Chapter IV. Doctrine of Knowledge
Problems of Epistemology
The first philosophical problem confronted by Augustine after his conversion was the problem of knowledge in a twofold perspective.
* Whether we know the truth.
* How we know the truth.
The first response to the first problem is a severe critique of skepticism. His response to the second problem is the doctrine of illumination, which substituted the platonic doctrine of the reminiscence and which the Aristotelian doctrine of abstraction.
A. CRITIQUE OF SCEPTICISM: MAN KNOWS TRUTH
* Augustine shows that man can know the truths with firmness, such as his principle of non contradiction and of course his own ...view middle of the document...
If the self does not exist it cannot deceive itself because the self does not exist so how the self would deceive itself, it is saying we can’t doubt things that does not exist.
* Nor can doubts of senses can make us doubt our existence and our life.
We must not have any fears unless we are deceived by some acceptable probabilities, since it is certain that the man who is deceived in these images, example when an oar immersed in water seems broken and the kneel seems in movement to those who navigate, or in a thousand other cases where things are not what they seem.
B. THE PROCESS OF KNOWLEDGE: DOCTRINE OF ILLUMINATION
* St. Augustine distinguishes three cognitive operations
* The senses. : knows the quality of the bodies.
The sensation is an activity exercised by the souls through the body. The body undergoes the impressions of our bodies; and the soul, through the impression gleaned from the body, acquires knowledge of the corporeal world. Therefore, according to St. Augustine, bodies are not known immediately, but through mediation. “the soul gathers the image, not the sense, of all the sensible object.”
* The inferior reason. : Knows the laws of physical world.
Scientific knowledge is acquired through the inferior sense “ratio inferior”. Scientific knowledge occupies corporeal world and seeks to discover universal laws through the process of abstraction.
* The superior reason. : knows eternal truths.
Knowledge of eternal truth is acquired through divine illumination, not through reminiscence; and illumination reaches the greatest heights of reason “ratio inferior”. St Augustine is convinced as Plato was, that eternal truths cannot come from experience, both because of the contingency of the known object and the contingency of the knowing subject. However, given that St. Augustine does not admit the pre-existence of souls in the knowledge of eternal truths with the doctrine of reminiscence, as Plato had done. Hence St. Augustine takes recourse in the doctrine of illumination. Illumination makes eternal truths visible.
What does St. Augustine mean by the phrase “divine truth”? there are two common interpretation:
* Illumination makes certain ideas (truth, justice) more visible to us.
* Illumination shows the truth of judgments.
Knowledge takes on two differing directions. The former oriented toward the divine, the universal, the eternal and the immutable; the latter is directed at the world, the contingent, the mutable and the particular.
Chapter V. PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE.
* Augustine dedicated two works to the problem of language, De magistro and De doctrina Christiana. De magistro represents the first attempt “to found a science of expression or of general linguistics” (GUZZO). In this work, having defined language as a assign, Augustine’s seeks to separate its principal functions. He reduces these functions to two, indicative and reminiscitive. He declares “we speak...