Augustine’s Philosophy of KnowledgeJune 26, 2021
In fact, Augustine’s enlightenment teaching is a vision analogy that can be understood by establishing its relationship with light. We can remember that this analogy was made between the idea of good and the sun in Plato as well. According to Augustine, we need daylight to see corporeal objects.
Similarly, there is a kind of light we need for the mental vision of intelligible objects, and it is right to call it intelligible light. To put it another way, the intelligible light here is truth. Since the condition of mental vision is a divine light, it will be necessary to grasp the object that this light makes visible in a mental sense at once and completely. There is an important affinity between this style in Augustine’s understanding of enlightenment and Plato’s teaching of remembering (anamnesis). Both teachings point to the necessity of a direct mental awareness for the knowledge of certain kinds of objects and truth.
In Plato, the act of remembering for any reason the information that the soul has acquired in a previous state of existence is called anamnesis. Plato reveals his most important explanations on this subject in the Meno dialogue. The doctrine of anamnesis is more or less the opposite of tabula rasa.
Such an understanding also needs the principle of metempsykhosis in order to maintain its seriousness on epistemological basis. Because this teaching states that the knowledge of corporeal objects, rather than the sense experience, is the result of pure mental awareness (remembering) of the information that we have acquired as a result of our experiences in our previous lives and that we have already known and that we have forgotten with the entry of the soul into the body; He argues that the soul has an indispensable and effective duty at this point. Augustine does not accept this understanding of Plato. According to him, “the mental mind sees these truths—that is, ideas or concepts—(for example, those of geometry) in a unique kind of incorporeal light” (Maurer, 1982: 10). At this stage, Augustine replaces Plato’s teaching of remembrance (anamnesis) with the view of enlightenment (illuminatio). To sum up, we can say that three elements should be taken into account in Augustine’s doctrine of knowledge:
– God is spiritual light and illuminates all people (their minds).
There is a world of intelligible truth illuminated by God.
– In divine enlightenment, there are (human) minds that know this world of truth (Maurer, 1982: 11).
The explanation in number three sets man apart from all other created beings. A person who has a mental soul can establish a link between this ability and the truth. This bond also highlights the human being as a moral being. The ability of the mind that we need to focus on the most is its self-awareness. Thanks to this feature of the mind, people can be absolutely sure that they exist, live and think. Augustine also argues that, based on this knowledge of the mind itself, we know that the mind is an immaterial existence. (De Trinitate, X. III. 16) Another important point on which Augustine comes from the immateriality and cognitive uniqueness of the mind is memoria.
It would be useful not to translate Memoria into Turkish. Because this term, which should be considered as memory when translated into Turkish, actually has nothing to do with the past, deeply and impressively. Memoria is both a repository of the materials of the act of knowing and thinking, and a place where the mind encounters its own objects. Memoria is a place where images of objects that we perceive with our senses are collected. This place stores the images on which our minds rely in the act of thinking about these objects. Memoria also includes the skills related to free arts. These include the principles of logic and the principles and laws of mathematics and geometry. The mind becomes directly aware of all these intelligible objects in memoria. Beyond that, the mind can encounter itself in the memoria and can think about itself, its nature and its activities. According to Augustine, memoria is an interior space where the mind confronts God. With all these features, memoria appears as a feature that God bestowed only on man (MacDonald, p. 170).
Considered in terms of the problem of knowledge, in Augustinian philosophy, it is seen that the created is definitely separated from the uncreated. Augustine’s pluralism tends to criticize astrological monism. As a matter of fact, when Pelagius wanted to argue that human beings could go to heaven without the help of God, Augustine made clear a fundamental aspect of his philosophy, stating that the created and the uncreated are separate from each other; but he said that the uncreated is present in all the behaviors, all the enlightenments, all the judgments and everywhere of the created being. Augustine, God