Monday, May 16, 2016

Augustine's Epistemology: Humilitas

Caritas, Humilitas et Pax
Source of Sapientia
Saint Hildegard of Bingen

Ratzinger proposes humility as the source of Augustine's epistemology, as distinct from the Manicheans and the Platonists: The humilitas fidei: Mater ecclesia; salus populi.

That is the foundational principle of truth for him, starting with the Incarnation of the Logos, the humility of the Incarnation which calls for the humility of faith; and the authority of the Church is it's minister, effecting the salvation of the peoples (the masses of which will not be erudite, but need the obedience of faith, because, in the end, health of the soul is measured not by knowledge but by love).

Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis!

Cf. Ratizinger's Augustine Thesis (1951) in Obras Completas I, 43-47; Augustine's Philosophy, Angel Vega in Obras de San Agustín II, 45-46; Letter 118 ad Dioscoro in Obras de San Agustín VIII, 869 (Chapter III:17), 853ff (Chapter III:21ff.). In a certain way you could say that the entire Letter to Dioscorus (which critiques the ancient philosophers' epistemologies) is a treatise on humility, beginning with the humility to learn only what one ought to learn and for the purpose of ultimate beatitude. ("Don't worry about not being able to answer every little question if you know how to respond to those who ask for your skill in certain matters in which you are unskilled that you know that a man can be blessed without it.")

I find this intriguing because it opens up an area of philosophy which is necessary to any intellectual discipline: intellectual humility and its complementarity with the truth, i.e. part of the having of truth is the recognition of the dependency of that possession (it was received) and the limitations involved in it and the relationship with other truths.

N.B. The conclusion of my Ph.L. thesis (Magnanimity in Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas-CUA) was that the difference between Aristotle and Thomas' magnanimity was humility.

Looks like humility plays a key part in the thought of the Pope Emeritus, whose very life has been and continues to be an eloquent and historical testimony to this truth, as was Saint Bonaventure's, Saint Augustine's, and that of Christ Himself. The humility of the magnanimous! To the list, of course, we must also add Saint Thomas, the universal and common Doctor!

Pope Pius XI noted that in order to obtain the incomparable light of the Holy Spirit, St. Thomas "often abstained from all food, spent whole nights in watching and prayer; repeatedly impelled by piety, he placed his head against the tabernacle of the august Sacrament, and he turned his eyes searchingly to the image of Jesus crucified; as he confessed to his friend, St. Bonaventure, whatever he learned he had learned chiefly from that book" (Studiorum Ducem, 311-312).

Veni Sancte Spiritus! (Gotta love the Pentecost octave!)

P.S. Saint Hildegard of Bingen was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
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