The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 32 July 2020 - Page 33

Existentialist philosophers such as Heidegger, Jaspers, and Arendt have argued that we are thrown into the world and two questions immediately surface as a response to such a claim. Firstly, which world are we thrown into? This question arises because for Augustine there are two worlds: De Civitate Dei(the City of God) and De Civitate Terrena (the earthly city) and according to Augustine when the Day of Judgment arrives these two cities will be divided. Secondly, and relatedly, if, as the Bible suggests our existence is the beginning of a story, does this fact of being created(thrown into the world from our point of view)take precedence over the end of the story, namely the expectation of our inevitable death. In other words, if the focus is on the remembrance of the constitutional beginning does this reverse the polarity of the world for those whose lives are dominated by an anxious expectation or fear of death. Much of course depends upon the context these questions are posed in. It is doubtful whether Aristotle's work played any part in the intellectual development of St Augustine perhaps because of Aristotle's acceptance of the existence of prime matter and its formless infinite essence which actually permits the conceiving of an infinite number of possible worlds each of which is constituted of the actualisation of different forms. Self-knowledge and knowledge of God were in one sense inextricably intertwined in Aristotle's metaphysical account of Man and his relation to Being. This account poses the question "What is man?" and responds to this question with a hylomorphic theory that condensed itself into the definition of man as a "rational animal capable of discourse". The presence of the term "animal" may, of course, have caused Augustine to dismiss Aristotelian theory in favour of a dualistic theory which separates animals from man because it was man and not the animals whose lives(psuche) were created by the breath of God in accordance with some divine logos. It was probably blind belief in the literalness of the account of the creation of man in the Book of Genesis that was responsible for the fact that it was Plato's more dualistic account of the relations of the soul to the body and the intellectual world to the physical world that in its turn caused a state of affairs in which Platonism was the Philosophy of choice for the religiously inclined. This in spite of the fact that we see in the Timeaus a Platonic move in the direction of the work of "the worldly" Aristotle. But it ought to be remembered that St Augustine himself was the product of a spirit of an age in which many different schools of Philosophy and sects of religion were proliferating and competing for attention and supremacy, including Gnostic sects such as Manichaeism.