What is Truth? Ask St. Augustine!

An overview of St. Augustine's Conception of Truth

Augustine and Thomas Aquinas had different, but not conflicting, conceptions of Truth. Both of these great saints wrote extensively about it directly, and peripherally to their broader philosophies. Augustine’s conception of Truth is closest to my own and had the most influence on me and on my thinking. Let me offer this overview of it, followed in a later post by an overview of St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy.

St. Augustine is one of the most influential thinkers in the history of Christianity and Western philosophy. He had a profound and nuanced understanding of Truth and his views were deeply rooted in his faith, believing that Truth was not just an abstract concept, but a living, divine entity.

Augustine’s journey towards understanding Truth was a personal and spiritual one. Born in 354 AD in Roman North Africa, he spent his early years seeking truth in various philosophical schools, and in some pagan religions, before converting to Christianity at the age of 32. This whole journey greatly influenced his views on Truth.

Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.
St. Augustine

For Augustine, Truth was God. He believed that God is the ultimate Truth, the source of all truth. In his seminal work, “Confessions,” he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This statement encapsulates his belief that human beings are inherently drawn towards Truth, i.e., God, and will not find peace until they find Him.

Augustine also believed that Truth is immutable and eternal, just like God. He argued that while our perceptions and understanding of the world may change, Truth remains constant. This view is evident in his critique of skepticism, where he argued that even the skeptics’ doubt confirms the existence of Truth.

Moreover, Augustine viewed Truth as something that illuminates and provides clarity. He often used the metaphor of light to describe Truth. Just as physical light allows us to see the world around us, spiritual Truth allows us to understand the divine and moral realities.

However, Augustine also acknowledged that human understanding of Truth is limited and imperfect because of our finite nature. He believed that we could only fully comprehend Truth in the afterlife when we are united with God.

In conclusion, St. Augustine’s view of Truth is deeply intertwined with his Christian faith. He saw Truth as God, immutable, eternal, illuminating, and ultimately, beyond complete human comprehension. His thoughts have had a profound influence on Christian theology and Western philosophy, and they continue to be relevant in contemporary discussions about Truth.

I hope this blog post provides a comprehensive overview of St. Augustine’s views on Truth. His philosophical and theological insights continue to inspire and challenge us to this day.

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