The Light of the Mind

How does man know what he knows? How does man think? How does the mind process information? Augustine’s influence on man’s understanding of his own understanding can’t be overstated[1], especially when it comes to philosophy, theology and culture. Augustine thought deeply about how man thinks. Given Augustine’s classical education, thirst for philosophical inquiry and deep religious faith, he was particularly equipped by God to teach the Church what Athens has to do with Jerusalem; becoming the second founding father of Christianity[2].  Ronald H. Nash’s contribution to the ongoing debate about exactly what Augustine thought about how man thinks is an important scholarly work. What makes Nash’s work The Light of the Mind[3], so valuable to Augustinian and epistemological studies, is Nash’s approach. Nash accepts the fact that it was never “Augustine’s plan to construct a systematic theory of knowledge.”[4]So Nash’s approach to Augustine’s work is to formulate a system for evaluation. Augustine sometimes said very complicated things about faith’s relationship to knowledge [5]leading some to wonder if, as he aged, Augustine perhaps changed his position on truth, knowledge and faith. But Nash collects Augustine’s ideas into buckets to show exactly what Augustine taught about each idea and then proceeds to show how the buckets; skepticism, truth, faith, sensation, cognition and intellection flow forth into a consistent whole. Nash both attempts and accomplishes his goal. To show that “one can find throughout his [Augustine’s] writings the same general framework of knowledge. From some of his earliest letters to the definitive writings of his mature years he accepted approximately the same position.”[6]Augustine did not write a systematic work of philosophy, aesthetics or theology, but produced works in each with a systematic and poetic mind. Nash suggests that if we break down Augustine’s statements about various aspects of knowledge, we can develop a systematic and defensible Augustinian view on knowledge. Continue reading “The Light of the Mind”