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BOOK II - Saint Augustine, The Soliloquies 
The Soliloquies of St. Augustine, translated into English by Rose Elizabeth Cleveland. With Notes and Introduction by the Translator (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1910).
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1. A. Our work has been interrupted long enough. Love is impatient and unless to her is given what is loved, grief has no limit. Wherefore let us set about this second book.
R. Let us do so at once.
A. And let us believe that God will be with us!
R. Let us truly believe this, if that, indeed, be within our power.
A. Our power is Himself.
R. Pray then as briefly and concisely as you can.
A. God, always the same, let me know myself, let me know Thee! The prayer52 is made.
R. You, who desire to know yourself, do you know that you are?
A. I do.53
R. How do you know this?
A. I do not know.
R. Do you feel yourself to be simple or complex?
A. I do not know.
R. Do you know yourself to be self-moved?
A. I do not.
R. Do you know that you think?
A. I do.
R. Is it then true that you think?
A. It is true.54
R. Do you know yourself to be immortal?55
A. I do not.56
R. Which, among all these things of which you have declared yourself ignorant, would you choose to know first?
A. If I be immortal.
R. You love then to live?
A. I confess it.
R. Would it be enough if you should have learned that you were immortal?
A. It would, indeed, be much, but, for me, too little.
R. But this too little, how much joy will it cause you?
A. Very much joy.
R. Would you then weep for anything at all?
A. For nothing at all.
R. What if that immortal life were found to be such that it were permitted you to know there no more than you had known here, would you restrain your tears?
A. Nay, I would weep my life away!
R. You love, then, to live, not for the sake of living, but for the sake of knowing.
A. I grant the inference.
R. But suppose that this very knowledge should cause you misery?
A. That, indeed, I can believe in no case possible: but if it be, then no man can be happy. For now I am miserable from no cause save that of my ignorance, and if knowledge also shall cause me misery, then misery is eternal.
R. I now perceive the sum of your desires. For, believing that no man is made unhappy by knowledge, you argue that intelligence effects happiness: no man is happy if not living, and no man lives who is not: you wish to be, to live, to know, but to be in order to live, and to live in order to know: now you know that you are, you know that you live, you know that you know. But whether all these things will continue forever; or whether no one of them will continue forever: whether some will survive and others will perish; or, in case all survive, whether they may become more and more, or must become less and less, this it is which you desire to know.
A. So it is.
R. And now, if we shall have proved that we are to live forever, it follows that we shall be forever.
A. That follows.
R. It will remain then to inquire concerning knowing.
2. A. I perceive a very clear and concise order.
R. At present, let the order be that you reply to my questions with caution and conviction.
A. I am agreed.
R. If this world shall continue forever, is it true that this world is to continue forever?
A. Who doubts this?
R. And if it is not to continue, is it not likewise true that it is not to continue?
A. I do not contradict.
R. And, when it shall have perished, if it is to perish, will it not then be true that the world has perished? For as long as it is true that the world has not passed away, it has not passed away: therefore the proposition that the world has passed away contradicts the proposition that the world has not passed away.
A. This, too, I concede.
R. And what about this? Does it seem to you that anything can be true and Truth not be?
A. By no means.
R. Therefore Truth will still be, even though the world should cease to be?
A. I cannot deny it.
R. What if Truth itself should perish, would it not be true that Truth had perished?
A. And who denies that?
R. But it cannot be true if Truth is not?
A. That I have conceded, a little way back.
R. Truth can, then, in no way perish?
A. Nothing can be more true than this deduction; go on then, as you have begun.57
3. R. I would like to have you now tell me whether it appears to you that the soul or the body has consciousness?58
A. It seems to me that it is the soul.
R. And does it seem to you that the Intellect belongs to the soul?
A. It seems so, unquestionably.
R. To the soul alone, or to something beside?
A. I see nothing else except the soul, unless it be God, which I can suppose the habitation of Intellect.
R. Let us look into this. What would you think if some one should tell you that yonder wall was not a wall, but was a tree?
A. Either that his senses or mine were in error; or that he had called a wall by that name.
R. How if it had to you the appearance of a wall, and to him that of a tree: might not each be true?
A. Not at all, for one and the same thing cannot be both a tree and a wall; and however it might appear to each of us separately as separate things, one of us must, of necessity, suffer a false conception.
R. And how if it be neither tree nor wall, and both are deceived?
A. That, of course, might be.
R. This one point then, you overlooked above.
A. I admit it.
R. How if you both realized it to be something other than it appeared to you to be, would you be deceived, in that case?
R. A thing can, then, have a false appearance to a person, and yet he will not be deceived by it?
A. It can.
R. It must, then, be granted that it is not he who sees false things who is deceived, but he only who assents to the false as true?
A. Granted without doubt.
R. What about the false itself — wherefore is the false, false?
A. Because it appears to be other than it actually is.
R. If, then, there are no persons to whom a thing appears, there is nothing false?
A. That follows.
R. Falsity, then, is not in things but in sense; and he who does not accept the false as true is not deceived: and if, when sense is deceived, we are not deceived, it must be granted that sense is one thing and we another.
A. I have nothing to say in contradiction.
R. But suppose the soul is deceived: would you venture, in this case, to declare that you are not deceived?
A. By what possibility could I venture that far?
R. But no sense without soul, and no falsity without sense. The soul, therefore, either operates or co-operates with falsity.
A. What has preceded compels this conclusion.
4. R. Tell me now if it seems to you possible that sometime falsity may not be.59
A. How could that seem possible to me when the difficulty of finding out Truth is so great that it seems more absurd to say that falsity may cease to exist than that Truth may?
R. Do you think that he who does not live can have consciousness?
A. That cannot be.
R. Then it is established that the soul lives forever.
A. You thrust joy upon me too precipitately; step by step, I beg!
R. And yet, if the above concessions are correct, I see nothing to be in doubt concerning this matter.
A. But I insist it is too soon. For I shall be more easily persuaded that I have made premature concessions, than that I am already assured of the soul’s immortality. Nevertheless, develop your argument, and let me see how you arrive at your conclusion.
R. You have declared that falsity cannot fail to exist, and that it exists because of sense: sense, therefore, cannot cease to be. But there is no sense without soul. The soul is, therefore, everlasting. Nor can there be consciousness without life. The soul, therefore, lives forever.
5. A. O leaden dagger! For if I concede to you that the world could not exist apart from man, you are able to conclude that man is immortal, and that both he and the world are everlasting!
R. You watch well! Nevertheless we have established no small matter in this — that the world of sense cannot exist apart from the soul, unless, perchance, there shall sometime be no falsity in the nature of things.
A. I admit that to be the consequence. But I think we should now deliberate more amply as to the stability of our former concessions. For I see that no little progress has been made toward the soul’s immortality.
R. Have you sufficiently considered whether you may not have granted something too hastily?
A. Quite sufficiently, and I see no lack of caution anywhere.
R. It is then established that the nature of things cannot exist apart from a living soul?
A. Established to this extent — that souls may succeed each other, those born succeeding those which die.
R. And if falsity might be eliminated from the nature of things, might it not then come to pass, that all things would be true?
A. That, I see, follows.
R. Tell me why this wall seems to you to be true?
A. Because I am not deceived by its appearance.
R. Because it is in fact what it seems to be?
R. If, then, a thing is false from the fact that it appears other than it is, and true from the fact that it is as it appears, then the observer being removed there is nothing either true or false; but, if the falsity is removed from the nature of things, then all things are true. Nor can anything appear except to a living soul. The soul remains, therefore, in the framework of things, whether falsity can or cannot be eliminated.
A. I see that our former inference is now made more solid: but we have made no real gain. For, not the less, does that which very much disturbs me remain; namely, that the world is never without souls, because since birth follows death, they are always here, not because of their immortality, but because of their succession.
6. R. Does it seem to you that material things, that is, those appreciable by sense, can be wholly apprehended by the Intellect?
A. It does not.
R. What then? Does it seem to you that God makes use of senses for the cognition of things?
A. I dare affirm nothing rashly concerning this point, but so far as I am permitted to conjecture, God in no way makes use of senses.60
R. We conclude then that consciousness is possible only to the soul.
A. Tentatively, and so far as probability permits.
R. How then? Do you grant that this wall, if not a true wall, is not a wall?
A. I grant nothing more willingly.
R. And that anything, if not a true body, is not a body?
A. That also I admit.
R. Therefore if nothing is true unless it be as it seems: nor can any sensible object have a seeming except to the senses: nor can anything except the soul have consciousness: nor any body be, unless it be a true body; it follows that unless the soul shall have been, the body cannot be.
A. You urge me on so swiftly that what I might oppose, I cannot grasp.61
7. R. Attend even more diligently!
A. Behold me here!
R. This stone certainly is: and it is as such true if it is not in reality other than it seems: and if it is not true it does not exist: and it can have no seeming except to the senses.
A. Even so.
R. There are, then, no stones in the unseen bowels of the earth, nor anywhere where there are not those who can be conscious of them; nor, unless we shall behold it, can that stone be: and when we have gone elsewhere, it must cease to be, if no other human being remains to look at it: nor can coffers, however well filled, and securely closed, contain anything: nor can yonder wood be wood, except on its surface, since any body, not transparent to its depths, escapes every sense, and must, perforce, be considered non-existent. For if it were, it would be true: but anything is true only because it is as it appears: and this does not appear: therefore it is not true: or have you an answer to all this?
A. I see that this is the outcome of those concessions of mine, but it is so absurd that I shall be more ready to recant whatever of them you choose, than to grant it to be true.
R. I have no objection. See to it, then, which you prefer to declare: that bodies can appear independent of sense: or that consciousness can exist independent of soul: or that a stone or anything else can be and not be true: or that the true itself must be otherwise defined.
A. Let us, I pray, consider this last alternative.
8. R. Define, then, the true.
A. That is true which actually is as it appears to the observer, if he can and will observe.
R. That, therefore, which cannot be observed by some human being will not be true? Wherefore, if that be false which appears other than it really is, suppose this appears to one observer to be a stone and to another to be wood — shall the same thing be both false and true?
A. That does not concern me so much as does the former proposition — that if a thing cannot be observed, it must follow that it cannot be true. I do not so much care that the same thing is at the same time both true and false: for, as a matter of fact, I observe that a certain thing, being compared with different things, may be both small and large, and thus it comes about that nothing is absolutely small or large, since these designations are simply relative.
R. But, if you declare that nothing is true in itself, do you not fear lest it shall follow that nothing can be in itself? For, for the same reason that this is wood, it is also true wood. Nor is it a possible thing that in itself absolutely, that is, without an observer, it can be wood, and not be true wood.
A. Therefore I declare and define thus, — nor do I fear that my definition shall be disproved because of brevity, — that seems to me to be true which is.62
R. Then nothing can be false, since whatever is, is true.
A. You have driven me into close quarters, nor do I, immediately, find an answer. It has come to this, that while I am unwilling to be taught in any way except by these questions, I, nevertheless, fear to be longer questioned.
9. R. God, to whom we have committed ourselves, has, without doubt, this work in hand, and will deliver us from our straits, if only we believe, and pray to Him with all the heart.
A. Nothing would I, at this pass, do more gladly, for never have I been involved in such pitchy darkness.63 O God, our Father, who dost exhort us to pray, and dost grant what we ask, if so be that when we pray to Thee we are better and live better; listen to me, groping amid these shadows, and stretch out to me Thy right hand! Hold Thy Light before me! Call me back from wandering! Under Thy guidance, let me return to myself, let me return to Thee! Amen!
R. Concentrate your attention now as much as is possible and listen most watchfully!
A. Speak, I implore, if anything is borne in upon you, lest we perish!
R. Concentrate your attention!
A. Behold me, I am all attention!
10. R. Let us then first ventilate the truth about this question — what is Falsity?
A. I wonder if it shall be found to be anything else than that which is not as it seems.
R. Be more attentive, while we first cross-examine the senses themselves. Now it is certain that which the eyes behold is not pronounced false unless it possess some likeness to the true. For example, the man we see in a dream is not a true man, but a false, by the very fact that he bears some resemblance to the true. For, who, having seen in his dream a dog, could rightly say that he dreamed of a man? The dog, also, is false, because he is like a true one.
A. It is as you say.
R. And when a person, wide-awake, takes a horse for a man, is he not deceived by this very fact, that it appears to him in some similitude of a man? For if to him it appears like nothing but a horse, it is not possible that he should think he sees a man.
A. I agree to this without reserve.
R. In the same manner, we call the picture of a tree a false tree, the face reflected from a mirror a false face, the apparent motion of towers to those sailing past them, a false motion, the apparent break of the oak under water a false break, from no other reason than because they are similar to the true.
A. I admit it.
R. And we are, likewise, deceived by the similarity in twins, and in eggs, and in the impressions of a seal ring, and in other such things.
A. I follow and wholly agree with you.
R. That similitude of things, which obtains by the sense of sight, is, therefore, the mother of Falsity.
A. I cannot deny it.
11. R. Now this whole forest of facts can, if I mistake not, be divided into two classes: the one containing things equal, the other things unequal: equals, when, for instance, we say this is like that as that is like this, as is said in the case of twins, and of the impressions of a seal ring: unequals, when the inferior is said to be like the superior. For who, looking into a mirror, could possibly declare that he resembled his own reflected image, and not rather that it resembled him? And this class subdivides again into one which contains those cases which have a purely mental origin and one which contains those brought about by sense. Again, those which are experienced by the mind are twofold: those induced by the senses, as in the fictitious motion of the towers: or by itself from that which it received from the senses, as in the visions of those dreaming and perhaps, also, of the insane. Moreover those objects of the sense of sight which appear to us as if really the things they look like, are produced and fashioned, some by nature, some by living beings. Nature produces these inferior similitudes either by reproduction or representation: by reproduction, as when children are born resembling their parents, by representation, as in the case of every sort of reflector; for, although men make nearly all mirrors, they do not make the images reflected from them.
Now the productions of living beings consist of pictures and delineations of every sort whatever, in which class may be included, also, those apparitions, if such there be, produced by spirits. The shadows of substances, also, may properly have a place in this category: for, since they are similitudes of bodies, and in a sense false bodies, they cannot be denied a place among those things belonging to the realm of vision, as produced by nature from reflection. For every body turned to the sun reflects light, and on the opposite side casts a shadow. Or does something contradictory occur to you?
A. Nothing indeed: but I wait with impatience to see whither these things tend.
12. R. It is now our duty to patiently persevere until the other senses have given their testimony to our proposition that Falsity has its seat in similitude to the true. For from the sense of hearing almost as many kinds of similitude are to be observed; as when, hearing the voice, but not seeing the person, we think it is that of one whose voice it is similar to: and, among these inferior similitudes, echo, the ringing in the ears, and the imitation in clocks of the notes of the blackbird or the crow, or those sounds which the sleeping and the insane seem to themselves to hear, are all witnesses. And it is incredible how much false notes, as musicians64 call them, witness to this truth, as will be seen hereafter; although it suffices for the present, that they are not lacking in similitude to those which are called true. Do you follow me?
A. Most willingly, for I find no difficulty in understanding.
R. Well, then, not to lose time; does it seem to you that one lily is distinguishable from another by its perfume? The thyme-honey of one hive from the thyme-honey of another by its taste? The softness of the swan’s plumage from that of the goose by its touch?
A. It does not.
R. And how, when in dreams we seem to taste or touch or smell such things, are we not deceived in these imaginations by a similitude inferior in proportion to its nothingness?
A. You speak truly.
R. It appears, then, that we are deceived in all our senses by some seductive similitude — whether of things equal or things inferior: or, if not actually deceived, as suspending consent and discriminating differences, we nevertheless designate as false those things which we find similar to the true.
A. I cannot doubt it.
13. R. Now give attention, as we again briefly review the same thing, so that this which we endeavor to show may become yet more obvious.
A. I hear: say what you will, for I have made up my mind, once for all, to submit to this roundabout route without impatience, because of my great hope of arriving at the goal toward which I feel that we are tending.
R. You do well. But now consider whether it seems to you that when we see a number of similar eggs, we can say, with truth, that any one of them is false?
A. By no means: for, if all are eggs, all are true eggs.
R. And how is it in the case of an image reflected from a mirror? By what signs do we apprehend it to be false?
A. Because, of course, it cannot be grasped, does not give forth sound, has not power to move itself, does not live, and we apprehend it also by other innumerable things which it would be tiresome to elaborate.
R. I see that you are unwilling to delay, and something must be yielded to your impatience. Not to repeat, then, each detail, — suppose those men whom we see in dreams as if living and speaking could be held captive by us when waking, and found to be no different themselves from those whom wide-awake and in our senses we see and talk with — could we call them false?
A. How could they possibly be so called?
R. If, then, they were true by reason of their appearing perfectly similar to the true, so that nothing whatever differentiates them from the true: and false by reason of corresponding or other differences, must it not be admitted also that similitude is the mother of Truth and dissimilitude of Falsity?65
A. I have nothing to answer, and am ashamed of my former so hasty assent.
14. R. It is absurd for you to be ashamed, for we have provided for such an event by our choice of this method of discussion, which, because we speak to ourselves alone, I wish to have designated and written down as Soliloquies, — certainly a new, and perhaps, unattractive name, but quite suitable to the matter under discussion. For, while Truth cannot be better investigated than by question and answer, scarce a person can be found who is not mortified at being vanquished in argument, and from this fact it almost invariably happens that, when the debate is well under way, some explosion of perversity bursts out resulting in wounded feelings, often concealed, but sometimes apparent; so that I think it tends most to peace and is best suited to the search after Truth66 that, God helping, I myself reply to questions put by myself. Therefore there is no need that we should fear to turn back and reconsider, if at any time from lack of deliberation you should have tangled yourself up; for otherwise there is no way out.
15. A. Well said! but I do not see clearly that I have made any incorrect concession, unless in fact it be in having declared that to be false, which possesses some similitude to the true: as nothing else occurs to me which clearly deserves to be called false. Yet, on the other hand, I am forced to admit that those things designated as false are so called by reason of that in which they are unlike the true: and so it turns out that dissimilitude itself is also the cause of falsity: therefore I am perplexed, for I cannot easily conceive how a thing can be the result of antagonistic causes.
R. But how if this be the single such case, and is thus unique? Or, do you not know that, passing in review the innumerable species of animals, the crocodile is the only one to move his upper jaw in masticating?67 And that it is notorious that scarcely anything can be found which is so like another in every detail, that somedetail is not discovered in which it is unlike?
A. I do indeed perceive this. But when I realize that what we call false possesses both likeness and unlikeness to the true, I cannot decide from which of the two this designation of false is better deserved. For if I say it is from that by which it differs, nothing will remain which cannot be called false: for, among those things admitted to be true, there is nothing which is not in some detail, unlike everything else. If, on the other hand, I say it is from that in which they resemble that things deserve the name of false, not only will those eggs which are true, in that they are similar, protest, but also I shall not escape him who would force me to admit that all things are false, since I cannot deny that all things are, in some respect, similar to each other. But, supposing I do not fear to answer him that likeness and unlikeness co-operate at the same time to bring it about that a thing may correctly be called false, what refuge from this dilemma will you provide? I shall be forced to allow that all things are false, since, as I have just said above, all things are found to be in some respects alike, in others unlike. My sole alternative would be to say that the false is nothing else than that which appears otherwise than it actually is, did I not fear those many monsters of which I was thinking I had long ago steered clear. For, once more, I am suddenly whirled giddily around in order that I may announce that the true is that which appears what it actually is. It next transpires that, without a cognizer, nothing can be true, and I am menaced with shipwreck upon those hidden reefs, which are true reefs, though without a cognizer. And if I say that the true is that which is, it must follow, in spite of all contradiction, that no place is left for the false. And so all my unrest returns, and I do not see that I have gained anything by so much patience with your delays.
16. R. Take heed, rather! For I will not at all harbor the suggestion that we have sought divine aid in vain:68 I see, indeed, by our many experiments in all these things, that nothing remains which can justly be called false, save that which feigns to be what it is not, or, in general, that which tends to be and is not. Of the former type of false things are those which are either actually misleading or those which are simply fictitious. Of the misleading it may be said truly that it has a certain appetite for deceiving, which cannot be conceived to exist apart from soul, and results, on the one hand, from reason, on the other from nature. But the fictitious I call that which is produced by makers of fiction: these differ from the misleading in this, that every misleader has a desire to deceive: while not every fiction-maker has. For mimes and comedies and many poems are full of fictions for the purpose rather of pleasing than of deceiving: and almost all who make jests deal in fictions. But he is rightly called a misleader, or misleading, whose business it is that everybody should be deceived. Others, however, who have no purpose to deceive in what they do, but do, nevertheless, manufacture things, are, so far, falsifiers: or, if not actually that, yet, no man doubts that they deserve the name of fiction-makers. Or have you something to say in contradiction?
17. A. Proceed, I beg. For now you are, perhaps, beginning to teach concerning falsity, not falsely. But I am expecting to hear of what sort that may be of which you say: — It tends to be and is not.
R. And why not? For they are those of which we have taken note in many things above. For does not your image in the mirror seem to you as if it willed to be your very self, but to be false for the reason that it is not?
A. It seems so indeed.
R. And every picture, every representation of every sort, everything among the works of art of that class, do they not strive, as it were, to be after the likeness of that in imitation of which they are made?
A. I am positively convinced of this.
R. And you now concede, I suppose, that those things by which dreamers or the insane are deceived are of this sort?
A. None more so: for none so tend toward reality and those things which the waking and sane see. They are, nevertheless, false, in that they tend toward being and cannot attain to it.
R. And what now of the apparent motion of the towers? — of the oar bent beneath the water? — of the shadows of bodies? Need I say more? For it is, as I think, evident that they should all come under the same classification.
A. Most evident.
R. I do not speak of the other senses: for there is no thoughtful man but has found that among those things which we experience in sensible matters, that is called false which tends to be and is not.69
18. A. You speak truly: but I wonder why it seems to you that poems and jests and other fictions should be excluded from this class?
R. Because to will to be false is one thing, and to be unable to be true is another. Thus the works themselves of men, whether comedies or tragedies or mimes, and other things of that sort, we are able to classify along with the works of painters and sculptors. For a painted man cannot be so true, however much he approximates the appearance of a man, as are those things which are written in the books of the comic poets. For these neither will to be false, nor are they false by any appetite of their own: but by a certain necessity they carry out, as much as possible, the intention of their author. Thus Roscius, by his own will, was, upon the stage, a false Hecuba: though by nature he was a true man, but a true tragedian by that very will by which he filled the rôle as such, and a false Priam, in that he was simulating Priam though not he himself. And from this comes to pass a certain marvel, which, however, no man doubts to be an actual fact.
A. What is that?
R. What do you suppose, except that all these things are true in some respects from the fact that they are false in others, and that their proper rôles can be produced by them only because they are false to others? Wherefore if they desist from these falsities, they can by no means achieve that which they wish and are in duty bound to do. For by what possibility could he whom I have cited be a true tragedian if he were unwilling to be a false Andromache, a false Hector, a false Hercules, and countless others. Or whence would a picture of a horse be a true picture, if it were not a false horse? And whence is that reflection from the mirror a true reflection if it be not a false man? And why, since, in order that certain things may be true in something, they must be false in something, do we so greatly fear falsities and so eagerly hunger after truth?
A. I do not know and I much wonder, except it be that I see these examples to be in nothing worthy of emulation.70 For, in order to be true in our own individual characters, we ought not to become false, by imitating and taking the rôle of others, as do actors, and the reflections from mirrors, and Myron’s brazen cow: but to seek the true, which is not double-faced, and self-contradictory, nor in order that it may be true on one side, false on the other.
R. Great and divine things are these which you demand. And if we shall have found them, shall it not be confessed that Truth itself, after which everything which is in any way true is discriminated and named, has been, as it were, created and breathed into life by what has preceded?
A. I do not withhold my assent.
19. R. Does it seem to you that the science of disputation is a true science or a false?71
A. Who doubts its truth? But grammar is also a true science.
R. As true?
A. I do not see that anything is truer than the true.
R. That certainly which has in it nothing of false: investigating this, a little way back, you were offended that some things I know not how, could not be true, save on condition that they were also false. Do you not, then, know that things both fabulous and obviously false are within the province of grammar?
A. I am, indeed, not ignorant of that fact: but, as I judge, it is not through grammar they are shown to be of whatever sort they are. A fable is, in fact, a fictitious composition for the purpose of entertainment or utility. The science of grammar is also the custodian and disciplinarian of spoken language, and is compelled, by necessity of its vocation, to collect all productions, oral or written, in literature, not making them false, but taking them in charge and teaching what is true and reasonable concerning them.
R. Right and sound, though it is not at present my concern whether these things be correctly defined and discriminated: but I ask this: — Whether it is grammar or science of disputation which truly so demonstrates all this?
A. I do not deny that force and skill in defining, by which I have just now tried to distinguish these things, belong to the art of the disputant.
20. R. How about grammar itself? If true, is it not true by that by which it is a science? The word science is derived from the verb to learn: — now no man learns and retains what he learns, who cannot be said to know: and no man knows the false: every science, therefore, is true.
A. I do not see that anything in this little argument is incautiously reasoned. But I am disturbed lest some one will conclude that those fables even are true, since we both learn and remember them.
R. Was our master ever unwilling that we should both know and believe these fables which he was accustomed to teach?
A. On the contrary, he was wont to insist with vehemence72 that we should know them.
R. Did he ever insist that we should believe that Daedalus flew?
A. That, indeed, never. But if we did not learn the fable itself perfectly, he would so conduct himself that we could scarcely keep anything in our hands.
R. Do you then deny that it is true that such a fable exists, and that Daedalus is so reported everywhere?
A. I do not deny that that is true.
R. You do not deny, then, that when you learned that, you learned a true thing? For, if it be true that Daedalus flew, and the boys received and recited it as fable and a fiction: they would, by that, have retained something false; because those things which they recited were true. And so what we were marvelling at before comes to pass: that unless it be false that Daedalus flew, the fable concerning the flight of Daedalus cannot be a true fable.
A. I grasp that, at last, but wait to see how we are going to profit by it.
R. How except that it is not a false reasoning by which we infer that a science cannot be a science, unless it teach true things.
A. And how is that to the point?
R. Because I wish you to tell me what makes grammar a science. For from whence it is true, from thence it is a science.
A. I do not know how to answer you.
R. Do you consider that if there were in it nothing of definition, distinction or classification, it could, in any sense, be called a science?
A. I see now what you mean to say: nor does there occur to me anything in the guise of any sort of science, in which there are not definitions, classifications, and argumentations, so that any proposition may be analyzed, each thing relevant to it being relegated without confusion to its proper place, nothing belonging to it omitted, nothing alien admitted, all things working together to make that very whole which is by that given the name of science.
R. And that very whole, therefore, by which it is called true.
A. I see that that follows.
21. R. Now tell me what science contains the principles of definition, classification and distribution?
A. I have already said, above, that they are contained in the laws governing the science of disputation.
R. Grammar, then, is constituted by that same art, which you have before defended from the charge of falsity, both a science and true. And this I am permitted to conclude, not alone of grammar, but of absolutely all sciences. For you have said, and said truly, that no science occurs to you in which the law of definition and of distribution is not the very thing which constitutes it a science. And if, by the same reason that they are sciences, they are true, can any one deny that that through which they are all true sciences is Truth itself?
A. I am certainly very near agreeing to this. But it disturbs me that we reckon also among all these sciences that principle of debate itself. Whereas, I should consider that it is rather Truth itself by which that principle is true.
R. Altogether watchful and excellent! But you do not, I suppose, deny that a science is true from that by which it is a science?
A. It is indeed because of that, that I am disturbed. For I have adverted to it as itself a science, and on that account have declared it to be true.
R. How then? Do you consider that it could be a science otherwise, except as in it all things are defined and classified?
A. I have nothing to say.
R. But if this is its province, it is through itself proved a true science. Who, then, would deem it strange if this, through which all things are true, should in itself and through itself be true Truth?
A. Nothing whatever hinders me now from advancing to that opinion.73
22. R. Attend, then, to the few things which remain.
A. If what you have to offer be in such wise as I can comprehend, I will freely assent.
R. We do not fail to perceive that a thing is said to be in something in two ways. In the one way it can be disunited and be separate, and in another place, as this wood in that place, or as the sun in the east. In another way a thing is so in its subject that separation from it is impossible, as is the form and quality in the wood, or as is light in the sun, or heat in fire, or knowledge in the mind, and other things similarly. Or do you see it to be otherwise?
A. All this is most familiar to me, and since early youth74 has been most studiously observed and known. Wherefore if interrogated concerning it, I can assent without hesitation.
R. Do you, then, concede that what is inseparable from its subject cannot survive if the subject dies?
A. That, too, I see, of necessity, follows. For even when the subject abides, it is possible that what is in the subject may not abide, as whoever diligently considers the matter knows. Thus, the color of my body may, either by reason of age or of illness, change, while the body is yet living. And this obtains, not of all things equally, but of those things which, while they are not themselves subjects, but only in the subject, yet co-exist with it. For that wall which we see to be of a certain color, need not, in order that it be a wall, be of that color; for if, by some chance, it becomes white or black or some other color, it, nevertheless, remains a wall and is so called. But if fire lack heat, it will not truly be fire at all: nor can we call snow snow, unless it be white.
23. That, however, which you have asked — whether that which is in the subject remains, the subject having perished — who could allow, or to whom would it seem to be possible? For it is monstrous and most alien to the truth that that which, unless it were in the subject, could not possibly exist, could still exist even when the subject does not.
R. That, then, which we were seeking is found.
A. What do you say?
R. What you hear.
A. Is it, then, already established beyond question that the soul is immortal?
R. If what you have conceded is true, wholly beyond question. Unless you may say that the mind, even though it may die, is still the mind?
A. Never, indeed, will I say that: but I do say that if it can perish, by that very fact it is not the mind. Nor will I retract this opinion because great philosophers75 have declared that it cannot admit death within its essence, but that, wherever it goes, it is still instinct with life. For, although light illumines any place into which it can enter, and, by reason of that famous law of contraries, cannot admit darkness into itself, yet, let it be extinguished and that same place, the light having been put out, becomes dark. And so that which is antagonistic to darkness, nor can in any way admit it into its own essence, may yet, by dying, give place to it, as it could have done, indeed, by departing. And so, I fear lest it may be that death may befall the body as darkness a place, by the soul, like a light, sometime departing thence, but sometimes being extinguished in the body. And as now there can be no security against the death of the body, yet that kind of death is to be preferred by which the soul is led forth, unharmed, and conducted to a place (if such place there be) where it cannot be put out. But if this may not be, and if the soul is kindled, like a flame, within the every essence of the body, nor can elsewhere endure, then every kind of death is extinction of the life of the body and the soul alike. And that mode of life should be chosen, so far as is permitted man to choose, in which that which does live may live in safety and tranquillity, though I know not, if the soul dies, how that is possible. Oh, very happy they who, whether by themselves, or by whatever cause, are persuaded that death, even though the soul perish, is not to be feared!76 But no reasoning, no books have, so far, persuaded miserable me.
24. R. Do not lament! The human soul is immortal.
A. How is it proven?
R. By those things which you have already, with very great caution, conceded.
A. I do not, indeed, recall anything which, replying to you, I have granted with any small degree of vigilance. But now I beg you bring them all together to that one conclusion. I do not, for the present, wish you to question me, but let us see by what great circumlocution we have come hither. For if you are about to briefly enumerate the things which I have already conceded, to what end would my repetition of them be desired? Or why should you wantonly inflict upon me the postponement of joy, if, indeed, we have perchance accomplished anything of good?
R. I see and I will do what you desire, but pay most diligent attention.
A. Here I am, speak now: why torture me to death?
R. If everything which is in the subject persists forever, the subject itself must, of necessity, persist forever. And every science is in the mind as subject. It is, then, a necessary fact that the mind continues forever, if science continues forever. But science is Truth, and, as Reason has convinced you at the beginning of this book, Truth continues forever. The mind, therefore, abides; nor can it be called mortal. He alone, therefore, without absurdity denies that the mind is undying, who proves any of the foregoing conclusions to be untrue.
25. A. I would give myself up to joy forthwith, except that two causes restrain me. For, first, I am disturbed that we have made use of so much circumlocution, following I know not what chain of reasoning, when, as is now shown, the whole matter at which we have been laboring could have been so briefly demonstrated. Wherefore it makes me anxious that our discourse has gone so roundabout as if for some insidious purpose. And, next, I do not see how knowledge can be inbred in the mind’s essence, when so few are well versed in it, especially in that science of disputation: for, surely, if any one may have become familiar with it, he yet must have been, from infancy, and a long time thereafter, ignorant of it. Neither can we say that the minds of the unlearned are not minds, or that knowledge of which they are ignorant, is in them. For if that be extremely absurd, it remains either that Truth is not forever in the mind, or that that science is not the Truth.
26. R. You see that not in vain has our reasoning pursued its way circuitously. For we have been seeking to find out what Truth is, though I see that we have not so far been able to discover it in this particular forest of facts whose by-ways have almost all been explored. But what are we to do? Shall we give up the undertaking and wait until, perchance, some other books may fall into our hands which shall satisfy this questioning? For I think many have been written before our age which we have not read; and, in order that we may not express opinions of that concerning which we are ignorant, we have within reach writings concerning this subject, both in prose and in verse, by men whose works are not unknown to us, and whose talents we know well, so that we cannot be without hope of finding that for which we are wishing in their books, especially when he is here before our eyes in whom we have recognized a revival in perfection of that eloquence which we had mourned as dead.77 And will he who has, in his own writings, taught us the way of life, permit us to remain in ignorance of the nature of life?
A. I do not think so indeed, and I hope much from thence: but I grieve that we do not succeed in disclosing to him, as we would like, either our attitude toward himself or toward wisdom. He, surely, would pity our thirst, and would overflow to us far more often than at present is the case. For he, because already convinced, is assured and at ease concerning the immortality of the soul: nor does he, perchance, know that there are those who have too long experienced the wretchedness of doubt, and whom, especially when they ask, it were cruel not to succor.78
And there is another who knows full well, from long familiarity, our intense anxiety; but he is so far away, and we are so situated, that scarcely have we any opportunity of even so much as sending him a letter. In transalpine leisure he has, I believe, produced a poem by which the fear of death, exorcised, flees away, and that chill and stupor of the soul, unyielding as the ice of ages, is cast out.79 But, in the meantime, while we wait for these helps to those things which are not in our power, is it not most shameful that our time should be thrown away, and the whole mind itself, from this wavering judgment, hang in suspense?
27. Where is that God whom we have prayed and implored, not for riches, not for pleasures, not for high places and popular honors, but for an open way for us seeking our own soul and Himself? Does He thus, then, desert us or is He deserted by us?80
R. Most foreign to Himself is it that He should desert those who seek such things; and, therefore, it should be foreign to us to desert such a Leader. Wherefore, if you please, let us briefly review the reasoning by which it is concluded that Truth continues forever, and that the principle of disputation is Truth. For you have declared that those propositions are not firmly established, and that therefore we are not secure in our conclusions. Or shall we, instead, seek to know how it is that knowledge can dwell in an untrained mind, which we cannot refuse to call a mind, because untrained? For you seem to be troubled, so that it is needful to again debate those things which you had conceded.
A. Nay, let us, first, discuss the former matter and afterwards we shall see what there may be of the latter. For thus, there will, I think, be an end of controversy.
R. Let it be so then: but bring to it the utmost caution and concentration. For I observe that while you are listening, it comes about that, from your great anxiety to reach a conclusion, you are looking for it to present itself the next minute; and so you concede propositions which are put to you before they are thoroughly examined.
A. Perhaps you are right, and I will do my best to overcome this infirmity. Begin, then, your questions, lest we lose time over superfluous matters.
28. R. We have, as I recollect, concluded that Truth cannot perish, for the reason that should not only the whole world pass away but even Truth itself, it would still be true that the world and Truth had perished. But nothing can be true without Truth. In no sense, then, can Truth perish.
A. I recognize these conclusions, and shall be very much astonished if they prove false.
R. Let us, then, look into the other matter.
A. Permit me, I beg, to reconsider yet a little lest I again retreat in disgrace.
R. Shall it then not be true that Truth has perished? If it be not true, then it has not perished. If it be true, how can it be true, after Truth has perished, when now there is no Truth?
A. Nothing now remains which I need further reconsider. Proceed, therefore, to the other matter. We will certainly do all in our power, so that learned and prudent men may read and correct any inadvertence which may be found; though I do not think that, either now or at any future time, anything can be said against this conclusion.
29. R. Is, then, Truth called Truth from any other reason save that it is that by which any true thing is true?
A. From no other thing.
R. And is anything rightly called true except because it is not false?
A. This, surely, it were madness to doubt.
R. And is not the false that which approximates to the likeness of the true, yet is not that which it resembles?
A. Nothing else, indeed, do I see which can so readily be called false. It is, nevertheless, customary to call that false which is very far from resembling the true.
R. Who denies that? But even so it still holds, by some slight imitation to the true.
A. How so? For when it is said that Medea flew with winged serpents yoked, on what side does that statement, forsooth, imitate the true, seeing it is nothing?81 For it is impossible that a thing which absolutely cannot be, can be imitated.
R. You speak truly; but do you not observe that this which is absolutely nothing, cannot even be said to be false? For if false, it is; and if it is not, it is not false.
A. May we not, then, say that this inconceivably monstrous thing about Medea is false?
R. Certainly not: for if false, how is it monstrous?
A. I see, then, a miracle! And so, forsooth, when I hear
“With mighty, winged snakes hitched to her car”
I call it not false?
R. You do, obviously. For that which you declare false is.
A. What is, I beg?
R. That sentence which is enunciated by the verse.
A. And how, pray, does that possess any imitation of the true?
R. In its enunciation; which is such as it would be if Medea had actually done that thing. The false sentence imitates the true sentence in its structure. Which, if not credited, in that it imitates the true only in the manner of the telling, is so false that it does not even deceive. If it claims belief it must imitate credible truths.
A. I now perceive that there is a vast difference between things which we simply repeat, and things by which we predicate something. Wherefore I now agree. For this alone — that we correctly call nothing false except it possess some imitation of a true thing — gave me pause. For who would not be justly ridiculed if he called that stone yonder false silver? But if he affirmed that stone to be silver, we say that he makes a false statement, that is, that he gives utterance to a false judgment. But we might, I think, without absurdity, call lead or zinc false silver because it imitates, as it were, that very thing: nor is our judgment about it false, but the thing itself about which the judgment is expressed.
30. R. You understand well. But now observe whether we can appropriately call silver by the name of false lead.
A. That does not please me.
R. Why so?
A. I do not know. I only perceive that it is violently against my will that it is so called.
R. May it be, perhaps, because, if so called, silver being the superior, would seem to be dishonored? Whereas it is a sort of honor to lead to be called false silver.
A. You have explained it exactly as I was wishing to. And so it is, I believe, that those who display themselves in the dress of women are held in law to be disreputable and incapacitated for witness-bearing,82 and I know not whether these are best called false women or false men. We may, at any rate, call them true actors and true outlaws. And if they sneak around, we may, since no one save by disgraceful repute gets such a name, call them true good-for-nothings.
R. There will be another opportunity for the discussion of these things. For many things which, by popular esteem, seem to be shameful, can yet be shown to have their origin in an honest and laudable purpose. For example, it is a great question whether, for the purpose of obtaining the liberties of one’s country, he who assumes the garb of a woman to the end of misleading the enemy, does not become all the more a man thereby; or whether a wise man, though persuaded that his life is, in some way, essential to human affairs, should, nevertheless, choose rather to die of cold than to be wrapped in the garments of a woman, no others being available. But, as we have said, we can look into this matter later on. For you must be aware how great a degree of discrimination is needed to decide how far such things may be carried without falling into inexcusable improprieties. But it suffices for the present, I think, that it now appears beyond doubt that nothing can be false save by some imitation of the true.
31. A. Pass on to what remains, for I am well persuaded of this.
R. I ask, then, whether, with the exception of those sciences by which we have been educated — among which the study of wisdom should itself be counted — we can find anything so true that, like the Achilles in the play, it must not be false on the one side in order that it may be true on the other?
A. It seems to me that there are many. For we do not, by any science, judge that stone yonder to be a stone, nor, in order that it may be a true stone, does it imitate something, and thus be called false. This one example being cited, you see innumerable others following on, which to those pondering the matter, occur spontaneously.
R. I see, of course. But do not all these seem to you to be comprised under the one name of body?
A. They would seem so if I held either that the inane were nothing, or that the soul itself ought to be included among corporeal things, or if I might believe that even God Himself is a body of some kind. All of these things, if they are, I do not see to be true or false, by imitation of anything else.
R. You are sending me a long way, but I will use such dispatch as is possible. For assuredly what you call the inane is one thing and Truth is another.
A. Far other. For what more inane than I, if I deem it to be inane, and thus hunger so greatly after the inane? For what but Truth do I desire to discover?
R. And so you do concede, perchance, that nothing is true unless made so by Truth?
A. That, long ago, was shown to be the case.
R. And do you doubt whether anything is inane except the inane itself, or certainly, whether a body is?
A. I do not at all doubt it.
R. I judge then that you believe Truth to be a sort of body.
A. By no means.
R. What is there in a body?
A. I do not know: it is not to the point, for I think you know that the inane, if there be inane, is more inane where no body is.
R. That is obviously a sound conclusion.
A. Why, then, do we delay?
R. Does it seem to you that Truth has caused the inane, or that anything can be true where Truth is not?
A. It does not.
R. The inane, then, cannot be true, for the reason that the inane cannot be the offspring of that which is not inane: and whatsoever is without Truth is, manifestly, not true; and, in short, what is called inane, is so called because it is nothing: how, therefore, can that be true which is nothing? Or how can that which is intrinsically nothing be at all?
A. Come, let us leave the inane to be inane!
32. R. What have you to say to the rest?
A. What rest?
R. That which you see me so concerned about. For God and the soul remain, which two if true, are so because the Truth is in them; but no man doubts concerning the immortality of God. Also, the mind is believed to be immortal, if Truth, which cannot perish, is really proved to be in it. Wherefore let us now examine the last point — whether the body may not be truly true, that is, not that Truth is in it, but a certain image, as it were, of Truth. For if in the body, which is quite certain to admit the perishable, we shall have found something true in such sort as in the sciences, then Truth will not be, necessarily, that science of disputation by which all sciences are true. For the body which does not seem to be formed by the principle of disputation, is true. If, in fact, the body is true, by reason of some sort of imitation, and yet, on that account, also, not absolutely true, there will still then be nothing, perhaps, to prevent that principle of disputation from being taught to be the very Truth itself.
A. In the meantime, let us inquire concerning the body. For until this point shall have been settled, I see no end of the controversy.
R. How do you know what God wills? Attend, therefore; for I judge that the body is contained in some sort of form and appearance, which it would not have if it were not a body: for if it had reality, it would be the mind. Or do you think otherwise?
A. I agree in part; in part I hesitate. I concede that, unless it held to some conformation, a body could not exist. But how, if it held to a true conformation, it would be the mind — that I do not quite see.
R. Do you, then, after all, recall nothing of the exordium of our first book concerning that geometry of yours?
A. It is well that you have reminded me. I recall it immediately and most willingly.
R. Are such figures as that science demonstrates found in bodies?
A. On the contrary, it is incredible how inferior bodies are shown to be.
R. Which, then, of the two, do you consider the true?
A. Do not, I beg, consider that I need to be even questioned on that point. For who so blind of mind that he must not perceive that those things which geometry demonstrates dwell in that very Truth, or rather that Truth dwells in them? While embodied figures, while they seem as if tending toward these, possess I know not what imitation of Truth, and are, therefore, false. For now I see the whole matter which you were striving to make clear.
33. R. Why need we now inquire further concerning the science of disputation? For whether the figures of geometry are in the Truth, or the Truth is in them, no man doubts, that they are contained in the soul, that is, in the intelligence. And thus Truth is, of necessity, forced to be in the mind. For if any science whatever is inseparable from the mind as subject, and if the Truth cannot die, why, I ask, do we — by I know not what familiarity with death — doubt concerning the everlasting life of the mind? Or do the line and rectangle and circle possess other features which they imitate in order that they may be true?
A. By no means am I able to believe that, unless a line may be perhaps something other than length without breadth, or a circle something other than a curved line everywhere equally distant from the centre.
R. Why, then, do we hesitate? Or are those things where Truth is not?
A. May God avert such madness!
R. Or is knowledge not in the mind?
A. Who would say that?
R. But it may, perhaps, be that, though the subject perish, that which is in the subject may survive?
A. When shall I be persuaded of that?
R. It remains, then, that Truth may perish.
A. How can that be?
R. The soul, then, is immortal. Believe now your own argument, believe the Truth! She cries aloud that she dwells within you, that she is immortal, that by no death whatsoever of the body can her throne be filched away from her. Turn away from your shadows! Turn back to yourself! Nothing of you is mortal, save your forgetfulness of your own immortality.
A. I hear. I come to myself. I begin to remember! But I beg of you hasten that which remains, namely: how, in a mind untrained, since we cannot call it mortal, may science and Truth be understood to exist?
R. That question, if you would thoroughly explore it, requires another volume. At the same time, I perceive that those things which we have investigated should be reviewed by you, for, if no one of those which you have conceded is in doubt, I consider that we have accomplished much, and may apply ourselves to what remains with no small degree of confidence.
34. A. It is as you say, and I willingly follow your instructions; but this much at least let me secure before you decree an end to this volume, namely, that you briefly indicate that which distinguishes between the true figure which is contained in the intelligence, and that which thought fashions for itself, which is called in Greek phantasy or phantasm.83
R. That which you demand can be seen only by one wholly pure, and you are, as yet, unprepared for this vision; nor do we toil through these many circuits for aught else save your disciplining, to the end that you may become fit to see this difference. Nevertheless I can briefly show you how it can be taught that the difference is very great. Suppose you have forgotten something and that others, wishing to recall it to your memory, say to you, Is it this? Is it that? offering a variety of things, as if similar. You do not, indeed, perceive that which you desire to recall, and yet do perceive that what they suggest is not it. Now when this happens to you, does it seem a genuine oblivion in every respect? For that very discernment which warns you against admitting what is false is, itself, a certain part of remembering.
A. It seems to be so.
R. Those in this case do not, indeed, as yet, perceive the Truth; but they cannot be misled and deceived, and they know well enough what they are seeking. Now if some one tells you that you laughed a few days after you were born, you would not venture to say it was false. And if the teller of this tale was one in whom confidence could be placed, you would give it credence, though you could not remember it; for that whole period is, for you, buried in the most profound oblivion. Or do you think otherwise?
A. I altogether agree.
R. This, then, differs very much from that other forgetting: but this is midway. For there is still another which is closer and more akin to the recollection of reminiscent truth. This is such as when, for example, seeing something, we recognize it as having certainly been seen before and affirm our recognition of it; but where, or how, or under what circumstances, it came to our notice, we vex ourselves to recall and rekindle. And if this happens to us in the case of a man, we go so far as to ask him when we have known him, and when he has reminded us, the whole affair suddenly floods in upon the mind like light, and no more effort is needed to cause us to remember it all. Or is this an unknown or vague experience to you?
A. What more frequent or familiar?
35. R. So it is with those well-learned in the liberal arts. Although they have excavated things which were, without doubt, buried in forgetfulness within themselves,84 and have, in a way, recovered them by learning, they are, nevertheless, not satisfied; nor do they desist from their efforts until the entire aspect of that Truth, something of whose splendor already glimmers forth in these arts, is gazed upon in its unconcealed fulness. But from them divers false colors and forms emerge and pour into the mind as upon a mirror, and often mislead those seeking and deceive them into thinking they have found all they know or seek for. Such imaginations are to be avoided with great care, and recognized as fallacies, since they vary as if in a revolving mirror of thought, while that aspect of Truth abides one and immutable. For so thought may depict to itself rectangles of one and another magnitude, and set them as if before her eyes; but that interior mind which wills to behold the true, turns itself, if it can, to that rather, according to which it judges all these to be rectangles.
A. And what if some one says to us that the mind judges according to that which it is accustomed to see with the eyes?
R. Whence, then, could it judge, if, indeed, it be well-trained, that any true sphere whatever is touched by a true plane surface in but one single point? Whence has any eye ever seen or ever can see such a thing, when it can be in no sort imagined by thought itself? And is not this proven when in imagination we describe the minutest possible circle, and from it lead lines to the centre? For when we have drawn two such so close that it would scarce be possible to prick between them with a needle’s point and are already unable by any possible imagination to draw others in thought between them, so that they shall reach the centre without any contact; yet reason proclaims that innumerable such can be drawn, which, in these incredibly narrow spaces, can come into no contact with each other except at the centre: and so, that in the interval between each two, a circle may be inscribed! When phantasy herself cannot be persuaded of this, how much more will the eyes refuse to be! For though by the eyes the phantasm is imposed upon the thought, it is evident both that it differs greatly from the Truth, and also that while it is looked upon the Truth cannot be seen.85
36. These things will be spoken of with more care and subtlety when we begin to discuss the perceptive faculty which is a department of research germane to any investigation of the life of the soul; and it shall be analyzed and argued according to our best ability. For I believe you fear in no slight degree lest human death, even though it do not kill the soul, may, nevertheless, bring in its train oblivion of all things, even — should any have been discovered — of Truth itself.86
A. How much this evil is to be feared cannot be adequately expressed! For what shall be that eternal life, — and may not death itself be preferable, — if the soul survives only so as we see it to live in the new-born boy: I say nothing of the life of the unborn, though I do not believe that to be nothing!
R. Be of good courage! God, as we already feel, will be with us as we seek after Him: and has promised us something after this body most blessed, most abounding in Truth, without any deception!
A. May it be as we hope!
[Note 52.]“The prayer with which this work begins is of touching beauty; it evidently inspired the prayer which Fénelon placed at the conclusion of his treatise on the Existence of God.” (Histoire de Saint Augustin, Poujoulat, p. 113.)
[Note 53.]“The knowledge by which we know that we live is the most inward of all knowledge, of which even the Academic cannot insinuate” (Trinity, p. 402). “But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say: ‘What if you are deceived?’ For if I am deceived, I am.” (City of God, Vol. I, p. 468.)
[Note 54.]“Yet who ever doubts that he himself lives, and remembers, and understands, and wills, and thinks, and knows, and judges? Seeing that even if he doubts, he lives: if he doubts, he remembers why he doubts: if he doubts, he understands that he doubts: if he doubts, he wishes to be certain: if he doubts, he thinks.” (Trinity, Book X, p. 256.)
[Note 55.]“Here is the whole of the philosophy of Descartes. Subjective evidence considered as the foundation of certainty. Without desiring to despoil Descartes of his glory, we love to make it apparent that Saint Augustine is the father of the philosophic school of the seventeenth century, a school altogether French and Catholic, dethroned by Locke and Condillac, eloquently attacked twenty years ago in the name of the interests of the Christian faith, but destined, as we hope, to recapture the empire in our midst.” (Poujoulat, Saint Augustin, p. 115.)
[Note 56.]“This entrance upon the second book completely conformed to the habits of sceptic and dialecticians, pursued by the fear of supplying arguments against themselves, recalls the systematic doubt of Descartes and the first pages of his Second Meditation. Only the doubt of St. Augustine is concerned here with problems, which are really proper subjects of discussion, while that of Descartes is applied to incontestable verities, like that of the existence of the body.” (Pelissier’s translation of Soliloquies, note 26.)
[Note 57.]“Erasmus calls attention with reason to this sophism concerning Truth, which is treated like an actual entity at one time, at another, like a true judgment. The manner in which Reason here plays with her interlocutor, recalls the malicious pleasure which Socrates often found in embarrassing his disciples or his adversaries. One suffers in seeing a pure and true doctrine compromised by such an admixture of wretched arguities.” (Pelissier’s translation of Soliloquies, note 27.)
[Note 58.]“As then we speak of bodies feeling and living, though the feeling and life of the body are from the soul, so also we speak of bodies being pained, though no pain can be suffered by the body apart from the soul.” (City of God, XXI, p. 416.)
[Note 59.]“The same sophism concerning the false, considered here in the character of certain judgments; there in that of false things; and again, as a sort of entity of which he strives to determine the existence. Erasmus has again called attention to this bad argumentation.” (Soliloquies, Pelissier’s translation, note 8.)
[Note 60.]“There is a tendency to call the argument or statement that, whatever faculty man possesses, the Deity must have also, by the term ‘Anthropomorphism;’ but it seems to me a misnomer, and to convey quite wrong ideas. The argument represented by ‘He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?’ need not assume for a moment that God has sense organs akin to those of man, or that He appreciates ethereal and aerial vibrations in the same sort of way.” (Lodge, Life and Matter, p. 64.)
[Note 61.]If Augustine lived to-day, how would the theologians, philosophers, psychologists classify him? The answer to this question must depend, alas! on the parti pris of the individual. Monism in any guise except that of materialistic monism might claim him, for constantly he suggests pantheism, acosmism, even solipsism, either of which, in a last analysis, resolves itself into the All in All.
[Note 62.]“Bossuet has reproduced this definition in his treatise on the knowledge of God and the self.” (Saint Augustin, Poujoulat, p. 116.)
[Note 63.]“Alas for me, that I do not, at least, know the extent of my own ignorance! Behold, O my God, before Thee I lie not. As I speak so is my heart. Thou shalt light my candle: Thou, O Lord my God, wilt enlighten my darkness.” (Confessions, Book II, chap. 25.)
[Note 64.]A little later Augustine wrote his six books upon music. Villemain says (Tableau de l’Éloquence, p. 421): “The duration of syllables, their value and their combinations, all the effects of rhythm, all the varieties of metre, all the forms of verse, are explained with a curious exactitude which resembles that of Quintilian in some chapters, or of a compatriot of Augustine’s, Terentianus Maurus in his didactic poem. One is not surprised that this oratorical and poetic science of numbers, to which Cicero attaches so much importance in his essays upon eloquence, should have so greatly occupied the brilliant rhetorician. But that, after all, is only a part and the material part of the art. Six other books should have treated of melody, and would, undoubtedly, have comprised the moral views of Plato upon music and the poetry which Christian inspiration would have also added.”
[Note 65.]“This absurd conclusion is a consequence of the confusion made by the interlocuteurs between the different applications of the words false and true. Augustine ought to have said that it is by the resemblance to others, that certain things deceive us as to their nature, and cause us to entertain false judgments; such is really the rôle of resemblance in this case.” (Soliloquies, Pelissier’s translation, p. 154.)
[Note 66.]Augustine, always true to human nature, commends to all readers the unhappy truth of his observation: “The science of reasoning is of very great service in searching into and unravelling all sorts of questions that come up in Scripture, only in the use of it we must guard against the love of wrangling, and the childish vanity of entrapping an adversary.” (Christian Doctrine, p. 68.)
[Note 67.]This looks very much as if Augustine, in the land of crocodiles, evolved his idea of it from the bowels of his consciousness. The crocodile (see Cicero, Tusculum Disputations V: 27) was held sacred by the Egyptians, and, like some specially venerated and privileged species in the genus homo, developed, therefore, extraordinary powers!
[Note 68.]“Everywhere, O Truth, dost Thou direct all who consult Thee, and dost at once answer all, though they consult Thee on divers things. Clearly dost Thou answer, though all do not with clearness hear. All consult Thee upon whatever they wish, though they hear not always that which they wish. He is Thy best servant who does not so much look to hear that from Thee which he himself wishes, as to wish that which he heareth from Thee.” (Confessions, p. 263.)
[Note 69.]Pelissier (Note 35, Soliloquies) appends a tabulated résumé of the foregoing reasoning which he calls “a long tissue of sophisms.” We must own, with M. Saisset (Preface to translation of City of God), that some of Augustine’s arguments are “more ingenious than solid” and, with Erasmus, that he indulges sometimes in “obscure subtility and unpleasant prolixity,” although he adds “the toil of penetrating the apparent obscurities will be rewarded by finding a real wealth of insight and enlightment.”
[Note 70.]We have this testimony of Scipio recorded in Cicero: “They (the Romans) considered comedy and all theatrical performances as disgraceful, and therefore not only debarred players from offices and honors open to ordinary citizens, but also decreed that their names should be branded by the censor, and erased from the roll of their tribe.” (City of God, Book II, p. 62.)
[Note 71.]“Again, the science of definition, of division, of partition, although it is frequently applied to falsities, is not itself false, nor framed by man’s device, but is evolved from the reason of things. For although poets have applied it to their fictions, and false philosophers or even heretics — that is, false Christians — to their erroneous doctrines, that is no reason why it should be false, for example, that neither in definition, nor in division, nor in partition, is anything to be included that does not pertain to the matter in hand, nor anything to be omitted that does. This is true, even though the things to be defined or divided are not true. The definition and division, therefore, of what is false may be perfectly true, although what is false cannot, of course, itself be true.” (Christian Doctrine, pp. 70, 71.)
[Note 72.]“After that I was put to school to get learning of which I (worthless as I was) knew not what use there was; and yet, if slow to learn, I was flogged! for this was deemed praiseworthy by our forefathers, and many before us, passing the same course, had appointed beforehand for us these troublesome ways by which we were compelled to pass, multiplying labour and sorrow upon the sons of Adam. But we found, O Lord, men praying to Thee, and we learned from them to conceive of Thee, according to our ability, to be some Great One, who was able (though not visible to our senses) to hear and help us.
[Note 73.]In all this worrying of the reader over “the science of disputation,” we, of the modern mind and method, must remember that to those of Augustine’s day, this worrying was, as it had been for centuries, the sine qua non of intellectual life. No one, in that day of the world, dreamed of excavating “Truth” after the modern Teutonic’s method, in the solitude of an attic with no companions save his beer-mug and his pipe. Men talked it over; they had words with each other; to the victor belonged the spoils, and it was ‘devil take the hind-most.’ It was the method of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and revered, as these masters were revered. Socrates declared that the most excellent men, the happiest and the most eloquent, were formed by this art. Augustine says: “I studied books of eloquence, wherein I was eager to be eminent, from a damnable and inflated purpose, even a delight in human vanity;” . . . and he says that Ambrose, to whom his mother appealed in his behalf, told her that he had already perplexed divers inexperienced persons with vexatious questions. In an interesting passage in his work against Manichæism, he tells us that his victories over “inexperienced persons” stimulated him to fresh conquests, and thus kept him bound longer than he would otherwise have been in the chains of this heresy. (Confessions, p. 55, note.)
[Note 74.]Augustine here suggests his familiarity with Aristotle, the acquisition of which he thus describes: “And what did it profit me that when scarce twenty years old, a book of Aristotle’s, entitled The Ten Predicaments, fell into my hands, — on whose very name I hung as on something great and divine, when my rhetoric master of Carthage and others who were esteemed learned, referred to it with cheeks swelling with pride, — I read it alone and understood it? . . . And the book appeared to me to speak plainly enough of substances, such as man is, and of their qualities, such as the figure of a man, of what kind it is; and his stature, how many feet high; and his relationship, whose brother he is, or where placed, or when born, or whether he stands or sits, or is shod or armed, or does or suffers any thing; and whatever innumerable things might be classed under these nine categories, — of which I have given some examples, — or under that chief category of substance. What did all this profit me, seeing it even hindered me, when, imagining that whatsoever existed was comprehended in those ten categories, I tried so to understand, O my God, Thy wonderful and unchangeable Unity, as if Thou also hadst been subjected to Thine own greatness or beauty, so that they should exist in Thee as their subject, like as in bodies, whereas Thou, Thyself, art Thy greatness and beauty.” (Confessions, Book IV, pp. 78, 79.)
[Note 75.]Augustine has, perhaps, in mind here sentiments from the lost Hortensius, which he quotes many years later in his work on the Trinity with criticism matured in the interval. He says: “This contemplative wisdom, I say, it is that Cicero commends in the end of the dialogue Hortensius, when he says: ‘While, then, we consider these things night and day, and sharpen our understanding, which is the eye of the mind, taking care that it be not ever dulled, that is, while we live in philosophy: we, I say, in so doing, have great hope that if, on the one hand, this sentiment and wisdom of ours is mortal and perishable, we shall still, when we have discharged our human offices, have a pleasant setting, and a not painful extinction, and as it were a rest from life: or of, on the other, as ancient philosophers thought — and those, too, the greatest and far the most celebrated — we have souls eternal and divine, then must we needs think, that the more these shall have always kept in their own proper course, i. e. in reason and in the desire of inquiry, and the less they shall have mixed and entangled themselves in the vices and errors of men, the more easy ascent and return they will have to heaven.’ And then he says, adding this short sentence, and finishing his discourse by repeating it: ‘Wherefore, to end my discourse at last, if we wish either for a tranquil extinction after living in the pursuit of these subjects, or if to migrate without delay from this present home to another in no little measure better, we must bestow all our labour and care upon these pursuits.’ And here I marvel, that a man of such great ability should promise to men living in philosophy, which makes man blessed by contemplation of truth, ‘A pleasant setting after the discharge of human offices, if this our sentiment and wisdom is mortal and perishable,’ as if that which we did not love, or rather which we fiercely hated, were then to die and come to nothing, so that its setting would be pleasant to us. But indeed he had not learned this from the philosophers, whom he extols with great praise; but this sentiment is redolent of that New Academy, wherein it pleased him to doubt of even the plainest things. But from the philosophers that were greatest and far most celebrated, as he himself confesses, he had learned that souls are eternal. For souls that are eternal are not unsuitably stirred up by the exhortation to be found in ‘their own proper course’ when the end of this life shall have come, i. e., ‘in reason and in the desire of inquiry,’ and to mix and entangle themselves the less in the vices and errors of men, in order that they may have an easier return to God.” (Trinity, Book IV, pp. 375, 376.)
[Note 76.]Two years later Augustine writes to Nebridius: “To occupy one’s thoughts throughout life with journeyings which you cannot perform tranquilly and easily, is not the part of a man whose thoughts are engaged with that last journey which is called death, and which alone, as you understand, really deserves serious consideration. God has indeed granted to some few men whom He has ordained to bear rule over churches, the capacity of not only awaiting calmly, but even desiring eagerly, that last journey, while at the same time they can meet without disquietude the toils of those other journeyings: . . . Believe me there is need of much withdrawal of oneself from the tumult of the things which are passing away, in order that there may be formed in man, not through insensibility, not through presumption, not through vain glory, not through superstitious blindness, the ability to say ‘I fear nought.’ ” (Letters, pp. 23, 24.)
[Note 77.]“Ambrose was sovereign among Western bishops, and at the same time the Greek trained exegete and theologian. In both qualities he acted on Augustine, who looked up to him as Luther did to Staupitz.” It was “in Ambrose, the priestly Chancellor of the state, that the imperial power (imperium) of the Catholic church dawned upon him, and his experiences of the confusion and weakness of the civil power at the beginning of the fifth century completed the impression. Along with this Ambrose’s sermons fall to be considered. If on one side, they were wholly dependent on Greek models, yet they show, on the other hand, in their practical tone, the spirit of the West. Augustine’s demand that the preacher should ‘teach, sway, and move’ (docere, flectere, movere) is as if drawn from those sermons.” (History of Dogma, V, pp. 30, 48.)
[Note 78.]“Nor did I now groan in my prayers that Thou would’st help me; but my mind was wholly intent on knowledge, and eager to dispute. And Ambrose himself I esteemed a happy man, as the world counted happiness, in that such great personages held him in honour; only his celibacy appeared to me a painful thing. But what hope he cherished, what struggles he had against the temptations that beset his very excellences, what solace in adversities, and what savoury joys Thy bread possessed for the hidden mouth of his heart when ruminating on it, I could neither conjecture nor had I experienced. Nor did he know my embarrassments, nor the pit of my danger. For I could not request of him what I wished as I wished, in that I was debarred from hearing and speaking to him by crowds of busy people, whose infirmities he devoted himself to. With whom when he was not engaged (which was but a little time) he either was refreshing his body with necessary sustenance, or his mind with reading. But while reading, his eyes glanced over the pages, and his heart searched out the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent. Ofttimes, when we had come (for no one was forbidden to enter, nor was it his custom that the arrival of those who came should be announced to him), we saw him thus reading to himself, and never otherwise; and having long sat in silence (for who durst interrupt one so intent?) we were fain to depart, inferring that in the little time he secured for the recruiting of his mind, free from the clamour of other men’s business, he was unwilling to be taken off. . . . But whatever was his motive in so doing, doubtless, in such a man, was a good one. But verily no opportunity could I find of ascertaining what I desired from that Thy so holy oracle, his breast, unless the thing might be entered into briefly. But those surgings in me required to find him at full leisure, that I might pour them out to him, but never were they able to find him so.” (Confessions, pp. 112, 113.)
[Note 79.]“Zenobius, man of letters and poet, who, without doubt, belonged or inclined to the new faith by philosophic contemplation. More than once Zenobius had asked concerning the question of Providence, and in hurried interviews and by verse, — ‘and by good verse, too’ — says Augustine. While exposing his own views and doubts, he had besought a response.” (Tableau de l’Éloquence, p. 394.)
[Note 80.]“Tu enim si deseris, peritur; sed non deseris, quia tu es summum bonum, quod nemo recte quaesivit et minime invenit.” (Soliloquies, I, 6.)
[Note 81.]“For verses and poems I can turn into true food, but the ‘Medea flying’ though I sang, I maintained it not; though I heard it sung, I believed it not.” (Confessions, p. 45.)
[Note 82.]“This expression ‘incapable of witness-bearing’ signified both ineligibility as a witness and also as assisting at the making of a will.” (Pelissier’s translation of Soliloquies, note 44.)
[Note 83.]“I perceive that all those images which you as well as many others call phantasiae, may be most conveniently and accurately divided into three classes, according as they originate with the senses, or the imagination, or the faculty of reason.
[Note 84.]This is, of course, Plato’s doctrine of reminiscence, as we find it in the Phaedo and elsewhere. Augustine thought differently later. He says in his Retractations, referring to this passage: “I recant this doctrine. It is more credible that ignorant persons make correct replies to questions which are put to them because they have in them, as much as they are capable of having, the light of eternal reason, where they see these unchangeable verities. It is not that they have once known and have forgotten them, according to that opinion of Plato and his disciples. I have refuted this opinion as far as my subject furnished me an occasion, in Book XII of the treatise concerning the Trinity, Chapter 15.”
[Note 85.]Pelissier says of this:
[Note 86.]“But if the soul die, what then?” “Why then truth dies, or intelligence is not truth, or intelligence is not a part of the soul, or that which has some part immortal is liable to die; conclusions all of which I demonstrated long ago in my Soliloquies to be absurd because impossible; and I am firmly persuaded that this is the case, but somehow through the influence of custom in the experience of evils we are terrified, and hesitate.” (Letters, I, p. 8.)