Augustine, Letters

LCL 239: 6-7

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cupis, indicemus tibi, quid in sensibilis atque intellegibilis naturae discernentia profecerimus. Sed non arbitror occultum tibi esse, si falsis opinionibus tanto quisque inseritur magis, quanto magis in eis familiariusque volutatur, multo id facilius in rebus veris animo accidere. Ita tamen paulatim ut per aetatem proficimus. Quippe cum plurimum inter puerum et iuvenem distet, nemo a pueritia cotidie interrogatus se aliquando iuvenem dicet.

2Quod nolo in eam partem accipias, ut nos in his rebus quasi ad quandam mentis iuventutem firmioris intellegentiae robore pervenisse existimes. Pueri enim sumus, sed, ut dici adsolet, forsitan belli; et non male. Nam plerumque perturbatos et sensibilium plagarum curis refertos illa tibi notissima ratiuncula in respirationem levat, mentem atque intellegentiam oculis et hoc vulgari aspectu esse meliorem. Quod ita non esset, nisi magis essent illa, quae intellegimus, quam ista, quae cernimus. Cui ratiocinationi utrum nihil valide inimicum sit, peto mecum consideres. Hac ego interim recreatus, cum deo in auxilium deprecato et in ipsum et in ea, quae verissime vera sunt, adtolli coepero, tanta non num-quam rerum manentium praesumptione compleor, ut mirer interdum illa mihi opus esse ratiocinatione, ut haec esse credam quae tanta insunt praesentia, quanta sibi quisque ipse fit praesens. Recole tu

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I do, that I had,a in discriminating between nature as perceived by the senses and as known to the intellect. I think, however, you are not unaware that, if one becomes more thoroughly enmeshed in false opinions the more deeply and familiarly one wallows in them, the same happens much more readily to the mind in things that are real. My progress is gradual, like the advance of age. There is a very great difference between a boy and a mature man, yet no one, if asked each day from boyhood on, will at any given time declare that he has reached maturity.

I don’t want you to take this to mean you are2 to assume that, through the vigour of a more robust understanding, I have attained in such matters a kind of mental maturity. I am still mentally a boy; let us hope a fine, strapping one, as the phrase goes, but I am not badly off either.b For generally, when I am unsettled and oppressed with the anxieties arising from the impingement of sensations, I am raised to a fresher atmosphere by this brief reasoning, which you know so well: “The mind and understanding are superior to the eyes and the common faculty of sight. That would not be so, unless the things we conceive were more real than those we perceive.” Please examine with me whether there be anything that strongly conflicts with this line of reasoning. For the present I find it stimulating; yet, when I have asked God’s help and have begun to rise towards Him and towards those things that are most really real, I am sometimes filled with such a foretaste of the things that abide, that I-occasionally wonder at my needing the help of this reasoning to believe in the existence of those things that are as real within me as any man can be to himself.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.augustine-letters.1930