The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 32 July 2020 - Page 34

Manichaeism was a dualistic theory that believed two bipolar forces were engaged in a struggle for control of the world: the force of Good and the force of Evil. St Augustine, for a period of time, embraced this Persian variation on a Gnostic theme just prior to his being inspired and converted to Christianity by Neo-Platonic writings and the Bishop of Milan in 387 AD. The ideas of St Paul were then destined to mingle with the Platonic theory of forms. The co-mingling of these ideas from different universes of discourse was regarded as inconsistently eclectic by Hannah Arendt in her evaluation of St Augustine in her later works, including "The "Life of the Mind". St Augustine was neither Greek nor Hebrew. He was essentially a Roman-inspired by Romans, e.g. Cicero. He was also bewitched by the language of Latin (regarded by Heidegger as an "Imperial" language of power). For example, he attempted to juxtapose an idea of free will with what Arendt called the greatest of his academic sins, the belief in predestination. A notion, incidentally, not entirely inconsistent with being "thrown into the world"(with one's human powers). Combine this with a view of time in which memory of the past plays a more significant role in the life of man than future expectancy and we are beginning to see a philosophical psychology forming that will have troubling implications in the future.: a philosophical psychology very different from that of Aristotle in which the question of the existence/essence of man is transposed from the Aristotelian "What is man?" to the Augustinian question "Who is man?". The former of course requires rational theory whilst the latter requires only memory of beginnings. From an Aristotelian or Kantian perspective, the transposition is a move toward ambiguity and confusion: it is a move away from philosophical psychology toward a more "scientific " and modern form of Psychology. Ambiguity and confusion are not however present in the Augustinian dualism of the carnal and the spiritual will which in turn are connected to a dualism of earthly love(cupiditas) and spiritual other-worldly love of God(Caritas). The man who loves in this spiritual way is, of course, an inhabitant of two worlds: De Civitate Dei and De Civitate Terrena. He is at home in the former world and a "stranger" in the latter. What prevents this dualism from degenerating into Manichaeism is a Platonic commitment to the overarching role of the knowledge of the Good: a conception which regards evil as the absence of good and therefore as in some sense logically dependent upon the good. Unsurprisingly a dualism of selves is also involved in this account. Arendt, in her earlier work "Love and St Augustine"(P.30) comments upon this latter dualism in the following way: