Table of Contents
The concept of learning and its relationship with religion has been a key factor in understanding nature. Therefore philosophers explained the intellectual capacity of human beings in various ways. Notably, the Christian knowledge, in particular, elaborates the existence of God who is believed to have created all the creatures on earth. The Augustine theory of knowledge describes the different methods through which Christians know God. Specifically, the illumination and self-revelation process is used by the philosopher in the explaining of individual intellect. The teachings of St. Augustine not only teach about early Christian theology and philosophy but also link his ideas with those of other famous scholars including Malbranche and Descartes. Additionally, Augustine concentrates on the different concepts such as skepticism, truth, faith, and reason to explain the various aspects of the knowledge theory. In summation, the approach of illumination promotes the understanding of methods used by human beings in comprehending divine ideas that can help in explaining distinct perspectives.
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Theory of Knowledge
The ability to learn and the importance of comprehending different phenomenon that define human life has been a topic of concern to many scholars. The need to understand and explain the different occurrences around the globe led to the development of different theories including the knowledge theory. Born in 354 AD in Tagaste North Africa with parents from different religious beliefs, he had distinct perspectives on the true understanding of learning and the reasons behind the different concepts in knowledge (Silva, 2014). After being baptized in Christianity, the philosopher immensely contributed to the religious thoughts in the west. As a Christian theologian, Augustine wrote dialectically and voluminously on various philosophical topics including Neo-Platonism and Christianity (Matthew, 2017). Throughout his life, Augustine emphasizes the role of divine illumination in human understanding of knowledge. In explaining his numerous teachings, the philosopher adapted, borrowed, considered and rejected different teachings from other philosophers. As such, this research will illuminate on the various aspects of Augustine’s ideologies and theories developed in his philosophical career. Specifically, the study will investigate the different issues of the theory of knowledge and its validity to the human understanding of learning and the learning process.
Knowledge Truth and Justification
The theory of knowledge tries to explain different questions on knowledge and other related topics. The extensive nature of the experience available to man, their sources, and their validity has been questioned by the theory. Notably, some of the philosophers developed different models to explain variant phenomenon through the use of common sense and traditional knowledge (Lehrer, 2015). Evaluating and authenticating the reasons behind the models raised numerous concerns especially in the scientific field. Explaining Plato’s argument on knowledge, Augustine states that the definition of knowledge lies in man himself as he can differentiate the source of his findings (Silva, 2014). Knowledge truth and justification tries to distinguish the traditional explanation of knowledge and the theoretical view according to Augustine hippo.
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There exist different forms of traditional knowledge that include propositional, acquaintance and the how-to knowledge (Anderson, 2012). The propositional information is the one that concentrates on the facts and links the subject and a true proposition. Acquaintance information, on the other hand, explains the relationship between two variables and gives some degree of understanding on the facts behind the data (Gramigna, 2013). Augustine explains that the patristic era reaches its conclusive period upon the intellectual foundation. The vast research in Augustine’s explanations was applied across many generations including St Thomas era. Most of his studies concentrated on synthesizing the difference between Christianity and Platonism. For instance, his studies try to explain the Christian teaching on the immortality of the soul, ontological duality and the creation of the world (Svensson, 2013). Additionally, Augustine elaborates that the nature of natural intellectual ability is subject to intellectual realities that are determined by the creator. Moreover, natural knowledge can differentiate the truth in a unique manner through complicated explanations that require a vast understanding of the phenomenon.
The Theory of Knowledge
Illumination is depicted as the oldest and an essential alternative to the explanation of natural ideas in both the mind and knowledge. The theory explains that human beings need special assistance in assessing their cognitive activities and was initially developed to help in defining the diverse natural knowledge (Frisina, 2012). Although being regarded as distinctively Augustinian, the theory holds that certain types of experience are crucial to the cognitive development of man and gives a thoughtful insight on the prior explanations of information. The theory empowers human reasoning to wrestle different intangible aspects that prevent the growth in man’s level of understanding (Lehrer, 2015). Notably, it begins by explaining the existence of truth that is accessible through human reasoning. For instance, Augustin tries to link the happening of different natural disasters such as flood and famine to the various forms of punishment God gave man for his disobedience.
The theory explains that although Christians believe that the world and its constituents were created God through creative acts, the components of the world are a set of problems. To understand the various dynamics of knowledge, man has to solve the problem by himself by conducting investigations and interpreting the different components of the phenomenon (Gramigna, 2013). Essentially, problems and solutions as described in theory are not physical objects but entities of the human mind (Matthew, 2017). The philosopher links the interpretation of the brain to the dynamics of the creations of God that are both parts of the natural method of understanding knowledge. Undoubtedly, the study of the different natural aspects leads to the understanding of problems plus their solutions that relates to the teaching and knowledge of Christianity (Cassel, Cassel, & Manning, 2012). Notably, the understanding of the knowledge theory is similar to scientific research that aims at investigating how the human brain works and the best technique to use in determining its full potential. Further, by treating idea innovation as a problem, the solver can communicate with other intelligence that he cannot access internally.
The concept of learning has prompted human beings to find different ways to solve different challenges they face through the application of knowledge. Experiencing different problems is an accepted feature of the human life, and different mechanisms have to be developed in enhancing identification of viable solutions. Once an individual enters the world, they are psychologically prepared to face various problems that in turn help in shaping their behavior. The relation between human understanding of nature and increasing knowledge helps in assessing the legitimacy and authenticity of information documented by Augustine (Gramigna, 2013). In understanding the different dynamics of life, human beings are able to link the genesis of various problems they face and identify any applicable solutions. Various scientists including Albert Einstein approached the problems facing human beings on a scientific perspective but were unable the methodology behind certain aspects of life including the existence of supernatural beings and their influence on human life. Understandably, knowledge cannot be controlled by limiting the extent of human research but rather by expanding how the different aspects of life came into being and how they can be used to benefit them.
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Creation of Knowledge
Although St Augustine did not illustrate the method of the theory of knowledge, the study enabled the understanding of the unseen nature and how it affects human intelligence. Christian philosophy is solemnly based on divine teachings that are despised by the neo Augustinian teachings that comprise of both experience and intellectual illusion (Lehrer, 2015). Finding solutions to different problems can be explained through the development of new ideas that can be formulated through creative activities that take place in the psychological dimension (Frisina, 2012). The problem-solving procedure triggers the mental process that consequently expressed a different solution according to the intellect levels of the solver (Hölscher, 2013). In explaining the basis of the theory of knowledge, Augustine used different aspects of the Christian teachings to enable understanding of the various aspects of his model. Some of the issues include faith, determinism, and the problem of evil, the divine plan, concept of God and the doctrine of illumination.
Religion helps in the shaping of human behavior and their level of integrity. According to Augustine, religion plays an essential role in shaping the behavior and understanding of human beings essentially, no man can set up a weighing scale on the integrity or falsehood of the Christian teachings. If any individual manages to question the teachings and investigate the different laws, then he will be considered to a sinner. The theory further states that any knowledge revealed to man by God must be accepted through faith and must not be doubted at any cost (Radford, 2013) According to the Christian teachings, as described by St Augustine, any individual must receive the teachings as given even when he or she does not understand but later make sense of it (Svensson, 2013).
To acquire knowledge a person has to believe in the teaching then later comprehend its meaning. In a rational policy, however, a person has to understand the reaching before they can rely on them. According to Augustine, anybody who cannot understand any teachings in Christianity should recognize that God’s truth is rational and that He can illuminate the person with the answers at an appropriate moment (Matthew, 2017). This means that, according to Christianity when seeking knowledge, a person has to be ready to accept any teaching they receive in faith. No questions or doubts should be put forth on any religious teachings as it will mean that an individual will be opposing his religion.
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Religious teachings have been presented in different ways and its impact to human understanding questioned by different scholars. However, other philosophers held that the teachings of Christianity according to the theory of knowledge were irrational, preposterous and contradictory (Anderson, 2012). Sensation on the other hand entails the activity of both the soul and the body in comprehending knowledge. The body responds to any information acquired while the soul reacts to the impression gleaned from the body (Gramigna, 2013). As such Augustine notes that through meditation the soul is able to gather the image of all sensible objects. The concept means that the theory of learning by Augustin depends on the relationship of the soul and the body. The two have to responds to certain aspect of the teachings that in turn enables understanding of the knowledge. The physiologist further notes that inferior reasons help in gaining scientific knowledge. This helps at discovering the universal laws through the abstract process (Frisina, 2012). The superior reason, on the other hand, is the knowledge of eternal truth that can only be obtained through illumination
The Concept of God
According to Augustine, the concept of God includes a mixture of different elements that are available in Christian teachings. Notably, God is in various ways an infinite mind that contains platonic forms, similar to Plotinus divine mind. Additionally, the theory describes him as the only full entity, perfect and immutable (Hölscher, 2013). As a devoted Christian, Augustine also described God using different personalities including all-knowing, loving, all good and powerful father who loves his children. However, Augustine fails to explain the existence of the holy trinity according to the Christian teachings. In the philosopher’s view, God created the entire universe out of nothing but with a specific intention. This teaching contradicts to the Greek teachings that the universe was eternal. The different personalities used to describe God helps in understanding the different religious teachings and his contribution to human vast knowledge.
Determinism and the Problem of Evil
Evil as presented in the theory of knowledge was ushered into human being by the first man. According to Augustine, Adam was free on whether to be obedient to God or not. However, he ended up committing the first sin that was later inherited by all his descendants, therefore, limiting their choices (Svensson, 2013). As such, God the reason for punishing of all the descendants on crimes committed by the first man is not given by Augustine. The freedom of Adam is therefore questionable based on the limited diet he was to access in the garden. This aspect of the theory shadows the reflection of the Christian reality about God’s personal attributes (Radford, 2013). Determining the reasons that God had to include so much evil in the world is described as the concept of ethics and ultimate purpose to human beings. The theory of knowledge, however, dismisses the availability of evil in the world. Further, he describes darkness as the absence of reality and perfection that can be seen in any creature that is non-God.
The Augustine epistemology attempts to rehabilitate the misguided ideology and to unify serious considerations, especially in linguistic analysis. Among the problems cited in Augustine’s literature is the inability to relate the outer material world to the inner world of mind and spirit (Cassel, Cassel, & Manning, 2012). Different scholars have criticized his study based on the failure to explain the concept of inner man which lacks methodological and theoretical validity (Matthew, 2017). Thus, the theory lacks circumstantial evidence for metaphysical dualism. However, the philosopher is successful in explaining the religious concept behind the acquisition of knowledge. The different ideas given by the philosopher to explain the idea of divine intervention can be portrayed as the roadmaps to provide the structure needed to visualize areas behind human knowledge. Notably, the theory is also depicted as a pragmatic dialect that that incorporates instruments and techniques that provide a similar experience and other methods that provide testing of knowledge. Augustine also fails to explain the role of the divine causality and the purpose of the secondary sources.
The formulation of the question on the validity of Augustine’s illumination theory is presented through the ability to visualize the power of knowledge and truth. Further, he draws the difference between the three types of cognitive activities that include, identification, belief, and understanding which entail the different steps in understanding knowledge. Moreover, there exist various things that border the human mind such as holding an opinion, understanding and believing on the information. To fully practice anything regardless of the source, a person ought to understand the meaning and the reason for the phenomenon, belief in its source and evidence and providing an assessed opinion.
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- Frisina, W. G. (2012). Unity of Knowledge and Action, The: Toward a Nonrepresentational Theory of Knowledge. SUNY Press.
- Gramigna, R. (2013). Augustine on lying: A theoretical framework for the study of types of falsehood. Sign Systems Studies, 41(4), 446-487.
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- Lehrer, K. (2015). Theory of knowledge. Routledge.
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- Silva, J. F. (2014). Augustine on active perception. In Active Perception in the History of Philosophy (pp. 79-98). Springer International Publishing.
- Svensson, M. (2013). Augustine on moral conscience. The Heythrop Journal, 54(1), 42-54.