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Augustine on Memory and Mind

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University of Toronto St. George
Dominic Martin

PHL 205 – LECTURE 7 - Augustine on Memory and Mind - Past at this point, his mother died (book 9) - He‟s converted - Book 10,11 discuss about the human soul - “without souls there wouldn‟t be anytime” o Augustine thinks the time is an extension of the soul. What‟s in the mind? - Is everything in our mind in there from the beginning? - Is everything in our mind coming from the outside? What‟s his take? - You can only search for what you already know o Looking for God is like an old lady searching for the coin  The old lady knows the image of the coin o If we know God, why are we searching for him in the first place? - How can we talk about God if we don‟t have a knowledge behind him o I can talk about the tree because I have an image about it Memory, a “Storehouse” (Conf. 10.8.12) But what does memory store? “See the broad planes and caves and caverns of my memory. The varieties there cannot be counted, and are, beyond any reckoning, full of innumerable things. Some are there through images, as in the case of physical objects, some by immediate presence like intellectual skills, some by indefinable notions or recorded impressions, as in the case of the mind‟s emotions, which the memory retains even when the mind is not experiencing them” (Conf. 10.17.26). - Three things in the memory o Image of the physical objects o Intellectual skills o Minds emotion - How does memory get to these things? Images of Sensible/Physical Objects “Memory preserves in distinct particulars and general categories all the perceptions which have penetrated, each by its own route of entry. Thus light and all colors and bodily shapes enter by the eyes; by the ears all kinds of sounds; all odors by the entrance of the nostrils; all tastes by the door of the mouth. The power of sensation in the entire body distinguishes what is hard or soft, hot or cold, smooth or rough, heavy or light, whether external or internal to the body. Memory‟s huge cavern … receives all these perceptions, to be recalled when needed and reconsidered. … The objects themselves do not enter, but the images of he perceived objects are available to the thought …” (Conf. 10.8.13). - The memory forms a representation of the things collected by our senses, giving us an image of the things in our mind o It comes from the census o When we encounter that specific thing, our memory recollects the image of that memory  Through that, we are able to distinguish what that thing is “I say these words to myself and, as I speak, there are present images of everything I am speaking of, drawn out of the same treasure-house of memory. I would never say anything like that if these images were not present” (Conf. 10.8.14). Intelligible Objects “Here also are all the skills acquired through the liberal arts which have not been forgotten. They are pushed into the background in some interior place – which is not a place. In their case I carry not the images but the very skills themselves. For what literature is, what the art of dialectic debate is, how m any kind of questions there are – all that I know about these matters lies in my memory in this distinctive way. It is not that I retain the images and leave the objects outside me” (Conf. 10.9.16). - These things are the things we don‟t learn through census o Apparently there are certain things that we are endowed with “The images signified by those sounds I have not touched by sense perception, nor have I seen them independently of my mind. I hid in my memory not their images but the realities. How they came to me let them explain if they can. I run through all the entrance doors of my body but do not find one by which they have entered in. … The answer must be that they were already in the memory, but so remote and pushed into the background, as if in most secret caverns” (Conf. 10.10.18). - Things we can‟t get through census is in our mind o Liberal arts (logic, rhetoric, grammar, math, geometry). Objects of logic, arithmetic, we don‟t get from census  An image of a number is not really a number, it‟s a representation of it  Triangle – it‟s not through teaching that we are though what a triangle is, our image of what a triangle is, is innate. - Idealist thinks that the mind is a blank slate, while rationalist think that everything in our memory is in there o Augustine thinks that some things comes from the census (Sensible/Physical Objects) some don‟t (Intelligible Objects)  We don‟t learn logic, numbers, we have them in our mind - After the plot, he talks about the memory o What‟s in the mind?  How can I search for God, if I don‟
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