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Augustine on some philosophically puzzling aspects of early childhood

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Dominic Martin

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Phl205 lecture 3 Augustine on some philosophically puzzling aspects of early childhood - 2 important things o Cradle argument o Language learning - There are two ways to read the text o Literal (the meaning is accordingly to what it says) o Spiritual(there’s more meaning than what it just say) AUGUSTINE’S ‘CRADLE ARGUMENT’ Cicero, De finibus 5.55 (transl. Rackham) ‘This is a fact that may be readily detected in children of the tenderest age, if I may risk being thought to lay undue stress on a field of observation sanctioned by the older thinkers, all of whom, and my own school more than others, go to the nursery, because they believe that Nature reveals her plan to them most clearly in childhood. Even infants, we notice, are incapable of keeping still. Children of somewhat more advanced age delight in games involving considerable exertion … And this passion for activity grows as they grow older.’ - Common - Makes certain claims about human nature o One way is to look at humans who have not been influenced by education, culture, society etc. o It’s natural for humans to seek pleasure in movement(epicureans and stoics) o Children enjoy delights in pleasure of movement Arguments in human nature derived from child behavior Confessions 1.7.11 ‘What sin did I then have? Was it wrong that in tears I greedily opened my mouth wide to suck the breasts? If I were to do that now, gasping to eat food appropriate to my present age, I would be laughed at and very properly rebuked. At the time of my infancy I must have acted reprehensively; but since I could not understand the person who admonished me, neither custom nor reason allowed me to be reprehended. As we grow up, we eliminate and set aside such ways. But I have never seen anyone Knowingly setting aside what is good when purging something of faults.’ - It is part of human nature to sin(an oblique conclusion) - Augustine thinks human nature are sinful o First step is that even babies, when sucking at breast can commit sin o He admits that even children can sin  Babies wouldn't understand, but doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do bad o We set aside our infant behavior o Human nature is sinful, even an infant would commit a sin Augustine’s ‘Cradle Argument’ Even small children commit sins! (Human nature is not innocent.) Proof: Behavior of infants Objection: This is ridiculous! The behavior of infants is not sinful! Look, we do not rebuke or reprehend infants for their behavior. Response: That we do not rebuke or reprehend infants does not mean that we do not consider their behavior as bad (in a strict sense). We don’t do so, because infants have cognitive limitations that make rebuke and reprimanding pointless. An indication that we in fact consider certain behavior of infants as bad is that we are setting it aside later in life. - Infants cant sin because they don't have free will (it’s pointless because they cant understand) o Augustine’s response would be that we are setting aside what is bad in life, but it’s still bad Child having improper emotions (i.e. jealousy) Confessions 1.7.11 ‘I have personally watched and studied a jealous baby. He could not yet speak and, pale with jealousy and bitterness, glared at his brother sharing his mother’s milk. … But it can hardly be innocence, when the source of milk is flowing richly and abundantly, not to endure a share going to one’s blood brother, who is in profound need, dependent for life exclusively on that one food. But people smilingly tolerate this behavior, not because it is only a trivial matter, but because with coming of age it will pass away. You can prove this to be the case from the fact that the same behavior cannot be borne without toleration when encountered in someone of more mature years.’ - People will tolerate behavior because it’s not evil, but with coming of age it will pass away and those infants wouldn’t understand anyways. - Augustine has a pessimistic view of human nature - HOW TO LEARN A LANGUAGE? One of the most (in) famous passages in the Confessions (1.8.13) that object received from them this so
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