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Chapter 1 - The Pursuit of Wisdom

Contra Academicos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2018

Erik Kenyon
Affiliation:
Rollins College, Florida
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Summary

Contra Academicos presents a debate over the Academic skeptical claim that certainty is impossible. The debate ends in perplexity (aporia). Augustine then delivers an oratio which refutes the skeptics’ arguments against certainty yet concludes, in skeptical fashion, that it is plausible (probabile) that wisdom can be found within Christianity/Platonism and suggests that the Academic skeptics were secretly Platonists all along. I read this work as setting out a three-part pedagogical method: Aporetic debates “un-teach” characters’ problematic assumptions (e.g. materialism); Reflection on the act of debating brings self-knowledge (e.g. that rational inquiry presupposes certain norms); Plausible conclusions avoid the problems that led to aporia and provide explanatory frameworks for the characters’ self-reflective discovery (e.g. Platonic intellectualism). I argue that this fusion of Aporia, Reflection and Plausibility (ARP) drives each of Augustine’s dialogues. While scholars see the dialogues’ failed arguments, sudden reversals and shifts into oratio as flaws in Augustine’s refutation of skepticism, I see them as advancing a bigger pedagogical program rooted in skeptical practice.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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  • The Pursuit of Wisdom
  • Erik Kenyon, Rollins College, Florida
  • Book: Augustine and the Dialogue
  • Online publication: 16 February 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108525558.002
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  • The Pursuit of Wisdom
  • Erik Kenyon, Rollins College, Florida
  • Book: Augustine and the Dialogue
  • Online publication: 16 February 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108525558.002
Available formats
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  • The Pursuit of Wisdom
  • Erik Kenyon, Rollins College, Florida
  • Book: Augustine and the Dialogue
  • Online publication: 16 February 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108525558.002
Available formats
×