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Volume 7/8, 2009/2010

Études de Philosophie Antique et Médiévale. Dossier Thomas d'Aquin

Alexandra Pârvan
Pages 87-103

La relation en tant qu’élément-clé de l’illumination augustinienne

This paper proposes a new approach to Augustine’s illumination theory, understanding illumination as resulting from an act of the human being as much as from an action of God. Regardless of God’s ever present light, the human intellect is not constantly and indiscriminately illuminated. In order to explain how the human intellect attains knowledge to different degrees, and how it can resist the divine light without being actually able to deny it, I will make use of two concepts Augustine himself did not employ : the first one is relationship, the second, referring to God, is being-for-others. As being-for-others, God gives the human being not the gift of knowledge, but that of the relationship with Him (as Truth and Wisdom), by means of which the human being can attain knowledge. By placing Himself in relationship with the human being, God grants it the freedom and power to cooperate in divine actions : re-creation after the fall (formatio), illumination and salvation. If passive, the human intellect does not receive knowledge, it is only in its turning towards the ever present light of Truth that it sees the intelligible truths in the divine light, and it is able to do so to the extent of one’s good will, or one’s love (caritas). Augustine sees illumination as a joint action of God and human being, depending on human being no less than on God. The concept of relationship and the understanding of God as being-for-others explain why no illumination will take place without the active role of the human intellect, why the divine light is not coercive, and why Augustine considers the necessity of both human freedom and God’s power in the act of knowledge.

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