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Augustine's main problem when it came to conceiving of the spiritual nature of God? What solution did he find?
Before answering this question, it is important to clarify what exactly is meant by "spiritual nature of God." Many things could be meant by this phrase, but for the purposes of this essay, I stipulate that it refers to "any substance... other than that which the eyes normally perceive" (Conf., VII.i.1). In many senses, Augustine was rather positivistic in his inability to imagine that things existed beyond what his physical eyes could see. He relied completely on his physical senses for information concerning the nature of reality, and was intent on describing the world around him strictly in human terms. Thus his difficulties with understanding what people meant when they portrayed God in ways that were not readily evident to his five senses:
was becoming a grown man. But the older I became, the more shameful it was that I retained so much vanity as to be unable to think any substance possible than that which the eyes normally perceive. From the time I began to learn something of your wisdom, I did not conceive of you, God, in the shape of the human body but how otherwise to conceive of you I could not see (VII.i.1).
Most importantly, he describes his inability to conceive of God as a problem within himself. Quite differently from what the Manichees might argue, Augustine's incapacity to view God had nothing to do with any force outside of him, but existed squarely within his own being. He describes his inability to conceive of God in terms of having a clouded or blurred vision:
My heart vehemently protested against all the physical images in my mind... they attacked my power of vision and clouded it... I felt forced to imagine that something physical occupying space diffused either in the world or even through infinite space outside the world (VII.i.1)
Augustine speaks of the solution to this problem in terms of a sudden change. This change occurred within him, but was initiated by God. The change, once it occurred, effected irreversible results; his "vision" was forever changed so that he would always have a memory of this perfected sight.could now "see" those things that previously eluded his gaze:
ascended to the power of reasoning to which is to be attributed the power of judging the deliverances of the bodily senses... So in the flash of a trembling glance it attained to that which is. At that moment I saw your invisible nature understood through the things which are made (VII.xvii.23).
2. What was Nebridius' criticism of Manichaeism? Why does Augustine find it decisive?
To wage a compelling argument against the validity of Manichaeism, Augustine says that it was enough to state the argument which used to be put forward by Nebridius long before at Carthage, and argument which struck us dumb when we heard it: The Manichees postulate a race of darkness in opposition to you [God] (VII.ii.3).
Basically, he found that he no longer believed in the validity of the Manichees because he did not agree that a force of evil existed in the same way that a force of good (i.e., God) did. He believes this because he believes that if such forces were to exist, and if, as the Manichees argued, these two forces engaged in battle, that the forces of good would necessarily be implicated in evil. Augustine believes that God is incapable of being implicated with evil, and therefore refutes the argument that evil exists as a force similar to good.
Understanding Augustine's logic requires that we understand that he takes for granted that God is incapable of suffering injury (VII.ii.3). In other words, he believed that divine goodness and perfection admitted absolutely no room for badness or flaw. If God were good, then God must be entirely and completely good; if God were perfect, then god must be entirely and completely perfect. This goodness and perfection, Augustine believed, was not vulnerable to any sort of adulteration (VII.ii.3).
The Manichees argued that evil and corruption existed because both good and evil forces existed, and that they were in constant combat with each other. In this way of thinking, good and evil can mix together and form something that contains some of each. It is because of Augustine's fundamental belief that God is not vulnerable to evil or corruption that he comes to refute the Manichaen argument about the…[continue]
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