Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Was Augustine The First Cartesian?

A Comparison and Contrast of Augustinian and Cartesian Epistemology


In the opening paragraphs of his article on the relationship between Augustine and Descartes Michal Hanby writes, "No seventeenth-century thinker could have failed to come under Augustine’s influence…”[1] Indeed, it can be argued that, whether directly or indirectly, modern philosophy and theology as a whole are significantly indebted to Augustinian thought.

This is not a new observation. Many books and articles in scholarly journals have been written on the correlation between Augustine and Descartes. In fact, this observation was even made by contemporaries of Descartes. Teske writes that

The question of Augustine's influence on Descartes arose immediately after the publication of the Discourse on Method in 1637... Ever since then, the relationship between Cartesian philosophy and Augustine's works has been warmly debated in scholarly circles.[2]

One final word should be mentioned by way of introduction. In her review of Stephen Menn’s widely read and debated Descartes and Augustine, Janice Thomas wisely notes that “It is the business of the author – expert and immersed in the writings of both thinkers – to find similarities and common themes. How easy it must be to interpret these as borrowings and influences even though, for all anyone knows, they are in fact innocent and independent parallel inventions…”[3]

Having said that, when the epistemologies of Augustine and Descartes are compared, several very striking parallels are immediately seen in their arguments for the knowledge of the self, in how they deal with the problem of “the other,” and in their use of very similar and even identical vocabulary. However, a close look at these parallels reveals the fundamentally different ontologies upon which they were built, which lead to fundamentally different conclusions as to how knowledge is attained and what grounds it in reality. For Augustine, God is the illuminator of all men, and the only source and authority for true knowledge. And, because of man’s falleness, even with this universal gift of intuitive knowledge, man can only truly know God by having his fallen desires turned back toward Him.

Descartes’ conclusions are very different. Based on the idea of the autonomous, undistorted will and reason of man that can function apart from the fallen desires, Descartes advances an epistemology that ultimately places the source of knowledge in the human mind. Knowledge is defined to be ideas that are supported by indubitable reasoning. However, in the pursuit to establish the truth of reality against the skeptics, Descartes’ epistemology actually deconstructs it.

Let us begin our analysis by looking at the seeming epistemological continuity between Augustine and Descartes, and then move on to a closer look that reveals the fundamental discontinuity. We will then end with some concluding remarks about the consequences of these different views.

[1] 456.

[2] Teske, 671.

[3] Thomas, 439.


As was noted above, Descartes’ debt to Augustinian thought was immediately perceived in the 17th century. Some of Descartes’ readers, after going through his Discourse on Method, brought to his attention that his famous dictum, “Cogito ergo sum,” actually appeared already in Augustine’s writings.[1] Descartes responds to this in a letter dated to 1640 and addressed to Colvius saying, “I am obliged to you for drawing my attention to the passage of St. Augustine…I went today to the library of this town to read it, and I do indeed find that he does use it to prove the certainty of our existence.”[2]

The most striking parallel between Augustinian and Cartesian epistemology (and very probably what Descartes is referring to in this letter) is found in Augustine’s City of God, XI.26 where, concerning the certainty of the knowledge of the self, he writes, “In respect of those truths I have no fear of the arguments of the Academics. They say, ‘Suppose you are mistaken?’ I reply, ‘If I am mistaken, I exist.’ A non-existent being cannot be mistaken; therefore I must exist if I am mistaken.”[3]

In Zbigniew Janowski’s Index Augustino-Cartésien: Textes et Commentaire he lists a whopping 85 pages of parallel passages from the works of Augustine and Descartes ranging from what he considers to be direct quotation to possible borrowings.[4] On page 37 of his work he puts the above text from the City of God parallel to Descartes’ Meditation II where he writes,

But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, who ever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something. So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it.[5]

But perhaps Augustine’s “si fallor, sum” has the most uncanny parallel to Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” in the Discourse on Method part IV in which Descartes writes, “…whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think hence I am, was so certain and of such evidence, that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the Sceptics capable of shaking it…”[6]

Many striking similarities are seen in these two arguments. The most obvious is that they are both arguments for the knowledge of the self. Even the rational flow of the arguments are parallel. For both arguments, to negate the knowledge of the self is to affirm it![7] For Augustine, if he is deceived that he exists, then he must exist and for Descartes, if he doubts that he exists, then he must be thinking in order to doubt and must exist in order to think. For both, the common denominator in either option is their own existence! Augustine elaborates on this in the words, “Then since my being mistaken proves that I exist, how can I be mistaken in thinking that I exist, seeing that my mistake establishes my existence?”[8]

Also, both Augustine and Descartes see this as indubitable knowledge. On this Augustine writes, “Since therefore I must exist in order to be mistaken, then even if I am mistaken, there can be no doubt that I am not mistaken in my knowledge that I exist.”[9] Descartes expresses this very thing as well in the words, “Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me…”[10]

Another interesting parallel to these epistemological arguments against skeptics is the fact that both Augustine and Descartes see this knowledge as being accessible to man apart from the senses. Augustine express this in the words, “…we exist; we know that we exist, and we are glad of this existence and this knowledge. In those three things there is no plausible deception to trouble us. For we do not apprehend those truths by the bodily senses by which we are in contact with the world outside us…” Descartes as well states, “I consider that I posses no senses; I imagine that body, figure, extension, movement and place are but the fictions of my mind.”[11]

Though there are such remarkable similarities in these works, Descartes himself, while acknowledging the parallel, also points out that Augustine had a much different purpose in mind when he wrote the texts above[12], and I think Augustine would agree with him. Augustine clearly states his purpose in the argument in the opening of XI.26 of the City of God. “We do indeed recognize in ourselves an image of God, that is of the Supreme Trinity…We resemble the divine Trinity in that we exist; we know that we exist, and we are glad of this existence and this knowledge.”[13] Copelston puts it well when he writes that, concerning Augustine’s works as a whole, it would be a wrong impression to think “…that Augustine was concerned with elaborating a theory of knowledge for its own sake or as a methodological propaedeutic to metaphysics.”[14]

On the other hand, Descartes’ explicit purpose is to establish a method for arriving at indubitable knowledge when he writes, “Accordingly, the knowledge, _I_ THINK, THEREFORE _I_ AM, is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.”[15] This distinction will prove fundamental in the discussion of discontinuity below.

Several other points of contact and intersection can be observed between Augustinian and Cartesian thought. One such observation is made in the article The Ethics of Belief: Descartes and the Augustinian Tradition where Matthew Bagger argues for a clear correlation between Augustinian and Cartesian epistemology that is evident in Descartes’ as early as 1619. He points out that Descartes’ “description in the Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii of the characteristic function of the mind amply demonstrates this resemblance.”[16] In this work, Descartes describes the mind as receiving knowledge through three levels of vision that correspond to Augustine’s “intellectual,” “corporeal,” and “spiritual” visions described in De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim.[17]

Another notable area of contact between Augustine and Descartes is in their treatment of “the other,” that is, the question of whether or not one can have knowledge of other beings outside of himself. Both Augustine and Descartes bring up this issue in their writings and both come to the conclusion that the existence of “the other” can be known[18] (though they do arrive at this conclusion in different ways).[19]

These are indeed striking and parallels seen in the works of both men, but let us now look at the ontological glasses through which they see these seeming parallels and find out if Augustine would agree on the coloring and significance that Descartes sees in them (and vice versa).


Augustine obviously had a significant influence on Descartes’ epistemology which is most strikingly seen in the words “si fallor, sum” in Augustine and “cogito ergo sum” in Descartes. Both see the knowledge of the self as intuitive and show that attempts to refute it only serve to further establish it. However, there are also some very significant differences between Augustine’s and Descartes’ epistemologies. This divergence ultimately arises from their differences in ontology.[20]

Descartes’ epistemology largely flows out of his ontology via his understanding of the will which was influenced by Stoicism.[21] “…much of what is taken to be ‘Augustinian’ in Descartes’ cogito, especially in his treatment of the will is actually derived from a Stoic understanding of volition which Augustine rejected as incoherent.”[22] Augustine combated these ideas of volition in his arguments against the Pelagians who apparently adopted the Stoic motto: “A person asks God for riches or health but not for virtue, for that depends on oneself.”[23]

Though affirmed, this freedom of the will was highly nuanced in Stoic thought and this carries over into Descartes.

…presentations of sense impressions (phantisai) to governing reason (hegemonikon) are not in our power—they are the result of tensional modifications of the pneumatic medium which actively impress themselves upon the passivity of the soul. What is in our power, according to the Stoics, is whether we give or withhold our assent to these impressions, and since giving assent is not sufficient to establish the agent’s autonomy within the nexus, the emphasis inevitably falls on the withholding of assent and the negation of the impression.[24]

The result of this Stoic influence is that “Descartes considers free will the ‘supreme’ human perfection and traces cognitive error to the misuse of free will.”[25] According to Descartes, though the will can be misused and lead to cognitive error, this can be avoided through careful consideration and attention to certain criteria for establishing truth.

So, Descartes’ ontological view of man is that the will must choose to be moved by reason alone apart from the passions in order to come to a knowledge of the truth. He does believe that the ability to reason is given by God. Bagger notes that “In both the Discourse and the Meditations, Descartes states that clear and distinct perceptions come from God.”[26] In a letter written by Descartes in 1648 (believed to be addressed to Jean de Silhon), Descartes writes, “…our soul has already some direct knowledge of the beneficence of its creator without which it would not be capable of reasoning… (5:137-8)”[27]

But, although he does believe that knowledge can ultimately only come from God (via His gift of reason), Descartes divorces reason from the condition of man as beings whose nature is fallen and sinful. Descartes has to make this separation in order to maintain his Christian Stoic view of free will. “The Stoic conception of volition differed from Augustine in reducing the moral realm, the realm of ‘what is up to us,’ from what we desire to what we can control. The result was a negative conception of freedom as a capacity for choice unqualified by our desires.”[28] It is this separation of the sinful, distorted desires of man produced by his fallen nature from man’s faculty of reason that allows Descartes to see man’s ability to reason as uncorrupted by sin and therefore the standard of truth.

“Augustine, by contrast, conflates voluntas with the dilectio that binds us to the object of our delight and the principle by which we move ourselves… Yet our actions are in our power, not because we are necessarily free to choose between alternatives, but because, at bottom, they express what we want.”[29] Augustine recognized the indissoluble bond between the will, the desires, and the intellect which made it necessary for God to intrude into our wills and free them from our fallen passions so that they would no longer suppress the truth in unrighteousness[30]. This makes sense when considering Augustine as the Doctor Gratia of the church and his role in the famous Pelagian controversy in which he argued that man’s intellect and reason are bound by the desires of the fallen heart. It is in this understanding that Augustine writes, “All my hope is naught save Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt.”[31]

Portalié puts it very well when he writes, “For Augustine, the understanding has need of the light of God, its sun, to attain truth just as the will needs the grace of God, the supreme good, to attain virtue. Many of his interpreters have gone astray because they have not noticed this resemblance between the role of illumination and that of grace.”[32]

These differing views of the will result in different epistemologies. According to Augustine’s view of the will, one must be drawn to the knowledge of something by love for that thing. “…one must in some sense know something in order to love it, and one can nevertheless only know what has captured the attention of one’s love. This will lead Augustine to conclude in book IX that ‘a word is knowledge together with love’ and to build mutual entailment into memoria, intellectus and voluntas.”[33]

Augustine believes that knowledge cannot be attained by us merely using our faculty of reason. Rather, he points to Scripture which he says “…clearly shows that the rational (or intellectual) soul, like the soul of John, cannot be light to itself, and that it shines only by participation in the true light of another.”[34]

So, for Augustine, knowledge of an external object comes through the love of that object that is given to us. Most important of all, the knowledge of God comes by God Himself drawing our will by love to a knowledge of Him. Hanby summarizes Augustine’s view on this matter by writing,

Yet we cannot know what does not draw our attention, and to draw our attention that which we seek to know must move our desire… Augustine thus joins a verse from Galatians with another from Romans, in an artificial union he will repeat throughout the Pelagian controversy: “Faith works by love… the love that is diffused in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us”… By eroticizing knowledge and action, Augustine has doxologized them and built at least the shadow of faith, hope, and charity into the structure of all knowledge…[35]

Descartes’ resulting epistemology on the other hand is that “…God’s perfection is established only after the self-grounding assertion of the res cogitans, and this only by attention to one among its possible mental activities, namely, doubt. This alone marks a dramatic departure from Augustine…”[36] Descartes sees man as being able to have omnipotent power over his thoughts by his free will which he believed could be wielded by man in such a way as to leave it unimpeded by the distortion of the fallen dispositions. In a letter from 1640 to Mersenne Descartes wrote, “You tell me that St Augustine and St Ambrose say that our heart and our thoughts are not in our power, and that they confuse the mind and distract it and so on.” He then goes on to offer his interpretation of this in order to seem in agreement with them but nevertheless later writes in the letter that “…if there is anything absolutely in our power, it is our thoughts, that is to say, those which come from our will and free choice.”[37] Thus, “Delight, the very form of voluntas for Augustine and the locus of our participation in the dilectio of God, is no longer to be trusted.”[38]

The criterion of truth for Descartes is clarity and distinctness of intellectual vision. We must exercise our free will to refrain from making a judgment when this criterion is not satisfied. Descartes explains: “If… I simply refrain from making a judgment in cases where I do not perceive the truth with sufficient clarity and distinctness, then it is clear that I am behaving correctly and avoiding error. But if in such cases I either affirm or deny, then I am not using my free will correctly. If I go for the alternative which is false, then obviously I shall be in error; if I take the other side, then it is by pure chance that I arrive at the truth, and I shall still be at fault.”[39]

Though pointing out this significant disjunction between Augustine and Descartes, Hanby is quick to add that “This is neither to deny an Augustinian influence upon Descartes, nor to oversimplify the question of Descartes’ debts.”[40] But nevertheless, this is a significant departure from Augustinian epistemology in Descartes. Ultimately for Augustine, the problem is not with the improper use of reason and the solution is not to follow certain criteria for rational thinking. The ultimate problem is our fallen nature that produces sinful desires in us which cause us to not love God and therefore to not truly know God. The solution then is for God to graciously grant us a love for Him that will lead us to a true knowledge of Him.[41] The rejection of man’s inability to properly use his faculty of reason is exactly what leads to Descartes’ idea of the autonomous self that is able to come to a knowledge of the truth apart from any external authority.

This leads to another notable departure in Descartes from Augustine seen in their differing views of the role of things external to the mind in the pursuit of knowledge. Hanby summarizes this difference in the following:

Unlike Descartes, for whom knowledge always rests on the will’s prior negation of the sensible, Augustinian judgment does not require the negation of sensibilia. Rather “Wisdom calls you back within… by the very forms of outward things.” Even here, in this early work, Augustine exhibits Harrison’s double turn, made possible by the beauty of Wisdom manifest both in the soul and sensibilia, but beyond either. Love of the beautiful, the very thing that will contextualize human willing within the delight of God, is crucial here, and to a soul possessed of such regard, sensibilia are no longer mere sensibilia, but revelabilia. “Indeed, if you regard them carefully and piously, every kind of creature and every movement that can be considered by the human mind speaks to us for our instruction. Their diverse movements and dispositions are like so many voices crying out to us, telling us to recognize their creator.” Contrast to that Desartes’ attitude toward sensibilia. “I will now shut my eyes, stop my ears, and withdraw all my senses. I will eliminate from my thoughts all images of bodily things, or rather, since this is hardly possible, I will regard all such images as vacuous, false and worthless.”[42]

Needless to say, if one accepts Descartes’ view of the perception of external things it will have a significant impact on one’s understanding of general revelation. Augustine’s understanding of sensibilia is perfectly consistent with passages that refer to the reliable witness of the created world[43] like Psalm 19:1-6:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above1 proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat[44]

In order to maintain Descartes’ view of epistemology, one would have to throw out these verses and every other passage that says one of the ways we know there is a God is by our perception of the external world.


So, we can see striking parallels between Augustine and Descartes’ epistemologies. They had almost the exact same argument for the knowledge of the self, they used very similar categories in their writings on the different kinds of thoughts and perceptions. They both anticipated and attempted to tackle the “problem of the other.” But it seems that the contrast of their epistemologies has proved to be more defining; particularly as they relate to their ontological views of God and man and how that plays out in their understanding of the will.

In summarizing the logical end and consequences to Cartesian epistemological foundationalism Hanby writes that what it does is,

…annihilate the world in order [to] reconstruct it according to the clear and distinct ideas of mathematics. Descartes’ voluntarism de-finalizes, de-eroticizes, and de-trinitizes both the human and divine wills, and is co-extensive with the quantification and ultimately the negation of the world. Hereafter, the qualitative perfections of things will be consigned to a merely noetic realm, subject to the ego’s powers of ‘amplification.’[45]

In another place he also writes, “…Descartes’ self grounding subject ultimately leads to the annihilation of all that is not the subject…”[46] Bagger writes, “Although Descartes’ notion of evidence differs markedly from Clifford’s, we nonetheless see here a similar articulation of what Clifford would later label ‘the ethics of belief.’” In other words, we can see in Cartesian epistemology the prelude to logical positivism which will inevitably lead to the deconstruction of all knowledge, which is what we are seeing today in postmodernity. If we take seriously the notion that all knowledge must be adequately substantiated by determined criteria, we beg the question, “What is the substantiation for the criteria that we use to substantiate knowledge?” And if that question is answered, another comes to mind, namely, “What is the substantiation for the substantiation of the substantiation?” ad infanitum, ad nosium, ad absurdum. Nothing is able to meet the demands of that criteria for establishing knowledge. But, thanks be to God, it doesn’t have to.

Like Augustine has said, we cannot ‘materialize’ truth for ourselves by our reason, nor by our sense perceptions, but all men have an illumination from God that is true by virtue of its source, which needs no support, for God is the very standard of truth. Ultimately, however, in order for man to be freed from his truth suppressing unrighteousness, his affections must be turned by God unto Himself in order to know Him truly.

In the end, like Aristotle’s unmoved Mover, epistemologically there must be an unsubstantiated Substantiator. This is not to say that there is no substantiation for God, any more than to say that God does not move, but ultimately, He is not substantiated by anything outside of Himself and He is the ultimate substantiation for all truth.


Allen, Diogenes, and Eric Springsted. Primary Readings in Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Leominster: Gracewing, 1992.

Augustine. Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans. Penguin classics. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

_____. and F. J. Sheed. The Confessions of St. Augustine, Books I-X. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1970.

Bagger, Matthew C. “The Ethics of Belief: Descartes and the Augustinian Tradition.” Journal of Religion (Ap 2002): 82 (2):205-224.

Copleston, Frederick Charles. A History of Philosophy. Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1959.

Curley, Augustine. Augustine's Critique of Skepticism. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

Descartes, René, and John Cottingham. The philosophical writings of Descartes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-1991.

_____, John Veitch, and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl. The Meditations, and Selections from the Principles, of René Descartes (1596-1650). LaSalle, Illinois: The Open court Pub. Co, 1962.

Hanby, Michael. “Augustine and Descartes: An Overlooked Chapter in the Story of Modern Origins.” Modern Theology (2003): 19 (4):455-482.

Hoitenga, Dewey. Faith and Reason from Plato to Plantinga. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Janowski, Zbigniew. Index Augustino-Cartésien: Textes et Commentaire. Bibliothèque d'Histoire de la Philosophie. Paris: J. Vrin, 2000.

Matthews, Gareth. The Augustinian Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Menn, Stephen Philip. Descartes and Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Portalié, Eugène. A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1975.

Potter, Vincent. Readings in Epistemology from Aquinas, Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant. New York: Fordham University Press, 1991.

Seifert, Josef. “The Seventh Voyage of Philosophy.” Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (1999): 11 (1-2):83-104.

Teske, Roland J. “Augustinian-Cartesian index: texts and commentary.” Theological Studies. 66.3 (S 2005): 671-672.

Thomas, Janice. “Descartes and Augustine.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Ap 2000): 51 (2):438-439.

Watson, Stephen H. “Reason and the Face of the Other.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Spr 1986): 54 (1):33-57.

[1] Teske also notes that “…in his Objections to the Meditations Antoine Arnauld pointed out to Descartes in 1641 that the cogito argument is found in the writings of St. Augustine,” 671.

[2] Descartes, René, and John Cottingham, vol. 3, 159. Quoted in Thomas, 438.

[3] Augustine repeats this claim in XXII.29.

[4] Janowski draws these texts from works of Augustine like De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, De Trinitate, De Libero Arbitrio, Contra Academicos and De Civitate Dei just to name a few. From works of Descartes he mostly uses the Meditation but also draws from several other of his works. Needless to say, he draws from a large variety of the primary sources which obviously strengthens his case for a continuity in Augustinian and Cartesian thought. It is also noteworthy that on page 9 he writes, “I have included only those passages from the writings of St. Augustine about which I could affirm with certainty or a high degree of probability that Descartes knew them.” Quoted in Teske, 671.

[5] Allen, 118.

[6] Potter, 55. Also see Descartes’ use of this in Principles of Philosophy VII.

[7] In his article on the seven voyages of philosophy, Seifert quotes De Trinitate, X, X, 14 to show the parallel between Augustine and Descartes’ claim that even doubt testifies to intuitive knowledge.

[8] City of God, XI.26.

[9] ibid.

[10] Allen, 118.

[11] ibid, 117.

[12] Thomas, 438. In reference to the similarity between the two arguments for knowledge of the self Thomas further quotes Descartes’ letter to Colvius in 1640 where he writes, “…in itself it is such a simple and natural thing to infer that one exists from the fact that one is doubting that it could have occurred to any writer…”

[13] City of God, XI.26.

[14] Vol. 2, 51.

[15] Principles of Philosophy, VII.

[16] Bagger, 207. He also adds, “It is worth noting… that seventeenth-century Cartesians, including Jacques Rohault and Louis De La Forge, explicitly drew on [Augustine’s] De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim to fortify their theories and that its influence far exceeds what contemporary familiarity with it might expect.”

[17] Bagger, 205-224.

[18] For Descartes, this other is at least God as he writes in Meditation III “…we must conclude that God necessarily exists.” Though, to Descartes, the existence of other created beings is merely possible. Allen, 133.

[19] For a full discussion of this, see Stephen Watson’s article “Reason and the Face of the Other” in which he also discusses the approaches advanced by philosophers like Kant, Husserl, Levinas, Derrida.

[20] While Michael Hanby’s article, Augustine and Descartes: An Overlooked Chapter in the Story of Modern Origins, does have relevance to the comparison of Augustine and Descartes’ epistemology, it is concerned with a much broader comparison (or contrast) of their views which also touches on the will and ontology. He summarizes his basic argument on 456 by saying, “Pelagian and Stoic volition will prove incoherent for Augustine because their ontological presuppositions are incompatible with trinitarian orthodoxy as he understands it. Descartes’ res cogitans is finally incompatible with Augustine’s homo interior for the same reason: they are constituted in relation to very different gods. Hence, if this argument for a partial Stoic paternity of the res cogitans is correct, and if the Cartesian will ultimately issues in nihilism, then this is due not to the internal contradictions of Christianity but rather to the displacement of the Trinity and the illicit repatriation of the pyr teknikon, the self-machinating first principle of Stoicism’s immanetist cosmology, from its Christian exile.”

[21] On page 456 of his article, Hanby points out that Descartes adopted a tradition of Christian Stoicism through John Cassian’s acetic theology via the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. He argues that this is combated by Augustine mainly because “their ontological presuppositions are incompatible with Trinitarian orthodoxy as he understands it.”

[22] Hanby, 455-56. On 471, Hanby later writes, “Indeed it is not difficult to see the Meditations as a kind of perverted, secular version of the Spiritual Exercises and its antecedents, one which transgresses its own distinction between speculation and practice by transporting the problem of reason’s control of the passions onto a theoretical plain.” On the next page he adds, “Many of Descartes’ grand ambitions are arguably of Stoic inspiration, but his conceptions of thought, action and judgment are unambiguously Stoic.”

[23] Portalié, 186.

[24] Hanby, 463.

[25] Bagger, 205.

[26] ibid, 210.

[27] Descartes, René, and John Cottingham. vols. 1& 2. Quoted in Bagger, 209.

[28] Hanby, 467. He cites Cassian, The Conferences, trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1997), I.17.1 as a source for this sort of Christian Stoicism in Descartes.

[29] ibid, 463. He refers to Augustine, De Trinitate, XV.7.12 and De Civitate Dei, XIV.7 as texts that show this conflation.

[30] See Rom. 1:18-21.

[31] Augustine, Confessions, X.29.

[32] 109.

[33] Hanby, 459. His quotation of Augustine is from De Trinitate, IX.10.15.

[34] City of God, X.2. Augustine is referring to John 1:6-9 & 16.

[35] Hanby 460. His quotation of Augustine is from De Trinitate, XIII.10.14. On page 458 of his article Hanby also notes that “Augustine remarks in Book XIII [of De Trin.], that Christ both “implants faith” and “manifests truth.”

[36] Hanby, 469

[37] Descartes, René, and John Cottingham. The philosophical writings of Descartes. (3:248-49). Quoted in Baggar, 211.

[38] Hanby, 473. His quote is of Descartes in Meditations IV.

[39] Bagger, 206. For his quotations of Descartes he notes, “I have used the Cottingham et. al. translations of Descartes (The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vols. 1 and 2, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch, [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-91]). Citations in text refer to Oeuvres de Descartes, ed. C. Adam and P. Tannery, 12 vols. (Paris: Vrin, 1964-76).

[40] Hanby, 456.

[41] This is not to say that Augustine believed that unbelievers could not have a knowledge of God in any sense. Rather a true, undistorted knowledge of God is only the product of a love for God that can only come from the Holy Spirit (see Augustine, De Trinitate XIII.10.14).

[42] Hanby, 471. His quotations of Augustine and Descartes are from De Libero Arbitrio, III.23 and Meditations III respectively.

[43] Though he clearly rejects the Epicurean epistemology that all knowledge in to be gained by the senses, Rather he see the value of the testimony of the created world as perceived by the senses but still ultimately resting upon illumination by God. See City of God, XIII.7.

[44] Also see Romans 1:19-20 in which Scripture not only says that knowledge comes by the observation of the external world by our senses but even that it is such a reliable witness that those who do not submit to it will be judged for rejecting it! All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

[45] Hanby, 470

[46] ibid, 455