine, City of God (Book 11, Chapter 3, 2. Chapter 3, 4.).

Augustine is concerned with how he understands the truth. He points out that we all make truth judgments and that claim is beyond doubt. He does not go very deeply into the intellectual processes involved.

"For Augustine worked out his problems, as we all do, not by any a priori reasoning, but by actual contact with life and its difficulties. He tested his conclusions by the only satisfying criterion known to him: by seeing if they would work." G.R.HUDLESTON, Introduction to the Confessions

Augustine formed his problem understandings against the realities of life and tested his answers against later experience. His approach was scientific and consistent with the ideas later developed by the Oxford Franciscans.

For more on this subject Click Here. [2.3.3]

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The Augustinian knowledge methodology as St.Augustine employed it

St.Augustine's approach to knowledge was to consider the problems of the Christian Religion in his time, understanding these through his experiences in life. He saw the solutions to his problems to be knowledge, placed in his mind by Wisdom as the gift of God. 

The common form is 

PROBLEM ---> SOLUTION = KNOWLEDGE 

The problem  produces a solution seen as knowledge. The solution is a truthful idea placed in the mind by God. God is understood in this context as Wisdom, or the Holy Spirit.

The problem must always be studied first and the solution appears after the problem has been considered and understood.  The form may be extended to 

PROBLEM ---> CORRECT PROBLEM UNDERSTANDING ---> {The Holy Spirit} ---> SOLUTION = KNOWLEDGE 

The problem, as it is correctly understood, is translated into a solution, in the form of truthful ideas, by the Holy Spirit. 

When St.Augustine sought to further his knowledge of Divine matters he met with problems, and by researching these problems he gained complete and true problem understandings. The solutions, as knowledge, then appeared in his intellect as the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The examination of the paradigm raises the possibility that this method offers an understanding of the way that all knowledge, both spiritual and secular, is gained. In this case, the form may be further extended to 

ALL PROBLEMS, CORRECTLY UNDERSTOOD ---> {The Holy Spirit} ---> ALL SOLUTIONS = THE CORPUS OF KNOWLEDGE 

The Holy Spirit gives all knowledge, but only in response to requisitions for problem solutions. St.Augustine does not assert this general case but the claim appears in the Christian Scriptures.

 

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The Consistency of the Augustinian Tradition with the New Testament

he claim of St.Augustine to learn directly from God the Interior Master is entirely in accord with the Scriptures. 

The Gospel of St.John states the teaching of Jesus that "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything". (John 14:26). God the Holy Spirit teaches the faithful about God through intellectual enlightenment. However, the statement goes beyond the understanding that the Holy Spirit teaches knowledge of God to declare that the Spirit teaches all knowledge. The individual can learn nothing except through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

 

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The Inner Sense of Truth

St.Augustine's work reveals a lifelong quest for the truth and he moved from position to position in an increasingly better understanding of religion. His inner sense of the truth was subject to continuous improvement. If his method of working is analysed it reveals a pattern based on problems and their solutions. Firstly he became aware of the existence of the problem which he then came to understand through study and experience. Secondly he became aware of the solution which was placed in his intellect by the Interior Master. Thirdly he examined the solution in relation to his problem understanding and judged it to be true.

Three understandings are involved in this process which are the understandings of the problem, the solution, and the truth. These understandings were retained more or less permanently in Augustine's intellect. Putting this into the context of the saint's life the statement may be expanded to say that the understandings of all the problems that he ever investigated, and all the solutions he achieved to these problems, were retained in Augustine's intellect. For each problem he solved his understanding of the truth was expanded and improved. In the Augustinian model of the intellect this expanding understanding of the truth is the subjective philosophy. The subjective philosophy which is committed to its own truthful development follows the path of faith seeking understanding.

There is no need here to assume that St.Augustine correctly understood all his problems and, therefore, his solutions were always true. His doctrine of Predestination has been seen by later thinkers to be flawed, and this error may be traced to his incorrect understanding of the problem. It follows that incorrect problem understandings produce false solutions, which agrees with common experience.

The problem arises of the origin of false solutions. It appears that God the Interior Master matches the solution to the problem understanding and incorrect problem understandings can lead to incorrect solutions. 

Error is better than confusion, and false solutions may be seen as a stage on the path to truth, since their shortcomings will become apparent in later experience. For this reason science tests its theories to discover possible errors of understanding. This possibility of error gives the incentive to study the problem carefully since the problem must be understood correctly for the solution to be true.

 

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Knowledge Methodology and the Achievement of Knowledge  

The definition of the method for knowledge of both God and the creation must be distinguished from actual knowledge of these entities. The  knowledge methodology gives those basic skills which are essential to the development of knowledge. Knowing the methods by which Einstein formulated the theory of Relativity is not sufficient in itself to produce a similar theory, which additionally requires the study of the many problems of physics.  

Augustinian Knowledge Theory counters the charge of Nescience

In a similar way the knowledge of how God teaches is a long way from the development of a theological system  although it is the essential first step. However, the Augustinian methodology, in countering the charge of nescience, offers to every individual the continuing confirmation of the existence, presence, and character of God as given in the Scriptures and the religious traditions.

 

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The Website Structure

The problems, in the order that the website deals with them, are set out below.  Click on any subject to get directly to the page.

1. St.Augustine's Method for Knowledge of God 

St.Augustine's own definition of the method for knowledge of God is discussed.

2. The Inner Light

The page discusses how the intellect gains new ideas from the Holy Spirit, seen as the Inner Light.

3. The Teaching System of God

The page shows how experience is processed within the human intellect and how the Holy Spirit, as the Teacher, imparts knowledge.

4. Discovering God

The theory of intellectual illumination is further developed to show how knowledge of God is revealed through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

5. The Psychology of Knowledge

The concept of intellectual illumination is shown to account for all human knowledge, and a Theory of the Intellect is offered.

6. Augustinian Knowledge Theory

Augustinian knowledge methodology is summarised to show that it accounts for human knowledge of both God and the Creation.

 

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The Text

The accompanying publication called

 

 

 

"DIVINE ILLUMINATION AND REVELATION"

 

 

 

amplifies the explanations given by the web pages and may be downloaded. 

Click on ABOUT THE TEXT to obtain details.

 

 

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The Inner Light as the Teacher

St.Augustine understood intellectual enlightenments as originating with God. The Next Page considers how the Inner Light, as the Teacher, imparts the Truth directly to individual intellects.

 

Written by Derek Seckington  derekseckington@augustinianknowledge.com    

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