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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

At the heart of Augustine’s intellectual and spiritual autobiography is a search for wisdom that demands of him sophisticated epistemological reflection. The results—in particular, his identification of the category of rational or justified assent on less-than-certain grounds and his inquiry into the nature and epistemic value of testimony—break dramatic new ground in the history of epistemology. He articulates a concept of belief (as assent to a proposition on the basis of testimony) and distinguishes it from understanding (assent to a proposition on the basis of reasoned insight). Exploiting that distinction, he develops both a rationale for and a detailed account of a systematic method for the rational investigation of theological matters, which he characterizes as belief seeking understanding. Augustine’s famous reflections on the paradox of evil and on the nature of the divine Trinity provide compelling illustrations of his application of this rational method and its results.

Keywords: Augustine, authority, belief, certainty, evil, faith, Platonism, testimony, scepticism, understanding

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