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SAINT AUGUSTINE'S NEOPLATONIC ARGUMENT :FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD SAINT AUGUSTINE'S earliest,1 and, as some have thought,2 principal argument for the existence of God is found in the second book of De libero arbitrw chapters three to sixteen. The argument has been the object of intense scholarly scmtiny for well over a century.3 It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that no notice has been taken of the fact that very early on in his intellectual development , Augustine almost certainly abandoned assent to the key premise upon which the argument rests. That he did so shows considerable judiciousness, perhaps more than admirers of the 1 The issue here is the relative dating of De libero arbitrio and De vera religione, wherein a similar, although shorter, version of the argument is to be found. It seems likely, although by no means certain, given Augustine's vague description of the chronology in Retractationes, that at least Books I-II.15 were composed at Rome, in 388, before De vera religione, which was written in Thagaste in 388-9. See 0. Du Roy, L'intelligence de la foi en la Trinite selon saint Augustin (Paris, 1969), 167-171. R. J. O'Connell, "De Libero Arbitrio I: Stoicism Revisited," Augustinian Studies 1 (1970), 51, thinks that the second book was separated from the first by a significant period of time, but his argument is unconvincing. 2 See, for example, F. Cayre, "Saint Augustin precurseur de saint Thomas dans la preuve de !'existence de Dieu," Doctor Communis 4 (1951), 98, who calls it "la grande preuve augustinienne" and P. Portalie, who calls it" la demonstration on augustinienne par excellence " in Dictionnaire de theologie catholiqiie I, 2345. a One of the earliest and now unjustly neglected studies is by C. van Endert, Der Gottesbeweis in der patristischen Zeit (Breisgau, 1869), whose title belies the considerable emphasis on Augustine. Later works that deserve mention are: L. de Mondadon, "De la connaissance de soi-meme a la connaissance de Dieu," Recherches de science religieuse 4 (1913), 148-155; C. Boyer, L'idee de verite dans la philosophie de saint Augustin (Paris, 1920); I. Sestili, "Argumentum augustinianum de existentia Dei," Acta llebdomadae Augustinianae-Thomisticae (Turin, 1931), 241-270; J. Hessen, August:ns Metaphysik der Erkenntnis. (Berlin, 1931); B. Kalin, "Augustinus und die Erkenntnis der Existenz Gottes," Divus Thomas 14 (1936), 331-852; F. Cayre, Dieu present dans la vie de l'esprit (Paris, 1951); E. Gilson, The Chris.tian Philosophy of Saint Augustine (New York, 1960). 571 572 LLOYD PHILLIP GERSON argument have shown. For had he not abandoned it, he would have had considerable difficulty in working out a consistent trinitarian theology. We need not here rehearse the well-known dialectical path through which Augustine leads his interlocutor, Evodius, in order to enable him to understand the argument for the existence of God. Some scholars have mistaken this dialectical path, leading from the" external to the internal and the lower to the higher" for the argument itself.4 Although we need not deny that the argument is, in a sense, ad hominem, nevertheless, it is essential to distinguish the argument from the steps we take in order to see the truth of the argument. To do otherwise is to confuse logic and metaphysics with psychology, a confusion of which Augustine, at least, is free. Further, although it is true that the argument must be understood in light of the qualification of Book I that nisi credideritis, non intellegetis, this does not alter the fact that, manifestly, what Augustine wishes to lead Evodius to understand is an argument, that is, the logical connection between premises and a conclusion. That there is an argument in Book Two and not merely a "meditative manifestation," as one scholar put it,5 is evident, I think, from the text itself. At the beginning of the 15th chapter of Book Two, Augustine summarizes for Evodius the structure of this argument, which is by then completed: I. If something exists superior to our minds (provided nothing exists superior to that) then, (since God is the supreme ex4 See, for example, P. Landsberg, "Du concept de verite chez saint Augustin," Deucalion 3 (1950...