Top Ten Things Augustine Contributed to Philosophy, Part II

Last week’s post outlined five of the ten most influential contributions Augustine made in the philosophy world. Those contributions included the theory of time, how humans learn/express language, foundations of faith, the ontological argument, and the concept of doubt. The post will highlight five more of Augustine’s contributions and philosophical ideas.

6. Existence of God from Eternal Ideas: Augustine argued that the human mind apprehends universal, objective, unchanging, and necessary truths that are superior to the human mind itself. Since truth must reside in a mind, Augustine reasoned that these perpetual truths are grounded in the eternal mind of God. Thus an everlasting God exists to explain these eternal truths.

7. Response to the Problem of Evil: Augustine argued that while evil is real it is not a substance and neither is it “stuff.” Rather, evil is a privation (an absence of goodness in the human will). Therefore, God did not create evil. Augustine further argued that the origin of evil resulted when Lucifer chose a lesser good (himself) and exalted it above the ultimate good (God).

8. Divine Illumination: Augustine developed an epistemology (theory of knowledge) known as “divine illumination.” He believed that God illumines the human mind and makes the world and divine truths intelligible. Thus, human knowledge is directly dependent upon God.

9. Creation Ex Nihilo: Augustine vigorously argued that God created the world ex nihilo (Latin, literally creation “out of nothing” or “from nothing”). This means that God created the universe without recourse to anything but His infinite wisdom and awesome power. God called the world into existence not from pre-existent matter, energy, or some other “stuff,” but literally out of or from nothing. There was nothing but God, and He alone created the universe (including matter, energy, and time). Augustine’s fifth century cosmological thinking is amazingly consistent with some points of modern-day Big Bang cosmology.

10. The Examined Self: Augustine is one of the first to write in-depth about the self, particularly in relation to God. In the Confessions, he discusses the negative effects of sin on human nature and will. He explores the motives and intents of behavior, and how human happiness is only found in a loving relationship with God. He argues that what human beings need most are hearts that rest in the love and care of the almighty God.

  One thought on “Top Ten Things Augustine Contributed to Philosophy, Part II

  1. August 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Augustine was an intellectual and theological giant; no doubt. But I question the habit folks have of equating Creation Ex Nihilo with the Big Bang, as in point 9. As I understand the theory—and I am no expert on cosmology or physics—it states that he universe developed from a singularity.

    Now, whatever a singularity is, it is not nothing. It was some thing, supposedly.

  2. August 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Salvatore:

    Greetings.

    After talking with my science colleagues at Reasons To Believe here’s my response to your comment:

    The cosmic singularity is understood as a type conceptual boundary line that separates the time-space world. The singularity is not considered a preexistent “thing” nor did it possess causal powers. Big Bang cosmology asserts that all matter, energy, space, and time had an instantaneous beginning. Thus I think it is fair and correct to say “Augustine’s fifth century cosmological thinking [concerning creation ex nihilo] is amazingly consistent with some points of modern-day Big Bang cosmology.”

    Best regards.

  3. Albert McGinn
    September 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I believe Stephen Hawkins the great physicist and cosmologist, has worked out a credible theory of how the universe could come into existence ex nihilo without a creator God. He states there is no Creator and thus no after-life. The universe could come from nothing without the existence of a God.
    Albert McGinn

  4. September 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Albert:

    I agree that Stephen Hawking is a distinguished and influential scientist.

    But I disagree that he has worked out a credible theory as to how the universe came into being.

    What he appears to do is to postulate that the laws of physics extend beyond our cosmos and are able to bring universes into existence.

    But if these laws extend beyond our cosmos, then they appear to be some type of eternal reality. So whatever these laws are they are indeed something not nothing.

    Further he seems to move away from the idea that the laws of physics are descriptive in nature and instead grants these laws a prescriptive nature. But it is extremely difficult to conceive of how non-personal, conceptual entities could possess causal powers like personal agents do.

    I think theism’s personal Creator God viewpoint has greater explanatory power and scope than does Hawking’s view of eternal laws of physics.

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