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AURÉLIO AGOSTINHO DE HIPONA (354-430)

LÉXICO DE FILOSOFIA

AGOSTINHO EM HEIDEGGER

OBRA NA INTERNET: LIBRARY GENESIS


Charles Taylor   in Sources of the Self, Cambridge 1989, ch. 7, has described a radically reflexive stance which is very familiar to modern philosophers because it is the stance of Descartes  . It attends to our own experience and sees this as the source of truth. The only thing is that Taylor, followed by others (e.g. Phillip Cary, Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self, Oxford 2000), ascribes to Augustine the shift to this radically reflexive stance, whereas, with one exception, everything that Taylor uncovers in Augustine was already in Plotinus  , who in turn draws at least his terminology for self-awareness from the Stoics, and in fact more than terminology, since Epictetus   Discourses 3.22.38-9 says that we find preconceptions about the good within ourselves, and Cicero borrows from the Stoics when he says in connexion with natural law and justice, On Laws   1.22.58, that one finds them within (in se), cf. also Republic   3.22.33.

Augustine tells us that he learnt his methodology of looking inwards from ‘the books of the Platonists’, Confessions 7.10.16. Plotinus   and Porphyry   were his main sources for this. Augustine may in addition be influenced by Cicero, when he offers a view of natural law as written in our hearts and impressed on us, though for this he draws also on Romans 2.14-15, at Confessions 2.4, and On Free Choice of the Will 1.6.15.

The exception is that Augustine is the first person we know to have produced the cogito arguments, later made famous by Descartes  , although even here Augustine may have been partly inspired by Porphyry   when he applies the cogito to arguing that we can know that our soul is incorporeal.

Augustine’s use of Plotinus   in no way impugns his originality. Putting old material to new use is a form of originality, which Augustine also displays elsewhere. But what it does mean is that it is Plotinus   and the Neoplatonists, and in a preliminary way the Stoics before them, who really introduce into Western Philosophy Taylor’s radically reflexive view so familiar from Descartes  . We see how important Plotinus   thought it that the objects of Intellect should be within the Intellect from the debate that [12] Porphyry   reports in his Life of Plotinus  , chs 18, 20. In Plotinus  ’ seminar, Porphyry   was made to debate the question and only converted to Plotinus  ’ view after two replies by his fellow student Amelius. [SorabjiPC3  :12-13]