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- (2002) Naoki Kamimura, ‘Self-knowledge and Disciplines in the De ordine of Augustine’ (in Japanese), Kyodai Studies in Mediaeval Philosophy, 21 (Kyodai Society of Mediaeval Philosophy) 13–35.
- Originally delivered at the Kyodai Studies in Medieval Philosophy 162nd Seminar, held at Kyoto University, Kyoto, on 28 September 2002.
This paper labours to understand the meaning and perplexity of the De ordine (386) of Augustine. In doing so, it focuses on a hypothesis, that the De ordine is not transcripts of actual conversations but represents Augustine’s mind (and that of his friends) at the Cassiciacum period.
Augustine himself perceived a discrepancy in tone between his Cassiciacum dialogues and his story of the same period in the Confessiones. It is because of the writings’ marked contrast to the Confessiones that the debate of their historicity has arisen. The interest converges in the difficulty of reconciling the Confessiones’ reminiscently account of the period surrounding his conversions with the more withdrawn tone of the contemporary witness of the Cassiciacum writings. Can they both accurately describe Augustine’s mind in 386-387? Although those convinced of the historicity of the dialogues maintain that they are faithful records of the philosophical discourses with his friends in Cassiciacum, I shall defend the assertion made above, that the De ordine is skilful literary creation which expresses clearly Augustine’s mind and his «exercitatio animi» on himself (and his students) in 386-387.
To better support anti-historicity reading of the De ordine, I divide my examination into three parts.
First, given the nature of its topics (the origin of evil), the grandeur of its promises, and the extent of its participants, I shall survey the structure of the two books altogether. Knowing how the De ordine repeats the same form of descriptions (that of dialogue, episode, monologue) provides the perspective, in which the De ordine stands firmly in the tradition of a philosophical dialogue «mos dialogorum» developped by Plato. Attention is drawn to the some features of the classical dialogue found in the De ordine: the prefaces; the careful mise-en-scène; the change from dialogue to monologue; the careful dramatis personae.
Second, I shall lay stress to the striking difference between the sapiens and the stultus based on the third discussions (II, i, 2-iv, 11). Since Augustine has narrowed the discussion by concentrating on the meaning of the word stultus, the group gains a more precise understanding of what it means to know. Then, admitting that even the sapiens has need of memory by performing the office of teaching the stultus wisdom, the pedagogical channel through which the stultus knows himself (sibi ipse est cognitus), that is self-knowledge, is found.
Third, whereas the progressive and ordered programme of the disciplinae sets up this educational circuit, I would try to reveal the centre of this ordo disciplinae, that is, knowledge of good disputation, and that of the power of number (II, xviii, 47). Seeing that the Platonic and Ciceronian tradition is designated as the exercises of philosophical discourse, the actual conversations of this writing can be assured of the practices of the philosophical dialogue, «exercitatio animi». Besides, these exercises are not conceived of as purely intellectual, but also aim at realising a transformation of one’s vision of the world and a metamorphosis of one’s personality. The exercises of discourse are therefore done as the exercises as a way of life. Although Augustine himself allow that those reach such a stage need either burn by solitude or heal by the liberal disciplines (cf. I, i, 3), he does not mention the former way distinctively. How does the soul collect its very self and hold its very self by that solitude? Its problematics unsolved require the further inquiry after his struggle with the self-knowledge.
- Paper proofs in PDF format downloadable.
- Uncorrected Proofs — please cite the published version.