Infomotions, Inc.The concept of the human soul according to Saint Augustine ... / O'Connor, William Patrick, 1886-

Author: O'Connor, William Patrick, 1886-
Title: The concept of the human soul according to Saint Augustine ...
Publisher: [Washington] 1921.
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The Concept of the Human Soul 

according to 

Saint Augustine 


Submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University 

of America in Partial Fulfillment af the Requirements for 

the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 


Archdiocese of Milwaukee 

JAN - 8 1944 


The aim of this dissertation is to present and explain 
the concept of the human soul as it is found in the writ- 
ings of Saint Augustine. 

The soul of man was for Saint Augustine an object of 
life-long study and investigation., He was not particu- 
larly concerned about tfie soul as such, the plant soul, or 
the irrational soul of the brute, except insofar as a study 
of these might serve to throw some light on the nature 
and activities of the human soul. His interest in the 
soul of man was not actuated by mere curiosity to know 
for the sake of knowing, but he sought to know the 
human soul as a means whereby he might arrive at a 
clearer and better understanding of the Supreme Being. 

The concept of the human soul as it appears in the 
writings of Saint Augustine is not set forth in a sys- 
tematic manner, but the elements that enter into its 
make-up are found widely scattered through his various 
philosophical, apologetical, polemical, exegetical, and dog- 
matical works. He wrote a few special treatises on the 
human soul, but he never attempted to construct an 
organized philosophy of the soul. 

The present thesis proposes to collect and coordinate 
the philosophical fragments of Saint Augustine's doc- 
trine of the human soul and to interpret these in the light 
of his mental progress. There is a tendency on the part 
of some commentators to over-emphasize the Platonic 
character of Augustine's doctrine of the human soul. It 
is true that those works which were published during 
the first few years of his career manifest the strong in- 
fluence of his recent study of Neo-Platonism. The trea- 
tises, however, which belong to that period when he was 
Bishop of Hippo and one of the most renowned scholars 
of his day stamp him unquestionably as a Christian 
philospoher. It is indispensable to the correct under- 
standing of Augustine's concept of the human soul that 
due regard be paid to the development which charac- 
terizes his doctrine. 


No apology seems necessary for a piece of work such 
as is presented here when one considers the unique posi- 
tion held by Saint Augustine in the world of Christian 
thought. He was under Providence the instrument by 
which the philosophical riches of the past were trans- 
mitted to the new world which rose upon the ruins of 
the Roman Empire. Through him the Christian Schools 
of the Middle Ages were to meet the great minds of 
Pagan antiquity and to learn what they had achieved in 
the field of philosophical endeavors. The debt of Scholas- 
ticism to the Bishop of Hippo not only in Theology but 
also in Philosophy is inestimable. His influence on the 
entire trend of Christian philosophic thought since his 
day has been tremendous. Any effort, therefore, to re- 
direct attention to the work of a great scholar and thinker 
like Saint Augustine, any contribution, however meager 
it may be, to the better understanding of his doctrine, 
deserves the consideration at least of all those who are 
interested in the promotion of what is best in the history 
of human achievement. 


Introduction, The Life of Saint Augustine 7 


I. Sources 10 

II. His Notion of Philosophy 21 

III. The Existence and Nature of the Human Soul . . 33 

IV. The Human Soul is Incorporeal 48 

V. The Immortality of the Human Soul 57 

VI. The Origin of the Human Soul 67 




Aurelius Augustine was born at Tagaste, in Numidia, 
in the year 354. His parents, Patritius, an Afro- 
Roman pagan, and Monica, an ardent Christian, were 
of the patrician class but in reduced circumstances. He 
received his early training in the grammar school of his 
native town, and in a school of rhetoric for beginners in 
nearby Madaura. Recognizing the marked talents of the 
boy, his father determined at any cost to prepare him for 
the forum. With this end in view Patritius endeavored 
to save a sufficient sum of money to enable him to send 
his son to the University of Carthage. Unfortunately for 
Augustine, his father's efforts did not meet with success, 
and he was forced to spend his sixteenth year in idleness. 
With the aid of Romanianus, a wealthy friend, the nec- 
essary funds were finally provided, and the journey to 
Carthage was made towards the close of the year 370. 
The latent genius of the new student was soon recognized 
by the University, and ere long he had achieved some 
reputation as a rhetorician. The reading of Cicero's 
Hortensius in the year 373, gave a new trend to his 
thoughts and aspirations, and enkindled in his breast a 
love for philosophy. The same year or in the beginning 
of the following year, he became a convert to Manicheism. 
Having finished his studies at the University, he aban- 
doned the idea of becoming a lawyer and took up the 
teaching of rhetoric as a profession. He returned to 
Tagaste in 374, where he opened a school of grammar 
or rhetoric. After a few tedious, dragging months, the 
atmosphere of his native town becoming unbearable, he 
closed the school and returned to Carthage, where for 
nine years he taught rhetoric. This was a period of 
mental unrest and incipient religious doubt for Augustine. 
He had embraced Manicheism chiefly because it promised 
to satisfy his strong curiosity regarding the mysteries of 


nature, but after nine long years of painstaking effort 
on his part, this promise remained unfulfilled. Finally, 
in the year 383, Faustus, the most renowned exponent of 
the Manichean doctrines, came to Carthage. Augustine 
had been assured again and again by his co-religionists 
that this learned presbyter would be able to remove all 
his doubts and to solve all his difficulties. His meeting 
with Faustus, however, only resulted in his recognizing 
the inconsistencies of Manicheism, which he determined 
forthwith to abandon. The same year he left Carthage 
for Rome, where he resumed the teaching of rhetoric. 
During his sojourn in Rome, although he no longer con- 
sidered himself a Manichean, both his host and his 
friends were members of the sect with which he had but 
recently severed relations. Through the influence of 
these friends he was appointed Master of Rhetoric for 
Milan by Symmachus, Prefect of Rome. While in Rome 
he had been favorably impressed for a time by the skep- 
tical philosophy of the New Academy, but shortly after 
his arrival in Milan he discarded this for the study of 
Neo-Platonism. The strong Platonistic tendencies so 
manifest, particularly in his earlier writings, are trace- 
able to this period. At Milan he met the saintly Ambrose, 
who was directly responsible for his becoming a cate- 
chumen in the Catholic Church. At the close of the fall 
school-term in the year 386, he resigned his post as 
Master of Rhetoric, and after a short visit to Rome went 
into solitude at Cassiciacum, a country place near Milan. 
Towards the beginning of Lent, the following year, he 
returned to the city to prepare for Baptist. He was bap- 
tized by Ambrose about Easter time in the year 387. 

After his baptism, he probably remained in Milan for 
some months before setting out for Ostia, whence he in- 
tended to embark for Africa. The sudden death of 
Monica at Ostia, however, caused him to change his plans 
and he returned to Rome. The voyage to Africa was 
made in the following year, 388. On his arrival there, 
after paying a hurried visit to Carthage, he retired to 
Tagaste, where he spent the following three years in 


monastic seclusion, devoting his time to prayer, medita- 
tion, and study. About the year 391, he was summoned 
to Hippo Regius, where, by popular request, he was or- 
dained to the priesthood by Valerius, the Bishop of that 
place. Five years later, in 396, he was consecrated bishop. 
On the death of Valerius, which occurred in the same 
year, he was raised to the see of Hippo, which he filled 
with great honor and distinction until his death in the 
year 430. 1 

1 There are two chief sources of the life of Saint Augustine: 

I, Confessionum, libri .riii, an autobiography which records the 
principal events in his life up to the time of his conversion. 

II. Vita Sancti Aurelii Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi, auctore 
Possidio, a biography written by one of his intimate associates, which 
chronicles his career from the time of his conversion until his death. 

The following texts were consulted: 

I. Confessionum, libri xiii Corpus script, eccl. lat. ed. Acad. 
Vind. t. xxxiii, sec. I, pars. I P. Knoll, 1896; Migne, J-P P. L. t. 
xxxii, col. 659-868 ; Watts, W St. Augustine's Confessions, London, 
1631, The Loeb Classical Library, 1912. 

II. Vita Sancti Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Episcopi auctore 
Possidio, Migne, J-P P. L. t. xxxii, col. 33-578; Sancti Augustini vita 
scripta a Possidio episcopo, edited by, Weiskotten, H. T. Princeton 
University Press, 1919. 


The purpose of this chapter is to indicate and sum- 
marize the chief sources to be used in the present study. 
Augustine's philosophy of the soul is not to be found in 
any one work or in any particular class of writings. It 
is not only in his Philosophical Writings that his doctrine 
is to be looked for, but also his Letters, Apologetical, Po- 
lemical, Dogmatical and Exegetical Writings must be 
examined. It seems hardly necessary to advert to the 
fact that the list presented below is far from being a 
complete list of all the works in which Augustine touches 
on questions pertaining to the human soul. An effort 
will be made here to point out only those works which 
have a more direct bearing on the theme at hand. 

As a preamble to this task, it is necessary to make the 
following general observation in order to determine ac- 
curately or to interpret intelligently Augustine's doc- 
trine on any subject whatsoever, the investigator must be 
careful to consider the historical order of his writings. 
The reason for this becomes obvious when one remembers 
that his literary career extended over a period of forty- 
four years, during which time his views naturally under- 
went considerable change. One can reasonably look for 
greater accuracy of statement and maturer thought and 
judgment in the learned Bishop of Hippo than in the 
struggling catechumen of Milan. He himself informs us 
that his was a progressive science. He wrote as his 
knowledge increased, and his knowledge increased as 
he wrote, Ego proinde fateor me ex eorum numero esse 
conari, qui proficiendo scribunt et scribendo proficiunt. 2 
In the Prologus of the Retractationes which was written 
about 427, he tells his readers that in order to under- 
stand the development of his doctrine they should read 

2 Ep. CXLIII, 2. 


his works in the order in which they were written, 
Inueniet enim fortasse, quomodo scribendo pfofecerim, 
quisquis opuscula mea ordine, quo scripta sunt legerit. 
In any attempt, therefore, to determine the true doctrine 
of Augustine, one must be careful to consider the chrono- 
logical order of his writings. 

The following list has been drawn up for the purpose 
of acquainting the reader with the principal sources of 
his doctrine on the human soul, and in order that their 
chronological position among his works may be located. 

Contra Academicos, libri III, the earliest of this extant 
works, was written towards the close of the year 386, at 
Cassiciacum, a country place near Milan. These dia- 
logues are dedicated to his friend and patron Romanianus. 
They contain a refutation of the Academician principle 
that the human mind in its search for truth cannot attain 
certitude, but only a high degree of probability. The 
chief value of the work to the present treatise is that it 
furnishes some of the fundamental notions of Augustine's 

De Ordine, libri II. These two books were also com- 
posed towards the close of 386 at Cassiciacum. They are 
dedicated to Zenobius, one of his intimate companions 
and associates. Divine Providence and the Order of the 
Universe are the chief topics discussed. In the Second 
Book he touches upon some questions that enter into our 
study, such as the relation of philosophy to theology 
(c. v) ; authority and reason (c. ix) ; quid sit Ratio? 
(c. xi) ; quo ordine anima provehitur ad cognitionem 
sui et ipsius unitatis (c. xviii) ; homo unde brutis praes- 
tantior? (c. xix). 

Soliloquia, libri II, were written before his baptism in 
the year 387 at Cassiciacum. They are in the form of a 
dialogue in which Augustine represents himself as dis- 
cussing certain questions with his own Reason. In the 
First Book he considers the qualities of mind and heart 
requisite for attaining the vision of God; in conclusion, 
he touches upon the immortal character of Truth. This 
last consideration leads him to the main topic to be dis- 


cussed in the Second Book, namely, the immortality of 
the human soul. He introduces the meditations on im- 
mortality by explaining the nature of Truth and Error. 
Having discovered Truth to be immortal, he formulates 
the argument, undoubtedly Platonic in origin, that the 
human soul is immortal because it is the dwelling place 
of immortal Truth. 

De Immortalitate Animae was written in the year 
387, either at Milan during the time of his proximate 
preparation for Baptism, or at Cassiciacum shortly after 
his return from Milan. It is a continuation of the medi- 
tations begun in the Soliloquia. The arguments employed 
in this work are neither clear nor convincing. Some 
forty years later he expressed regret that the book had 
been published against his will, and confessed that the 
proofs developed therein are so obscure and involved 
that he himself could scarcely understand them. 3 

De Quantitate Animae was begun in the year 387 and 
finished in 388 at Rome. This book, which is in the 
form of a dialogue with a friend named Evodius, con- 
tains an account of several discussions on the following 
questions pertaining to the human soul : unde sit, qualis 
sit, quanta sit, cur corpori fuerit data, cum ad corpus 
uenerit qualis efflciatur, qualis cum abscesserit. 4 The 
major portion of the work, as the title indicates, is 
devoted to an examination of the question: Quanta sit 
anima? According to Augustine, the human soul is a 
simple substance, that is to say, it is inextended ; it does 
not occupy space like material objects, so that different 
parts of the soul correspond to different parts of space; 
but it is present in the body which it animates vi ac po- 
tentia (c. xxxii, 69). The last four chapters deal with 
the seven stages in the progress of the individual soul 
towards God, an idea borrowed from Neo-Platonism. 

De Libero Arbitrio, libri III. The first of these books 
was written about the year 388 while Augustine was 
sojourning in Rome; the second and third books were 

3 Ret. I, c. v. 

4 Ret. I. c. vil 


composed about 395 in Hippo. They contain a series of 
dialogues with his friend Evodius in which they discuss 
the problem of evil and its relation to human liberty. 
The work was intended primarily as a refutation of the 
Manichean tenet that God is the author of evil as well as 
of good. He maintains against the Manicheans that God 
is not the author of evil, but that evil exists in conse- 
quence of man's exercise of free will. For our purpose 
Chapters XX and XXI of the Third Book are important, 
because they give a concise statement of his difficulties 
regarding the origin of the souls of the descendants of the 
first man. Augustine always hesitated about taking a 
definite stand on this question, but he seems to have been 
inclined to favor Generationism as the theory most 
readily reconcilable with the orthodox doctrine of origi- 
nal sin. 

De Diversis Quaestionibus Octoginta Tribus, was pub- 
lished at Hippo in the year 396. This work is a com- 
pilation of answers given by Augustine to various ques- 
tions proposed by his companions in the religious life at 
Tagaste and Hippo. The following questions are of im- 
portance in the present study: Quaestio prima, Utrum 
anima a se ipso sit; VII, Quae proprie in animante anima 
dicitur; VIII, Utrum per se anima moveatur; XXXVIII, 
De conformatione animae; XL, Cum animarum natura 
una sit, unde hominum diver sae voluntates. 

Confessionum, libri XIII. This work, Augustine's lit- 
erary masterpiece, was published in Hippo in the year 
400. The first ten books are an autobiography, contain- 
ing an intimate description of the author's mental and 
moral experiences from his infancy up to the time of his 
conversion. The last three books are exegetical in char- 
acter, being chiefly a commentary on the history of the 
Creation as recorded in the Book of Genesis. The auto- 
biographical part of the work reveals the remarkable 
introspective powers of its author, and his ability to 
commit to writing his observations. The tenth book con- 
tains an acute analysis of Memory and Remembering a 
splendid piece of psychological work. This study is of 


value because he builds up an argument for the spirit- 
uality of the soul on the power of Memory. It is the work 
as a whole, however, rather than any specific part, that 
furnishes many useful items, suggestions, and aids in 
the investigation of Augustine's concept of the human 

De Trinitate, libri XV, was begun about the year 400 
and completed about 416 at Hippo. This is, perhaps, his 
most profound dogmatic treatise. As the title indicates, 
it discusses the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. His 
motive in writing this treatise was to convince those who 
attempt to demonstrate the truth of this great mystery 
by reason alone that thej f human mind is incapable of 
fathoming the nature of God, and hence that the Trinity 
is a matter for faith and not for reason. From the Ninth 
to the Fifteenth Book inclusive, he skillfully examines the 
various trinities which are found in man. These seven 
books in particular are replete with much that is of value 
to the present study. 

De Genesi ad Litteram, libri XII. The writing of this 
work extended over a period of fourteen years from 401 
to 415. These twelve books are chiefly exegetical in char- 
acter, being a defense of the literal interpretation of the 
first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. The main 
purpose of the work is to prove that there is nothing in 
the history recorded in these chapters which cannot be 
literally true, nothing which is contrary to reason or to 
the nature of things. Two of these twelve books have a 
direct bearing on our problem the Seventh which dis- 
cusses the nature of the human soul, and the Tenth, which 
deals with the origin of the human soul. 

Epistola CXVIII, was written about the year 410 in 
reply to a communication forwarded to Augustine by a 
Greek scholar named Dioscorus. This young man who 
was studying the Latin classics evidently had encountered 
several difficulties which he was unable to solve. He 
submitted these to the Bishop of Hippo in the hope that 
he would take the trouble to answer them. His chief 
motive in seeking the desired information was one of 


vainglory. After severely rebuking his correspondent 
for imposing so great a task upon an already overbur- 
dened ecclesiastic, and from such a blameworthy, trivial 
motive, Augustine answers his difficulties in a general 
way. This lengthy epistle interests us because it shows, 
among other things, how well acquainted its writer was 
with the current philosophical theories of his day. The 
third and fourth chapters especially acquaint us with his 
views on the relation of philosophy to religion. 

Epistola CXLIII, was written about the year 412 in 
reply to a letter sent him by a friend named Marcellinus. 
In this short letter he defends the attitude he had as- 
sumed towards the problem of the origin of the soul. 

De Civitate Dei, libri XXII. This monumental dis- . 
sertation, probably Augustine's greatest work, was begun 
about the year 413 and completed in or about the year 
426. It is the earliest known effort to formulate a phi- 
losophy of history. The invasion and sack of Rome by 
the Goths under King Alaric in the year 410 had aroused 
the animosity of the pagan population of the Empire 
against the Christian religion. The great disaster which 
had befallen Rome was attributed by the adherents of 
polytheism to the neglect of their gods consequent upon 
the introduction of Christianity. Augustine in this work 
undertakes to show the real causes of the fall of the 
earthly city, and at the same time to vindicate the King- 
dom of God on earth against the misrepresentations and 
unjust accusations of its enemies. According to the 
author himself the first ten books are devoted to a care- 
ful study of the pagan form of worship and its relation 
to human welfare both in the present life and in the life 
to come. 5 The remaining twelve books constitute a his- 
tory of the rise, the progress and the destiny of the two 
cities the City of God and the City of the World. 6 

It does not fall within the province of this dissertation 
to give a detailed criticism of this noteworthy contribu- 
tion to Christian Apologetics, suffice it to say, that in this 

5 Ret. n, c. LXVIIII. 

6 Ibid. 


work Augustine glimpses the whole course of human his- 
tory and "from the beginning to the end he interprets it 
with power and insight. His apology for Christianity 
rises at once to the dignity of a magnificent philosophy of 
history, a work that towers 'like an Alpine peak' over all 
the other apologies of Christian antiquity." 7 

The value of the work for the present purpose con- 
sists in this, that incidental to the main thesis, much 
light is thrown upon the philosophical opinions of the 
eminent thinkers of antiquity, particularly in Books 
VIII and XVIIII, and side by side with these are found 
the author's views on the various problems they suggest. 
Although it is true that here as elsewhere we do not find 
any attempt at a systematic treatment of philosophical 
questions, yet there is a wealth of material scattered 
through the pages of this work which the student of 
Augustine's philosophy cannot afford to overlook. More- 
over, in line with the general observation made in the 
beginning of this chapter apropos of Augustine's mental 
progress, it is useful to note that the views expressed in 
this work represent the results of life-long study and 
investigation. His doctrine of the human soul, as one 
might expect in a work of this kind, is diffused through 
the whole dissertation. It is only as occasion may de- 
mand that he digresses from the main theme to touch 
upon this or that particular aspect of our question. Again 
as in the case of the Confessions it is not so much to a 
particular part as to the general development of the 
thesis that one must look for his doctrine. 

Epistola CLXVI, was written to Saint Jerome about 
the year 415. Augustine still troubled by the same doubts 
regarding the origin of the soul which had disturbed his 
mind some twenty years previously when he wrote De 
Libero Arbitrio decided to submit his difficulty to Jerome. 
In the Retractationes, we are informed that while the 
latter wrote to him approving the course he had taken 
in asking the advice of another, he nevertheless regretted 

7 Bardenhewer-Shahan, Patrology, p. 479-480. Freiburg im Breis- 
gau and St. Louis, Mo. 1908. 


that he did not have sufficient leisure to pen a fitting 
reply. 8 This epistle, while largely given over to a dis- 
cussion of the origin of the soul, contains in the second 
chapter a short summary of what Augustine explicitly 
held regarding the human soul. 

De Anima et ejus Origine, libri IIII. These four books 
were written about the year 420. Vincentius Victor, a 
recent convert from an offshoot of the Donatist heresy, 
had found among the books of a certain Spanish priest 
named Peter, an account of Augustine's indecision in the 
matter of the soul's origin. Victor wrote two books on 
the question to Peter. These books fell into the hands of 
a monk named Renatus who forwarded them to Augus- 
tine. In his reply, the latter pens four separate books 
on the subject, sending one to Renatus, one, in the form 
of a letter, to Peter, and two to Victor. The main argu- 
mlent in all four books is the same, and aims at justifying 
their author's hesitancy in expressing himself definitely 
upon the manner of the soul's origin. 

Retractationum, libri II. This work appeared about 
the year 427, and contains a critical review of the lit- 
erary products of a long career. The author takes up 
each one of his works in the order of its composition, and 
after a brief statement of the purpose for which it was 
written, he subjects it to careful revision, and correction. 
The work is invaluable, if not indispensable, to the stu- 
dent of Saint Augustine. It makes available a synopsis 
of his chief works. It enables one to study the develop- 
ment of his doctrine. It affords the opportunity to ex- 
amine the author's personal criticism of his own writings. 

This list, as was remarked in the beginning of the 
chapter, is by no means complete ; in point of fact, a com- 
plete list would probably include a large part of the vast 
library of Augustinian literature which fortunately has 
come down to us. No further claim is made for the work 
presented here, other than that both from the standpoint 
of chronology and content it is sufficient to enable one to 

8 II. c. LXXI. , 



pursue intelligently the work that has been undertaken. 
For the purpose of facilitating reference to this list, 
and in order to designate the texts which have been used 
in this study, the following chronological and textual list 
is added. 9 

386 Contra Academicos, 
L. Ill 

(Contra Acad.) 
386 De Ordine, L. II 

387 Soliloquia, L. II 


387 De Immortalitate An- 
imae, L. I 

(De Immor. An.) 
387-388 De Quantitate 
Animae, L. I 

(De Quan. An.) 
388-395 De Libero Arbi- 
trio, L. Ill 

(De Lib. Arb.) 
396 De Diversis Quaes- 
tionibus LXXXIII, 
L. I 

(De Div. Quaes. 

400 Confessionum, L. 

400-416-De Trinitate, L. 

(De Trin.) 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 905- 
958; Ret. I. c. I. 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 977- 
1020 ; Ret. I. c. III. 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 869- 
904 ; Ret. I. c. IIII. 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 1021- 
1034 ; Ret. I. c. v. 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 1035- 
1080 ; Ret. I. c. vii. 

Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 1221- 
1310 ; Ret. I. c. viii. 

Migne, P. L. t. XL, 11-100; 
Ret. I. c. xxv. 

Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. I. 

pars. I, t. xxxiii P. 

Knoll, 1896. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 659- 

868, Ret. II, c. XXXII. 
Migne, P. L. t. XLII, 819- 

1098, SS. Patrum opus- 

cula selecta, sec. I. t. 

XLII, XLIII, Hurter, H. 

Innsbruck, 1868. Ret. II, 

c. XLL 

9 Wherever possible the Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latin- 
orum of the Vienna Academy of Sciences (Corpus script, eccles. lat. ed. 
Acad. Vind.) has been consulted; in all other cases the Opera Onmia 
Sancti Aurelii Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi, which is part of the 
Patrologiae Cursus Completus of J-P Migne, Vol. XXXII-XLVII 
Paris, 1845-1849 (Migne, P. L.), has been followed. 



401-415 De Genesi ad Lit- Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

teram, L. XII 

(De Gen. ad. Litt.) 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. Ill, 
pars I. t. xxviii J. Zy- 
cha, 1894. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxiv, 245- 

486, Ret. II, c. L. 

410 Epistola CXVIII, ad Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

Dioscorum ed. Acad. Vind. sec. II, 

(Ep. CXVIII) pars II, t. xxxiiii, Al 

Goldbacher, 1898. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxiii, 432- 

412 Epistola CXLIII, ad 

413-426 De Civitate Dei 

(De Civ. Dei) 

415 Epistola CLXVI, ad 
(Ep. CLXVI) 

420 De Anima et ejus 

(De An. et ejus 

427 Retractationum, L. II 

In preparing this list the 
suited : 

Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. II, 

pars III, t. xxxiiii, Al. 

Goldbacher, 1904. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxiii, 585- 

Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. v. 

pars I-II, t. xxxx, E. 

Hoffman, 1899-1900. 
Migne, P. L. t. XLI, 13-804, 

Ret. II. c. LXVIIII. 
Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. II, 

pars III, t. xxxxiiii, Al. 

Goldbacher, 1904. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxiii, 720- 

733, Ret. II, c. LXXI. 
Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. viii, 

pars I, t. LX, C. Urba et 

J. Zycha, 1913. 
Migne, P. L. t. XLIV, 475- 

548, Ret. II, c. LXXXII. 
Corpus script, eccles. lat. 

ed. Acad. Vind. sec. I, 

pars II, t. xxxvi, P. 

Knoll, 1902. 
Migne, P. L. t. xxxii, 583- 

following works were con- 


Notitia Litteraria in vitis, scriptis et editionibus ope- 
rum S. Augustini, Schoenemanni Bibliothecae, Lipsiae, 
1794, Migne, P. L. t. XLVII (p. 26-34). 

Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique, 1, 2. 2311-2314. 
Vacant et Mangenot, Art: St. Augustin, E. Portalie. 
(Numerical References are not always accurate and must 
be verified.) 

Bardenhewer-Shahan, Patrology. p. 477-498. 

Ueberweg-Heinze, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philo- 
sophie II, p. 125. 9 ed. Berlin, 1905. 



The history of Christian Philosophy begins with the 
Fathers of the Church. These early champions of the 
Christian philosophical world-view were interested in 
theology rather than philosophy. They devoted them- 
selves to the task of fixing, developing, explaining, and 
defending the doctrines of Christianity. The pioneers 
among them those who labored before the Council of 
Nice (A. D. 325) were engaged in establishing Christian 
Dogma on a firm foundation of revelation and reason, 
and in warding off the sinister influences of pagan, Jew- 
ish, and heretical, philosophical and religious ideas. The 
writers of the Post-Nicene Period had their work mapped 
out for them by the dogmatic definitions of the Council. 
It fell to their lot to explain the articles of faith which 
had been defined, and to combat the prevailing heresies 
of their day. 

With these facts in mind, it is not difficult to under- 
stand why the Patristic thinkers have not left any purely 
philosophical system or systems such as were created and 
developed by the great thinkers of pagan antiquity. 
They were not ex professo philosophers in the ordinary 
meaning of the term. They did not attempt to formulate 
any special theory of causes or ultimate explanations to 
solve the riddle of the cosmos and human existence. The 
philosophy they accepted and defended was not of their 
own fashioning; it had been handed down to them em- 
bodied in the doctrines of Jesus Christ. 

What was their attitude towards Pagan philosophy? 
We must not think that they ignored entirely the achieve- 
ments of the great pagan minds in the domain of human 
philosophy ; on the contrary, they sought to learn the best 
that pagan thought had attained in order that they might 
enlist it in the service of Christianity. Like the Neo- 


Platonists, they looked upon human philosophy and all 
secular learning as existing for the sole purpose of un- 
folding the impenetrable mystery surrounding the Su- 
preme Being. Philosophy was, for them, merely an ad- 
junct to Theology. It is not strange, then, that we find 
in the writings of these early Fathers of the Church so 
close a union between Philosophy and Theology that it is 
difficult, and at times almost impossible, to divorce the 
one from the other. This intimate association of Phi- 
losophy with Theology is noticeable especially in the 
earlier half of the Patristic Period, and although the 
tendency to separate the two sciences appears towards 
the close of the Period, we do not find any accurate defini- 
tion of their respective fields until the thirteenth century. 

The outstanding figure among the Patristic philoso- 
phers, and one of the really profound thinkers of all 
times, was Saint Augustine. What has been observed 
above regarding all the Fathers in a general way, may 
be applied to Augustine in particular. He was first and 
foremost a theologian, and perhaps the greatest of them 
all. His chief interest centered in the development, ex- 
position, and defense of Christian Dogma. Theology, in 
his opinion, occupies the highest rank in the hierarchy of 
the sciences. The value of all human knowledge is to be 
reckoned in terms of the service it renders the science of 
God. To know God is the most desirable good in life. 
It is in this knowledge only that man can find true happi- 
ness. That man who is versed in all the human sciences, 
but does not know God, is indeed miserable; but if he 
knows God, though he be ignorant of all else he is 
happy. 10 Referring to Philosophy in particular, he ob- 
serves that the unique affair of true and genuine phi- 
losophy is to aid man in his quest for knowledge of the 
Uncaused Cause of all things. 11 

The relation of Philosophy to Theology as conceived by 
Augustine is one of reciprocal service. This is brought 

10 Infelix enim homo, qui scit ilia omnia, te autem nescit; beatus 
autem, qui te scit, etiamsi ilia nesciat. Conf. v. c. iv. 

11 De Ordine II, c. v. 16. 


out clearly in his exposition of the relations between 
Authority and Reason. No one doubts that there are two 
means by which we acquire knowledge, Authority and 
Reason. 12 There are two kinds of authority, divine and 
human. 13 Of these two, divine authority is the highest 
because it is infallible; human authority is less reliable, 
because it is subject to error. 14 The authority upon which 
he places the greatest reliance, and from which he is ab- 
solutely certain that he will never deviate, is Christ. 15 
So far as human authority is concerned, although, gen- 
erally speaking, it is not trustworthy those men are to 
be preferred before all others who give the best evidences 
of greatest learning, and who carry out in their lives the 
precepts they teach. 16 As regards Reason, the other 
means by which we acquire knowledge, he writes : "I am 
influenced also by whatever has been attained by subtle 
reasoning, since I am eager not only to believe but also 
to understand the truth." 17 What, then, are the rela- 
tions between these two, Authority and Reason ? In the 
order of time, Authority precedes Reason, but in the order 
of reality, Reason precedes Authority. (Tempore aucto- 
ritas, re autem ratio prior est.) 18 Reason appears to be 
more adapted to the capabilities of the learned for the 
acquisition of knowledge ; but Authority is necessary for 
all, both the cultured and the ignorant. 19 Reason pre- 
cedes Authority, in so far as it lies within its province to 
examine the warrants of credibility of this or that author 
or work. 20 In a certain sense, Reason may be said al- 
ways to precede Authority, since no one believes anything 
until he has determined in his mind that it ought to be 
believed. 21 Finally, Authority takes precedence over 

12 Contra Acad. Ill, c. xx, 43 : Cf. De Ordine II, c. ix, 26. 

13 De Ordine II, c. ix, 27. 

14 Ibid. 

15 Contra Acad. Ill, c. xx, 43. 

16 De Ordine II, c. ix, 27. 

17 Contra Acad. Ill, c. xx, 43. 

18 De Ordine II, c. ix, 26. 

19 Ibid. 

20 De Vera Rel. c. xxv, 46. 

21 De Praed. Sanct. c. II, 5. 


woifcs tfctt tfce <*jct he hAd in view ui 
was not pwrx^y phik^opKk^l D* tm*H**&M* A**m*t 
vr*$ written not merely to r 
of immortality formuWt* fey Ptatxx Mt 
. OhristiAn tene4 that nvan ;s MttMl 
oiwimunion with i uxi . tV QwtftiM* Am**x K*d tor its 
principal purpose the itenHvnstratinir of 
nature of the human soul This pV - 

is only A meav hkh the Mttmr ar- 

explanation of the various stages tKiXKigh 
-.. , - jhe sinil must ^vass on it^ myMical wt: .- ;. v-^^ 

. do:0 " .; ; - the pix^Wem ol the 

,. , / , ; .rs-ondants 01 the 

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mere curioi^ but mther tx> tt* twr 

the orthixlox divtrttti t ortitfttl *tn 

>\>rks f\m\iah muoh valuable it^fonnaMon, tiny 4i 

by *ny means afford a ^^tnplet^ and 

t-ion of Augustine** philo^phy oi tho soul V)us l.-u k oi 

a connected^ acientine U>f^atment of the problem . 

lw inv^stiiarateit rondew It neeaaAry te ranoll out \\\ I 

ditterent ditvotiona l uralher t-o^thM ^ . - ^ , . , 


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a jivneral theory of ftoul fiNMn \vni. h i\e ptiildl by 
to the human soul. There is no o\don,v to -<np 

port the elaun of Nourriamm that August \\\<* \\\ 

place did not COnaidov tho hnm:n -tonl. hnt or 

his inquiry into this problem l\v asking htmnelf, >xh.-t 
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of the soul is evidently NourvissonV v not AufUtUhf^ 

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1 1 |i 



works that the object he had in view in composing them 
was not purely philosophical. De Immortalitate Animae 
was written not merely to restate the metaphysical proofs 
of immortality formulated by Plato, but also to confirm 
the Christian tenet that man is destined for unending 
communion with God. De Quantitate Animae had for its 
principal purpose the demonstrating of the incorporeal 
nature of the human soul. This philosophical investiga- 
tion, however, is only a means by which the author ar- 
rives at an explanation of the various stages through 
which the soul must pass on its mystical return to God. 
Epistola CLXVI ad Hieronymum and De Anima et ejus 
Origine deal with the problem of the origin of the souls 
of the descendants of the first man. Augustine's pro- 
longed interest in this perplexing difficulty was due not to 
mere curiosity, but rather to its important bearing on 
the orthodox doctrine of original sin. While these four 
works furnish much valuable information, they do not 
by any means afford a complete and systematic exposi- 
tion of Augustine's philosophy of the soul. This lack of 
a connected, scientific treatment of the problem about to 
be investigated, renders it necessary to reach out in many 
different directions to gather together its widely scattered 

Augustine unlike Aristotle and his Christian inter- 
preter, Saint Thomas Aquinas did not begin by formu- 
lating a general theory of soul from which he passed by 
stages to the human soul. There is no evidence to sup- 
port the claim of Nourrisson that Augustine in the first 
place did not consider the human soul, but commenced 
his inquiry into this problem by asking himself, what is 
soul in general ? 33 This method of approach to the study 
of the soul is evidently Nourrisson's, not Augustine's. 

33 II importe de le remarquer. Augustin ne considere pas tout 
d'abord dans 1'ame uniquement Tame humaine. Avant d'etudier d'une 
maniere particuliere 1'ame de 1'homme, il commence par se demander 
ce qu'est Tame en general, 1'ame principe des animaux. L'ame humaine 
reste d'ailleurs comme le type, d'ou il part pour y revenir, et sur lequel 
il ne cesse d'avoir les yeux fixes. (Philosophic de Saint Augustin I, 
p. 166, Paris, 1865.) 


The French savant proffers neither direct evidence from 
the writings of Saint Augustine nor proofs of any kind 
to substantiate his claim. Had he offered the statement 
in question as an expression of his own personal opinion, 
this lack of substantiating proof might possibly be over- 
looked, but when he presents it as an unqualified fact, 
one may demand to know at least upon what grounds it 
is based. After asserting that Augustine at the outset 
did not consider the human soul in particular, the French 
philosopher admits that his interest centered in the lat- 
ter. In his attempt, moreover, to sketch this supposed 
general scheme, he does not tell us how Augustine defined 
the soul as such, but begins his explanation by quoting a 
definition of the human soul. 34 After presenting a few 
brief statements regarding the plant soul, the World-soul, 
and the animal soul, he asserts that one must presume 
that these considerations lead to a study of the human 
soul in particular. 35 It is interesting to note that noth- 
ing was said about presuming this plan in the first in- 
stance, but it was stated as a fact that Augustine followed 
this mode of procedure. In another passage in the same 
work, it is alleged that this general theory of soul was 
formulated in imitation of Aristotle. 36 Again, it may be 
observed that the author is not venturing an opinion, but 
stating what is purported to be a fact. He makes no 
attempt, however, to prove this assertion, and proof is 
necessary in this case as in every other where there is 
question of Aristotle's influence on the philosophy of 
Saint Augustine. Aside from the fact that he himself 
records that he read the Ten Categories when he was 
scarcely twenty years of age, 37 it is not known for certain 

34 Chap. Ill, p. 39. 

35 Ainsi les considerations generates d'Augustin, sur 1'ame, aboutis- 
sent, comme on devait le presumer, a une etude de 1'ame humaine 
en particulier. Op. cit. I. p. 169. 

36 Ainsi, c'est a 1'imitation d'Aristote, qu'au lieu de s'attacher a 
1'etude de 1'ame humaine en particulier, Augustin s'engage dans une 
theorie generate de Tame, ou il s'enquiert de la nature de toutes les 
ames, depuis 1'ame des plantes qu'il nie, jusq'ua 1'ame -du monde sur 
laquelle il ne se prononce pas. II, p. 308. 

37 Conf. iv, c. xvi. 


that he was acquainted with any other work of the 
Stagirite. There are exceedingly few references to 
Aristotle in his writings, and none that mentions the 
general theory of soul. 38 We know, moreover, that while 
he refers to Aristotle as vir excellentis ingenii et eloquii, 
he did not consider him the equal of Plato, (Platoni 
quidem impar.)* 9 There has been considerable contro- 
versy in regard to Augustine's knowledge of Greek, and 
although this has probably been underestimated at times, 
still one may reasonably presume that he was not given 
to reading works written in Greek, since he preferred to 
read the Neo-Platonist writings not in the original, but 
in the Latin translations of Marius Victorinus. 40 This 
latter is significant in the present discussion because in all 
probability Aristotle's De Anima had not been translated 
in the fifth century. What is suggested by these few 
items? We do not know for certain the extent of Augus- 
tine's acquaintance with the philosophy of Aristotle; we 
do not know whether or not he was familiar with his 
De Anima. We do know that there is no direct reference 
to the general theory of soul as expounded by Aristotle ; 
we do know that Augustine was by preference a Pla- 
tonist and not an Aristotelian. In the light of these 
facts, and in the absence of substantiating proofs, one is 
fully justified in rejecting the statement that Augustine 
formulated a general theory of soul in imitation of 
Aristotle. Nourrisson admits that the Bishop of Hippo 
did not construct an organized philosophy of the soul, 41 
but is it not causing his philosophy to appear as having 
been organized, to assert that Augustine first considered 
the soul in general, and then proceeded by way of the 
plant soul, the world soul, and the animal soul to the 
soul of man? To interpret Augustine after this fashion 
causes him to appear as having been interested in philoso- 
phizing about the soul after the manner of Aristotle, when 

38 "He makes mention of Aristotle only three times, and seems not 
to have known his system" De Wulf-Coffey op. cit. p. 90. 

39 De Civ. Dei viii, c. xii. 

40 Conf. viii, c. II. 

41 Op. cit. II, p. 307. 


as a matter of fact, he was actuated in this as in all his 
philosophical investigations chiefly by religious motives. 
All the evidence that we have been able to gather 
points in the opposite direction to that indicated by the 
French savant. The human soul was for Augustine the 
starting point as well as the finis in his investigation of 
the soul problem. Whatever he may have had to say 
about the soul in general, the plant soul, the World-soul, 
and the animal soul was introduced merely to better ex- 
plain this main theme, which, was for him second in 
importance only to the understanding of all that pertains 
to the Supreme Being. In the Soliloquia, De Immor- 
talitate Animae and De Quantitate Animae, the first 
three works in which he treats the problem of the soul 
at any length, there is no mention of a general theory. 
On the contrary, in the first book of the Soliloquia he 
declares expressly that he is interested only in the human 
soul (7). There can be no doubt about the object of his 
study in De Immortalitate Animae, since he bases his 
strongest proof for immortality on the reasoning faculty 
which he conceives as belonging to man alone among ter- 
restrial creatures (c. II). In De Quantitate Animae he 
makes the following explicit statement which places the 
matter beyond all question of doubt: In primis tamen 
tibi amputem latissimam quamdam et infinitam expecta- 
tionem, ne me de omni anima dicturum putes, sed tantum 
de humana, quam solam curare debemus, si nobismetipsis 
curae sumus (c. xxxiii, 70). One will search in vain, 
moreover, in works of a later date for evidence that would 
Justify him in presuming that Augustine arrived at a 
study of the human soul in particular through a general 
theory. Finally, when we view his doctrine in its to- 
tality, and recall his clear statement of purpose at the 
outset of his Christian career, Deum et animam scire 
cupio, 42 we cannot fail to perceive that the human soul as 
such, and not the soul in general or any other kind of 
soul, was in the beginning and throughout his life the 

42 Solil. I, c. II, 7. 


primary object of whatever study he devoted to this 

What has been said thus far in regard to Augustine's 
notion of philosophy may be summed up in the following 
few sentences : There is a philosophy of Saint Augustine, 
but it is a religious philosophy. He desires to know only 
God and the human soul. He desires to know God for 
His own sake; the soul for the sake of knowing God. 
His study of the soul is not a purely philosophical or 
psychological study ; it is a religious study. It is the soul 
of man, and not the soul in general or any other aspect 
of the soul question, that chiefly engages his attention. 

Like the other early Christian thinkers, Augustine may 
be said to have been an eclectic in philosophy. There is 
no doubt but that he was acquainted with both past and 
contemporary schools of philosophy,* 3 and that he wove 
into his own philosophy many of the ideas which came 
to him through these channels. .The philosophy, however, 
which dominated and influenced his thought more than 
any other was Platonism. He had become familiar with 
the writings of Plotinus and Porphyry, the leading ex- 
ponents of Neo-Platonism, through reading the latin ver- 
sions of Marius Victorinus, a well-known Roman rhet- 
orician. 44 While it is quite certain that Neo-Platonism 
influenced him more immediately and directly than did 
Platonism proper, it appears that the ideas which made 
the deeper and more lasting impression upon his mind 
were not those peculiar to Neo-Platonism, but those of 
Plato. 45 His preference for the Platonists can be ex- 
plained by the fact that he considered their philosophy 
to be more in harmony with Christianity than that of 
the other pagan thinkers. Unlike other philosophers who 
spend their talents in seeking to learn the causes of 
things, and the manner of learning and of living, the 
Platonists have discovered in God the First Cause of the 

43 De Civ. Dei viii. 

44 Conf. VIII, c. II. 

45 E. Portalie. Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique Vacant et 
Mangenot, t. 1, 2, col. 2268-2561. Art: St. Augustin. 


Universe, the light by which we preceive truth, and the 
source whence we quaff happiness. 46 The influence of 
Plato on the thought of Augustine was enduring, and 
although it is not so evident in his later writings as in 
those composed during the first few years after his con- 
version, it may be truthfully stated that it never disap- 
peared entirely from his life. His attitude towards Plato 
and the Platonists, however, underwent a change in the 
course of time, as may be learned from the Retracta- 
tiones, wherein he expresses his displeasure at having 
unduly praised these philosophers in his work Contra 
Academicos (386) : laus quoque ipsa, qua Platonem uel 
Platonicos sen Academicos philosophos tantwn extuli, 
quantum inpios homines non oportuit, non immerito mihi 
displicuit, praesertim contra quorum err ores magnos 
defendenda est Christiana doctrina (I, c. I). The prin- 
cipal errors of the Platonists which the Christian must 
guard against so far as the soul is concerned are the 
following: the eternity of the soul; the preexistence of 
the soul in an imaginary world of ideas together with the 
theory that its union with the body is in consequence of 
a previously committed crime ; the transmigration theory 
whether understood in the sense of Plato or Porphyry, 
and the indirect creation of the soul by God through the 
agency of inferior beings. In judging the influence of 
Platonism on the mind of Augustine it is important to 
remember that he prefers this philosophy to the other 
pagan philosopohies, but not to the Christian philosophy. 47 
Wherever Platonism and Christian philosophy conflict, 
Augustine unhesitatingly chooses the latter. 

This general consideration of Augustine's notion of 
Philosophy has shown among other things the importance 
he attached to the study of the human soul. The under- 

46 Haec itaque causa est quur istos ceteris praeferamus, quia, cum 
alii philosophi ingenia sua studiaque contriuerint in requirendis rerum 
causis. et quinam esset modus discendi adque uiuendi, isti Deo cognito 
reppererunt ubi esset et causa constitutae universitatis et lux percipi- 
endae ueritatis, et fons bibendae felicitatis, De Civ. Dei viii, c. x. Cf. 
Ibid. x. c. I. 

47 De Civ. Dei viii. C. X. 


standing, therefore, of his concept of the human soul is 
not only useful but even indispensable to the proper ap- 
preciation of his whole philosophy. 48 

48 For further information on the question of Platonism and its 
influence on Augustine, one may consult the following writers : Grand- 
george L.-S. Augustin et le neo-platonisme Paris, 1896; Dictionnaire 
de Theologie Catholique, Vacant et Mangenot. art: St. Augustin, E. 
Portalie, col. 2325-31 ; Newmann, A. H. Introduction to Anti-Manichean 
Writings, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. iv, p. 27 ff ; 
Rainy, R. The Ancient Catholic Church c. ix Edinburgh, 1902; 
Nourrisson, J. F. La Philosophic de St. Augustin, II, p. 101 ff, Paris, 
1865. Kampfe, A Augustinus verhaltniss, Zu Plato in genetischer 
entwicklung Jena, 1S97. 




The present day champion of the soul theory, who finds 
himself face to face with the agnosticism and materialism 
so evident in certain quarters of the academic and scien- 
tific world, feels constrained before all else to formulate 
an answer to the question, "Does the human soul exist?" 
Saint Augustine apparently did not have to contend with 
this particular aspect of the soul problem since, as he 
himself assures us, there is no one who questions the 
existence of the human soul, Quasi non evidentior sit in 
hominibuis anima, quae utrum sit, nulla fit quaestio. 49 
It would be very convenient on the strength of this state- 
ment to pay no further attention to this question but to 
proceed at once to consider the nature of the human soul. 
To do this however would be to follow the line of least 
resistance, for some of the basic arguments employed 
today in demonstrating the existence of the human soul 
are to be found in the writings of Saint Augustine. 

Harking back to his University days, perhaps, Augus- 
tine recalls that there are three essential queries to be 
considered in anything one may undertake to investigate, 
whether the thing be? what it is? what is its nature? 
(An sit, quid sit, quale sit.) 50 Had he studied the human 
soul as a special problem and in a formal manner, there- 
fore, one may reasonably conjecture that he would have 
begun by asking himself the question, Does the human 
soul exist? What answer, if any, could he give to this 
question, and how would be go about the framing of 
this answer? 

Every one who has even a casual acquaintance with 
the principal works of Saint Augustine knows the great 
value he attached to the introspective method of study- 

}<) De Civ. Dei, VII, c. xxiii. 
50 Conf. X, c. x. 


(Noli foras ire in teipsum redi; in interiore homine hab- 
itat veritas.) 51 It is not necessary, then, to search for 
truth elsewhere than within ourselves for truth dwells 
within us. His writings bear witness to his own remark- 
able powers of introspection. He appears to have been 
endowed with a rare faculty for keen and precise interior 
observation, combined with a talent for analysis and the 
ability to record in expressive terms the results of his 
self-examination. His account of some of the more subtle 
phenomena of the inner life obtainable only by intro- 
spection is proof sufficient that he was not merely ac- 
quainted with the introspective method but even a master 
of it. As a matter of fact, he has been referred to as 
"the founder of the introspective method." 52 It would be 
very difficult, if at all possible, to prove this statement. 
As every student of the History of Philosophy knows, 
this is the original method of all psychology, and there is 
no one who would be so rash as to maintain that Augus- 
tine was the first psychologist. There were at least three 
eminent thinkers among the Greeks Socrates, Plato and 
Aristotle who were familiar with this method centuries 
before the time of Augustine. 53 Many of the early 
Christian philosophers who antedate the Bishop of Hippo 
undoubtedly employed this method particularly in their 
study of the affective side of man's life. It would be 
more in conformity with fact to say that Augustine was 
probably the first Christian philosopher to understand 
and appreciate the scientific value of facts obtained by 
this method. 54 

From what has just been said regarding Augustine's 
ability as an jntrospectionist and his appreciation of the 
introspective method of study, one can assume that had 
he undertaken a formal inquiry into the problem of the 
existence of the human soul, he would have commenced 

51 De Vera Religione, c. xxxix, 72. 

52 Cath. Ency. Vol. XIV, p. 155. Art : Soul, Maher-Boland. 

53 Cf: Driscoll, J. Christian Philosophy The Soul, p. 4 New 
York, 1898; Rand, B. The Classical Psychologists, p. 10 ff. Cam- 
bridge, 1912. 

54 Gonzalez-Pascal, Histoire de la Philosophic, II, p. 89, Paris, 1890. 


with an examination of the testimony of Consciousness. 
According to Augustine, Consciousness assures me that I 
exist. I may be doubtful and uncertain about many other 
things, but of this much at least I am most certain I am. 
This is an intuitive datum implied in all conscious ac- 
tivity. So positive am I that this testimony of Con- 
sciousness is to be relied upon, that I see no difficulty 
whatever in the objection of those who say to me, but 
what if you are deceived? for, if I am deceived, I am; 
since, I could not be deceived, if I did not exist. This line 
of reasoning is familiar to readers of Modern Philosophy. 
Descartes, the distinguished French philosopher, who has 
influenced so powerfully the trend of modern speculation, 
lived at a time when Augustine commanded considerable 
attention among French thinkers. The position occupied 
by Augustine in the world of French thought at the be- 
ginning of the seventeenth century may explain in part 
the striking similarity between the direct proof or dem- 
onstration embodied by Descartes in his famous axiom, 
Cogito, ergo sum, and the indirect argument, Si enim 
fallor, sum, of the Bishop of Hippo. 55 I am aware, more- 
over, that I am a living being who remembers, under- 
stands, wills, thinks, knows, and judges. 56 There is a 
divergency of opinion among philosophers regarding the 
nature of the force by which we live and exercise these 
various other operations. Some have thought that this 
force is of the nature of fire or air, others that it is the 
brain or the blood. Some have held that it is nothing 
more than a concursus of atoms or some kind of a fifth 
essence, others that it is merely a combining together of 
the bodily elements. 57 However much the opinions of 
men may differ respecting the nature of this force, there 
is no one who questions its existence ; there is no one who 

:..". mihi esse me, idque rosse et arnare certissimum est. Nulla in his 
veris Academicorum argumenta formido, dicentium. Quid, si fallens? 
Si cnim fallor, sum. Nam qui non est, utique nee falli potest : ac per 
hoc sum. si fallor. De Civ. Dei. XI. c. xxvi. (cf. Ibid. c. xxvii ; De 
Vera Rel. c. xxxix, 715 ; De Lib. Arb. II, c. iii, 7 ; De Beata Vita, c. ii, 7 ; 
De Trin. X, c. x.) 

56 De Trin. X, c. x. 

57 Ibid. 


doubts that he lives, and remembers, and understands, and 
wills, and thinks, and knows, and judges. (Vivere se 
tamen et meminisse et intelligere, et velle, et cogitare, et 
scire, et judicare quis dubitet?) 58 According to Au- 
gustine the principle of this vital force is the soul, an 
incorporeal substance which cannot be perceived by 
means of an image, "but which is apprehended by the 
understanding and discovered to our consciousness by its 
living energy." 59 

Augustine would prove the existence of the human soul, 
then, first of all by having each one consult his own inner 
experience. This argument based on data furnished by 
Consciousness was a noteworthy achievement lor a phi- 
losopher of the fifth century. The historian of philosophy 
who cherishes the view that this method of handling the 
problem is a modern discovery could read with profit both 
to himself and others the writings of this Christian 
Bishop of the early ages. 60 

While I may be able to prove the existence of my own 
soul by the introspective method, it is obvious that I 
cannot employ the same method in establishing the ex- 
istence of a soul in other men, for inner experience is 
something personal and exclusive. In seeking to demon- 
strate the existence of a soul in other men, therefore, it 
is necessary to have recourse to the objective method of 
investigation. We are surrounded on all sides by human 
beings like ourselves. We observe in them directly not a 
soul, but certain activities which we recognize as resem- 
bling those which we experience in our own lives. 61 
Reason tells us that similar effects demand a similar 
cause, but we know that in our own case these vital 
activities proceed from a soul. We infer, therefore, that 
these other beings have a soul like our own. 62 

58 Ibid. 

59 Ep. CLXVI, ii, 4; Cunningham, J. G. Letters of St. Augustine, 
vol. ii, p. 299-300, Edinburgh, 1875. 

60. Cf. A. Schuyler. A Critical History of Philosophical Theories, p. 
114, Boston, 1913. 

61 De Trin. VIII, c. vi. 

62 Ibid. 


For the sake of avoiding possible misunderstanding, it 
may be well to stress the point that Augustine did not 
arrange the presentation of this question as it has been 
given here. The above arrangement is my own. The 
various items which have been brought together in this 
short sketch are not found in any single treatise composed 
for the express purpose of demonstrating the existence 
of the human soul. On the contrary, a cursory revision 
of the text will show that the materials used were drawn 
in the main from two sources, De Civitate Dei and De 
Trinitate, where they appear only as incidental to the 
discussion of the doctrine of righteousness in the first 
instance, and in the second, in connection with the dis- 
sertation on the Trinity. 

By way of introduction to the problems suggested by 
the questions, what is the human soul? and what is its 
nature? it may be helpful to recall what has been said 
in the first chapter apropos of the progressive char- 
acter of Augustine's doctrine. It was insinuated there 
that many of his earlier views were modified and even 
radically changed in after years. This point must be 
borne in mind in connection with the statement and ex- 
planation of the subject-matter of the present section. 
To be more specific, the answer to the question, what is 
the human soul ? calls for a definition. It would evidently 
be unfair to Augustine not to say anything about the 
utter disregard of his expressed wish to take up his 
first attempt at defining the human soul and proceed to 
construct around this his doctrine, without making any 
allowances whatsoever for the changes and additions 
which naturally developed in the course of time. To do 
this would be to merit the rebuke he directed against the 
Semi-Pelagians when he wrote: Non sicut legere libros 
meos, ita etiam in eis curaverunt proficere mecum. 63 In 
the present study, therefore, not only those works which 
belong to the so-called Philosophical Period of his career 
will be examined, but also, and especially, the treatises 
composed later in life. 

63 De Praedestinatione Sanctorum c. iv, 8. 


At the very outset of this investigation one is con- 
fronted by a difficulty arising from the lack of a fixed 
terminology. By what term did Augustine designate the 
human soul ? The correct answer to this question cannot 
be given in a single term, because, as he himself ac- 
knowledges, he was unable to discover a term which 
would properly specify the soul of man. 64 At least three 
terms appear in his writings, anima, animus, spiritus, 
any one of which may mean the human soul. To deter- 
mine the exact meaning he attached to these terms one 
must examine them in the context. Augustine distin- 
guishes in the human soul a pars inferior and a pars 
superior. To the former belong the vital and sensitive 
powers, to the latter the rational or intellectual powers. 
Anima is sometimes used to include both pars inferior 
and pars superior; sometimes it is employed in a re- 
stricted sense to designate the pars inferior and to ex- 
clude the pars superior: Anima aliquando ita dicitur, 
ut cum mente intelligatur ; veluti cum dicimus hominem 
ex anima et corpore constare; aliquando ita, ut excepta 
mente dicatur. Sed cum excepta mente dicitur, ex Us 
operibus intelligitur quae habemus cum bestiis communia. 
Bestiae namque carent ratione, quae mentis semper est 
propria. 65 

Concerning the use of animus he has this to say: 
"There are some Latin writers (he does not say that he is 
among them) who, according to their own peculiar mode 
of speech, distinguish between anima and animus, so 
that the latter signifies that which excels in man, and is 
not in the beast, while the former signifies that which is 
also in the beast." 66 In other words, they use the term 
anima to designate the principle of sensitive life, and 
animus, the principle of rational life. 

As regards the use of anima and spiritus, which are 
merely relative terms, he is more explicit. In his reply 
to Vincentius Victor, he explains that if one distinguishes 

64 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 21. 

65 De Div. Quaes. UCXXIIL VII. Cf. De Agone Christiano, c. 

66 De Trin. XV, c. I. 


between these two terms, he restricts spiritus to the 
higher life of man. He is careful, however, to point out 
that anima, when used in a generic sense, also includes 

What has been said in regard to the use of these three 
terms may be summed up briefly in the following manner : 
Anima vel animus = the human soul 
Anima (in a limited sense) == pars inferior 
Animus (in a limited sense) = pars superior 
Spiritus = pars superior 

The meaning of these terms will become clearer in the 
light of the discussion that follows. 

In seeking after an exact definition of the human soul 
in the writings of Saint Augustine, a much-quoted defini- 
tion found in De Quantitate Animae may be taken as a 
starting point. In the course of a dialogue with Evodius, 
he says: Si autem definiri tibi animum vis, et ideo 
quaeris quid sit animus; facile respondeo. Nam mihi 
videtur esse substantia quaedam rationis particeps, re- 
gendo corpori accomodata. 68 The human soul, therefore, 
is a certain substance participating in reason and adapted 
to the governing of the body. This is the definition re- 
ferred to in the comment on Nourrisson's statement that 
Augustine formulated a general theory of soul. 69 From 
the wording of the definition it is evident that it was not 
intended to apply to the soul as such but to the human 
soul. Concerning this definition Nourrisson writes as 
follows: L'ame peut etre exactement definie, suivant 
saint Augustin, une substance raisonnable, preposee au 
gouvemement du corps; substantia quaedam rationis 
particeps, regendo corpori accommodata. 70 In view of 
the statement immediately preceding this passage regard- 
ing a general theory of soul, the omission of the qualifying 
attribute humaine is misleading. The use of the phrase 
rationis particeps shows that the definition is applicable 
only to the human soul and not to the soul as such. The 

67 De An. et ejus Origine, IV, c. xxii, 17 xxiii, 19 

68 c. XIII, 22. 

69 c. II. 

70 Op. cit. I, p. 166. 


use of the adverb exactement is entirely unwarranted as 
appears at once from the phrases mihi videtur and sub- 
stantia quaedam. Finally, it must be remembered that 
this definition is found in a work belonging to the period 
of beginnings in the philosophical life of Augustine, and 
was to undergo considerable development in later years. 
An analysis of this definition will furnish the occasion 
to set forth the various elements brought out in the course 
of this development. 

substantia. The human soul is a substance. Augustine, 
following Aristotle, 71 understands by the term "sub- 
stance" a being capable of subsisting in and by itself 
which does not need a subject in which to inhere. 72 The 
soul of man, therefore, is not an accident of the body ; it 
is not in any sense qualitatively related to it. 73 

quaedam. substantia is limited by this indefinite pro- 
noun because at the time this definition was formulated 
Augustine was unable to specify the substance of the 
human soul, substantia vero ejus nominare non possum. 74 
Although he is unable to say what the substance of the 
soul is, he is careful to point out that he does not con- 
sider it to be corporeal, non enim earn puto esse ex Us 
usitatis notisque naturis, quas istis corporis -sensibus 
tangimus. Further on in the same passage he explains 
that the human soul is a simple entity having its own 
proper substance, simplex quiddam et propriae substan- 
tiae. He apparently assumes that everyone understands 
that the human soul is a living substance. He had ex- 
plained this notion in a previous work, De Immortalitate 
Animae (c. iii) ; it is also frequently referred to in many 
later works such as De Agone Christiano (c. xx) ; De 
Trinitate (X, c. vii) ; De Genesi ad Litteram (VII, 16, 
18, 21 ; X 22-26) . When he teaches that the human soul 

71 Conf. IV, c. xvi. 

72 de his enim rebus recte intelligitur, in quibus subjectis sunt ea 
quae in aliquo subjecto esse dicuntur, sicut color aut forma in corpore, 
De Trin. VII, c. v, 10. Cf. Conf. IV c. xvi. 

73 De Trin. IX, c. iv ; X, c. x ; De Imtnor. An. c. X, 17. 

74 De Quan. An. c. i, 2. 

75 Ibid. 


is a "living substance," he means that it is capable of 
imminent and spontaneous motion; it is not moved by 
being acted upon from without, except in so far as its 
activity comes ultimately from God, but its motion is 
intrinsic to itself, it belongs to the very nature of its 
being. 76 The human soul is not only a living substance 
but it is also a vivifying principle; it is the source of 
bodily vitality, corpus hoc terrenum atque mortale prae- 
sentia sua vivificat. 77 Augustine distinguishes three 
grades of life in man ; vita seminalis, vita sensualis, and 
vita intellectualis. 78 The soul is the first principle of life 
in man. It is the source of bodily unity; it prevents 
bodily disintegration ; it presides over the vital functions 
of nutrition, growth, and generation. 79 The vita sensualis 
embraces the activities of the five external senses, viz., 
sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, and of the sensus 
interior, ad quern ab istis quinque notissimis cuncta ref- 
erantur. 80 It includes also imagination, sense memory, 
and sense appetite. 81 The functions of sense require a 
living organism (certe sentire homo non potest, nisi 
uiuat) , 82 that possesses faculties capable of receiving im- 
pressions from sensible objects and of vitally reacting to 
the same. The rational soul in man is the ultimate prin- 
ciple and guide of all the activities of the vita sensualis. 83 
Finally, there is in man the vita intellectualis, which in- 
cludes the three principal faculties of the human soul, 
Memoria, Intelligentia, and Voluntas. These three facul- 
ties are not separate distinct entities but they are func- 
tions of the soul that share in its substantiality. 84 . There 

76 De Div. Quaes. LXXXIII, viii ; De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 16. 

77 De Quan. An. c. xxxiii, 70. Anima totum corpus nostrum animat 
et uiuificat . . . De Agone Christiano, c. xx, 22 uiuit autem corpus 
ex anima, cum anima uiuit in corpore . . . De Civ. Dei, XIII, c. ii. 

78 De Civ. Dei, V, c. xi. 

79 De. Quan. An. XXXIII, 70. 

80 De Lib. Arb. II, c. iii, 8. 

81 De Quan. An. c. xxxiii, 71 ; De Civ. Dei, V, c. xi. 

82 Ep. CXXXVII, II, 5. 

83 De Quan. An. c. xxxiii, 71 ; De Civ. Dei, XXII, c. iv. 

84 Haec igitur tria, memoria, intelligentia, voluntas, quoniam non 
sunt tres vitae, sed una vita ; nee tres mentes sed una mens ; consequen- 
ter utique nee tres substantiae sunt, sed una substantia. De Trin. IX, 
c. iv; cf. Ibid. XV, c. xxii ; Conf. XIII, c. xi. 


is no real distinction between the soul and these faculties. 
They are essentially one but relatively three. 85 The soul 
as a vivifying principle, therefore, is that by which we 
live, and feel, and carry on the operations of intellectual 

The substance of the soul of man is incorporeal, that is, 
it is not a body but a spirit. It has neither length, 
breadth, nor thickness, nor is it extended in space. The 
category of quantity can in no way be applied to it, for 
it is a simple, inextended substance. Extension is the 
distinguishing characteristic of matter and whatever is 
not extended and yet has real existence is spirit. The 
substance of the human soul since it is not extended and 
has real existence is spiritual. 86 

The obscure idea expressed by the complex term sub- 
stantia quaedam evidently was gradually clarified and 
developed by Augustine until it assumed something like 
the following form: substantia viva, incorporea, et 

rationis particeps. The human soul is a substance en- 
dowed with reason. Augustine defines Reason as a 
movement of the mind by which it is able to distinguish 
and connect those things which are learned. (Ratio est 
mentis motio, ea quae discuntur distinguendi et connec- 
tendi potens.) 87 The influence of the Neo-Platonist idea 
of Reason appears in De Quantitate Animae where he 
distinguishes between Ratio and Ratio cinatio. The for- 
mer may be defined : quidam aspectus mentis 88 it is 
that power of the mind by which it is able to see truth 
immediately without any bodily concurrence. 89 Ratio- 
cinatio may be defined: rationis inquisitio, id est, as- 
pectus illius, per ea quae aspicienda sunt, motion Ratio 
is the power of intuition, while Ratiocinatio is the power 
of discursive reasoning; the one enables the mind to see, 

85 Ibid. 

86 De Trin. II, c. viii ; Cf . De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 28. 

87 De Ordine, II, c. xi, 30. 

88 c. XXVII, 53. 

89 Cf. De Immor. An. c. VI, 10. 

90 De Quan. An. c. XXVII, 53. 


the other, to search for and investigate the truth. (Quare 
ista opus est ad quaerendum, ilia ad videndum.) 91 In 
De Trinitate he mentions a Ratio inferior, by which the 
mind studies temporal things, and a Ratio superior, by 
which it contemplates eternal things (XII, c. iii-iv). 
When he distinguishes between Ratio inferior and Ratio 
superior he does not mean that these are two distinct 
entities but merely that they are two functions of one 
and the same subject (c. IV, 4). Reason is character- 
istic of the human soul. It sets man apart from and 
above all the rest of terrestrial creation. 92 Among all 
the creatures of earth, sea, and sky, man alone possesses 
a rational soul that enables him to reach out beyond the 
world of sense and to penetrate the realm of eternal, 
universal, and necessary truth. 93 

regendo corpori accomodata. The human soul is a 
living, vivifying, incorporeal, spiritual substance pos- 
sessing reason and adapted to the governing of the body. 
This last phrase suggests one of the most difficult prob- 
lems in all philosophy the union of soul and body. The 
solution of this difficulty was as much a mystery to 
Augustine as it has been to philosophers since his time. 
He states frankly that the mode of union between the 
corporeal and the spiritual creatures in man is beyond 
human ken: Quia et iste alius modus, quo corporibus 
adhaerent spiritus, et animalia fiunt, omnino mirus est, 
nee comprehendi ab homine potest, et hoc ipse homo est. 94 
It does not fall within the scope of this treatise to present 
an exhaustive account of Augustine's teaching on this 
subject, but we shall try to indicate its more salient 

Man may be defined, according to Augustine, as a 
rational substance consisting of soul and body. (Homo 

91 Ibid. 

92 Fecit ergo Deus hominem ad imaginem suam. Talem quippe illi 
animam creauit, qua per rationem adque intelligentiam omnibus esset 
praestantior animalibus terrestribus et natatilibus et uolatilibus, quat 
mentem huiusmodi non haberent. De Civ. Dei XII, c. xxiii. 

93 Cf . De Trin. Ill, c. ii, 8 ; De Gen. ad Litt. VI, 12 ; De An. et ejus 
Origine, IV, xxiii, 37 ; De Genesi contra Manichaeos I. c. xvii. 

94 De Civ. Dei XXI, c. x. 


est substantia rationalis constans ex anima et corpore.) 95 
The body has a certain quantity of flesh, an external 
form, an order and distinction of members, and a consti- 
tution of health. (Est certe in corpore humano quaedam 
moles carnis et f ormae species, et ordo distinctioque mem- 
brorum et temperatio valetudinis.) 96 The body is gov- 
erned by a rational soul which has been breathed into it. 
(Hoc corpus inspirata anima regit, eademque ration- 
alis.) 97 The whole corporeal part of man is under the 
dominion of the soul to which it is related as a servant or 
instrument. 98 This relationship is not to be understood 
in the sense that Ifte body is nothing more than an ex- 
ternal aid or trapping of the soul, for the body is some- 
thing that pertains to the very nature of man. 99 On the 
testimony of our own nature, we know that there must 
be a union of soul and body to constitute the complete 
man, corpus uero animae cohaerere, ut homo totus et 
plenus sit, natura nostra ipsa teste cognoscimus. 100 It is 
folly for any one to try to separate the body from human 
nature, quisquis ergo a natura Humana corpus alienare 
unit, desipit.* This union of soul and body that results 
in man is a personal union. 102 This unity of person it is, 
that distinguishes Augustine's doctrine from the exag- 
gerated dualism of Plato who regarded man as spirit 
joined to a body accidentally and guiding it after the 
manner of the charioteer directing his chariot. It cannot 
be denied that at one time, about the year 388, he em- 
ployed a formula analogous to that of Plato, when he 
defined man as anima rationalis mortali atque terreno 
utens corpore. 103 This decidedly Platonic notion of 
man was very probably due to his then recent contact 
with the philosophical writings of the Neo-Platonists. 

95 De Trin. XV, c. vii, ii. 

96 De Trin, III, c. ii, 8. 

97 Ibid. 

98 De Civ. Dei, X, c. vi ; IX, c. ix. 

99 Haec (corpora) enim non ad ornamentum uel adiutorium, quod 
adhibetur extrinsecus, sed ad ipsam naturam hominis pertinent. De 
Civ. Dei, I, c. xiii. 

100 Ibid. X, c. xxix. 

101 De An. et ejus Origine, IV, ii, 3. 

102 Ep. CXXXVII, iii. 

103 De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae. I, c. xxvii, 52. 


This early formula was cast aside in later years for the 
one referred to at the outset of this explanation, Homo 
est substantia rationalis constans ex anima et corpore. W4 
The human soul exerts dominion over the whole cor- 
poreal nature that it animates. The question now arises 
as to the manner in which the soul acts upon the body in 
the exercise of this regimen. Augustine, referring to the 
prevailing theory of localization of function in the brain, 
states that there are three compartments or ventricles in 
the brain : one, the sense centre, is situated in the anterior 
portion; another, the motor area, is located in the pos- 
terior portion; while the third, the seat of Memory is 
placed between the anterior and posterior ventricles. 
(Ideo tres tamquam uentriculi cerebri demonstrantur : 
unus anterior ad faciem, a quo sensus omnis; alter pos- 
terior ad ceruicem, a quo motus omnis; tertius inter 
utrumque, in quo memoriam uigere demonstrant.) 105 It 
is through these three ventricles of the brain that the soul 
rules the body. Augustine takes care to point out that 
the soul is not identical with these parts of the brain, but 
that it only uses them as the instruments of bodily con- 
trol. (Sed anima in istis tamquam in organis agit, nihil 
horum est ipsa ; sed uiuificat et regit omnia, et per haec 
corpori consulit et huic uitae in qua factus est homo in 
animam uiuam.) 106 The question naturally suggests it- 
self, how can the soul which is an inextended, spiritual 
substance affect these ventricles of the brain which are 
extended and material? He answers this difficulty by 
postulating a kind of intermediary substance, the nature 
of which is analogous to light or air. This substance 
serves as a medium of articulation between the soul and 
the brain. (Anima ergo quoniam res est incorporea 
corpus, quod incorporeo uicinum est, sicuti est ignis, uel 
potius lux et aer, primitus agit et per haec caetera, quae 
crassiora sunt corporis. . . .) 107 Saint Thomas in answer 
to an objection founded upon this theory of an inter- 
mediary substance, agrees with Augustine that the 

104 fpe Civ.JDejJ XV, c. vii, ii. /> 

106 Ibid. 

107 De Gen. ad. Litt. VII, 15. 

105 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 18. 


grosser parts of the body are moved by the finer parts, 
and that the first instrument of this motive power is a 
kind of spirit. (Summa Th. I, q. 76, a. 7, ad 1 um.) 
The human soul, therefore, administers the body proxi- 
mately through the instrumentality of the brain, and re- 
motely through a medium that is akin to spirit. 

From this analysis and explanation of the definition 
which is found in De Quantitate Animae, it is quite evi- 
dent that Augustine's notion of the human soul underwent 
considerable development during the years subsequent to 
the time it was formulated. This development, it is 
needless to remark, must be carefully considered by any 
one who would form a correct idea of Augustine's con- 
cept of the human soul. This definition together with the 
one found in De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae (p. 44), 
especially the latter, are unmistakably Platonic in form, 
and to accept either the one or the other as final would 
expose one to the danger of misunderstanding and mis- 
interpreting Augustine's whole philosophy of the soul. 
By collecting the various elements brought out in the 
analysis just presented, a fairly accurate idea may be 
obtained of what Augustine considered the human soul 
to be. Had he gathered these elements together in the 
form of a definition one might expect to find something 
like the following: the human soul is a living, incor- 
poreal, spiritual, rational substance which is vitally and 
potentially present in the body as the principle of all its 

To what has been said heretofore in respect to the 
nature of the human soul, the following few pertinent 
observations may be added. The soul of man, although 
it is fashioned in the image and likeness of God, is not 
a part of God ; 108 it does not participate the Divine Es- 
sence, as the Manicheans, Priscillianists, and Origenists 
maintained. 109 This view of the soul was positively re- 
jected by Augustine as blasphemous and heretical. 110 We 
know that the soul is subject to change and is, in a cer- 

108 Ep. CLXVI, c. II. 

109 De Civ. Dei XI, xxii. Cf. De Duabus Animabus contra Mani- 
chaeos, c. I ; Ad Orosium, contra Priscillianistas et Origenistas, c. I. 

110 De An. et ejus Origine II, c. ii, iii. 


tain sense, corruptible; but God is in every respect im- 
mutable and incorruptible ; the soul, therefore, cannot be 
a part of God. (Si enim hoc esset, omni modo incommu- 
tabilis atque incorruptibilis esset.) 111 

The human soul is not part of a universal soul. It is a 
single, individual entity. For a time he seems to have 
entertained some doubts as to whether there is a universal 
soul for all men or a particular soul for each individual. 112 
This view, in all probability, was due to the influence of 
Neo-Platonism, which was then dominant in his intel- 
lectual life. A few years later, about 395, all doubt had 
evidently disappeared for he not only rejects this idea, 
but even insists most emphatically on the individual char- 
acter of the human soul. 113 

We have seen that Augustine was a zealous follower of 
the Manicheans for a period of about nine years. (Intro- 
duction.) After his conversion to Christianity he devoted 
considerable time and attention to the refutation of the 
tenets of this sect. He is everywhere vigorous in his con- 
demnation of the doctrine proposed by them that in man 
there are two souls the one good, emanating from the 
Good Principle ; the other, evil, emanating from the Evil 
Principle. 114 

The theory of a World-soul invented by Plato, appears 
to have been considered by him at least as a possibility 
during the first years of his career. 115 Later on, while he 
does not positively reject it, he declares that it is hardly 
credible. 116 Finally, in the Retractationes, he warns his 
readers against rashly embracing such a doctrine (I, v). 
Although he shows some hesitancy in pronouncing for or 
against a World-soul, he does not hesitate to assert that 
if one accepts this theory, he must be careful to guard 
against confusing or identifying such a World-soul with 
God. 117 

m Ep. CLXVI, ii, 3. 

112 De Quan. An. c. xxxii, 69. 

113 De Lib. Art. II, c. ix, 27; X, 28. 

114 De Duabus Animabus contra Manichaeos (392) ; Conf. VIII, 
c. x. 

115 De Immor. An. c. xv. 

116 De Civ. Dei X, xxix. 

117 De Civ. Dei IV, xii. 



Three main lines of investigation appear in Augustine's 
search for knowledge of the human soul. The first of 

(0 these has to do with the incorporeal nature of the soul of 
man. He teaches that the human soul is not a body but 
a spirit. This is a point on which his doctrine never 
varied. He was always foremost among those who de- 
fended the spirituality of the soul against the attacks of 
materialism. The second main problem that engaged his 
attention was the immortality of the human soul. He 
was convinced at all times, even in his pre-Christian days, 
that the soul of man is immortal in a sense proper to 
itself. Finally, he sought for a solution of the difficulty 

( ^ concerning the origin of the soul of man, particularly that 
phase of the question which refers to the origin of the 
souls of the descendants of the first man. He studied 
this problem for over thirty years but never succeeded 
in solving it to his satisfaction. These three main lines 
of investigation will be traced in this and the subsequent 

Saint Augustine maintained against the materialistic 
philosophers of his day that the soul of man is an incor- 
poreal, spiritual substance. 118 The reason why the ma- 
terialists hold that the human soul is a body, according 
to Augustine, is because they are so completely under the 
dominion of the imagination that they are unable to 
think of any substance as existing of which they cannot 
form an image. In the opinion of these men, therefore, 
only bodies are real things, and what is not corporeal is 
nothing, hence they conclude that the soul of man must 
be a corporeal substance. 119 The crux of this problem 

118 Nunc tamen de anima, quam Deus inspiravit homini snfflando in 
ejus faciem, nihil confirmo, nisi quia ex Deo sic est, ut non sit substantia 
Dei; et sit incorporea, id est, non sit corpus, sed spiritus. De Gen. ad 
Litt. VII, 28. 

119 Ep. CLXVI, c. ii; De Trin. X, c. vii; De Gen. ad Litt. X, 24. 


according to Augustine depends upon the meaning one 
attaches to the terms corpus and substantia. If corpus 
is used to designate every substance or essence, or to put 
it more aptly, that which is in some manner self -existent, 
then, the soul is a body, because it is a substance. 120 If 
the use of the term incorporea is restricted to that nature 
which is absolutely immutable and ubiquitous, the soul is 
not incorporeal because it is not a nature of this kind. 121 
If, however, the term corpus is employed to signify a 
measurable unity which is extended in space, so that one 
of its parts is greater and another less, and the whole is 
greater than any of its parts, the soul is not a body, be- 
cause it is a simple, inextended entity having neither 
length, breadth nor thickness. 122 That Augustine under- 
stood the term corpus in this last-named sense is evident 
from his definition of corpus: quidquid majoribus et 
minoribus suis partibus majora et minora spatia locorum 
obtinentibus constat. 123 By substantia, he means a being 
capable of subsisting in and by itself ; one which does not 
require a subject in which to inhere. 124 The terms corpus 
and substantia, therefore, as understood by Augustine are 
not convertible. While every corpus is also a substantia, 
the converse of this is not true, namely, that every sub- 
stantia is a corpus. 

The human soul is not a corpus, but it is a substantia 
it is not spatially extended ; it has no measurable dimen- 
sions ; but it is a simple substance which is present simul- 
taneously not only in the whole body but also in each of 
its parts, non modo universae moll corporis sui sed etiam 
unicuique particulae illius tota simul adest. 125 When the 
soul is spoken of as a "simple substance," the term 
"simple" is used in a relative not an absolute sense. 
Strictly speaking, God alone is simple, because He alone 

120 Ep. CLXVI, c. II. 

121 Ibid. 

122 Ibid. Cf. etiam De Trin. VI, c. vi ; X, c. vii ; De Immor. An. c. 
xvi ; De Gen. ad. Litt. VII, 21 ; De. An. et ejus Origine IV, c. xii. 

123 De An. et ejus Origine IV, c. xii, 17. 

124 Chap. Ill, p. 40. 

125 De Immor. An. c. xvi. 


is unchangeable; in Him alone there is perfect identity 
of essence and attribute, quoniam quod habet, hoc est. 
If the soul is a simple substance, devoid of parts and 
spatial extension, in what manner may it be said to be 
present in the body which it animates? Augustine for- 
mulates an answer to this question somewhat after the 
manner of Plotinus, the leading exponent of Neo-Platon- 
ism, the soul is present in the body, not spatially, but 
vitally and potentially, non spatio loci ac temporis sed vi 
ac potentia; 127 or as he expressed the same idea else- 
where, the soul pervades the body not quantitatively but 
by a certain vital intension. 128 In connection with this 
description of the manner in which the soul is present in 
the body, he has recourse to the experimental method to 
confirm his theory. If you touch any part of a living man 
with a sharply-pointed instrument, you will observe that 
although the contact is made only at one tiny spot on 
the entire surface of the body, the whole soul is aware 
of the contact, and aware of it as taking place at the 
particular spot that is touched. In like manner, if you 
carry the experiment a little farther and establish two 
contacts simultaneously in different parts of the body, 
the whole soul is aware of each one separately, and of 
both at the same time. This simple experiment demon- 
strates that the soul is not diffused through the body after 
the manner of a material, extended substance which oc- 
cupies a larger or smaller portion of space according to 
its dimensions. If this were the case, that part of the 
soul corresponding to the part of the body affected by 
the instrument would experience the sensation of contact 
but not the whole soul. 129 Since the whole soul and not 
merely a part experiences these sensations, it must be 
wholly present in each part of the body at the same time, 
tola singulis partibus simul adest, quae tota simul sentit 
in singulis; 13 and since it pervades the body in this in- 

126 De Civ. Dei, XI, c. x. 

127 De Quan. An. c. xxxii. 

128 Ep. CLXVI, c. II. 

129 Ep. CLXVI, c. II, 

130 De Immor. An. c. xvi. 


extended manner, it must be an incorporeal substance. 131 
Some of the arguments presented by Saint Augustine 
to prove the incorporeal nature of the human soul, are 
neither clear nor convincing. This is true in particular 
of several arguments which are found in De Quantitate 
Animae and De Immortalitate Animae. As there is no 
real advantage to be gained from a restatement of these 
involved and subtle reasonings which represent the primi- 
tive efforts of our author in the field of philosophical 
writing, they may be omitted for the purpose of empha- 
sizing those arguments which were to be appropriated 
by the Christian philosophers of the succeeding centuries. 
Augustine, in a letter which was written about the 
year 412 to Volusian, a distinguished Christian layman, 
says that the human soul if it is not deceived as to its 
own nature understands itself to be incorporeal, Nam 
si anima in sua natura non fallatur, incorpoream se esse 
comprehendit. 132 As has been stated, Consciousness tes- 
tifies that the soul exists. 133 This interior vision bears 
witness also to the substantial nature of the soul. 134 We 
are aware, moreover, that we live, and remember, and 
understand, and will, and think, and know, and judge. 135 
An examination of the nature of these operations will 
reveal the nature of the agent which is their principle 
Agere sequitur esse. The phenomena of Memory prove 
to Augustine that the soul of man is an incorporeal, spir- 
itual substance. We know that we have innumerable 
images of bodies which are fashioned by the act of think- 
ing and stored up in the depths of Memory, whence they 
are reproduced in some mysterious manner when we wish 
to recall the objects that they represent. 136 If the soul 
were a body, it would be able neither to form these images 
nor to retain them, since they are so numerous and fre- 
quently representative of such large objects. 137 There- 

131 Ibid. Cf. etiam De Gen. ad Litt. vii, 21. 

132 Ep. CXXXVII, c. iii, 11. 

133 Chap. Ill, p. 35 ff. 

134 Ibid. 

135 Ibid. 

136 De An. et ejus Origine, IV, c. xvii. 

137 Ibid. 


fore, there is no doubt that the soul is spiritual and not 
corporeal, procul clubio tamen spiritalis est, non corpo- 
ralis. 138 This explanation of the Memory-processes of 
retention and reproduction is eschewed by the modern 
psychologist who points out, and rightly so, that "Since 
image means a conscious representation, the retention of 
images is but a metaphorical expression." 139 It is not 
correct, therefore, to speak of images as if they were ac- 
cumulated in a receptacle of some kind from which they 
are drawn forth whenever we remember. The image it- 
self is not retained but "the disposition or aptitude" to 
recall it, remains after the image has disappeared. 140 
Augustine appears to have held that Sense-Memory as 
well as Intellectual is an incorporeal faculty. 141 The for- 
mer, he reasons, is not a material faculty because if it 
were it could not contain images which are not bodies 
but only the likenesses of bodies. The latter must be 
incorporeal since it retains the immaterial, such as 
thoughts (ibi reconditum est quidquid etiam cogita- 
mus) , 142 the explanations of the liberal arts, 143 the princi- 
ples of mathematics, 144 and the notions of such affections 
of the soul as desire, joy, fear, and sorrow. 145 A few 
words of explanation may throw some light on his rather 
involved theory of Memory. He distinguishes three kinds 
of perception, corporeal, spiritual, and intellectual. The 
first, perceives all sensible objects; the second, perceives 
the images of bodies which are formed by the mind and 
retained therein; the third, is immediate perception by 
the simple exertion of the mind without any bodily co- 
operation. 146 To these three grades of perception corre- 
spond three kinds of Memory: the first, stores up the 
images which originate with the senses; the second, con- 

138 Ibid. 

139 Dubray, C. Introductory Philosophy, p. 84, New York, 1913. 

140 Ibid. 

141 De Gen. ad Litt. vii, c. 21 ; De Civ. Dei, VIII, c. v ; De Trin. X, 
c. viii. 

142 Conf. X, c. viii. 

143 Ibid. c. ix. 

144 Ibid. c. xii. 

145 Ibid. c. ix. 

146 Ep. CXX, c. ii. 


tains those images which are created by the imaginative 
faculty; the third, retains those immaterial and purely 
spiritual ideas which originate in reason. 147 It would 
seem from this that he did not always distinguish clearly 
between Memory and Imagination. He leaves no room 
for doubt, however, that he considers at least some opera- 
tions of Memory to be spiritual in character, and hence, 
concludes logically that the soul of which Memory is a 
faculty is incorporeal and spiritual. 

The incorporeal, spiritual nature of the soul can be 
demonstrated also from the character of our intellectual 
knowledge and operations. Augustine, in imitation of 
Plato, argues that since the soul of man is capable of 
perceiving the incorporeal, it must itself be incorporeal, 
Oportet animum quo videmus ilia incorporalia, corporeum 
corpusve non esse. 1 * 8 He distinguishes between sense 
knowledge and intellectual knowledge: the former is ac- 
quired through the instrumentality of the senses; the 
latter, which relates to immaterial ideas, is obtained 
directly through the mind itself. 149 In his refutation of 
the theory of knowledge proposed by the Stoics, Epicu- 
reans and Atomists, in particular Democritus, he empha- 
sizes this distinction between sense and intellectual 
knowldge. 150 He shows that, besides the knowledge 
which we acquire through the instrumentality of the 
bodily faculties, there are many things that we know, 
incorporaliter atque intelligibiliter. 15 ' 1 For instance, we 
know that philosophers dispute among themselves con- 
cerning the meaning of Wisdom and Truth, but, it is 
impossible for them to form images corresponding to 
these realities, and, yet they must be present to the mind 
in some way or they could not be discussed. They know 
Wisdom and Truth, therefore, not, indeed, as they know 
those things with which they come into contact by means 

147 Conf. X ; De Vera Relig. X ; Ep. VI, VII. 

148 De Quan. An. c. xiii. 

149 De Trin. IX, c. iii. 

150 Ep. CXVIII, c. iv. 

151 Ibid. 


of images, but directly, by pure thought. 152 This argu- 
ment is interesting in view of the fact that the problem 
of "Imageless Thought" is receiving some attention at the 
present time in the field of Experimental Psychology. It 
is a curious fact and one well worth noting that this 
very same question, as to whether there can be any 
thought without its concomitant image, was mooted in 
Augustine's day. A lengthy discussion of this problem 
is to be found in his correspondence with his "beloved 
friend" (dulcis amicus meus), Nebridius. 153 In a letter 
written to Augustine about the year 389, Nebridius had 
stated it as his opinion that there could be no thought 
without some kind of an image; a word-image at least 
must be present in every act of thinking. 154 Our author 
disagrees with this opinion and maintains that it is pos- 
sible for us to think about certain things without any 
concomitant image. We are able to think of Eternity, 
for instance, without forming any image of it. 155 He em- 
phasizes this imageless character of some of our thinking 
in several works of a later date. We know that we have 
such ideas as those of Faith, Hope and Charity, 156 the 
idea of God, 157 or, as he expresses it elsewhere, the notion 
of a being divine and supremely immutable 158 all of 
which are spiritual and hence in no way traceable to the 
activities of the bodily senses. Ideas of this kind can be 
apprehended only by pure reason. 159 Since the soul of 
man is capable of apprehending the purely spiritual, 
Augustine logically infers that the soul must be an in- 
corporeal, spiritual substance. 160 

As regards the higher operations of the soul, he teaches 
that man is capable of remembering, understanding, 
willing, thinking, knowing, and judging, all of which 

152 Ibid. Cf : De Gen. ad Litt. X, 24. 

153 Conf. IX, c. iii. 

154 Ep. VI. 

155 Ep. VII. 

156 De An. et ejus Origine, IV, c. xx. 

157 Ibid. c. xiv. 

158 Ep. CXVIII, c. iii. 

159 Ibid. 

160 De An. et ejus Origine, IV, c. xiv. 


presuppose an incorporeal, spiritual principle. Take, 
for example, the act of judgment. If the image which 
one calls to mind to aid him in thinking is not a body, 
but only the likeness of a body, then that faculty by 
which he is able to perceive this image is not a body, and 
a fortiori the faculty which judges whether the image is 
beautiful or ugly is not a body. But that which judges 
is the mind of man ; it is a faculty which pertains to the 
nature of the rational soul, which certainly is not a body, 
Haec mens hominis et rationalis animae natura est, quae 
utique corpus non est. In refuting the Stoics and Epi- 
cureans who attributed the faculty of judgment to the 
senses (qui posuerunt indicium ueritatis in sensibus cor- 
poris), 1Q1 he remarks, how can these philosophers assert 
that "none are beautiful but the wise," since neither 
"beauty" nor "wisdom" can be perceived by the senses. 162 
To form a judgment of this kind one must compare not 
image with image, but idea with idea. If the faculty of 
judging images is incorporeal, then the faculty which is 
able to judge immaterial ideas must also be incorporeal. 
But this faculty belongs to the rational soul of man. 
Therefore the rational soul of man is incorporeal. 16 * 
Finally, the strongest and most convincing proof of the 
incorporeal nature of the human soul is based upon its 
capacity to reflect upon itself. By means of this act we 
not only know that we have a soul, but we can also know 
what the soul is by a study of our own. 164 In this opera- 
tion the soul does not form an image of itself, so that it 
is, as it were, simultaneously where it can both look and 
be looked at, but it beholds itself by a certain process of 
incorporeal conversion which pertains to its very na- 
ture. 165 If the soul were a material, extended entity, 

De Civ. Dei VIII, c. v. 

161 Ibid. c. vii. 

162 Ibid. 

163 Ibid. 

164 Non enim tantum sentimus animum, sed etiam scire possumus 
quid sit animus consideration nostri ; habemus enim animum De Trin. 
VIII, c. vi. 

165 Proinde restat ut aliquid pertinens ad ejus naturam sit con- 
spectus ejus, et in earn, quando se cogitat, non quasi per loci spatium 
sed incorporea conversione revocetur. De Trin. XIV, c. vi. 


however, it would not be able, so to speak, to bend itself 
completely back upon itself so as to be at one and the 
same time both the subject which sees and the object 
which is seen. 166 Since the soul is capable of this opera- 
tion of self-reflection which is incorporeal in character 
it must itself be incorporeal. 167 

The philosophical doctrine of Spiritualism as it is 
found in Christian Philosophy received much of its de- 
velopment from Saint Augustine. While it is very true 
that he borrowed freely from the Pagan as well as the 
Christian philosophers who had gone before him, yet he 
deserves not a little credit for the admirable manner in 
which he synthesized the best elements of their doctrine 
and brought them to a higher stage of development. He 
was the channel through which the spiritualistic findings 
of the past were transmitted to the Christian thinkers of 
subsequent times. Those who came after him in the 
great Scholastic movement took up the arguments which 
he had gathered together and both further developed and 
perfected them. Augustine's doctrine suffered from the 
lack of a fixed and sufficiently defined and expressive 
terminology. This terminology was contributed by the 
Schoolmen and was a distinctive addition to the Christian 
philosophy of the soul. The place which this problem 
occupies in Christian philosophy is an important one, 
because upon it rests the significant question of the im- 
mortality of the soul. 

166 Ibid. 

167 Ibid. Cf. De Trin. IX, c. iii. 



A study of the popular and cultural traditions of all 
peoples of all times discloses a constant and universal 
conviction among men that the human being is destined 
to survive this present existence, that there is a life 
after death. The belief in an undying survival is as 
ancient as the race. We discover this belief among the 
great nations of antiquity intimately bound up with re- 
ligious ideas, customs, rites of worship, and burial. With 
the rise of Philosophy among the Greeks the problem of 
human immortality enters the domain of rational specu- 
lation, but even here its religious aspect is never entirely 
submerged. "In one particular instance Greek religion 
contributed directly to Greek philosophy by handing over 
to philosophy the doctrine of immortality, a doctrine 
which in every stage of its philosophical development has 
retained the marks of its theological origin." 168 The 
doctrine of immortality in the Christian religion is a 
fundamental tenet resting upon both revelation and rea- 
son. The early Christian doctrine of immortality is well 
defined in the writings of Saint Augustine. 

The philosopher is interested in constructing a rational 
doctrine of immortality; he seeks to demonstrate the 
immortality of the human soul on purely rational grounds. 
He begins his study of the problem by asking himself the 
question, what is immortality? Etymologically, the word 
"immortality" signifies deathlessness or the state of not 
being subject to death. According to Augustine, death 
is the cessation of life, hence that is immortal which will 
never cease to live. 169 By the immortality of the human 
soul, he means that the soul of man will never cease to 
have some kind of life. (Quod sit immortalis secundum 
quendam uitae modum, quern nullo modo potest amit- 
ies Turner, W., History of Philosophy, p. 31, Boston, 1903. 
169 De Civ. Dei, XIII, c. ii. 


tere.) 17 We know from experience that the body of man 
dies when it is separated from the soul. 171 Although the 
death of the body ensues when the two cohering essences 
are rent asunder, 172 the soul does not die, that is to say, it 
does not, at least in a certain sense, cease to live and feel. 
(Nam ideo dicitur inmortalis, quia modo quodam quantu- 
locumque non desinit uiuere adque sentire.) 173 He speaks 
of the immortality of the soul with a qualification be- 
cause as he recalls there is a kind of death which the 
soul experiences when it is deprived of happiness. 174 
This sort of death, however, does not affect the essence 
of the soul, for the soul even when it is most miserable 
does not cease to live. 175 The human soul is not immortal 
in the same sense as we predicate immortality of God. 
There is a certain kind of death which the soul of man 
can suffer, but God is above all death, He is absolutely 
immortal. 176 He alone possesses immortality stride lo- 
quendo, since He alone is immutable in his essence and 
will. 177 The immortality of the soul, therefore, according 
to Augustine means that the soul is of such nature that 
it will live always ; that while it is created in time it will 
not perish in time ; 178 that it is not absolutely undying as 
is God, but it is immortal in a manner peculiar to itself. 179 
His earliest discussion of the immortality of the soul 
is found in the simulated dialogues of the Soliloquia and 
in De Immortalitate Animae, both of which were written 
about the year 387. These two works contain several 
metaphysical proofs which are like in character to those 
formulated by Plato and developed by the Platonist 
philosophers. Three of these proofs are deserving of 
some notice, not that they have any special intrinsic 

170 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 28. 

171 De Civ. Dei, XIII, c. vi. 

172 Ibid. c. ii. 

173 De Civ. Dei, XIII, c. ii. 

174 De Trin. XIV, c. iv. 

175 Ibid. 

176 Ep. CLXVI. c. ii. 

177 Conf. X, c. x. 

178 De Civ. Dei, XI, c. iv. 

179 Ep. CXUII, 7. 


value, but because they represent the earliest efforts of 
Augustine to construct a rational doctrine of immortality. 
In the first of these proofs his line of reasoning is as 
follows : Truth so exists in the soul that it is inseparable 
from it, but Truth is immortal, therefore, the soul is 
immortal. He introduces a resume of a very involved and 
long-drawn-out discussion of this argument by remind- 
ing himself of the familiar fact that one thing may be 
said to be in another in a two-fold sense: either it so 
exists in its subject as to be separable from it; or it 
exists in its subject in an inseparable manner. 180 With 
this distinction in mind he argues : if that which exists in 
its subject in an inseparable manner is immortal, the 
subject also must be immortal. We know that Science 
exists in the soul in an inseparable manner, but Science 
is Truth and Truth is immortal, therefore, the soul is 
immortal. 181 He concludes the exposition of this proof, 
which he himself considered the best and strongest of all 
the metaphysical proofs, by depicting Reason his imag- 
inary disputant as exhorting him to yield to this argu- 
ment and give his assent to Truth when she insists that 
she is indwelling and immortal, and that therefore the 
soul is immortal, immortalis est igitur anima: jam jam 
crede rationibus tuis, crede veritati; clamat et in te esse 
habitare, et immortalem esse, nee sibi suam sedem qica- 
cumque corporis morte posse subduci. 182 

The meditations begun in the Soliloquia were finished 
in De Immortalitate Animae. He opens the latter work 
with an argument similar to the one just stated; the 
human soul contains knowledge, but all knowledge per- 
tains to some science, and science is immortal, therefore 
the soul is immortal (c. i). 183 This argument is followed 
by another which also appealed strongly to the mind of 
Augustine at the time it was formulated. The soul of 
man is immortal because it is the seat of Reason which 
is immortal. Reason is another of those things which 

180 Solil. II, c. xii. 

181 Ibid. c. xix, 33. 

182 Ibid. 

183 Cf. Ep. II, ad Nebridium. 


exists in the soul in an inseparable manner, but Reason 
can exist only in a living subject, and since it must exist 
always, its subject must be immortal, therefore the human 
soul is immortal, quamobrem si anima subjectum est, ut 
supra diximus, in quo ratio inseparabliter, ea necessitate 
quoque qua in subjecto esse monstratur, nee nisi viva 
anima potest esse anima, nee in ea ratio potest esse sine 
vita, ,et immortalis est ratio; immortalis est anima 
(c. vty. The third and last of these metaphysical proofs 
worthy of mention is nothing more than a restatement 
of one of Plato's arguments. The soul of man differs 
from the body in this, that it is life, while the body is 
merely something animated. We know that what is 
merely animated may be deprived of life by separation 
from its life-giving principle, hence it is that the death 
of the body ensues when it is separated from the soul. 
The soul, on the contrary, cannot suffer death because 
life belongs to its very essence, therefore, the soul is 
immortal, quidquid enim vita desertum mortuum dicitur, 
id ab anima desertum intelligitur; haec autem vita, quae 
deserit ea quae moriuntur, quia ipsa est animus et seip- 
sam non deserit: non moritur animus (c. ix; c. xiv). 
This same line of argumentation is repeated many years 
later in De Trinitate. In considering the various opin- 
ions advanced by the pagan philosophers respecting the 
substance of the soul, he observes that those who have 
held that the soul is some kind of incorporeal life have 
attempted also, each one according to his ability, to 
prove that it is immortal, since they understood that life 
cannot exist without life (X, c. vii). 

It is exceedingly difficult to follow the intricate mazes, 
of speculation in which these alleged proofs of immor- 
tality are involved. Augustine himself evidently realized 
this when he wrote his review of De Immortalitate 
Animae in the Retractationes, for he remarks, qui primo 
ratio cinationum contortione atque breuitate sic obscurus 
est, ut fatiget, cum legitur, etiam intentionem meam 
uixque intelligatur a meipso (I, c. v). He acknowledges, 
then, some forty years after they had been proposed, that 


these metaphysical proofs are not only vague and con- 
fused, but even unintelligible. Howevermuch deserved 
this severe criticism of his own work may appear at 
first glance, nevertheless one must not overlook the fact 
that some elements of real value are to be found in this 
early treatise on immortality. 

This purely speculative line of reasoning was aban- 
doned by Augustine in after years for the presentation 
and development of what may be termed the natural evi- 
dences of immortality. What is by far the best and most 
acceptable of all the arguments proposed by him in favor 
of the immortality of the human soul is based upon man's 
natural desire to continue in existence. Every man, he 
writes, is aware of a deep-seated, ineradicable, natural 
longing for being and life. We know, moreover, that 
this desire is not peculiar to ourselves, but that it is 
universal ; it is one of those fundamental cravings which 
belongs to our common, rational, human nature. 184 We 
all desire to live. We wish not to be annihilated. 185 Our 
nature shrinks from the very thought of annihilation. 186 
So powerful is this longing for existence that were a 
man who is actually miserable to be given the alternative 
of continuing in a state of misery or of being annihilated, 
he would choose unhesitatingly the former. 187 We need 
not seek far for corroboration of this, for we know from 
personal observation the horror and fear men have of 
death and how mightily they struggle against its ap- 
proach, even when they are in the greatest misery. 188 
This instinct of self-preservation that we find in man is 
not wanting in brute creation. Irrational animals from 
the smallest to the largest, show by their behavior that 
they possess this tendency to cling to being and to life. 189 
Trees and plants, too, after their own fashion manifest 
something similar to this tendency as can be seen from 

184 De Trin. XIII, c. iii. 

185 Ibid. 

186 De Civ. Dei XI, c. xxvii. 

187 Ibid. 

188 Ibid. 

189 Ibid. 


the way in which their roots dig down deep into the soil 
while their branches stretch skywards towards the sun 
in order that they may draw from these sources what is 
necessary for the continuance of life. 190 Even inanimate 
matter seems somehow or other to assume that position 
in which it can exist in most accordance with its nature. 191 
In the case of inanimate matter, and trees, and plants, 
this natural tendency, of course, does not imply conscious 
effort. The irrational animal on the other hand strives 
consciously in the struggle for existence. Finally, in the 
human being there is present not only conscious effort, 
but also the rational desire to survive. 192 Man desires 
not merely to survive his present existence, but he 
actually desires to be immortal. 193 This desire has been 
implanted in man by the supremely immutable Creator, 
therefore, it will not be frustrated, and man will con- 
tinue to exist forever. 194 

In view of the fact that there are those who reason by 
analogy from the accepted principles of the conservation 
of matter and of energy to the indestructibility of the 
soul, it is interesting to observe that a trace at least of 
this analogy seems to be found in one of the arguments 
for immortality advanced by Augustine. Annihilation 
means the perfect destruction of a being so that nothing 
of it remains, or to express the same idea in simpler 
terms, it implies that something becomes nothing. 195 
Every loss that a being suffers tends towards its annihila- 
tion, but it does not follow that because a being tends 
towards annihilation that it is ever actually annihilated. 
We know, for instance, that a physical body can be dimin- 
ished and hence tend towards annihilation, but although 
it may be infinitely reduced, that is to say, broken up into 
the smallest conceivable particles, it is not thereby anni- 
hilated. If this be true of the body of man which is a 

190 Ibid. 

191 Ibid. 

192 Ibid. 

193 De Trin. XIII, c. viii. 

194 Ibid. 

195 De Immor. An. c. vii. 


physical something how much truer must it be of his 
soul which has a nature so far superior to the body. 193 
It would be presuming too much, perhaps, to lay any 
particular stress on the possible relation of this argu- 
ment to the line of reasoning followed by some modern 
thinkers. It is offered here merely for what it may be 
worth as an item of historical interest. 

Side by side with the development of the argument 
based on the natural desire for existence, we find another 
drawn from man's natural desire for happiness. Augus- 
tine says that there is no doubt among those who are 
able to reason in any manner whatsoever that all men 
wish to be happy, omnium certa sententia est, qui ra- 
tione quoquo modo uti possunt, beatos esse omnes homines 
uelle. 1 Each man recognizes in himself this longing for 
happiness. He knows, furthermore, that this desire is 
not proper to himself as an individual, but that it is 
shared also by every other human being. 198 While all 
men are aware of this desire to be happy, all are not 
agreed as to how it is to be fulfilled. This is evident 
from the fact that some men seek happiness in those 
things which pertain to the appetites of the flesh ; others 
search for it in the pleasures of the mind; while some 
few look for it in both of these. 199 For his part Augus- 
tine agrees with the Platonists that this desire for happi- 
ness can be fully realized only in the possession of the 
Supreme Good. 200 The Supreme Good, however, is God, 
and He is unattainable in this mortal state, therefore, if 
man is to be happy he must survive his present existence. 
This survival, moreover, must be permanent for if it 
were not man would not be happy, since he would always 
live in fear of losing that which he possessed and en- 
joyed. 201 It follows from this that since man desires to 
be happy, he desires also to be immortal for happiness 

196 Ibid, c. vii-viii. 

197 De Civ. Dei X, c. i. 

198 De Trin. XIII, c. iii. 

199 Ibid. c. iv. 

200 De Civ. Dei, X, c. i. 

201 Ibid. 


cannot be without immortality, cum ergo beati esse 
omnes homines velint, si vere volunt, profecto et esse 
immortales volunt; aliter enim beati esse non possent. 202 
This two-fold desire for happiness and immortality has 
been implanted in the nature of man by the Creator, 
therefore, it will not be frustrated. 203 

Augustine maintained that there are very few men 
who have the ability and the necessary leisure and learn- 
ing to discover the immortality of the soul by the unaided 
light of human reason. 204 Philosophers who have at- 
tempted to solve this problem by reason alone may have 
succeeded in establishing the fact of survival, but they 
have failed to grasp the idea of permanence of personal 
identity. 205 Plato, for example, taught that the soul sur- 
vives the death of the body, but it is most certain that 
he held also that the souls of men return in the bodies of 
beasts. 206 This same opinion was cherished by Plotinus, 
the ablest interpreter of Plato. 207 Porphyry, however, 
the pupil of Plotinus, rejected this view and substituted 
for it the theory that human souls return, not indeed in 
the bodies of beasts, but in human bodies. 208 Augustine 
praises Porphyry not only for improving upon the theory 
of his Master but also for teaching that the soul after 
passing through a certain cycle of reincarnations, finally 
enjoys immortal happiness in the possession of God. 209 
Although the theory of Porphyry is more reasonable than 
that of the other Platonists, it is by no means satisfac- 
tory since it provides only for the immortality of the soul 
and not for the immortality of the whole man. 210 From 
these considerations it is clear that even the best equipped 
intellects, if left to themselves, are unable to solve the 

202 De Trin. XIII, c. viii. 

203 Ibid. 

204 De Trin. XIII, c. ix. 

205 Ibid. 

206 Nam Platonem animas hominum post mortem reuolui usque ad 
corpora bestiarum scripsisse certissimum est. De Civ. Dei X, c. xxx. 

207 Ibid. 

208 Ibid. 

209 Ibid. 

210 De Trin. XIII, c. ix. 


problem of immortality. 211 This whole question of im- 
mortality rests ultimately on faith, "it is faith that 
promises not by human argumentation, but by divine 
authority that the whole man, who, indeed, consists of 
soul and body will be immortal and therefore truly 
blessed." 212 One reason why the Son of God became 
man was that He might build up this hope of immor- 
tality in the hearts of men. He assumed our mortality 
in order that we might one day partake of that immor- 
tality which He alone can give. 213 

Augustine's doctrine of immortality has some real 
merit. This fact is sometimes overlooked by those who 
summarily dismiss this portion of his philosophy of the 
soul with a passing mention of the Platonic proofs stated 
in De Immortalitate Animae. 21 * Others writers there are 
who seem to be of the opinion that there is nothing worth 
while in Augustine's doctrine of immortality, for they 
pass it by without even so much as a mention. 215 There 
is a tendency in other quarters to lay particular stress on 
the Platonic proofs of his earlier years while the argu- 
ments set forth in De Trinitate and De Civitate Dei are 
given but scant attention. Nourrisson, for instance, in 
his Critique of Augustine's philosophy points out in a 
single sentence that our author saw a strong presumption 
for immortality in man's natural desire for being, while 
he devotes some pages to the discussion of the proofs 
found in De Immortalitate Animae 

Any one who essays to present the doctrine of immor- 
tality as it is developed in the writings of Augustine can- 
not afford to disregard those proofs to which he devoted 

211 Ibid. 

212 Fides autem ista totum hominem immortalem futurum, qui 
utique constat ex anima et corpore ; et ob hoc vere beatum. non argu- 
mentatione humana, sed divina auctoritate promittit. De Trin. XIII, 
c. ix. 

213 Ibid. 

214 Turner, W. History of Philosophy, p. 232, Boston, 1903; 
Stoeckl, A. Geschichte der Christlichen Philosophic zur Zeit der 
Kirchenvater. p. 303, 304 Mayence, 1891. Ueberweg-Heinze II, p. 

215 Cath. Ency. II, art: Augustine, p. 84; Immortality, VII, p. 687. 

216 Op. cit. II, p. 316-317. 


special attention during the best years of his career. He 
cannot fairly state this doctrine until he has investigated 
at least the principal arguments which are advanced in 
the two great dissertations, De Trinitate and De Civitate 
Dei. The argument based on man's natural craving for 
immortality as presented by Saint Augustine is deserving 
of some serious consideration. This argument in one 
form or another has always made a strong and sometimes 
a convincing appeal to thoughtful men. 217 It was prob- 
ably through Augustine that this argument found its way 
into scholastic philosophy where in the hands of Saint 
Thomas it was developed into a strong rational support 
of the Christian doctrine of Immortality. 

217 Catholic University Bulletin, April, 1900: The Argument of 
Saint Thomas for Immortality, E. A. Pace. 



The problem of the origin of the human soul as it is 
found in the writings of Saint Augustine presents a two- 
fold aspect. There is first of all the fundamental ques- 
tion regarding origin itself. He believes that the human 
soul comes from God by way of creation. (Propriam 
quamdam habitationem animae ac patriam Deum ipsum 
credo esse a quo creata est.) 218 Then there is the ques- 
tion of the time and manner of creation, which involves 
two distinct problems how and when did the first human 
soul originate? How can the origin of subsequent souls 
be explained ? 

Augustine teaches very clearly that neither the soul of 
the first man nor the souls of his descendants have been 
created by God in the sense that they have been engen- 
dered from His own substance ; the human soul is not to 
be considered as emanating from the Creator so that in 
its essence it is divine. 219 The Emanation Theory had 
been advanced and supported by the Neo-Platonists, 
Gnostics, Stoics, Manicheans, and Priscillianists of 
Spain. 220 Augustine admits that he subscribed to this 
pantheistic theory during his Manichean days, because, 
as he frankly acknowledges, he was incapable at the time 
of differentiating between the Divine Substance and tnat 
of the soul. 221 When he had arrived at last at a clearer 
understanding of the nature of the Supreme Being, he 
understood that it was impossible for a mutable substance 
like the human soul to be identical with the absolutely 
unchangeable substance of God. 222 In connection with 
this theory, it must be noted also that he explicitly 

218 De Quan. An. c. i, 2. 

219 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 3. 4; Epistolae CXL, c. iii, CXLIII, 7, 
CLXVI, c. ii, CXC, c. i; De An. et ejus Origine II, c. iii. 

220 Ep. CLXV, c. i. 

221 Conf. IV, c. xvi, VII, c. i. 

222 Ep. CLXVI, c. ii; De Civ. Dei VIII, c. v; XI, c. xxiii. 


warns us against entertaining the idea that the soul of 
man was begotten from the substance of God as was His 
Divine Son, or that it came by way of procession as did 
the Holy Spirit so that in its nature and substance it is 
identical with the Deity, non de substantia del genitus 
nee de substantia dei procedens, sed factus a deo. 223 

The Evolutionary Theory of soul which came into 
prominence during the latter half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury was not unknown to Augustine. Among the things 
which he holds most firmly regarding the origin of the 
human soul is this, that no body, nor any irrational soul 
can be so transformed as to become a human soul, nee 
corpus nee animam inrationalem nee substantiam, qua 
deus est, conuerti et fieri animam humanam. 224 If the 
human soul is in some manner drawn from the irrational 
soul of a brute, one may reasonably inquire whence comes 
this irrational soul? If the reply is given that it is 
fashioned from corporeal matter, then, it follows log- 
ically, that the human soul is corporeal, a conclusion 
which is contrary not only to known facts but also to the 
explicit teachings of the Catholic Faith. 225 

If God did not form the first human soul from his own 
substance or from any corporeal matter or irrational soul, 
it remains that either He fashioned it from some already 
existing spiritual substance, or that He created it from 
nothing. 226 After a lengthy discussion of different inter- 

223 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 28. Cf. De An. et ejus Origine II, c. iii; 
De Actis cum Felice Manichaeo II, c. xx. 

224 De Gen. ad Litt. X, 4. Cf. Ibid, VI, 15. 

225 Si autem anima inrationalis materies est quodammodo, de qua fit 
anima rationalis, id est humana, rursus quaeritur, etiam ipsa inra- 
tionalis unde fiat, quia et ipsam non facit nisi creator omnium 
naturarum. an ilia de materie corporali? cur non ergo et ista? Nisi 
forte quod uelut gradatim fieri conceditur conpendio posse deum 
facere quisquam negabit. Proinde quaelibet adhibeatur interpositio, si 
corpus est materies animae inrationalis et anima inrationalis est 
materies animae rationalis, procul dubio corpus est materies animae 
rationalis. quod neminem umquam scio ausum esse sentire, nisi qui et 
ipsam animam nonnisi in genere alicuius corporis ponit. Deinde 
cauendum est, ne quaedam translatio animae fieri a pecore in hominem 
posse credatur quod ueritati fideique catholicae omnino contrarium 
est si concesserimus inrationalem animam ueluti materiem subiacere, 
unde rationalis anima fiat. De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 9. 

226 De Gen. ad Litt. X, 4. 


pretations of several passages in the Holy Scriptures 
bearing on this question, Augustine expresses his pref- 
erence for the view that the soul of the first man was 
created ex nihilo. 227 The soul of the first woman also 
was created from nothing. Since the first woman was 
not an offspring of the first man by natural generation 
but was made in a different manner from other human 
beings her soul was not from the first man but was 
created ex nihilo by God. 228 

Concerning the time of origin of the first soul he 
teaches that the soul is not eternal and that it did not 
previously exist in the sense expounded by Plato and 
Origen. The statement of Ueberweg that he maintained 
that "only God and the souls of angels and men are 
eternal" is evidently incorrect. 229 For Augustine ex- 
pressly declares that though he is ignorant of the ages 
that may have passed before the human race was created 
he is certain that nothing created is co-eternal with the 
Creator. 230 The statement in question, moreover, does 
not harmonize with another which is found in the same 
paragraph in which it is declared that Augustine taught 
that the soul had no existence previous to its union with 
the body. This declaration likewise is not entirely accu- 
rate. Although human reason may not be able to com- 
prehend how the soul can be immortal without being at 
the same time eternal, Faith, founded upon Divine Au- 
thority, teaches that the soul is not co-eternal with God 
but has been created by Him. 231 

The doctrine of Preexistence as advocated by Pytha- 
goras, Plato, the Platonists, and Origen, 232 is condemned 

227 Ibid, 6, 7, 8, 9. 

228 Ibid. 10. 

229 Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophic, II, p. 119-120, Ber- 
lin, 1905. 

230 Quae saecula praeterierint antequam genus institueretur 
humanum, me fateor ignorare : non tamen dubito nihil omnino crea- 
turae Creatori esse coaeternum. De Civ. Dei, XII, c. xvii. 

231 Quur ergo non potius diuinitati credimus de his rebus, quas 
humano ingenio peruestigare non possumus, quae animam quoque 
ipsam non Deo coaeternam, sed creatam dicit esse, quae non erat? De 
Civ. Dei, X, c. xxxi. 

232 Ep. CLXV. c. i. Concerning Origen, cf. De Civ. Dei, XI, c. xxiii. 


by the Bishop of Hippo in the name of Reason and in 
conformity with the express anathema of the Church. 233 
This theory which maintained that the soul is united to 
the body in the present life in consequence of faults com- 
mitted in some previous state of existence is opposed 
chiefly on the grounds that it is entirely incompatible 
with the Divine Goodness, for if this were true, Creation 
would be a punishment and not a blessing. 234 

Augustine did not reach any definite conclusion as to 
the time when the first soul was created. There are two 
possibilities in the case: either it was created in the be- 
ginning when "He that liveth forever created all things 
together ;" 235 or it was created on the sixth day at the 
moment of its union with the body. 236 Of these two 
opinions, he holds the former to be credibilius et toler- 
abilius. 2 ^ As to whether the soul, if it were created in 
the beginning entered the body on the sixth day through 
direct Divine intervention or in some spontaneous man- 
ner he was unable to decide. 238 

The feature of this problem which caused the greatest 
mental anxiety to Augustine concerns the origin of the 
souls of the descendants of the first man. This question 
engaged his attention at frequent intervals during his 
career. We discover its beginning in De Libero Arbitrio 
(III, c. xx-xxi), written about 395. He devotes consid- 
erable attention to it in De Genesi ad Litteram (VII, X), 
(401-415), and Epistolae CXLIII (412), CLXIV (414), 
CLXVI (415), CXC vel CLVII (418). He composed four 
books on the subject entitled, De Anima et ejus Origine, 
about 420. The problem was unsolved when he wrote the 
Retractationes (I, c. i) about 427. Finally, in his last 
work Opus imperfectum contra Julianum written some- 
time during 430, he acknowledges his inability to arrive 
at a decision in this matter. 

233 De An. et ejus Origine, III, c. vii. 

234 Ep. CLXVI, c. ix; De Civ. Dei XII, c. xxvi. 

235 Ecclus. XVIII, 1. 

236 De Civ. Dei, XII, c. xxiii. 

237 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 24, X, 2. 

238 De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 25-27. (A complete statement of this en- 
tire problem is to be found in De Gen. ad Litt. VI, VII, 24-28; X.) 


As in the preceding discussion he entertained no doubt 
about the ultimate origin of these souls he believed that 
they are created by God, 239 but he hesitated to embrace 
any definite opinion concerning their proximate origin. 
Four theories present themselves to his mind as possible 
solutions of this question: (1) each soul may be produced 
by a special creative act of God at the time of its union 
with the body; (2) all souls being created apart from J 
their bodies are either infused into them by God, (3) or 
enter them by some inherent, natural force; (4) each 
soul may be derived from the first soul through the gen- 
erative act of the parents. 240 These four theories are 
reducible to two which are generally designated Creation- 
ism and Traducianism. The ablest advocate of Creation- 
ism in the time of Augustine was the eminent biblical 
scholar, St. Jerome. He supported the view that every 
soul that comes into being is produced by a special crea- 
tive act of God. Augustine wrote a letter about the year 
415 in which he gives a complete statement of the Crea- 
tionist theory as he understood it. (Ep. CLXVI.) This 
letter was forwarded to Jerome, who at the time resided 
near Bethlehem, but he never answered it. Upon the 
death of the latter, Augustine published the letter as an 
apology for his hesitancy in pronouncing in favor of 
any one of the four theories. As regards the opinion held 
by Jerome, he writes that he is willing to adopt it if he 
can be convinced that it is true and in perfect harmony 
with all the teachings of the Church. 241 There are some 
objections proposed by others against this view in which 
he sees no difficulty, but he has his own objections which 
he is unable to solve. 242 The one unanswerable and out- 
standing difficulty in this manner of accounting for the 
origin of the souls of the descendants of the first man, 
according to his way of thinking, is this, how is this 
theory of special creation reconcilable with the doctrine 

239 De Gen. ad; Litt. X, 3. 

240 De Lib. Arb. Ill, c. xxi, 59; De Gen. ad Litt. X; Epistolae 
CXLIII, CLXVI, c. iii; De An. et ejus Origine, I IV. 

241 Ep. CLXVI, c. viii. 

242 Ibid. c. v. 


of the Church on original sin; how does it explain the 
transmission of original sin and at the same time save 
the goodness and justice of God? 243 If the soul of an 
infant is created at the time of its union with the body, 
how does he inherit Adam's sin so that he requires the 
redemption of Christ? 244 In the event that one replies 
that the sin is contracted by the mere fact that the soul 
is united to bodily members which are derived from an- 
other, how is it compatible with Divine Justice that the 
infant be condemned to eternal punishment in case he 
should die without baptism, since it does not lie within 
his power to procure this Sacrament by his own ef- 
forts ? 245 If this opinion is the correct one, how are we 
to account for the penal sufferings of this life which 
children undergo without any evil of their own as the 
cause? 246 Finally, if one accepts this theory how does 
he explain the great diversity of talents in different souls, 
and how does he explain the unfortunate condition of 
those who come into the world absolutely devoid of 
reason? 247 Augustine had hoped that Jerome would be 
able to answer these objections in a satisfactory manner, 
but since his communication remained unanswered, he 
always hesitated to adopt the Special Creation theory. 
He found himself face to face with the same difficulties 
when he examined the other two Creationist explanations, 
namely, that souls already existing elsewhere are infused 
into bodies by God, or find their way to union with bodies 
through some natural process. 248 If one is inclined to 
favor either one of the latter two opinions he must guard 
against preexistence as understood by the Platonists. 249 
The remaining plausible explanation is Traducianism. 
In general Traducianism maintains that the soul of man 
is transmitted to the offspring in the generative act of 
the parents. When this term is employed in a specific 

243 Ep. CLXVI, c. iii-iv. 

244 Ibid. 

245 Ibid. 

246 Ibid, c. vi. 

247 Ibid. vi. 

248 Ep. CLXVI, c. ix ; Ep. CXLHI, 9 ; De Gen. ad Litt. VII, 24-26. 

249 Ep. CLXVI, c. ix; Ep. CLXIV, c. vii. 


! '' ' ; 

sense it implies that the soul is propagated by means of 
a material germ. This is sometimes referred to as Cor- 
poreal or Materialistic Traducianism. This theory which 
was defended by Tertullian was absolutely condemned by 
our author as militating against the incorporeal nature 
of the human soul, admoneo sane, quantum ualleam, si 
quos ista praeoccupauit opinio, ut animas credant ex 
parentibus propagari, quantum possunt se ipsos con- 
siderent et interim sapiant corpora non esse animas 
suas. 250 The other aspect of Traducianism which holds 
that subsequent souls descend from the soul of the first 
man through the parents, is frequently designated Gen- 
erationism. 251 While Augustine's whole attitude towards 
the problem of the origin of the soul of the descendants 
of the first man was one of doubt and hesitancy, he seems 
to have been inclined to favor the theory of Generation- 
ism. The principal reasons he assigns for viewing this 
opinion with greater favor than the rest are these: it 
explains the transmission of original sin, (Si una anima 
facta est, ex qua omnium hominum animae trahuntur 
nascentium, quis potest dicere non se pecasse, cum primus 
ille peccabit?) ; 252 it safeguards the goodness and the 
justice of God by furnishing an adequate cause for the 
penal sufferings of infants both here and hereafter ; 253 
finally, this explanation seems to be more consonant with 
the teachings of the orthodox faith than the others. 254 
In giving his preference to Generationism Augustine does 
not overlook the fact that this theory presents a special 
difficulty insofar as the soul of Jesus Christ is concerned. 
If one adopts this theory he must hold either that the 
soul of Christ, by way of exception, was not derived in 
the same manner as are the souls of other human beings, 
but came into existence through an act of special crea- 
tion ; or if it was derived in the same way as the souls of 

250 De Gen. ad Litt. X, 24. 

251 Cf . Cath. Ency. vol. XV, p. 14, art : Traducianism, C. A. Dubray. 

252 De Lib. Arb. Ill, c. xx. 

253 Ep. CLXVI, c. iv, vi. 

254 Ep. CXC, c. i, vi ; Ep. CCII, bis, c. vi. 


other men, one must believe that when He assumed it, 
He so purified it that He came into the world sinless. 255 
The question concerning the origin of the souls of the 
descendants of the first man, as was remarked at the 
outset of this discussion, caused Augustine considerable 
trouble and anxiety over a long period of years, and 
although he pursued his investigations with an admirable 
and praiseworthy tenacity of purpose, he was never able 
to decide definitely in favor of any one theory to the ex- 
clusion of the rest. Whenever he refers to this problem 
he is always careful to to warn his readers of his own 
hesitancy in adopting any particular theory. A single 
reference taken from Epistola CXC which was written 
about the year 418 covers this point in all the works pub- 
lished previous to that time : De qua re antequam aliquid 
admoneam sinceritatem tuam, scire te uolo in tarn multis 
opusculis meis numquam me fuisse ausum de hac quaes- 
tione definitam proferre sententiam et inpudenter referre 
in litteras ad olios informandos, quod apud me non fuerit 
explicatum. (2) When his indecision was made the ob- 
ject of attack by those who tried to force him to commit 
himself to a definite view, he calmly informed them that 
if they could produce unquestionable evidence in support 
of any one of these theories from the Canonical Books of 
Scripture, or if they could adduce valid arguments 
founded upon evidently true premises, he was ready and 
even anxious to embrace an opinion so well established. 
If on the contrary, no such evidence or argumentation 
can be produced, he feels perfectly justified in maintain- 
ing a non-committal attitude of mind. 256 Although he 
sought untiringly in his own splendid intellect and in 
both past and contemporary philosophy and theology for 
some solution of this problem which would harmonize 
with the orthodox doctrine of original sin, he was forced 
to acknowledge in the end of his days that so far as he 
is concerned the origin of the soul of the descendants of 

255 Ep. CLXIV, c. vii. 

256 Ep. CXLIII, 11. 


the first man is a profound mystery. 257 One cannot re- 
frain from expressing his admiration at the high quality 
of a mind that could frankly confess that he did not know 
how to solve this difficulty, and furthermore was not 
ashamed to admit that he did not know. 258 This honest 
and open recognition of his intellectual limitations tends 
only to bring out in clearer perspective the rare quality 
of Augustine's genius. The great care and sustained 
effort devoted to this problem, combined with that critical 
attitude of mind so indispensable in the searcher after 
truth, manifest to us how deservedly Augustine merits 
the title of "Philosopher," and lends an added sanction 
to the unanimous verdict of the ages which ranks him 
among the few really great thinkers of all times. 

Saint Augustine fixed the Christian concept of the 
human soul and contributed largely to its development. 
He collected and condensed the principal ideas and argu- 
ments which he found in Pagan philosophy, and inter- 
preted and developed these in the light of the teachings 
of Christianity. Profound philosopher and able psychol- 
ogist though he was, his primary interest in problems 
touching the human soul was neither philosophical nor 
psychological, but rather theological in character. Jesus 
Christ had directed attention to the mutual relations that 
exist between God and man, and it was ever with these 
relations uppermost in his mind that Saint Augustine 
studied the human soul. 

His most noteworthy contribution to the Christian 
philosophy of the human soul was his development of the 
proofs for spirituality. He was probably the first Chris- 
tian thinker to understand clearly the distinction be- 
tween matter and spirit, body and substance. He stands 

257 Opus Imperfectum contra Julianum II, c. LXVIII. 

258 Quapropter dico etiam ego de anima mea : nescio, quomodo 
uenerit in corpus meum neque enim ego illam mihi donaui ; scit ille 
qui donauit, utrum illam de patre meo traxerit an sicut homini primo 
nouam crauerit. sciam etiam ego, si ipse docuerit, quandocumque 
uoluerit ; nunc autem nescio nee me pudet ut istum fateri nescire quod 
nescio. De An. et ejus Origine, I, xv, 25. 


out conspicuously among the philosophers of his time as 
the fearless and uncompromising champion of the doc- 
trine that the soul of man is not a body but a simple, 
spiritual substance. The arguments which he advanced 
to maintain his position constitute a permanent bulwark 
of defense against the ever-recurring attacks of mate- 
rialism. His appeal to the authority of consciousness in 
the elaboration of this doctrine, and his insistence on 
the scientific value of the data obtainable by introspection, 
has merited for him an estimable place among those who 
have aided in the advance of psychological method. The 
philosophical doctrine of spirituality outlined by the 
Bishop of Hippo is the equal of any which has been at- 
tempted since his day, and, perhaps, it is not an exag- 
geration to say, that so far as this aspect of Christian 
philosophy is concerned he was the richest contributor 
in the long history of Christian thought. 

As regards the doctrine of immortality, he was evi- 
dently under the influence of Plato when he proposed the 
so-called metaphysical proofs of the soul's immortality at 
the beginning of his Christian career. His development 
of the argument based on the universal desire for being 
and immortality however, was his own, and as a distinct 
contribution to this doctrine must not be overlooked. 

His protracted investigation of the question concerning 
the origin of the human soul resulted in his arriving at 
a clearer and better understanding of the soul's nature. 
While he never pronounced in favor of any one particular 
theory of origin to the exclusion of the rest, he seems 
to have been inclined to favor Generationism as the theory 
best adapted to his defense of the orthodox doctrine of 
original sin against the Pelagians. As is well known, 
this theory has long since been supplanted in Christian 
philosophical and theological circles by the Special Crea- 
tion theory as advocated by Saint Jerome in Augustine's 
day and many centuries later by Saint Thomas Aquinas. 

A knowledge of the Concept of the human soul as 
developed by Saint Augustine is indispensable to the 
proper understanding of the whole trend of psychological 


thought from his day down to and including the thirteenth 
century. Every Christian thinker worthy of note who 
appeared during this period was more or less under the 
influence of the great Patristic philosopher. Albertus 
Magnus and Saint Thomas Aquinas, who graced the 
Golden Age of Scholasticism, were undoubtedly more 
directly and powerfully dominated by the philosophy of 
Aristotle, but they were also influenced in no inconsid- 
erable degree by Saint Augustine. The Angelic Doctor 
not only appeals frequently to the authority of the 
African Bishop, but also repeats many of the arguments 
which had been formulated by him. In the hands of this 
Master Scholastic of the thirteenth century the Christian 
concept of the human soul was perfected and woven into 
that "perennial philosophy" which has been the rich 
heritage of subsequent centuries. 


**' -'. 


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Ad Orosium contra Priscillianistas et Origenistas. 

84 VITA 


William Patrick O'Connor was born in Milwaukee, 
Wisconsin, on October 18, 1886. His elementary training 
was received in St. John's Cathedral School of his native 
city. He studied the Classics, Philosophy, and Theology 
at St. Francis Seminary near Milwaukee. He was or- 
dained to the priesthood on March 11, 1912, and assigned 
as Assistant to the Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, 
Milwaukee. In the year 1915, he attended Marquette 
University, Milwaukee, where he studied Rational Psy- 
chology under the direction of Dr. G. Deglmann, S. J. 
He received the A. B. degree in June, 1916. The follow- 
ing September he entered the Catholic University of 
America where he followed courses in Metaphysics and 
History of Philosophy under Dr. W. Turner, General, 
Experimental and Abnormal Psychology under Dr. T. V. 
Moore, C. S. P., and Biology (Animal and Plant), under 
Dr. J. Parker. On June 29, 1917, he was commissioned 
First Lieutenant in the Wisconsin National Guard, and 
on August 3 of the same year he was assigned as Chap- 
lain to the First Regiment, Wisconsin Cavalry. When 
this organization became the 120th Field Artillery of the 
57th Brigade, Thirty-second Division, he was reassigned 
as Chaplain. He served with this organization in Amer- 
ica, England, and France, participating in four major 
operations of the French and American Armies. On 
November 19, 1918, he was advanced to the position of 
Senior Chaplain, Thirty-second Division, A. E. F., with 
the Army of Occupation in Germany. In March, 1919, 
he was promoted to the rank of Captain, Chaplain Corps, 
A. E. F. On the mustering out of the Thirty-second 
Division, he resigned his commission and returned to 
Milwaukee, where he spent the following three months 
as Assistant to the Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church. 
In September of the same year he reentered the Catholic 
University of America, following courses in Philosophy 
of Mind, Social Psychology, Philosophy -of Evolution, 

VITA 85 

and Genetic Psychology under Dr. E. A. Pace, and 
Philosophy of Saint Thomas under Dr. H. I. Smith, 0. P. 
He is particularly indebted to Dr. E. A. Pace and Dr. 
J. Fox for valuable assistance rendered in the prepara- 
tion and execution of this dissertation. 


o c 




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