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St. Augustine


Book XI

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Book XI

Book XI

Book XI

Having considered memory, Augustine moves on to the consideration of time itself, in which any recollection and confession must take place. Beginning with questions about Genesis and the creation of the world, Augustine expands his realm of inquiry in an attempt to account for the apparent separation of God (who is eternal) from his creation (which seems trapped in temporality). Throughout this Book, Augustine lets us know that these are extremely difficult questions for him, and continually asks God to help keep his mind focused. (This device probably serves at least two purposes: it mitigates the extent to which Augustine might be criticized for putting philosophy over God, and it helps to keep the reader from simply giving up on the intricacies of the argument).

[XI.1-16] Noting that any confession he makes must be ordered in time, Augustine again reminds us of the common ground between the philosophical, religious, and autobiographical material in his book: all are in praise of God.

Following this introduction (and justification), Augustine begins in earnest to determine when time started and the nature of God's relation to this "beginning." The first misconception to clear up concerns the statement in the Book of Genesis that God "made" creation. Augustine argues that God did not make the heavens and the earth in a literal sense (like a craftsman). In fact, God did not make his creation "within" the universe at all, since nothing (including space) could exist before this act of creation.

Turning to the mechanism by which God created, Augustine again puzzles over Genesis: "by your word you made [the creation]...but how did you speak?" As with his reading of the term "made" above, Augustine here shows us that the words of Genesis are not to be taken literally but spiritually (a crucial approach that he learned largely from Bishop Ambrose).

God created the universe with a "word," but this word is not like normal speech. Normal speech is successive--even a single word has a part that comes before and a part that follows. This cannot be the case with God's "word" of creation, because it would require there already to have been time before God created it. God's word cannot have unfolded in time (which did not yet exist), but must be "spoken eternally." It has no "becoming," and does not come into being over time. Rather, it is "spoken" continuously, and never changes.

If this is the case, however, how could it come to be that creation is temporal? If God created all through an eternally uttered Word, how could the things he created succeed one and other and change constantly? Augustine is not yet sure how to answer this question precisely, but he hints at a kind of holism-in- determinism. Things change, but only according to God's whole, unchanging design: "everything which begins to be and ceases to be begins and ends its existence at that moment when, in the eternal reason where nothing begins or ends, it is known that it is right for it to begin and end."

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by hhd618, August 26, 2012

The book was in old English and asked so many questions about god and toward god, which could not be answered. It's meaningless to write Book 1 because he only praised the god rather than the ordinary people who gave him knowledge to write and learn. Without human beings, how could he get over all this obstacles on his way communicating toward god. He is nothing special, and he cannot be too complacent saying that he knows too much about the god.


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Maybe not...

by Kneish, October 16, 2012

Well, being that his view is theocentric, perhaps Augustine sees the human beings as God's helpers. Meaning that if it weren't for God the human being wouldn't have been present at all. So them being present in his life was more of an effort on God's part than it actually was for those who helped. Yes, it wouldnt hurt to give the helpers some acknowledgement for the roles they played, but to Augustine they were probably smaller parts to a greater plan the God orchestrated. Therefore, God actually would deserve the ultimate praise.


16 out of 17 people found this helpful

As far as Plato and the Meno go...

by IAcceptChaos, October 23, 2013

This SparkNote is wrong. Plato didn't really believe that "learning is a kind of remembering, in which the soul rediscovers a truth it knew before birth." This is a dialectical approach that Socrates uses on Meno to disprove the famous "Meno's Paradox," in which Meno asks Socrates "How will you look for virtue if you do not know what it is? If you should meet with it, how will you know that this is the thing you did not know?" I can't believe that SparkNotes would let inaccurate information like this be part of the foundation for another text.


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