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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-B010-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

The influence of Augustine on Western philosophy is exceeded in duration, extent and variety only by that of Plato and Aristotle. Augustine was an authority not just for the early Middle Ages, when he was often the lone authority, but well into modern times. He was in many ways the principal author in contention during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and in France alone he was variously received by authors as diverse as Montaigne, Descartes, Malebranche, Arnauld and Pascal. The breadth of Augustine’s influence makes it difficult to give precise sense to the term ‘Augustinianism’, even when considering only a single period.

Historians of medieval philosophy use the term ‘Augustinianism’ to describe three rather different relations to the thought of Augustine. The first relation is a comprehensive dependence on Augustine both for philosophical principles or arguments, and for instruction in the topics and procedures of ancient philosophy. Augustine serves as the trustworthy guide to philosophy as a whole. The second kind of relation is a defence of specific Augustinian teachings in the face of rival teachings, most especially those of Aristotle. These Augustinian teachings include the function of divine ideas in knowledge, the unity of the human soul’s essential powers, and the unfolding of potential intelligibilities in material substances. The third relation is the reappropriation of Augustinian principles, especially those of his later writings, to address quandaries newly formulated with the tools of nominalist semantics and the mathematics of continuities. Among these quandaries are the contingency of future human actions and the certainty of human cognition.

These three relations to Augustine can be found in texts throughout the medieval period. They are not neatly correlated with particular centuries, but one or another does tend to be predominant at different times. Thus the first relation, of comprehensive dependence, is seen in the great majority of Latin writers on philosophic topics through the twelfth century. The second relation, of topical defence, appears prominently during the thirteenth-century contest between so-called ‘Augustianians’ and ‘Aristotelians’. The third relation, of reappropriation in reaction to newly formulated quandaries, is found particularly in writings of the fourteenth century and beyond.

Citing this article:
Jordan, Mark D.. Augustinianism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-B010-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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