Saturday, February 14, 2009

Augustine on the Divine Ideas

From Augustines' 83 questions, which I lifted from the "Documenta catholica omnia" website (I don't know the edition).

46. - De ideis

1. Ideas Plato primus appellasse perhibetur. Non tamen si hoc nomen antequam ipse institueret non erat, ideo vel res ipsae non erant, quas ideas vocavit, vel a nullo erant intellectae; sed alio fortassis atque alio nomine ab aliis atque aliis nuncupatae sunt; licet enim cuique rei cognitae, quae nullum habeat usitatum nomen, quodlibet nomen imponere. Nam non est verisimile sapientes aut nullos fuisse ante Platonem aut istas quas Plato, ut dictum est, ideas vocat, quaecumque res sint, non intellexisse, siquidem tanta in eis vis constituitur ut nisi his intellectis sapiens esse nemo possit. Credibile est etiam praeter Graeciam fuisse in aliis Gentibus sapientes, quod etiam Plato ipse non solum peregrinando sapientiae perficiendae causa satis testatur, sed etiam in libris suis commemorat. Hos ergo, si qui fuerunt, non existimandum est ideas ignorasse, quamvis eas alio fortasse nomine vocitaverint. Sed de nomine hactenus dictum sit. Rem videamus, quae maxime consideranda atque noscenda est, in potestate constitutis vocabulis, ut quod volet quisque appellet rem quam cognoverit.

2. Ideas igitur latine possumus vel formas vel species dicere, ut verbum e verbo transferre videamur. Si autem rationes eas vocemus, ab interpretandi quidem proprietate discedimus; rationes enim Graece appellantur non ideae: sed tamen quisquis hoc vocabulo uti voluerit, a re ipsa non abhorrebit. Sunt namque ideae principales quaedam formae vel rationes rerum stabiles atque incommutabiles, quae ipsae formatae non sunt ac per hoc aeternae ac semper eodem modo sese habentes, quae divina intellegentia continentur. Et cum ipsae neque oriantur neque intereant, secundum eas tamen formari dicitur omne quod oriri et interire potest et omne quod oritur et interit. Anima vero negatur eas intueri posse nisi rationalis, ea sui parte qua excellit, id est, ipsa mente atque ratione, quasi quadam facie vel oculo suo interiore atque intellegibili. Et ea quidem ipsa rationalis anima non omnis et quaelibet, sed quae sancta et pura fuerit, haec asseritur illi visioni esse idonea, id est, quae illum ipsum oculum, quo videntur ista, sanum et sincerum et serenum et similem his rebus, quas videre intendit, habuerit. Quis autem religiosus et vera religione imbutus, quamvis nondum haec possit intueri, negare tamen audeat, immo non etiam profiteatur, omnia quae sunt, id est, quaecumque in suo genere propria quadam natura continentur ut sint, auctore Deo esse procreata, eoque auctore omnia quae vivunt vivere, atque universalem rerum incolumitatem ordinemque ipsum, quo ea quae mutantur suos temporales cursus certo moderamine celebrant, summi Dei legibus contineri et gubernari? Quo constituto atque concesso, quis audeat dicere Deum irrationabiliter omnia condidisse? Quod si recte dici vel credi non potest, restat ut omnia ratione sint condita, nec eadem ratione homo qua equus; hoc enim absurdum est existimare. Singula igitur propriis sunt creata rationibus. Has autem rationes ubi esse arbitrandum est nisi in ipsa mente Creatoris? Non enim extra se quidquam positum intuebatur, ut secundum id constitueret quod constituebat; nam hoc opinari sacrilegum est. Quod si hae rerum omnium creandarum creatarumve rationes divina mente continentur, neque in divina mente quidquam nisi aeternum atque incommutabile potest esse, atque has rationes rerum principales appellat ideas Plato, non solum sunt ideae, sed ipsae verae sunt, quia aeternae sunt et eiusdem modi atque incommutabiles manent. Quarum participatione fit ut sit quidquid est, quoquo modo est. Sed anima rationalis inter eas res, quae sunt a Deo conditae, omnia superat et Deo proxima est, quando pura est; eique in quantum caritate cohaeserit, in tantum ab eo lumine illo intellegibili perfusa quodammodo et illustrata cernit non per corporeos oculos, sed per ipsius sui principale quo excellit, id est, per intellegentiam suam, istas rationes, quarum visione fit beatissima. Quas rationes, ut dictum est, sive ideas sive formas sive species sive rationes licet vocare, et multis conceditur appellare quod libet, sed paucissimis videre quod verum est.


Comment: This is germane to debates with the EP (energetic procession) crowd, as the ultimate root of their disagreement and scorn of Augustine seems to be that he has been corrupted by "platonism" at least on the issue of divine simplicty. However, he does something no platonist would do, in placing the divine ideas in the divine mind. For the likes of Proclus and Plotinus, there is no divine mind in the One, no thought or awareness of any kind on the part of the One. Plotinus after all is famous for criticizing Aristotle's notion of the prime mover as thought thinking itself because it introduces the duality of subject and object into the One, something Plotinus thought incompatible with divine simplicity. So, although Augustine does indeed hold to divine simplicity (and I can only construe EP rejection of divine simplicity to mean that God is a composite of essence and energy found in a potency-act relationship), it is not the bald-faced uncritical adoption of platonism that they would have us believe and in the end probably not so unlike the whole-scale adoption of Proclus undertaken by the pseudo-Dionysius.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why are you asking for trouble? Do you want another argument?

Besides, the whole notion of divine ideas is stupid. If there is only one divine Thought but many Ideas, how can they each be identical with the divine intellection but not identical with each other? That's crazy! You'd need some sort of new distinction! Some sort of . . . um . . . er . . .

I don't get it. Probably it's the whole Latin tradition that's flawed and not me.

Lee Faber said...

well, you know how it is, the blog visitor count was low...

formal non-identity? maybe a divine intellect knowing quiddities unitively contained in the divine essence?

Or maybe the divine intellect produces them into esse intellectum, repraesentatum, cognitum, all of which are esse secundum quid

Brandon said...

This is entirely irrelevant to your further argument, but it's interesting you quote this passage in particular; it makes a showing in the argument between Malebranche and Arnauld over the nature of ideas in the seventeenth century (it was a major philosophical dispute at the time, and had considerable influence). Malebranche quotes it in the Preface to the Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion.

Fr. Maximus said...

It seems to me all he is doing is conflating the One and Intellect. Didn't Porphyry do the same?

energeticprocession said...

Augustine takes the most notable attribute of the One--simplicity, unity--and takes the most notable attribute of the nous--intelligibility--and collapses them together. His philosophical divinity is an absolutely simple AND intelligible essence. He takes from both what he likes. He is still working within the Platonic system. It's just a different move of the chess piece. Eunomius did the same accept with a much stronger univocity.

Lee Faber said...

Brandon,
This passage is at the center of debate for the 14th century scholastics as well. consider the following:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francis-marchia/primum.html

EP: I take Augustine statements here to be neutral about the essence of God. Even when the soul is purified by grace and is close to God (as he says at the end) it knows the divine ideas; but these ideas are the eternal forms of created things not the divine essence. But I don't disagree that it is still a platonist system.

Anonymous said...

Go get'em Prof. Lee!!!

You Go Guy!