Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Augustine Alters the Platonic Understanding of Ultimate Reality

"The status of the transcendent Ideas, so central to the Platonic tradition and widely recognized by the pagan intelligentsia, was now significantly altered. Augustine agreed with Plato that the Ideas constituted the stable and unchangeable forms of all things and provided a solid epistemological basis for human knowledge. But he pointed out that Plato lacked an adequate doctrine of creation to explain the participation of particulars in the Ideas. (Plato's creator, the Demiurge of the Timaeus, was not an omnipotent supreme being, since the chaotic world of becoming upon which he imposed the Ideas already existed, as did the Ideas themselves; nor was he omnipotent vis-a-vis ananke, the errant cause.) Augustine therefore argued that Plato's conception could be fulfilled by the Judaeo-Christian revelation of the supreme Creator, who freely wills the creation into existence ex nihilo, yet who does so in accordance with the seminal ordering patterns established by the primordial Ideas residing in the Divine Mind. Augustine identified the Ideas as the collective expression of God’s Word, the Logos, and viewed all archtypes as contained within and expressive of the being of Christ.”

- The Passion of the Western Mind, by Richard Tarnas. p106

Anyone who is interested in Augustine’s role in the history of Philosophy should read the section in the above book titled, The Conversion of the Pagan Mind. I find the author to be exceptionally thorough, clear and concise.

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