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Augustine is one of the most influential authors who have ever existed; perhaps only Aristotle has had more effect through his writings on the development of Western culture. That does not in itself make Augustine a fit subject for a volume concerned with philosophy; but I shall try to show that in fact he does qualify to be counted among the philosophers, in our narrow contemporary Anglophone understanding of the word, even though his place among them is not in the premier division (he did not lack the aptitude, I believe, but he did lack the training, and the time).
The reason why Augustine can be counted as one of our founding philosophers is that among the voluminous writings that survive from him (more words than from any other ancient author) many contain discussion of what in our tradition are instantly recognizable as philosophical problems, conducted at an instantly recognizable standard of step-by-step reasoning: put otherwise, he has a place in the line of succession that stretches to us over 25 centuries from Parmenides and Socrates in the fifth century bce. Within the collection of these philosophy-rich works stands, perhaps pre-eminently, City of God. In a later section I shall outline its structure; but first let us see how it came to be written, who was the man who wrote it, and in what ways that man, although mainly famous for non-philosophical reasons, nevertheless ranks among the philosophers.
Philosophers have come to speak of an Augustinian picture of language. The picture is not really Augustine's, as we shall see, but it makes a good starting point for exploring what his views actually were. Those views, though not as crude as the “Augustinian picture,” will turn out to be mainly unoriginal, following a tradition that was already several hundred years old in his day, and helping to sustain that tradition for a further millennium and more. We know better now, thanks mainly to the fundamental insights of Frege and Wittgenstein.