AUGUSTINIANISM—an intellectual current that looks to the thought and writings of Augustine and was concerned with philosophical, social-politicla, and theological problems.
PHILOSOPHICAL AUGUSTINIANISM. From among the philosophical movements of the time Augustinianism preferred Platonism and neo- Platonism over Aristotelianism. Augustinianism recognized religious faith over philosophical reflection. In its theory of knowledge it focussed more on internal experience than on sense perception. It taught the theory that God directly cooperated in the process of human knowledge (illumination). In the philosophy of nature, it held the theory of hylemorphism, a plurality of substantial forms in individual beings, the existence of rationes seminales (germinal contents). In anthropology it held a body-soul dualism, that the soul is dominant over the body and independent of the body, and that the will is superior to the intellect. In ethics it held that love was preeminent as the form of all the virtues. In the philosophy of God, its arguments for the existence of the Absolute referred to man, and expounded the attributes of the highest good in his nature.
Augustinianism comprises the following historical stages. In the final period of antiquity and at the beginning of the Middle Ages scholars selectively and superficially accepted certain theories of Augustine. In the eleventh and twelfth century some referred to Augustine’s thought in greater depth (Anselm of Canterbury). In the thirteenth century, Augustinianism was a counterweight to Aristotelian and Thomistic schools. From the fourteenth century, Augustinianism diminished in importance in Christian philosophy. In modern and contemporary philosophy, many thinkers took up or reinterpreted Augustine’s ideas.
In the final period of antiquity and in the early Middle Ages those who referred to Augustine’s doctrine included Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville, the Venerable Bede, Claudius Mamert, Pope Gregory the Great, and Alcuin. They used elements of Augustinian anthropology mainly in pastoral works, in popular writings of an ascetic character, and in theological, philosophical, and humanistic compilations. Anselm of Canterbury was the author of philosophical Augustinianism in the full sense. Like Augustine, Anselm made a distinction between theology and philosophy. He also recognized the theological primacy of faith. Rational philosophical reflection is necessary to understand faith (credo ut intelligam). In his ontological proof for the existence of God, Anselm was inspired by Augustine’s argument based on the hierarchy of beings. Other Augustinians of that period were P. Abelard, who recognized the primacy of faith over philosophical reflection, Hugh of St. Victor, who interpreted philosophy as the wisdom of faith and the contemplation of God, Peter Lombard, who in his Sentences, a codification of the theology of the time, often cited Augustine’s authority, and Bernard of Clairvaux, who recognized a union of intuition, faith, and prayerful contemplation as the highest degree of human knowledge, and regarded the unity of love and God’s grace as the source of authentic human freedom. The recognition of the primacy of intuitive knowledge over rational discursive knowledge, of faith over philosophy, and of ethics over metaphysics, contributed in the thirteenth century to the appearance of a school of the interior life in the Abbey of St. Victor. Bernard of Clairvaux had been an earlier representative of the mystical line of thought. For Christian thinkers in the twelfth century, Augustine was the authority who showed the need to subordinate all sciences and philosophy to Christianity.
The influence of Augustinianism Christian philosophy was at its height in the thirteenth century. In the early thirteenth century Augustinianism was the dominant school, but in the latter half of the century it was embroiled in controversy with the followers of Aristotelianism and Thomism. The representatives of Augustinianism in this period included Roland of Cremona, Peter of Tarantaise (later Pope Innocent V), Robert Fitzacker, and R. Kilwardy. Franciscans who followed Augustinianism included Alexander of Hales, Bonaventury, Roger of Marston, William de la Mare, Richard of Middletown, R. Bacon, Matthew of Aquasparta, J. Peckham, P. Olivi, Alvarez Pelayo, Vitalis of Four, and Henry of Ghent (considered a neo-Augustinian).
Scholars of medieval philosophy are faced with an ocean of works by the above authors. Some modern scholars (P. Mandonnet, F. Ehrle, É. Gilson, and M. de Wulf) hold that Augustinianism existed as a distinct philosophical school, but J. Steenberghen thought that before 1270 there was only an eclectic current that combined Aristotelian and neo-Platonic elements. The latter opinion has raised controversy because the representatives of Augustinianism most often referred only selectively to Augustine’s writings.
The main doctrinal and philosophical elements of thirteenth-century Augustinianism are the following: the followers of Augustinianism (R. Bacon, Bonaventure) regarded theology and philosophy as epistemologically different. They regarded faith as the highest degree of wisdom and so they said that all human knowledge, including philosophy, should be subordinated tot he requirements of theology. They esteemed Plato more than Aristotle and therefore they understood philosophical wisdom primarily as a search for the good, rather than as a search for the truth. In William of Auvergne’s theory of knowledge, he interpreted Augustine’s theory of illumination as intuitive knowledge and combined it with Aristotle’s theory of abstraction. R. Bacon and John de La Rochelle explained divine illumination as an inspiration that is similar in its operation to the agent intellect. Alexander of Hales combined the theory of illumination with the theory of abstraction. Roger of Marston ascribed to God the role of the universal reason. Bonaventure and Matthew of Aquasparta modified Augustine’s epistemology and combined it with the Aristotelian theory of the agent and passive intellect.
Augustinianism also appeared in the philosophy of nature. Peter Lombard and others accepted the theory of rationales seminales, according to which God in his creative act gave matter definite potentialities, germs that performed the function of substantial form and which thereby made the further development of matter possible. R. Grosseteste taught a metaphysics of life and thought that there were many substantial forms in individual beings (the form of corporeality, the vegetative soul, and the animal soul). Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, and John Peckham, under the influence of Avicebron, explained the theory of hylemorphism (which Augustine implicitly accepted) in a new way and stated that this theory refers to all created beings, including those that possess a spiritual nature. R. Kilwardby, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, and Peckham accepted the existence of many substantial forms in man. Bonaventure denied the existence of matter by itself devoid of any form. Hugh of St. Victor questioned the possibility of a creative act ab aeterno, i.e., with the exclusion of time.
In anthropology, medieval Augustinianism held that the soul is independent of the material body. It interpreted the intellect and will as functions of the soul that are identical with the soul, not as separate powers. It also held that the will had primacy over the intellect. Bonaventure continued Augustine’s moderate voluntarism. In his arguments for the existence of God he appealed to man’s psychic nature, and in the nature of God he emphasized the attribute of ontological good realized in the highest degree. The influence of Augustine is also visible in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, especially in his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Thomas interpreted the theory of illumination as an intuitive knowledge of the first principles of being and thought, and he referred the idea of divine “light” to the activity of the agent intellect. Thomas’ philosophy of God is formally limited to the five ways, but many of his statements connect the reality of the absolute with the presence in nature of such phenomena as the capacity of the truth to be known, conscience, and the desire for happiness.
The dominant role of Augustinianism, whose representatives accused Aristotelianism of spreading naturalism, was the reason why in 1277 the Bishop of Paris Stephen Tempier, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Kilwardy, condemned some theses of Thomas Aquinas. The next bishop of Canterbury, John Peckham, also questioned Thomistic doctrine. The condemnation was closely connected with intense controversies between the members of two orders. The Franciscans supported Augustinianism, while the Dominicans supported Aristotelianism and then Thomism. The Dominicans were accused of excessive rationalism and of supporting Averroism.
At the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century, Aristotelianism and Thomism gained more and more recognition in the Church, and so the victory of Augustinianism in its current version after the condemnation of Thomism was short-lived. Bonaventure combined elements of Augustinianism and Aristotelianism. Duns Scotist started a new current, Franciscan Scotism. Giles of Rome initiated a new kind of Augustinianism. Giles of Rome was a student of Aquinas and at the same time a member of the Augustinian order. In his writings he combined elements of Thomistic and Augustinian thought.
The victory of Thomism in the fourteenth century was connected with two facts: the Augustinianism of the time was too strongly associated with Platonism, while the philosophical and theological work of Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas had a logical construction and presented a harmonious synthesis of philosophy and theology. Augustinianism as a philosophical and theological system disappeared in the second half of the fourteenth century. In that century Thomas Bradwardine referred to Augustine and used his writings in a polemic with Pelagian sympathizers. George of Rimini, the superior of the Augustinians, was inspired by Augustine. He was wary of placing too much value on empirical knowledge and held a singular version of innatism.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth century there was a renaissance of Platonism, and some of these Platonists cited the authority of Augustine, including Card. J. Bessarion, M. Ficino, and F. Patrizzi. In the seventeenth century, Descartes took a subjective starting point in philosophy. His cogito ergo sum corresponded to Augustine’s fallor ergo sum. The influence of Augustinian voluntarism is apparent in Pascal. Pascal thought that the “order of the heart” has primacy over rational and philosophical knowledge. Malebranche was a declared Augustinian. He identified the theory of illumination with an immediate intuitive knowledge of God and saw the theory as a confirmation of his own theory of ontologism.
Many more recent writers have looked to Augustine in various ways. Cardinal H. Newman argued for the existence of God on the basis of the phenomenon of conscience (conscience as an integral part of man’s spiritual life), and he distanced himself from speculative rationalism. H. Bergson thought that intuitive knowledge was superior to conceptual and discursive knowledge. M. Scheler accepted the primacy of will and emotional intuition over intellectual knowledge, the primacy of the good over being, and he explained the role of value as a way to the knowledge of God, and he modified the theory of illumination. M. Blondel restored the value of the act of man as an object of philosophical reflection, and he recognized the unity of philosophical reflection and faith as a synthesis of Christian wisdom. H. de Lubac accepted the intuitive knowledge of God as prior to philosophical reflection.
In recent decades there has been a renaissance of Augustinianism. It has been represented in the works of several writers. M. F. Sciacca interpreted Augustine’s theory of illumination as a psychological interiorism of the truth of the human mind. F. Cayré expounded on Augustine’s existential philosophical realism. J. Hessen based his theory of values on the Bishop of Hippo’s metaphysics. C. Boyer in his works combined elements of Augustinianism and Thomism. J.Maritain was a Thomist, but he formulated his so-called sixth way which argued for the existence of God on the basis of the phenomenon of thought. F. Sawicki looked to Augustine in the philosophy of God, and in anthropology he supported the primacy of love over speculative knowledge. W. Eborowicz accepted and developed the Augustinian conception of the relation bewteen man’s freedom and grace.
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