The Empirical Aspect of Augustine's Epistemology

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Although Augustine is rightly associated with the rationalistic epistemology of the Platonist tradition — which holds that knowledge comes from the mind rather than from experience — there is an underappreciated, and significant, empirical aspect to his epistemology, which I aim to clarify in this article. In Augustine’s epistemology, knowledge of God depends on the history of his people, his revelation, and above all his Messiah. However, the empirical aspect of Augustine’s theology does not overrule his rationalism, but rather is integrated into it. Augustine is a Christian representative of a broader epistemological tradition which includes Plato as well as Immanuel Kant and which considers warrant for our beliefs to come from the mind even as experience provides the input necessary for the process to begin. It is, of course, a Christianized version of such a nuanced rationalism. In both its rationalistic core and its empirical aspect, knowledge is explained in Christian terms: in the former because the mind does not have these ideas of its own powers but from God’s indwelling and gracious assistance, in the latter because the experience leading to knowledge is the religious experience that founded the Christian church and Scriptures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-87
Number of pages43
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Augustine
  • empiricism
  • rationalism
  • illumination
  • Plato
  • Kant


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