Reasons to Believe

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.

Subjects: People of Faith, Philosophy of Religion