Onderzoek Laela Zwollo

St. Augustine: The Human Mind as Image of the Divine; Augustine's relationship to Plotinus' philosophy

Promotiedatum : 29 november 2016

Brief Summary: St. Augustine of Hippo was a lover of divine wisdom. He found wisdom in Christ, the bible and in the Catholic tradition which he saw as the foundations of universal truth. Evidently he was also deeply impressed by the truths found in Plotinus’ interpretation of Plato, the great Greek philosopher of classical antiquity. His assimilation of Plotinian concepts are in particular best represented in his doctrine of the image of God. This doctrine is derived from Genesis 1.26-27, which states that man was created to God’s image. According to the church father, God’s image can be found in the highest and most immaterial part of the human soul, the intellect. This part of the soul seeks transcendent wisdom and to image God perfectly. A great many aspects in Augustine’s doctrine correspond to Plotinus’ philosophy of imaging especially his depiction of the human intellect as image of the divine Intellect. As such, Augustine’s doctrine of the image of God provides justification for pinning the label “Christian Platonist” onto him. This study will explore to what extent Augustine utilized Plotinus’ philosophy for his anthropology and psychology in his doctrine of the imago Dei. It will delve into Augustine’s exegesis of Genesis and particularly into his doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It is in this work, De Trinitate, where Augustine fully developed his teaching of the image of God. It will focus on the themes knowledge and love and on Augustine’s mystagogy: how he depicted the image’s ascent to God and how these two elements played an instrumental role. The main inquiries of this study involve analyzing where exactly the differences and the similarities in their epistemologies and conception of love lie. Furthermore, by studying these results, we can arrive at a clear picture of how Augustine can be characterized as a Christian Platonist. This study will subsequently furnish an inside view of two of the most influential thinkers of antiquity and Augustine’s interaction with his most important non-biblical source. The results of which will contribute to our understanding of the history of ancient philosophy and the formative years of Christianity.

Supervisors: Prof. Paul van Geest Prof. Rudi te Velde