In Augustine we have also the man to whom all the Reformers referred in their fight with the Roman church. We have in him the man who influenced deeply the modern philosophical movement insofar as it was Platonistic – i. e., Descartes and his whole school, and including Spinoza. He influenced deeply our modern discussion, and I would say, almost unambiguously, that I myself, and everything you get theologically from me, is much more in the line of the Augustinian than in the Thomistic tradition.
So we have a line of thought from Augustine over the Franciscans in the Middle Ages, over the Reformers, over the philosophers of the 17th and early 18th centuries, over the German classical philosophers including Hegel, to the present-day philosophy of religion, insofar as it is not empirical philosophy of religion – which I think is a contradiction in terms – but a philosophy of religion which is based on the immediacy of the truth in every human being.
Now this is the greatness of Augustine, and this we have to understand. Now I am sorry that we are so late now, because that lecture has to be given as one. But I must start and will dwell on one special problem and will continue next Tuesday.
In order to understand Augustine, we must look at his development, his development in seven different steps, and then an eighth step which is negative, with respect to content.
1) The first of these seven steps, which may help us to understand the immense influence of this greatest of all Church Fathers, is his dependence on the piety of his mother. This means, at that time, something extremely important. It means that he is dependent on the Christian tradition. This reminds us of Plato’s situation.
When Plato wrote, he also wrote out of a tradition – the aristocratic tradition of the Athenian gentry, to which he belonged. But this tradition had come to an end in the self-destructive Pelopponesian war, the masses had taken over, and then the tyrants came – as always, following the masses. The aristocracy was killed, as a principle and partly also as human beings. So what Plato saw in his mind was an ideal form of political and philosophical existence, both identical with each other, but a vision which had no reality any more. Therefore I warn you about a mistake! – The name of Plato overshadows everything else in Greek thinking, even Aristotle.