Augustine’s Philosophy of Being (Ontology)June 26, 2021
Augustine sorts assets by value, so to speak. In fact, he deduces the criteria for determining this value from his definition of “truth” in general. This is because of a Augustine premise: truth and God are the same thing. In the Confessions, he reveals this identity in a section where he criticizes the teachings of the Manicheans: “They were wrong not only about you, who is the truth, but also about the elements of the world you created.”
What Augustine sees as the attributes of God is almost identical to what Plato attributes to the sun in the allegory of the cave. Augustine gets this design of God from the Neoplatonists. According to him, his successors, who understood Plato best, developed the idea of a God that includes the reason for existence, the ultimate form of understanding, and the purpose for which all life will be organized. With these designs of God, the Platonists developed the philosophy closest to the Christian belief: This God is the creator and cause of everything created; it is the light of known things and knowing; it is an indication of what needs to be done; According to the Neo-Platonists, the first cause of nature, the right teaching and the happy life are found in it.
As it has been said before, since Augustine identifies God and truth with each other, and he creates his conception of truth based on the views of the Platonists, his conception of God and the Platonists’ conception of truth contain almost the same features. The determination of the stages of existence is made based on the Platonic criteria of truth.
First, God is not in the realm of sensible objects. Searching for it here is nothing but a failed attempt:
I was looking for you, Lord, as I longed to seize the truth. I haven’t confessed that yet. … I was looking for you with the senses of my body, not with my mind, which made me superior to the animals.
However, the Platonists showed the right way by proving that the senses cannot show the truth, that is, God, who is the truth itself for Augustine.
But after reading the books of the Platonic philosophers, I learned to seek the truth outside the visible objects, and I saw your invisible qualities through your works.
The proof that God is not in the realm of bodies is that bodies do not have the attributes of God: one is immutability, the other incorruptibility, and another imperceptible. These three attributes place God above the realm of bodies, along with a few other attributes, which will be discussed later. This is expressed in the Confessions:
As a human being, I was trying to grasp you as the supreme, one and true God. I sincerely believed that you were incorruptible, unchangeable and untouchable. I didn’t know how or where this firm belief came from, but one thing I knew for sure: a perishable being is a lesser being than an imperishable. The untouchable is also superior to the tangible, and the unchangeable is better than the changeable.
Because the world of bodies is the world dominated by motion and change. Objects come into existence out of nothing, they are constantly changing when they exist, and then they disappear. Therefore, they cannot be said to be genuine. On the other hand, no body has its own form, because for a being to be able to have its own form means for Augustine to have this form without changing or deteriorating. However, objects are entities that take on a certain form but can lose it under different conditions. For this reason, bodies do not only have their own forms.14 It is another being who gives these forms to them: that is, God, who designed the first example of the forms of bodies:
“…he who has thought deeply about these things [bodies] deduces that the first form is not in these things, whose forms are changeable.”
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook