Appeared in Summer 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 2
Augustine’s renowned account of time in Book 11 of the Confessions has often been viewed as an attempt to contrast man’s temporal nature with the eternal nature of God. One influential Augustine scholar has gone so far as to write that “[w]hatever he may hold in principle, Augustine does not behave very Platonically in practice in Confessions 11. His method is, rather, empirical: he considers time as a fact of everyday experience.” While it is true that Augustine deals with some empirical problems concerning time, it is certainly wrong to say that he employs an ‘empirical method’ and that his approach is not Platonic. In what follows I will argue that far from emphasizing a contrast between human temporality and divine eternity, Augustine, in fact, is attempting to develop an analogy between the two so as to explain the relationship between time and eternity. In order fully to understand what I mean by this, it is first necessary to examine the metaphysics of time in terms of the problems of motion and change with regard to the claim that it is only the present that exists. This will enable us to deal with the issues surrounding the reduction of time to the mind and the notion of the distension of the mind. We shall then be in a position to illustrate the analogy between the human experience of time and divine eternity in terms of the mystical ascent from man’s temporal state to the timeless eternity of God.
To continue reading, download the PDF here.