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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 10

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 10 [VI.]—Children May Be Found of Like or of Unlike Dispositions with Their Parents.

Then, again, how ineptly he labours to free the soul, which he supposes to be corporeal, from the passions of the body, raising questions about the soul’s infancy; about the soul’s emotions, when paralysed and oppressed; about the amputation of bodily limbs, without cutting or dividing the soul. But in dealing with such points as these, my duty is to treat rather with him than with you; it is for him to labour to assign a reason for all he says. In this way we shall not seem to wish to be too importunate with an elderly man’s gravity on the subject of a young man’s work. As to the similarity of disposition to the parents which is discovered in their children, he does not dispute its coming from the soul’s seed. Accordingly, this is the opinion also of those persons who do away with the soul’s propagation; but the opposite party who entertain this theory do not place on this the weight of their assertion. For they observe also that children are unlike their parents in disposition; and the reason of this, as they suppose, is, that one and the same person very often has various dispositions himself, unlike each other,—not, of course, that he has received another soul, but that his life has undergone a change for the better or for the worse. So they say that there is no impossibility in a soul’s not possessing the same disposition which he had by whom it was propagated, seeing that the selfsame soul may have different dispositions at different times. If, therefore, you think that you have learnt this of him, that the soul does not come to us by natural transmission at birth,—I only wish that you had discovered from him the truth of the case,—I would with the greatest pleasure resign myself to your hands to learn the whole truth. But really to learn is one thing, and to seem to yourself to have learned is another thing. If, then, you suppose that you have learned what you still are ignorant of, you have evidently not learnt, but given a random credence to a pleasant hearsay. Falsity has stolen over you in the suavity. 2408 Now I do not say this from feeling as yet any certainty as to the proposition being false, which asserts that souls are created afresh by God’s inbreathing rather than derived from the parents at birth; for I think that this is a point which still requires proof from those who find themselves able to teach it. No; my reason for saying it is, that this person has discussed the whole subject in such a way as not only not to solve the point still in dispute, but even to indulge in statements which leave no doubt as to their falsity. In his desire to prove things of doubtful import, he has boldly stated things which undoubtedly merit reprobation.



This play of words too inadequately represents Augustin’s Subrepsit tibi falsiloquium per suaviloquium.

Next: Chapter 11

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