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The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS 89 These are, however, minor objections to the achievement of Miss Ruether's study and do not detract from the value of the work or from its usually fascinating presentation . MARY-BARBARAZELDIN Hollins College, Virginia The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge. By Ronald H. Nash. (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1969. Pp. x+ 146. $6.50) In the field of Augustine studies, the theory of intellectual illumination is a notoriously difficult thing to explain. Yet this teaching is very close to the heart of Augustinian philosophy. In English, prior to Ronald Nash's book, there have been few full-length studies of it. Nash reviews the whole teaching of Augustine on the three levels of cognition: sense, cogitation (thinking in terms of sense imagery), and understanding . He then takes up four standard interpretations of the role of divine light in the function of understanding and indicates why he prefers the last. The fact of the matter is that St. Augustine frequently wrote that, just as the eye of the body needs to be enlightened by physical fight in order to see, so too does the mind (or "eye of the soul") require to be irradiated with divine light before it can see or understand. The problem is that Augustine does not fully explain the process of mental illumination and, when he does suggest some partial explanation of it, his texts offer apparently conflicting details. As Nash shows, some readers have taken Augustine to mean simply that God has created man with an intellect--and this power of understanding is the divine light of the soul. Nash calls this the Thomistic interpretation (its most prominent present-day advocate is the Jesuit scholar, Charles Boyer) and he rightly rejects it as out of keeping with the main texts on illumination. A second interpretation (called Franciscan by Nash) suggests that God illumines the mind by infusing ideas of eternal truths into the human soul. This view (presented by Eugene Portali6, among others) does not imply any vision of God by men in this life. The third explanation discussed by Nash, he calls the Formalist: Etienne Gilson, for instance, claims that divine illumination brings no thought contents to the human mind but simply affords certainty to some of its cognitions. Nash regards this view as inadequate. Finally, there have always been some Augustinian scholars (and Johannes Hessen is the leading example today) who think that Augustine meant that men see the eternal ideas (rationes aeternae) in the Mind of God. This would be a vision which comes in the present fife. Nash is in favor of this so-called Ontologistic interpretation and his chief contribution is the way in which he marshals the texts from Augustine to support it. He concludes: "The vision of God is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the beatific vision, but it is nonetheless a vision of God." Since I am mentioned by Nash as one of the advocates of the third interpretation, it will be evident that I do not agree with Nash's explanation. In particular, I think he misses Augustine's point, when he (Nash) associates illumination with the process of ideation (the formation of concepts) instead of applying it to the function of judg- 90 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY men,t. Of course, I admit that much of the diversity of interpretation is due not simply to the obscurity of Augustine's texts but to the varied frameworks of explanation which modern readers bring to this problem. However, Nash's study is a work of good scholarshi,p; it throws much "light" (whatever that means) on a key teaching in patristic thought; and it even suggests some similarities between illumination theory and present-day philosophies of language (Wittgemtein) and theories of ethical intuitionism . VERNON J. BotraKE St. Louis University John Duns Scotus and the Principle "Omne quod rnovetur ab alio movetur." By Roy R. Effler, O.F.M. Franciscan Institute Publications, Philosophy Series 15. (St. Bonaventure , N. Y.: The Franciscan Institute; Louvain" Nauwelaerts; Paderborn: Sch6ningh, 1962. Pp. xvi+208, n.p.) L'auteur donne d'abord un aper~u historique fort int~ressant sur l'usage qui a ~t6...