Augustine Quotes

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Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
A sixteenth-century poet, especially one who knew that he ought to be a curious and universal scholar, would possess some notions, perhaps not strictly philosophical, about the origin of the world and its end, the eduction of forms from matter, and the relation of such forms to the higher forms which are the model of the world and have their being in the mind of God. He might well be a poet to brood on those great complementary opposites: the earthly and heavenly cities, unity and multiplicity, light and dark, equity and justice, continuity-as triumphantly exhibited in his own Empress-and ends-as sadly exhibited in his own Empress. Like St. Augustine he will see mutability as the condition of all created things, which are immersed in time. Time, he knows, will have a stop-perhaps, on some of the evidence, quite soon. Yet there is other evidence to suggest that this is not so. It will seem to him, at any rate, that his poem should in part rest on some poetic generalization-some fiction-which reconciles these opposites, and helps to make sense of the discords, ethical, political, legal, and so forth, which, in its completeness, it had to contain. This may stand as a rough account of Spenser's mood when he worked out the sections of his poem which treat of the Garden of Adonis and the trial of Mutability, the first dealing with the sempiternity of earthly forms, and the second with the dilation of being in these forms under the shadow of a final end. Perhaps the refinements upon, and the substitutes for, Augustine's explanations of the first matter and its potentialities, do not directly concern him; as an allegorist he may think most readily of these potentialities in a quasi-Augustinian way as seeds, seminal reasons, plants tended in a seminarium. But he will distinguish, as his commentators often fail to do, these forms or formulae from the heavenly forms, and allow them the kind of immortality that is open to them, that of athanasia rather than of aei einai. And an obvious place to talk about them would be in the discussion of love, since without the agency represented by Venus there would be no eduction of forms from the prime matter. Elsewhere he would have to confront the problem of Plato's two kinds of eternity; the answer to Mutability is that the creation is deathless, but the last stanzas explain that this is not to grant them the condition of being-for-ever.

Frank Kermode
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At some very low level, we all share certain fictions about time, and they testify to the continuity of what is called human nature, however conscious some, as against others, may become of the fictive quality of these fictions. It seems to follow that we shall learn more concerning the sense-making paradigms, relative to time, from experimental psychologists than from scientists or philosophers, and more from St. Augustine than from Kant or Einstein because St. Augustine studies time as the soul's necessary self-extension before and after the critical moment upon which he reflects. We shall learn more from Piaget, from studies of such disorders as deje  vu, eidetic imagery, the Korsakoff syndrome, than from the learned investigators of time's arrow, or, on the other hand, from the mythic archetypes. Let us take a very simple example, the ticking of a clock. We ask what it says: and we agree that it says tick-tock. By this fiction we humanize it, make it talk our language. Of course, it is we who provide the fictional difference between the two sounds; tick is our word for a physical beginning, tock our word for an end. We say they differ. What enables them to be different is a special kind of middle. We can perceive a duration only when it is organized. It can be shown by experiment that subjects who listen to rhythmic structures such as tick-tock, repeated identically, 'can reproduce the intervals within the structure accurately, but they cannot grasp spontaneously the interval between the rhythmic groups, ' that is, between tock and tick, even when this remains constant. The first interval is organized and limited, the second not. According to Paul Fraisse the tock-tick gap is analogous to the role of the 'ground' in spatial perception; each is characterized by a lack of form, against which the illusory organizations of shape and rhythm are perceived in the spatial or temporal object. The fact that we call the second of the two related sounds tock is evidence that we use fictions to enable the end to confer organization and form on the temporal structure. The interval between the two sounds, between tick and tock is now charged with significant duration. The clock's tick-tock I take to be a model of what we call a plot, an organization that humanizes time by giving it form; and the interval between tock and tick represents purely successive, disorganized time of the sort that we need to humanize. Later I shall be asking whether, when tick-tock seems altogether too easily fictional, we do not produce plots containing a good deal of tock-tick; such a plot is that of Ulysses.

Frank Kermode
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The formerly absolute distinction between time and eternity in Christian thought-between nunc movens with its beginning and end, and nunc stans, the perfect possession of endless life-acquired a third intermediate order based on this peculiar betwixt-and-between position of angels. But like the Principle of Complementarity, this concord-fiction soon proved that it had uses outside its immediate context, angelology. Because it served as a means of talking about certain aspects of human experience, it was humanized. It helped one to think about the sense, men sometimes have of participating in some order of duration other than that of the nunc movens-of being able, as it were, to do all that angels can. Such are those moments which Augustine calls the moments of the soul's attentiveness; less grandly, they are moments of what psychologists call 'temporal integration.' When Augustine recited his psalm he found in it a figure for the integration of past, present, and future which defies successive time. He discovered what is now erroneously referred to as 'spatial form.' He was anticipating what we know of the relation between books and St. Thomas's third order of duration-for in the kind of time known by books a moment has endless perspectives of reality. We feel, in Thomas Mann's words, that 'in their beginning exists their middle and their end, their past invades the present, and even the most extreme attention to the present is invaded by concern for the future.' The concept of aevum provides a way of talking about this unusual variety of duration-neither temporal nor eternal, but, as Aquinas said, participating in both the temporal and the eternal. It does not abolish time or spatialize it; it co-exists with time, and is a mode in which things can be perpetual without being eternal. We've seen that the concept of aevum grew out of a need to answer certain specific Averroistic doctrines concerning origins. But it appeared quite soon that this medium inter aeternitatem et tempus had human uses. It contains beings (angels) with freedom of choice and immutable substance, in a creation which is in other respects determined. Although these beings are out of time, their acts have a before and an after. Aevum, you might say, is the time-order of novels. Characters in novels are independent of time and succession, but may and usually do seem to operate in time and succession; the aevum co-exists with temporal events at the moment of occurrence, being, it was said, like a stick in a river. Brabant believed that Bergson inherited the notion through Spinoza's duratio, and if this is so there is an historical link between the aevum and Proust; furthermore this duree reelle is, I think, the real sense of modern 'spatial form, ' which is a figure for the aevum.

Frank Kermode
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Faith is not a meritorious cause of election, but it is constantly attested as the sole condition of salvation. Faith merely receives the merit of atoning grace, instead of asserting its own merit. God places the life-death option before each person, requiring each to choose. The ekletos are those who by grace freely believe. God does not compel or necessitate their choosing. Even after the initial choice of faith is made, they may grieve and quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Faith is the condition under which God primordially wills the reception of salvation by all. 'He chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe; lest we should say that we first chose Him' (Augustine). Faith receives the electing love of God not as if it had already become efficacious without faith, but aware that God's prescience foreknows faith like all else. In accord with ancient ecumenical consent, predestination was carefully defined in centrist Protestant orthodoxy as: 'The eternal, divine decree, by which God, from His immense mercy, determined to give His Son as Mediator, and through universal preaching , to offer Him for reception to all men who from eternity He foresaw would fall into sin; also through the Word and Sacraments to confer faith upon all who would not resist; to justify all believers, and besides to renew those using the means of grace; to preserve faith in them until the end of life, and in a word, to save those believing to the end' (Melanchthon).

Thomas C. Oden