Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 6
Chapter 6.—How a Kind of Trinity Exists in the Mind Thinking of Itself. What is the Part of Thought in This Trinity.
The function of thought, however, is so great, that not even the mind itself can, so to say, place itself in its own sight, except when it thinks of itself; and hence it is so far the case, that nothing is in the sight of the mind, except that which is being thought of, that not even the mind itself, whereby we think whatever we do think, can be in its own sight otherwise than by thinking of itself. But in what way it is not in its own sight when it is not thinking of itself, while it can never be without itself, as though itself were one thing, and the sight of itself another, it is not in my power to discover. For this is not unreasonably said of the eye of the body; for the eye itself of the body is fixed in its own proper place in the body, but its sight extends to things external to itself, and reaches even to the stars. And the eye is not in its own sight, since it does not look at itself, unless by means of a mirror, as is said above; 877 a thing that certainly does not happen when the mind places itself in its own sight by thinking of itself. Does it then see one part of itself by means of another part of itself, when it looks at itself in thought, as we look at some of our members, which can be in our sight, with other also of our members, viz. with our eyes? What can be said or thought more absurd? For by what is the mind removed, except by itself? or where is it placed so as to be in its own sight, except before itself? Therefore it will not be there, where it was, when it was not in its own sight; because it has been put down in one place, after being taken away from another. But if it migrated in order to be beheld, where will it remain in order to behold? Is it as it were doubled, so as to be in this and in that place at the same time, viz. both where it can behold, and where it can be beheld; that in itself it may be beholding, and before itself beheld? If we ask the truth, it will tell us nothing of the sort since it is but feigned images of bodily objects of which we conceive when we conceive thus; and that the mind is not such, is very certain to the few minds by which the truth on such a subject can be inquired. It appears, therefore, that the beholding of the mind is something pertaining to its nature, and is recalled to that nature when it conceives of itself, not as if by moving through space, but by an incorporeal conversion; but when it is not conceiving of itself, it appears that it is not indeed in its own sight, nor is its own perception formed from it, but yet that it knows itself as though it were to itself a remembrance of itself. Like one who is skilled in many branches of learning: the things which he knows are contained in his memory, but nothing thereof is in the sight of his mind except that of which he is conceiving; while all the rest are stored up in a kind of secret knowledge, which is called memory. The trinity, then, which we were setting forth, was constituted in this way: first, we placed in the memory the object by which the perception of the percipient was formed; next, the conformation, or as it were the image which is impressed thereby; lastly, love or will as that which combines the two. When the mind, then, beholds itself in conception, it understands and cognizes itself; it begets, therefore, this its own understanding and cognition. For an incorporeal thing is understood when it is beheld, and is cognized when understood. Yet certainly the mind does not so beget this knowledge of itself, when it beholds itself as understood by conception, as though it had before been unknown to itself; but it was known to itself, in the way in which things are known which are contained in the memory, but of which one is not thinking; since we say that a man knows letters even when he is thinking of something else, and not of letters. And these two, the begetter and the begotten, are coupled together by love, as by a third, which is nothing else than will, seeking or holding fast the enjoyment of something. We held, therefore, that a trinity of the mind is to be intimated also by these three terms, memory, intelligence, will.
9. But since the mind, as we said near the end of the same tenth book, always remembers itself, and always understands and loves itself, although it does not always think of itself as distinguished from those things which are not itself; we must inquire in what way understanding (intellectus) belongs to conception, while the notion (notitia) of each thing that is in the mind, even when one is not thinking of it, is said to belong only to the memory. For if this is so, then the mind had not these three things: viz. the remembrance, the understanding, and the love of itself; but it only remembered itself, and afterwards, p. 188 when it began to think of itself, then it understood and loved itself.
Bk. x. c. 3.
Next: Chapter 7
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