​*Think Different*

An engineer in a car manufacturing company designs a world class car.

While trying to bring out the car from the manufacturing area to the showroom, they realised that the car is few inches taller than the entrance.

The engineer felt bad that he didn’t notice this one before creating the car. 

A mechanic proposed they dismantle the car and reassemble it outside.

A caterpillar driver proposed they remove the roofing and he will pick the car with his CAT.

The painter said that they can bring out the car and there will be a few scratches on top of the car which could be touched up later.

Then a mason said that they can break the entrance, take the car out, and later re-do it. 

A watchman was observing & remarked, “The car is only a few inches taller than the entrance so, 

*Simply release the air in the tyre, the height of the car will sink and can be easily taken out.*


Don’t see problems from an expert’s point of view. There is always a layman’s outlook that gives an alternate solution.

Life issues are also  same.

Often, a friend may seem below our stature by a few inches, making us seem taller.

Release some air (ego) and adjust the height.

Think Simple, Live Humble!

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break. 

This famous son of St. Monica was born inAfrica and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pridedarkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced thatChristianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading thelife of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. “What“Augustine”, “Saint Augustine”, and “Augustinus” redirect here. For other uses, seeAugustine (disambiguation), Saint Augustine (disambiguation), and Augustinus (disambiguation).

Augustine of Hippo (/ɔːˈɡʌstn/[1] or /ˈɔːɡəstɪn/;[2] Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis;[note 1] 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine,Saint Austin,[3] Blessed Augustine,[4] and theDoctor of Grace[5] (Latin: Doctor gratiae), was an early Christian theologian andphilosopher[6] whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity andWestern philosophy. He was the bishop ofHippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.

According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine “established anew the ancient Faith.”[note 2] In his early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his baptism and conversion to Christianity in 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives.[7]Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made seminal contributions to the development of just war theory.

When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material Earthly City.[8] His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and theCouncil of Constantinople[9] closely identified with Augustine’s City of God.

In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint, a preeminentDoctor of the Church, and the patron of theAugustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. He is thepatron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, the alleviation of sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.[10] Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvationand divine grace.[citation needed]

In the East, some of his teachings are disputed and have in the 20th century in particular come under attack by such theologians as John Romanides.[11] But other theologians and figures of the Eastern Orthodox Church have shown significant appropriation of his writings, chiefly Georges Florovsky.[12] The most controversial doctrine surrounding his name is the filioque,[13] which has been rejected by the Orthodox Church.[14]Other disputed teachings include his views on original sin, the doctrine of grace, andpredestination.[13] Nevertheless, though considered to be mistaken on some points, he is still considered a saint, and has even had influence on some Eastern Church Fathers, most notably Saint Gregory Palamas.[15] In the Orthodox Church his feast day is celebrated on 28 August,[13][16] and he carries the title ofBlessed.


  • 1 Life
    • 1.1 Childhood and education
    • 1.2 Teaching rhetoric
    • 1.3 Christian conversion and priesthood
    • 1.4 Death and veneration
      • 1.4.1 Relics
  • 2 Views and thought
    • 2.1 Christian anthropology
    • 2.2 Slavery
    • 2.3 Astrology
    • 2.4 Creation
    • 2.5 Ecclesiology
    • 2.6 Eschatology
    • 2.7 Epistemology
    • 2.8 Just war
    • 2.9 Mariology
    • 2.10 Natural knowledge and biblical interpretation
    • 2.11 Original sin
    • 2.12 Free will
    • 2.13 Sacramental theology
    • 2.14 Jews
    • 2.15 Sexuality
    • 2.16 Pedagogy
  • 3 Works
  • 4 Influence
    • 4.1 In philosophy
    • 4.2 In theology
    • 4.3 In popular culture
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
    • 6.1 Notes
    • 6.2 Sources
    • 6.3 Further reading
  • 7 External links
    • 7.1 General
    • 7.2 Bibliography
    • 7.3 Works by Augustine
    • 7.4 Biography and criticism


Childhood and education

Augustine’s family name, Aurelius, suggests that his father’s ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine’s family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born.[28] It is assumed that his mother, Monica, was of Berber origin, on the basis of her name,[29][30] but as his family werehonestiores, an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine’s first language is likely to have been Latin.[29]Augustine was born in the year 354 AD in themunicipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras,Algeria) in Roman Africa.[17][18] His mother,Monica or Monnica,[19] was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a Pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed.[20]Scholars generally agree that Augustine and his family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa,[21][22][23][24] but that they were heavily Romanized, speaking only Latin at home as a matter of pride and dignity.[21] In his writings, Augustine leaves some information as to the consciousness of his African heritage. For example, he refers toApuleius as “the most notorious of us Africans,”[25] to Ponticianus as “a country man of ours, insofar as being African,”[26] and toFaustus of Mileve as “an African Gentleman.”[27]

At the age of 11, Augustine was sent to school at Madaurus (now M’Daourouch), a smallNumidian city about 19 miles (31 km) south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices.[31] His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden. He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions. He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because “it was not permitted.”[32] His very nature, he says, was flawed. ‘It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”[32] From this incident he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin, and in need of the grace of Christ.

At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus,[33] Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education inrhetoric. It was while he was a student in Carthage that he read Cicero’s dialogueHortensius (now lost), which he described as leaving a lasting impression and sparking his interest in philosophy.[34] Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to his mother’s despair.[35] As a youth Augustine lived ahedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences.[36] It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant mechastity and continence, but not yet.”[37]

At about the age of 19, Augustine began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Though his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover[38] for over fifteen years[39] and gave birth to his son Adeodatus,[40] who was viewed as extremely intelligent by his contemporaries. In 385, Augustine ended his relationship with his lover in order to prepare himself to marry a ten-year-old heiress. (He had to wait for two years because the legal age of marriage was twelve. By the time he was able to marry her, however, he instead decided to become a celibate priest.)[39][41]

Augustine was from the beginning a brilliant student, with an eager intellectual curiosity, but he never mastered Greek[42] —he tells us that his first Greek teacher was a brutal man who constantly beat his students, and Augustine rebelled and refused to study. By the time he realized that he needed to know Greek, it was too late; and although he acquired a smattering of the language, he was never eloquent with it. However, his mastery of Latin was another matter. He became an expert both in the eloquent use of the language and in the use of clever arguments to make his points.

Teaching rhetoric

Augustine taught grammar at Thagaste during 373 and 374. The following year he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric and would remain there for the next nine years.[33]Disturbed by unruly students in Carthage, he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practised, in 383. However, Augustine was disappointed with the apathetic reception. It was the custom for students to pay their fees to the professor on the last day of the term, and many students attended faithfully all term, and then did not pay. Manichaean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked by the imperial court at MiWhile still at Carthage a disappointing meeting with the Manichaean Bishop, Faustus of Mileve, a key exponent of Manichaean theology, started Augustine’s scepticism of Manichaeanism.[43] In Rome, he reportedly turned away from Manichaeanism, embracing the scepticism of the New Academymovement. Because of his education, Augustine had great rhetorical prowess and was very knowledgeable of the philosophies behind many faiths.[44] At Milan, his mother’s religiosity, Augustine’s own studies inNeoplatonism, and his friend Simplicianus all urged him towards Christianity.[33] Initially Augustine was not strongly influenced by Christianity and its ideologies, but after coming in contact with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed.Augustine won the job and headed north to take his position in late 384. Thirty years old, he had won the most visible academic position in the Latin world at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. Although Augustine showed some fervour for Manichaeism, he was never an initiate or “elect”, but an “auditor”, the lowest level in the sect’s hierarchy.[43]

Like Augustine, Ambrose was a master of rhetoric, but older and more experienced.[45]Augustine was very much influenced by Ambrose, even more than by his own mother and others he admired. Augustine arrived in Milan and was immediately taken under the wing by Ambrose. Within his Confessions, Augustine states, “That man of God received me as a father would, and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should.”[46] Soon, their relationship grew, as Augustine wrote, “And I began to love him, of course, not at the first as a teacher of the truth, for I had entirely despaired of finding that in thy Church—but as a friendly man.”[46] Augustine visited Ambrose in order to see if Ambrose was one of the greatest speakers and rhetoricians in the world. More interested in his speaking skills than the topic of speech, Augustine quickly discovered that Ambrose was a spectacular orator. Eventually, Augustine says that through the unconscious, he was led into the faith of Christianity.[46]

Augustine’s mother had followed him to Milan and arranged a marriage for which he abandoned his concubine. Although Augustine accepted this marriage, Augustine was deeply hurt by the loss of his lover. He said, “My mistress being torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, my heart, which clave to her, was racked, and wounded, and bleeding.” Augustine confessed that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slaveof lust, so he procured another concubine since he had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age. However, his wound was not healed, even began to fester.[47]

There is evidence that Augustine may have considered this former relationship to be equivalent to marriage.[48] In his Confessions, he admitted that the experience eventually produced a decreased sensitivity to pain. Augustine eventually broke off his engagement to his eleven-year-old fiancée, but never renewed his relationship with either of his concubines. Alypius of Thagaste steered Augustine away from marriage, saying that they could not live a life together in the love of wisdom if he married. Augustine looked back years later on the life at Cassiciacum, a villa outside of Milan where he gathered with his followers, and described it as Christianae vitae otium – the Christian life of leisure.[49]

Christian conversion and priesthood

Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.
[50]In the summer of 386, at the age of 31, after having heard and been inspired and moved by the story of Ponticianus’s and his friends’ first reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to “take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – the so-called “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 through 15 – wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers, and the believers’ resulting behaviour. The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13, verses 13 and 14, to wit:

He later wrote an account of his conversion – his very transformation, as Paul described – in his Confessions (Latin: Confessiones), which has since become a classic of Christian theology and a key text in the history ofautobiography. This work is an outpouring of thanksgiving and penitence. Although it is written as an account of his life, theConfessions also talks about the nature of time, causality, free will, and other important philosophical topics.[51] The following is taken from that work:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou was with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.[51]

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed hisapology On the Holiness of the Catholic Church.[43] That year, also, Adeodatus and Augustine returned home to Africa.[33]Augustine’s mother Monica died at Ostia, Italy, as they prepared to embark for Africa.[52]Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine’s family’s property.[53][54] Soon after, Adeodatus, too, died.[55] Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.[33]

Much of Augustine’s conversion is dramatized in Johann Adolph Hasse’s oratorio La conversione di Sant’ Agostino. In the libretto for the oratorio by Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria, Augustine’s mother Monica is presented as a prominent character that is worried that Augustine might not convert to Christianity. The Duchess took a five-part drama by Franciscus Neumayr and condensed it for the purposes of the oratorio. As Dr. Andrea Palent[56] says:

Maria Antonia Walpurgis revised the five-part Jesuit drama into a two-part oratorio liberty in which she limits the subject to the conversion of Augustine and his submission to the will of God. To this was added the figure of the mother, Monica, so as to let the transformation appear by experience rather than the dramatic artifice of deus ex machina.

Throughout the oratorio Augustine shows his willingness to turn to God, but the burden of the act of conversion weighs heavily on him. This is displayed by Hasse throug……In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter,[57] hence the name “Augustine of Hippo”; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste.[58] He remained in that position until his death in 430. He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397-398. His work The City of God was written to console his fellow Christians shortly after theVisigoths had sacked Rome in 410.In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.[43]

Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a regula for his monastery that led to his designation as the “patron saint of regular clergy.”[59]

Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama(present-day Guelma, Algeria), in his Sancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Possidius also described Augustine’s personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see.[60]

Death and veneration

Shortly before Augustine’s death the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted toArianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege.[60]:43According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430.[60]:57 Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine’s cathedral and library, which they left untouched.[61]

Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII.[62] His feast dayis 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.[10]


According to Bede’s True Martyrology, Augustine’s body was later translated or moved to Cagliari, Sardinia, by the Catholic bishops expelled from North Africa byHuneric. Around 720, his remains were transported again by Peter, bishop of Paviaand uncle of the Lombard king Liutprand, to the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, in order to save them from frequent coastal raids by Muslims. In January 1327, Pope John XXII issued the papal bull Veneranda Santorum Patrum, in which he appointed theAugustinians guardians of the tomb of Augustine (called Arca), which was remade in 1362 and elaborately carved with bas-reliefs of scenes from Augustine’s life.

In October 1695, some workmen in the Church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia discovered a marble box containing some human bones (including part of a skull). A dispute arose between the Augustinian hermits (Order of Saint Augustine) and the regular canons(Canons Regular of Saint Augustine) as to whether these were the bones of Augustine. The hermits did not believe so; the canons affirmed that they were. Eventually Pope Benedict XIII (1724–1730) directed the Bishop of Pavia, Monsignor Pertusati, to make a determination. The bishop declared that, in his opinion, the bones were those of Saint Augustine.[63]

The Augustinians were expelled from Pavia in 1700, taking refuge in Milan with the relics of Augustine, and the disassembled Arca, which were removed to the cathedral there. San Pietro fell into disrepair, but was finally rebuilt in the 1870s, under the urging of Agostino Gaetano Riboldi, and reconsecrated in 1896 when the relics of Augustine and the shrine were once again reinstalled.[64][65]

Views and thought

Christian anthropology

Augustine was one of the first Christianancient Latin authors with a very clear vision of theological anthropology.[66] He saw the human being as a perfect unity of two substances: soul and body. In his late treatiseOn Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420 AD) he exhorted to respect the body on the grounds that it belonged to the very nature of the human person.[67] Augustine’s favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage:caro tua, coniunx tua — your body is your wife.[68][69][70] Initially, the two elements were in perfect harmony. After the fall of humanitythey are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions.[71] Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body.[72] Augustine was not preoccupied, as Platoand Descartes were, with going too much into details in efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit that they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, and the soul is superior to the body. The latter statement is grounded in his hierarchical classification of things into those that merely exist, those that exist and live, and those that exist, live, and have intelligence or reason.[73][74]

Like other Church Fathers such asAthenagoras,[75] Augustine “vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion”, and although he disapproved of an abortion during any stage of pregnancy, he made a distinction between early abortions and later ones.[76] Nevertheless, he accepted the distinction between “formed” and “unformed” fetuses mentioned in the Septuaginttranslation of Exodus 21:22-23, a text that, he observed, did not classify as murder the abortion of an “unformed” fetus, since it could not be said with certainty that it had already received a soul (see, e.g., De Origine Animae4.4).[77]


Augustine led many clergy under his authority at Hippo to free their slaves “as an act of piety.”[78] He boldly wrote a letter urging the emperor to set up a new law against slave traders and was very much concerned about the sale of children. Christian emperors of his time for 25 years had permitted sale of children, not because they approved of the practice, but as a way of preventing infanticidewhen parents were unable to care for a child. Augustine noted that the tenant farmers in particular were driven to hire out or to sell their children as a means of survival.[79] In his famous book, The City of God, he presents the development of slavery as a product of sin and as contrary to God’s divine plan. He wrote that God “did not intend that this rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation – not man over man, but man over the beasts.” Thus he wrote that righteous men in primitive times were made shepherds of cattle, not kings over men. “The condition of slavery is the result of sin,” he declared.[80]However, he did on at least one occasion support slavery. In The City of God, Augustine wrote he felt slavery was not a punishment. He wrote: “Slavery is not penal in character and planned by that law which commands the preservation of the natural order and forbids disturbance.”


Augustine’s contemporaries often believedastrology to be an exact and genuine science. Its practitioners were regarded as true men of learning and called mathemathici. Astrology played a prominent part in Manichaean doctrine, and Augustine himself was attracted by their books in his youth, being particularly fascinated by those who claimed to foretell the future. Later, as a bishop, he used to warn that one should avoid astrologers who combine science and horoscopes. (Augustine’s term “mathematici”, meaning “astrologers”, is sometimes mistranslated as “mathematicians”.) According to Augustine, they were not genuine students of Hipparchusor Eratosthenes but “common swindlers”.[81][82]:63[83][84]


See also: Allegorical interpretations of Genesis

In City of God, Augustine rejected both the immortality of the human race proposed by pagans, and contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church’s sacred writings.[85] In The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven calendar days like a literal interpretation ofGenesis would require. He argued that the six-day structure of creation presented in the Book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way – it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omnia simul(“He created all things at once”), which Augustine took as proof that the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literally.[86]Augustine also does not envision original sin as causing structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal beforethe Fall.[87] Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up.[88]


See also: Ecclesiology


Augustine developed his doctrine of the Church principally in reaction to theDonatist sect. He taught that there is one Church, but that within this Church there are two realities, namely, the visible aspect (the institutionalhierarchy, theCatholic sacraments, and the laity) and the invisible (the souls of those in the Church, who are either dead, sinful members or elect predestined for Heaven). The former is the institutional body established by Christ on earth which proclaims salvation and administers thesacraments, while the latter is the invisible body of the elect, made up of genuine believers from all ages, and who are known only to God. The Church, which is visible and societal, will be made up of “wheat” and “tares”, that is, good and wicked people (as per Mat. 13:30), until the end of time. This concept countered the Donatist claim that only those in a state of grace were the “true” or “pure” church on earth, and that priests and bishops who were not in a state of grace had no authority or ability to confect the sacraments.[89]:28 Augustine’s ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that the bishops and priests of the Church are the successors of the Apostles,[89] and that their authority in the Church is God-given.

Augustine originally believed inpremillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the general resurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine of amillennialism, although some theologians and Christian historians believe his position was closer to that of modernpostmillennialists. The mediaeval Catholic church built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church.[90] At the Reformation, theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death,[91][92] and thatpurgatorial fires of the intermediate statepurify only those that died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.[91]


Epistemological concerns shaped Augustine’s intellectual development. His early dialogues [Contra academicos (386) and De Magistro(389)], both written shortly after his conversion to Christianity, reflect his engagement with sceptical arguments and show the development of his doctrine of inner illumination. The doctrine of illumination claims that God plays an active and regular part in human perception (as opposed to God designing the human mind to be reliable consistently, as in, for example, Descartes’ idea of clear and distinct perceptions) and understanding by illuminating the mind so that human beings can recognize intelligible realities that God presents. According to Augustine, illumination is obtainable to all rational minds, and is different from other forms of sense perception. It is meant to be an explanation of the conditions required for the mind to have a connection with intelligible entities.[6] Augustine also posed the problem of other minds throughout different works, most famously perhaps in On the Trinity(VIII.6.9), and developed what has come to be a standard solution: the argument from analogy to other minds.[93] In contrast to Plato and other earlier philosophers, Augustine recognized the centrality of testimony to human knowledge and argued that what others tell us can provide knowledge even if we don’t have independent reasons to believe their testimonial reports.[94]

Just war

See also: Just War

Augustine asserted that Christians should bepacifists as a personal, philosophical stance.[95] However, peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defence of one’s self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority. While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine coined the phrase in his work The City of God.[96] In essence, the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting for its long-term preservation.[97] Such a war could not be pre-emptive, but defensive, to restore peace.[98]Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, used the authority of Augustine’s arguments in an attempt to define the conditions under which a war could be just.[99][100]


Although Augustine did not develop an independent Mariology, his statements on Mary surpass in number and depth those of other early writers.[101] Even before theCouncil of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace.[102]Likewise, he affirmed that the Virgin Mary “conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever.”[103]

Natural knowledge and biblical interpretation

Augustine took the view that, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this “literal sense” does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor.[104]

Original sin

See also: Original sin

Augustine’s understanding of the consequences of the original sin and of necessity of the redeeming grace was developed in the struggle against Pelagiusand his Pelagian disciples, Caelestius andJulian of Eclanum,[89] who had been inspired by Rufinus of Syria, a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia.[109] They refused to agree that libido wounded human will and mind, insisting that the human nature was given the power to act, to speak, and to think when God created it. Human nature cannot lose its moral capacity for doing good, but a person is free to act or not to act in a righteous way. Pelagius gave an example of eyes: they have capacity for seeing, but a person can make either good or bad use of it.[82]:355–356[110] Like Jovinian, Pelagians insisted that human affections and desires were not touched by the fall either. Immorality, e.g. fornication, is exclusively a matter of will, i.e. a person does not use natural desires in a proper way. In opposition to that, Augustine pointed out the apparent disobedience of the flesh to the spirit, and explained it as one of the results of original sin, punishment of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God.[111]Augustine taught that Original sin of Adam and Eve was either an act of foolishness (insipientia) followed by pride and disobedience to God or that pride came first.[note 3] The first couple disobeyed God, who had told them not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17).[105]The tree was a symbol of the order of creation.[106] Self-centeredness made Adam and Eve eat of it, thus failing to acknowledge and respect the world as it was created by God, with its hierarchy of beings and values.[note 4] They would not have fallen into pride and lack of wisdom, if Satan hadn’t sown into their senses “the root of evil” (radix Mali).[107]Their nature was wounded by concupiscenceor libido, which affected human intelligence and will, as well as affections and desires, including sexual desire.[note 5] In terms ofmetaphysics, concupiscence is not a being but bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.[108]

Augustine had served as a “Hearer” for the Manichaeans for about nine years,[112] who taught that the original sin was carnal knowledge.[113] But his struggle to understand the cause of evil in the world started before that, at the age of nineteen.[114] By malum(evil) he understood most of allconcupiscence, which he interpreted as a vice dominating person and causing in men and women moral disorder. A. Trapè insists that Augustine’s personal experience cannot be credited for his doctrine about concupiscence. His marriage experience, though Christian marriage celebration was missing, was exemplary, very normal and by no means specifically sad.[115] As J. Brachtendorf showed, Augustine used Ciceronian Stoicconcept of passions, to interpret Paul’sdoctrine of universal sin and redemption.[116]

The view that not only human soul but also senses were influenced by the fall of Adam and Eve was prevalent in Augustine’s time among the Fathers of the Church.[117] It is clear that the reason for Augustine’s distancing from the affairs of the flesh was different from that of Plotinus, a neo-Platonist[note 6] who taught that only through disdain for fleshly desire could one reach the ultimate state of mankind.[118] Augustine taught the redemption, i.e. transformation and purification,……The sin of Adam is inherited by all human beings. Already in his pre-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Original Sin is transmitted to his descendants byconcupiscence,[123] which he regarded as the passion of both, soul and body,[note 8] making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd) and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will.[91]:1200–1204Some authors perceive Augustine’s doctrine as directed against human sexuality and attribute his insistence on continence and devotion to God as coming from Augustine’s need to reject his own highly sensual nature as described in the Confessions. But in view of his writings it is apparently a misunderstanding.[82]:312[note 7] Augustine taught that human sexuality has been wounded, together with the whole of human nature, and requires redemption of Christ. That healing is a process realized in conjugal acts. The virtue of continence is achieved thanks to the grace of the sacrament of Christian marriage, which becomes therefore a remedium concupiscentiae – remedy of concupiscence.[120][121] The redemption of human sexuality will be, however, fully accomplished only in the resurrection of the body.[122]

Augustine’s formulation of the doctrine of original sin was confirmed at numerous councils, i.e. Carthage (418), Ephesus (431),Orange (529), Trent (1546) and by popes, i.e.Pope Innocent I (401–417) and Pope Zosimus(417–418). Anselm of Canterbury established in his Cur Deus Homo the definition that was followed by the great 13th century Schoolmen, namely that Original Sin is the “privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess”, thus separating it fromconcupiscence, with which some of Augustine’s disciples had defined it[82]:371[124]as later did Luther and Calvin.[91]:1200–1204 In 1567, Pope Pius V condemned the identification of Original Sin with concupiscence.[91]:1200–1204

Augustine taught that some people arepredestined by God to salvation by an eternal, sovereign decree which is not based on man’s merit or will. The saving grace which God bestows is irresistible and unfailingly results in conversion. God also grants those whom he saves with the gift of perseverance so that none of those whom God has chosen may conceivably fall away.[89]:44[125]

In On Rebuke and Grace (De correptione et gratia), Augustine wrote: “And what is written, that He wills all men to be saved, while yet all men are not saved, may be understood in many ways, some of which I have mentioned in other writings of mine; but here I will say one thing: He wills all men to be saved, is so said that all the predestinated may be understood by it, because every kind of men is among them.”[126]

Free will

Included in Augustine’s theodicy is the claim that God created humans and angels as rational beings possessing free will. Free will was not intended for sin, meaning it is not equally predisposed to both good and evil. A will defiled by sin is not considered as “free” as it once was because it is bound by material things, which could be lost or be difficult to part with, resulting in unhappiness. Sin impairs free will, while grace restores it. Only a will that was once free can be subjected to sin’s corruption.[127]

The Catholic Church considers Augustine’s teaching to be consistent with free will.[128] He often said that anyone can be saved if they wish.[128] While God knows who will and won’t be saved, with no possibility for the latter to be saved in their lives, this knowledge represents God’s perfect knowledge of how humans will freely choose their destinies.[128]

Sacramental theology

Also in reaction against the Donatists, Augustine developed a distinction between the “regularity” and “validity” of thesacraments. Regular sacraments are performed by clergy of the Catholic Church, while sacraments performed by schismatics are considered irregular. Nevertheless, the validity of the sacraments do not depend upon the holiness of the priests who perform them (ex opere operato); therefore, irregular sacraments are still accepted as valid provided they are done in the name of Christ and in the manner prescribed by the Church. On this point Augustine departs from the earlier teaching of Cyprian, who taught that converts from schismatic movements must be re-baptised.[89] Augustine taught that sacraments administered outside the Catholic Church, though true sacraments, avail nothing. However, he also stated that baptism, while it does not confer any grace when done outside the Church, does confer grace as soon as one is received into the Catholic Church.

Against the Pelagians, Augustine strongly stressed the importance of infant baptism. About the question whether baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, however, Augustine appears to have refined his beliefs during his lifetime, causing some confusion among later theologians about his position. He said in one of his sermons that only the baptized are saved.[132] This belief was shared by many early Christians. However, a passage from his City of God, concerning theApocalypse, may indicate that Augustine did believe in an exception for children born to Christian parents.[133]Augustine upheld the early Christian understanding of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, saying that Christ’s statement, “This is my body” referred to the bread he carried in his hands,[129][130] and that Christians must have faith that the bread and wine are in fact the body and blood of Christ, despite what they see with their eyes.[131]


Against certain Christian movements, some of which rejected the use of Hebrew Scripture, Augustine countered that God had chosen theJews as a special people,[134] and he considered the scattering of Jewish people by the Roman Empire to be a fulfillment of prophecy.[135] He rejected homicidal attitudes, quoting part of the same prophecy, namely “Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law” (Psalm 59:11). Augustine, who believed Jewish people would be converted to Christianity at “the end of time,” argued that God had allowed them to survive their dispersion as a warning to Christians; as such, he argued, they should be permitted to dwell in Christian lands.[136] The sentiment sometimes attributed to Augustine that Christians should let the Jews “survive but not thrive” (it is repeated by author James Carrollin his book Constantine’s Sword, for example)[137][138] is apocryphal and is not found in any of his writings.[139]


For Augustine, the evil of sexual immorality was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. InOn Christian Doctrine Augustine contrasts love, which is enjoyment on account of God, and lust, which is not on account of God.[140]For Augustine, proper love exercises a denial of selfish pleasure and the subjugation of corporeal desire to God. He wrote that the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome were innocent because they did not intend to sin.[141][142]

He believed that the serpent approached Eve because she was less rational and lacked self-control, while Adam’s choice to eat was viewed as an act of kindness so that Eve would not be left alone.[143] Augustine believed sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over woman (the flesh).[144] Augustine does, however, praise women and their role in society and in the Church. In his Tractates on the Gospel of John, Augustine, commenting on the Samaritan woman from John 4:1–42, uses the woman as a figure of the church.

According to Raming, the authority of theDecretum Gratiani, a collection of Roman Catholic canon law which prohibits women from leading, teaching, or being a witness, rests largely on the views of the early church fathers—one of the most influential being Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.[145] The laws and traditions founded upon Augustine’s views of sexuality and women continue to exercise considerable influence over church doctrinal positions regarding. ….

.Augustine was a strong advocate of critical thinking skills. Because written works were still rather limited during this time, spoken communication of knowledge was very important. His emphasis on the importance of community as a means of learning distinguishes his pedagogy from some others. Augustine believed that dialogue/dialectic/discussion is the best means for learning, and this method should serve as a model for learning encounters between teachers and students. Saint Augustine’s dialogue writings model the need for lively interactive dialogue among learners.[147]Augustine is considered an influential figure in the history of education. A work early in Augustine’s writings is De Magistro (On the Teacher), which contains insights about education. However, his ideas changed as he found better directions or better ways of expressing his ideas. In the last years of his life Saint Augustine wrote his Retractationes, reviewing his writings and improving specific texts. Henry Chadwick believes an accurate translation of “retractationes” may be “reconsiderations”. Reconsiderations can be seen as an overarching theme of the way Saint Augustine learned. Augustine’s understanding of the search for understanding/meaning/truth as a restless journey leaves room for doubt, development and change.[147]

He recommended adapting educational practices to fit the students’ educational backgrounds:

  • the student who has been well-educated by knowledgeable teachers;
  • the student who has had no education; and
  • the student who has had a poor education, but believes himself to be well-educated.

If a student has been well educated in a wide variety of subjects, the teacher must be careful not to repeat what they have already learned, but to challenge the student with material which they do not yet know thoroughly. With the student who has had no education, the teacher must be patient, willing to repeat things until the student understands, and sympathetic. Perhaps the most difficult student, however, is the one with an inferior education who believes he understands something when he does not. Augustine stressed the importance of showing this type of student the difference between “having words and having understanding,” and of helping the student to remain humble with his acquisition of knowledge.

Under the influence of Bede, Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus, De catechizandis rudibuscame to exercise an important role in the education of clergy at the monastic schools, especially from the eighth century onwards.[148]

Augustine believed that students should be given an opportunity to apply learned theories to practical experience. Yet another of Augustine’s major contributions to education is his study on the styles of teaching. He claimed there are two basic styles a teacher uses when speaking to the students. Themixed style includes complex and sometimes showy language to help students see the beautiful artistry of the subject they are studying. The grand style is not quite as elegant as the mixed style, but is exciting and heartfelt, with the purpose of igniting the same passion in the students’ hearts. Augustine balanced histeaching. …

Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than one hundred separate titles.[149] They includeapologetic works against the heresies of theArians, Donatists, Manichaeans andPelagians; texts on Christian doctrine, notablyDe Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine);exegetical works such as commentaries onGenesis, the Psalms and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; many sermons and letters; and theRetractationes, a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessions, which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate Dei (The City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. His On the Trinity, in which he developed what has become known as the ‘psychological analogy’ of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time. He also wrote On Free Choice of the Will (De libero arbitrio), addressing why God gives humans free will that can be used for evil.


In philosophy

In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, Augustine was greatly influenced by Stoicism,Platonism and Neoplatonism, particularly by the work of Plotinus, author of the Enneads, probably through the mediation of Porphyryand Victorinus (as Pierre Hadot has argued). Although he later abandoned Neoplatonism, some ideas are still visible in his early writings.[150] His early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, would become a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, andNietzsche. He was also influenced by the works of Virgil (known for his teaching on language), and Cicero (known for his teaching on argument).[6]

Philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by Augustine’s meditation on the nature of time in the Confessions, comparing it favourably to Kant’s version of the view that time is subjective.[151] Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine’s belief that God exists outside of time in the “eternal present”; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change. His meditations on the nature of time are closely linked to his consideration of the human ability of memory. Frances Yates in her 1966 study The Art of Memory argues that a brief passage of the Confessions, 10.8.12, in which Augustine writes of walking up a flight of stairs and entering the vast fields of memory[152] clearly indicates that the ancient Romans were aware of how to use explicit spatial and architectural metaphors as amnemonic technique for organizing large amounts of information.

In theology

Augustine’s philosophical method, especially demonstrated in his Confessions, had continuing influence on Continental philosophy throughout the 20th century. His descriptive approach to intentionality, memory, and language as these phenomena are experienced within consciousness and time anticipated and inspired the insights of modern phenomenology and hermeneutics.[153] Edmund Husserl writes: “The analysis of time-consciousness is an age-old crux of descriptive psychology and theory of knowledge. The first thinker to be deeply sensitive to the immense difficulties to be found here was Augustine, who laboured almost to despair over this problem.”[154]Martin Heidegger refers to Augustine’s descriptive philosophy at several junctures in his influential work Being and Time.[note 9]Hannah Arendt began her philosophical writing with a dissertation on Augustine’s concept of love, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin(1929): “The young Arendt attempted to show that the philosophical basis for vita socialis in Augustine can be understood as residing in neighbourly love, grounded in his understanding of the common origin of humanity.”[155] Jean Bethke Elshtain inAugustine and the Limits of Politics finds similarity between Augustine and Arendt in their concepts of evil[clarify]: “Augustine did not see evil as glamorously demonic but rather as absence of good, something which paradoxically is really nothing. Arendt … envisioned even the extreme evil which produced the Holocaust as merely banal [inEichmann in Jerusalem].”[156] Augustine’s philosophical legacy continues to influence contemporary critical theory through the contributions and inheritors of these 20th-century figures. Seen from a historical perspective, there are three main perspectives on the political thought of Augustine: first, political Augustinianism; second, Augustinian political theology; and third, Augustinian political theory.[157]

Thomas Aquinas was influenced heavily by Augustine. On the topic of original sin, Aquinas proposed a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine in that his conception leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers even after the Fall.[91]:1200–1204 Augustine’s doctrine of efficacious grace found eloquent expression in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux; also Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin would look back to him as their inspiration.[citation needed]While in his pre-Pelagian writings Augustine taught that Adam’s guilt as transmitted to his descendants much enfeebles, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will, Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin affirmed that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty (see total depravity).[91]:1200–1204

According to Leo Ruickbie, Augustine’s arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church’s fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. According to Professor Deepak Lal, Augustine’s vision of the heavenly city has influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment,Marxism, Freudianism and eco-fundamentalism.[158] Post-Marxist philosophers Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt rely heavily on Augustine’s thought, particularly The City of God, in their book of political philosophy Empire.

Augustine has influenced many modern-day theologians and authors such as John Piper.Hannah Arendt, an influential 20th-century political theorist, wrote her doctoral dissertation in philosophy on Augustine, and continued to rely on his thought throughout her career. Ludwig Wittgenstein extensively quotes Augustine in Philosophical Investigations for his approach to language, both admiringly, and as a sparring partner to develop his own ideas, including an extensive opening passage from the Confessions. Contemporary linguists have argued that Augustine has significantly influenced the thought of Ferdinand de Saussure, who did not ‘invent’ the modern discipline of semiotics, but rather built upon Aristotelian and Neoplatonist knowledge from the Middle Ages, via an Augustinian connection: “as for the constitution of Saussurian semiotic theory, the importance of the Augustinian thought contribution (correlated to the Stoic one) has also been recognized. Saussure did not do anything but reform an ancient theory in Europe, according to the modern conceptual exigencies.”[159]

In his autobiographical book Milestones, Pope Benedict XVI claims Augustine as one of the deepest influences in his thought.

In popular culture

Augustine was played by Dary Berkani in the 1972 television movie Augustine of Hippo. He was played by Franco Nero in the 2010 mini-series Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire and the 2012 feature film Restless Heart: The Confessions of Saint Augustine.[160]The modern-day name links to the Agostinelli family.[161]

Jostein Gaarder’s philosophical novel Vita Brevis is presented as a translation of a manuscript written by Augustine’s concubine after he became the Bishop of Hippo. Augustine also appears in the novel The Dalkey Archive by Flann O’Brien (the pen name of Irish author Brian O’Nolan). He is summoned to an underwater cavern by an absurd scientist called De Selby; together they discuss life in Heaven and the characters of other saints. Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s novel A Canticle for Leibowitz cites Augustine as possibly positing the first version of a theory of evolution.[162] He appears prominently inPatricia McGerr’s novel, My Brothers, Remember Monica: A Novel of the Mother of Augustine.[163]


NOTHING IS FAR FROM GOD by Monica to her Son

Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled (St. Monica, about her son’s conversion).

The day was now approaching when my mother Monica would depart from this life; you know that day, Lord, though we did not. She and I happened to be standing by ourselves at a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house. At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead..” We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth – for you are the Truth – what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man.” We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life. 

<<<<Chiesa di Sant’Agostino at Piazza di Sant’Agostino, 9, Rome, Italy. Was built in1483 by Card. d’Estouteville.>>>>>

That was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. But you know, O Lord, that in the course of our conversation that day, the world and its pleasures lost all their attraction for us. My mother said, “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have even renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?” 

I do not really remember how I answered her. Shortly, within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side, but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: “Where was I?” We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gave steadily upon us, and spoke further: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I remained silent as I held back my tears. 

(The tomb of St. Monica )

However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: “Look what he is saying.” Thereupon she said to both of us, “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased. 

– from the Confessions of Saint Augustine


Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

Copyright © 2012 by
Istvan Bodnar <stb@elte.hu>


Aristotle had a lifelong interest in the study of nature. He investigated a variety of different topics, ranging from general issues like motion, causation, place and time, to systematic explorations and explanations of natural phenomena across different kinds of natural entities. These different inquiries are integrated into the framework of a single overarching enterprise describing the domain of natural entities. Aristotle provides the general theoretical framework for this enterpise in hisPhysics, a treatise which divides into two main parts, the first an inquiry into nature (books 1–4) and the second a treatment of motion (books 5–8).[1] In this work, Aristotle sets out the conceptual apparatus for his analysis, provides definitions of his fundamental concepts, and argues for specific theses about motion, causation, place and time, and establishes in bk. 8 the existence of the unmoved mover of the universe, a supra-physical entity, without which the physical domain could not remain in existence. He takes up problems of special interest to physics (such as the problem of generation and perishing) in a series of further physical treatises, some of which are devoted to particular physical domains: the De generatione et corruptione (On Generation and Perishing), theDe caelo (On the Heavens),[2] and the Meteorology, which lead up to the treatises on biology and psychology.

The science of physics, Aristotle stresses, contains almost all there is to know about the world. Were there no separate forms—entities such as the unmoved mover at the pinnacle of the cosmos—which are without matter and are not part of the physical world, physics would be what Aristotle calls first philosophy (Metaphysics 6.1, 1026a27–31). As there are such separate entities, physics is dependent on these, and is only a second philosophy (Metaphysics 7.11, 1037a14f). Nevertheless, the interaction between these two “philosophies” is not completely exhausted by the causal influence exerted on the world by the supra-physical entities—the prime movers as it turns out. Aristotle’s metaphysics and physics use a common conceptual framework, and they often address similar issues. The prime and distinctive task of first philosophy is an inquiry into first entities; these, however, are not perceptible entities, and as a result they have to be investigated through a metaphysical investigation of physical entities. Hence the overlap between the two disciplines, which often verges on inseparability.


1. Natures

Nature, according to Aristotle, is an inner principle of change and being at rest (Physics 2.1, 192b20–23). This means that when an entity moves or is at rest according to its nature reference to its nature may serve as an explanation of the event. We have to describe how—to what extent, through what other processes, and due to what agency—the preconditions for the process of change or being at rest are present, but once we have provided an account of these preconditions, we have given a complete account of the process. The nature of the entity is in and of itself sufficient to induce and to explain the process once the relevant circumstances do not preempt it.

Natures as inner principles of change and rest are contrasted with active powers or potentialities (dunameis), which are external principles of change and being at rest (Metaphysics 9.8, 1049b5–10), operative on the corresponding internal passive capacities or potentialities (dunameis again,Metaphysics 9.1, 1046a11–13). When a change, or a state of rest, is not natural, both the active and the passive potentiality need to be specified. Natures, then, in a way do double duty: once a nature is operative, neither a further active, nor a further passive capacity needs to be invoked. Even so, as will be clear from Aristotle’s discussion, this general thesis will require a host of qualifications.

Because natures—beside the active and passive potentialities—are ultimate grounds in causal explanations, Aristotle sets out how they are integrated with the doctrine of causation.

The four causes

An explanation for a state of affairs must specify some fact or object (in general, some abstract or concrete entity) which is responsible for it. The entity responsible is, Aristotle submits, a cause (aitia or aition, words used interchangeably by Aristotle).[3] Different explanations of a single state of affairs are possible, and indeed usually necessary, because there are different ways of being reponsible for distinct facets of the same state of affairs. The varieties of responsibilities are grouped by Aristotle under four headings, the so-called four causes.

The first two of these are matter and form, what an entity is made up from according to Aristotle’s hylomorphic analysis. Understandably, both of them can be responsible for the features and the behaviour of the entity they make up. Hylomorphic analysis, together with the separation of the material and formal causes as distinct types, implies that if something is explicable in terms of matter or form, explanations in terms of form will be different in kind from those given in terms of matter. As a rule there is a collaboration between these causes: matter provides the potentialities which are actualised by the form. But this collaboration is not such that the two types of explanations overlap. Rather, these causally relevant entities give rise to a hierarchic structure of explanation. In order for a form to be realised, one needs to have suitable matter. This suitable matter brings with it the features required by a given hylomorphic composite. These features, then, are on the one hand the contribution of the matter, and as such the matter is the (material) cause of these features of the composite entity, whereas on the other hand they are indispensable presuppositions for the realisation of the form, and to that extent their presence is prompted by the form.[4] Such dependency relations between matter and form are labelled by Aristotle as cases of hypothetical necessity. Aristotle sometimes illustrates his point by appealing to the matter required for the construction of a house. If there is a house to be built, one needs building bricks, slabs, mortar, etc. Each part provides material with properties within a definite range of the sort required for a house to come into being. A house cannot, for example, be made out of liquid water. This sort of matter provides potentialities not suited to the form of house.

Explanations often specify entities beyond the role played by the matter and the form of the entity itself. These cases are grouped by Aristotle as efficient or moving causes on the one hand and as final causes on the other. Efficient causes operate in a straightforward manner by initiating processes and bringing about their effects, whereas final causes account for processes and entities by being what these processes and entities are for, what they objectively intend to attain.[5] The fact that the role of efficient causes is not identical to that of the matter and the form of the entity whose features they are to explain does not require that every instance of efficient causation must issue from outside the entity moved. On the contrary, an efficient cause can also be internal. In cases in which the efficient cause is internal, it will be, in its specific function, one of the parts, or even the formal aspect, of the entity caused to move.

Natures, understandably, can feature in any of these four causal functions. However, when the matter of an entity functions as its nature—i.e., when its natural motion and rest are explained in terms of the matter it is made of—this matter must possess some causally relevant features, bestowed upon it by its own formal aspect.

This role of matter can be contrasted to the causal role of the three further types of causes—of form, of efficient cause, and of final cause respectively. This is so, because, as Aristotle adds, form and final cause often coincide. Moreover, when a nature is specified as a first efficient cause, cause and effect are the same in form (or in species), though this is not to say that one and the same entity causes itself and is caused through its own causal efficacy (Physics 2.7, 198a24–27, cf. Metaphysics8.4, 1044a32-b1).

As internal principles of moving and rest, natures stand in an exclusive relationship to the efficient or moving causes of the motions and rests they bring about: in some cases when Aristotle is not specifying the first moving cause, he can assert the identity of nature and moving cause. Accordingly, the soul of living beings will be identified as the substance (i.e., form) and the moving cause of the organism whose soul it is.[6] But the identification, even in this restricted sense, will need some further important qualifications, to which we will return in Section 5 below, on movers and unmoved movers.

2. Motion


Because motion or change (kinêsis) is mentioned in the definition of nature, any discussion of nature will need to rely upon the explanation of motion. One might—erroneously—think that this is an easy task, because Aristotle’s categories (as listed in the Categories and also elsewhere) do contain two related types of entities, action and passion. Aristotle’s discussion of motion in thePhysics, however, starts out in a somewhat different manner. When he submits that there is no motion besides the categories (Physics 3.1, at 200b32–201a3), he does not assign motions to the categories of action and passion. After mentioning that the entities in the categories come in oppositions, Aristotle submits a few lines later (at 201a8–9) that there are as many kinds of motion and change as there are kinds of being. This means that motions are grouped here with the entities of the category where they effect change.[7]

Nevetheless, when making this claim, Aristotle speaks about four kinds of motion and change only—those in substance, in quality, in quantity and in place—whereas the number of the kinds of being should have remained ten.

Indeed, the Physics will later submit its own list of categories. That list is slightly reduced—it has seven or eight elements, depending on whether we include or exclude time.[8] The reduced list also concludes with the claim that there are three kinds of motion, plus the additional kind of substantial change.[9] That is to say, even where Aristotle enumerates a fairly complete list of categories, he will not have motions in every one of these categories, and he is not content to include motions in the categories of action and passion.[10] But this is a context where Aristotle stresses another issue: he is not interested in assigning a separate ontological niche for motions—regardless of whether that might or might not have been a feasible task within the categorization of entities. Here Aristotle is more intent on characterizing the ontological links which motions have to entities falling into different categories, and to find a general matrix of undergoing and effecting change. This happens in several steps. First Aristotle claims that changes of relations are not changes in their own right; rather they are accidental, as they occur also in entities in which no change occurs at all, if the entity which they stand in relation to undergoes some change.[11] After these considerations the crucial two categories of action and passion are eliminated: As there are no motions of motions, we can set aside action and passion (items (7) and (8) in the Categories).[12] This leaves us with the shorter list of relevant categories, (1) substance, (2) quality, (3) quantity, and (4) place.[13]

Within the four domains where genuine change can occur, change always requires the existence of a potentiality which can be actualised. But change is neither identical to this potentiality, nor to the lack of a property, nor, without further qualifications, to the actuality which is acquired when the potentiality is actualised (Physics 3.2, 201b33–35). It is a special kind of actuality, the actuality of the potential in so far as it is potential (Physics 3.2, 201a27–29). Aristotle’s formulation strongly suggests that the potentiality actualised in the process of change is not a separate and independent potentiality for motion, alongside the entity’s potentiality for harbouring the end-state of the process: the process, say, house-building, and the end result, the house, are different actualisations of the same potentiality of a set of materials that is buildable into a house. Not only would Aristotle’s definition be uninformative and circular otherwise, amounting to the tautologous claim that change is the actualisation of the capacity for change, the further qualification in the definition, that change is the actuality of the potential in so far as it is potential, would be completely idle. This further restriction is meant to select among the different types of the realisations of the same potentialities.[14] As Aristotle stresses these are the incomplete actualities belonging to these potentialities, because what is actualised in a process of realisation is an incomplete potentiality only (Physics 3.2, 201b32–33). Accordingly, potentialities of change are readmitted into the ontology. They, nevertheless, do not feature as potentialities in their own right, but as the incomplete variants of the fundamental potentiality for an end result.[15]

It is furthermore important to note that potentiality in this discussion throughout excludes actuality. In a formulation closely matching the formulation of the principle of non-contradiction, Aristotle asserts that “some things are the same [=have the same properties, are the same substances] both in potentiality and in actuality, but not at the same time or not in the same respect, as e.g. [a thing is] warm in actuality and cold in potentiality” (Physics 3.1, 201a19–22).[16] Hence the ability of Aristotle’s definition to pick out the paradoxical entity, which is the actuality of a potentiality that can no longer be present once it has been replaced by the corresponding property in actuality.

3. The principle of causational synonymy


The definition of motion suggests that such processes can be characterised in terms of a property or state of an entity, acquired as a result at the end of the process, which can be labelled the formwithin this process, and an initial lack of this form. Furthermore, Aristotle claims, there is a third component, which is not changed in the process, the substrate or subject of the motion (Physics1.7).[17]

In term of this threefold division it is the duty of the entity effecting change to confer the requisite form on the object changed, as Physics 3.2, 202a9–11 puts it. But there are further important requirements for such a change to occur. First of all, these motions or changes occur at the interaction of two potentialities. One, the passive potentiality, is in the object undergoing change, while the other, the active potentiality, is in the entity initiating change. The two potentialities need to match each other: when there is a potentiality for being heated in the object undergoing change, the process needs to be initiated by another object possessing an active potentiality for effecting heat. This is true to the extent that Aristotle can claim that the definition of passive potentiality is dependent on that of the active potentiality (Metaphysics 9.1, 1046a11–13). These two potentialities need to work in tandem, and consequently Aristotle can claim that there is only a single process going on, which is located in the entity moved. Thus, for example, when a process of instruction is going on, it is identical to a process of knowledge acquisition, which happens in the mind of the learner. Hence although action and passion retain their categorical difference, because their accounts are different, what they subsist in, the motion, will be the same (Physics 3.3, 202b19–22).[18]

Aristotle already by the introduction of a matching pair of active and passive potentialities for each causal interaction comes very close to admitting a separate potentiality for each and every change, something uncomfortably close to the vis dormitiva, ridiculed by Molière, according to which a sleeping pill allegedly induces sleep just in virtue of its power to induce sleep. Aristotle, however, subscribes to an even stronger principle, that causes in effecting change transmit the form they possess to the entity they effect change in, so that they have to be synonymous with the effects they bring into existence. In Aristotle’s favourite example, only a human in actuality produces a human from what is a human in potentiality. If this is so, a sleeping pill need not only possess an active potentiality for inducing sleep: it needs also to be slumbering itself.[19] The principle—which we could term the principle of causational synonymy—comes from Plato (see e.g. Phaedo 100B-101D), but Aristotle has his own reasons for endorsing it. His science attests to the presence and operation of causally active forms at each level of analysis of the physical world.[20] Hence, as we shall see, Aristotle’s forms are the causally significant components of the substance effecting a change. Accordingly, when it comes to specifying the moving cause of an artefact, Aristotle will refer to the art of the craftsman as the fundamental component operative in the change. In cases where a living being is generated, it is the parental form which is transmitted to the newly emerging living being.[21]

But it is not only processes of generation that conform to this requirement. Instances of qualitative change are often mentioned alongside substantial generation, and as a crucially important instance of qualitative alteration—or of qualitative quasi-alteration, depending on how we interpret Aristotle’s theory of perception (on this debate see the supplementary note on Controversies Surrounding Aristotle’s Theory of Perception)—Aristotle presupposes that the principle of causational synonymy characterises also the causal link connecting the object of sensation and the sense organ.

It is, nevertheless, important to note that Aristotle restricts the principle of causal synonymy in different and subtle ways. Most significantly, an important domain of cases where a property of an object is actualised is exempted from the requirements of this principle. The actualisation of a property can be the continuation of a previous causal process to the extent that Aristotle claims it is a second actuality, following upon a previously acquired first actuality. In these cases the emergence of the second actuality does not necessarily require an additional external efficient cause. The operation of this first actuality, through which it reinforces and completes itself, can be the mere extension of the operation of the original efficient cause (this will be Aristotle’s claim about the natural locomotion of the elements, see Section 5 below), or the entity which has acquired this first actuality can be already causally responsible for its own activities, including the ones which bring it to a level of higher actuality[22] (Aristotle’s examples for this case are the soul of the embryo or of the newborn cub, which commands and effects the nourishing and the activities of the animal; or the actual application of a piece of knowledge one has acquired beforehand). It is important to note that these claims are far from trivial: they rest on further claims that the very definitions of these first actualities (what it is to be an element, an animal, or knowledge, respectively) inseparably include references to these activities.

Second, the principle is couched in terms which do not include locomotions: it is substantial, qualitative or quantitative form which is claimed to be transmitted through the efficacy of the cause in Physics 3.2, 202a9–12. One of the reasons for this is that locomotion, as Aristotle submits, affects the least the substance, the ousia of the object undergoing motion (Physics 8.7, 261a20f). Unlike the other types of change, locomotion does not change the being of the moved object at all. To some extent that should mean that the predication of place should remain extrinsic to the being of the entity that is at a particular location.[23] Hence the fundamental presupposition of causation, that it is intrinsic characterisations of entities which are conferred on the object moved cannot be in full force in cases of locomotion.[24] Accordingly, Aristotle will have a more intricate account for natural and forced locomotions.

Third, the principle of causational synonymy is restricted to substances at the end of Metaphysics7.9,[25] and in the first half of the same chapter the non-standard presence of some causally relevant forms may also be envisaged. Aristotle’s example there is the heat in motion, which produces heat in the body when the doctor rubs the patient in the appropriate manner. This heat in the motion can be the presence of an active potentiality in the motion which is able to elicit heat in the body, without heat being predicable of motion itself. But even if such non-inherential subsistence of properties is not envisaged in this passage—the alternative being that the heat in motion is the heat in the skin of the patient, caused by the rub, which then enters into the inner recesses of the body, becoming heat in the body—some similar sort of presence is required in two large classes of cases: natural generations and artificial productions.

Aristotle claims that in a chain of efficient causes, where the first element of the series acts through the intermediary of the other items, it is the first member in the causal chain, rather than the intermediaries, which is the moving cause (Physics 8.5, 257a10–12). Then, both in cases of natural generation and artificial production, it is only this first efficient cause which has to satisfy the requirement of synonymous causation. Aristotle’s prime example, that human generates human, is also such a case. Here, the causal efficacy of the paternal human form is transmitted through the generative potentialities of the semen of the father. The semen, however, although it acts as an efficient cause in the process of the formation of the embryo, is not a human; it does not possess the form it transmits in the same way as the male parent. Aristotle’s discussion makes it clear that this is not an isolated instance of an exception from the general principle. He compares the case to the activity of a craftsman, where the form of the product of the artistic production is in the soul of the craftsman, and then through the motions of the instruments this form can get imposed on the material manufactured into an artefact. The instruments and their motions are efficient causes of the process, but they do not contain the form in the same way as the soul of the craftsman (On the generation of animals 730b14–23 and 740b25–29, for further discussion see the entry on Aristotle: Biology).[26]

All these restrictions notwithstanding, Aristotle can claim that the principle of causational synonymy remains universally valid. This is so, because all the three restrictions above specify cases where Aristotle can claim that a preceding, more prominent cause has already satisfied the requirement: in the case of second actualities the first actuality was called into existence by a synonymous cause in the first place; locomotions, qualitative and quantitative changes, even if not caused by a synonymous entity, can be part of a larger pattern of causation, in which a substance is caused by a substance of the same kind; and causal chains producing substances can be claimed to start out invariably from synonymous substances.

Given his commitment to causal synonymy, Aristotle needs to invoke considerations through which a chain of efficient causes of some entity can be meaningfully compared in terms of causal efficacy. These considerations will on each occasion describe synonymous causes not only as temporally prior, but also as having priority in terms of causal efficacy over the intermediate causes, which are responsible only for the transmission of the forms of the original locus of causal efficacy.

This allows, then, that in the two major paradigms of such causation—in natural generation and in artificial production—the forms—the nature of the natural entity, and the art[27] of the craftsman exercising his art respectively—are the causally operative entities initiating change. This has wide ranging consequences for the status of forms in several respects. First, the causal relevance of these forms shows that not any arrangement or configuration can qualify as a full-fledged form. While it is true that privations are also forms in some sense (Physics 2.1, 193b19–20), this is not the sense in which the causally operative forms, describable in evaluative terms, can be called forms. Moreover, the causal relevance of forms allows Aristotle to switch (e.g. in De generatione et corruptione 1.7) without notice between the craftsman and the craft itself as the appropriate specification of the efficient cause in these cases. We should note that in the latter cases, Aristotle specifies causes which are unmoved. They do not effect motion by being in motion themselves, in so far as they are the causally effective forms within the causal framework; hence they are not under any reactive influence during this process either.

4. Priority among motions

images (2)

Even though the foregoing might have suggested that generation of substances is fundamental for all the other kinds of changes, in fact locomotion will have a privileged status. All other changes depend on locomotions, because any two entities involved in change, with their active and passive potentialities respectively, need to come into contact in order for the interaction to occur.[28]Contact, however, as a rule needs to be established by locomotion: either the entity to be moved, or the mover, or both, need to proceed so that they meet (Physics 8.7, 260a26-b7). Moreover locomotion is the form of change which can occur in isolation of generation, perishing and the other forms of change (Physics 8.7, 260b26–29). Other changes are indepedent kinds of change insofar as they can occur in an entity which does not perform any other change. Nevertheless all these forms of change include or presuppose that some other entity engages in locomotion.[29]

Aristotle argues at the opening of Physics bk. 8 that motion and change in the universe can have no beginning, because the occurrence of change presupposes a previous process of change. With this argument Aristotle can establish an eternal chain of motions and refute those who hold that there could have been a previous stationary state of the universe. Such an eternal chain, Aristotle argues, needs to rely on a cause which guarantees its persistence: if each of the constitutive processes in the causally connected web were of finite duration, for every one of them it can be the case that it is not present in the world, indeed, at some later time it will not be present any longer. But then the whole causally connected series of events, Aristotle submits, would also be contingent.[30] Hence Aristotle postulates that the processes of the universe depend on an eternal motion (or on several eternal motions), the eternal revolution of the heavenly spheres, which in turn is dependent on one or several unmoved movers (Physics 8.6, 258b26–259a9).[31]

The priority of the eternal celestial revolutions, furthermore, guarantees the causal finitude of the universe. This is so, even though there are infinite causal chains: behind every single individual of an animal species there is an infinite series of male ancestors, each causally responsible for the subsequent members in the series, because Aristotelian species are eternal and male parents are the efficient causes of their offspring.[32] Left to its own devices, the finite universe on its own would swiftly reach a dissolution, a state of complete separation of the elemental masses into their concentrically arranged natural places. In view of the fact that such a complete segregation of the elemental masses is avoided through the constant excitation caused by the celestial motions, producing heat in the sublunary domain, especially around the regions of the Sun,[33] Aristotle will be entitled to assert that the cause of the human being is in the first instance his or her father, but is at the same time the Sun as it moves along its annual ecliptic path.[34] Between celestial revolutions and the individual natural processes there is always a finite causal chain, as these natural processes could not possibly have continued without the celestial motions. The infinite causal chains passing through male parents cannot subsist on their own without this constant external support, and this dependence can always be analysed in terms of finite causal chains.

5. Movers and unmoved movers

The definition of motion as the actuality of a potentiality of the entity undergoing motion in so far as it is potential requires that in each case the passive potentiality for the change is present in the changing object. The presence of the potentiality can, nevertheless, be in accordance with the nature of the object—in which case the change is natural (phusei) or according to nature (kata phusin), or can happen in the face of a contrary disposition on the part of the nature of the entity—in which case the change is forced (biâi) or contrary to nature (para phusin). A major presupposition on Aristotle’s part is that this division is exhaustive: there are no changes to which the nature of the entity would be indifferent or neutral.[35] The major consideration behind such a presupposition is that natures regulate the behaviour of the entities to which they belong in a comprehensive manner, and not merely partially. Any influence the entity is exposed to interacts with the nature in a substantive manner. The entity does not possess potentialities for change which would not be directly related to the tendencies emerging from its nature.

Note, however, that even if we endorsed the exhaustiveness of the dichotomy of natural and forced motions, and accepted the thesis that simple bodies possess a unique natural motion (De caelo 1.2, 269a8–9), we would not need thereby to accept Aristotle’s further major claim, that natural and forced motions come in pairs of contraries, with the result that if a motion is contrary to the nature of an entity, the contrary motion will be its natural motion (De caelo 1.2, 269a9–18). Where there is room for some more complex relationships among the endpoints of changes than a simple opposition along an axis of a single dimension—and this is eminently so between locomotions along rectilinear and circular paths respectively—there can be several forced translations in contrast to the single natural motion, as Aristotle also admits in some passages of the De caelo (see 1.2, 269a18-b2 and 269b10-12; for a more complex description of the relationships between circular motion and rectilinear ones in opposite directions see 270b32–271a5).[36]

Aristotle’s classification of motions into those contrary to nature and those according to nature applies not only to the motions of the moved objects, but transfers also to the movers effecting motions. A mover can effect a motion which is contrary to its own nature. Aristotle’s example of such an unnatural mover is the lever, an object heavy by nature, with which loads can be lifted (Physics 8.4, 255a20–23). Although such movers can effect motions in the contrary direction to the motion at the head of the causal chain (levers are operated by the downward push of something heavy at the other end), the crucial consideration for Aristotle in this case is that the original, initiating cause of the causal chain should effect the motion according to its nature. Taken together, these considerations imply that we have a complete account of the physical domain once we have a thorough description of what is natural to the entites in that domain, together with a specification of all the circumstances in which they operate.[37]

Bk. 8 of the Physics argues for the additional thesis that for each motion, whether natural or contrary to nature, there needs to exist a mover. In cases of forced motion, movers are present in a perspicuous way. This need not be so, however, in cases of natural motion. Apart from the cases where the nature of the entity is at the same time a moving and efficient cause—i.e., apart from living beings, whose nature, the soul, is both formal and efficient cause—the mover may be inconspicuous. This is eminently so in the remaining large class of natural motions, the natural motions of the elements. The nature of these elements, their inner principle of motion and rest is not the moving cause of the motions of the elements, Aristotle claims. If it were, then it would be up to the elementary masses to determine when they should perform their motions, but plainly it is not. Moreover, the principle of causational synonymy rules out that any homogenous mass, without an internal demarcation into components which move and are moved, could move itself (Physics 8.4, 255a5–18). This is so because, on the assumption that one part of a homogenenous body could move another part, the active component of change would be, in every aspect, indistinguishable from the part in which change is effected, and this in turn would mean that change would occur even though there would be no transmission of a causally relevant property from the active part to the passive. This implies that even though we may answer the question as to why the elements move to their natural places—the light bodies up and the heavy ones down—by an appeal to their respective natures as causes (“that it is simply their nature to move somewhere, and this is what it is to be light and to be heavy” Physics 8.4, 255b13–17), we do not thereby specify their moving causes. Their thrust being in a single direction, the elements cannot circumvent even rather simple obstacles they may encounter on their way (a sealed container can retain air under water, the roof stays put pressing down on the walls of a building etc.). Hence, whoever removes an obstacle to an element’s motion is causally responsible for the ensuing elemental motions. But even such a causally responsible agent will not qualify as the moving cause, without yet further qualifications. For the identification of the moving cause of these locomotions Aristotle invokes his distinction of two potentialities. Some heavy material can be potentially light, as it can be transformed into a light material in a process of generation, whereas the emerging light material is still potential in a sense until it has acquired its full-fledged status, which involves its having arrived at that region of the cosmos which is its natural place. This analysis, then, describes the natural locomotion of the elements as a possibly postponed, completing stage within a single overarching process, and hence in these cases Aristotle can identify the cause of the second stage of the process with the efficient cause of the first stage, the entity which generated the element in the first place (Physics 8.4, 256a1).

Once it is established that there is a mover for each change, the finite causal chains[38] can be followed up to the primary instance of motion, the celestial revolutions, the Sun’s motion along the ecliptic course responsible for many sublunar changes, the rotating seasons being foremost among them. Whether the cosmos has unmoved or moved movers, moreover, whether the universe is causally closed or needs some continuous external causal influence for its preservation, depends ultimately, then, on the status of the celestial motions.

Revolutions in the celestial realm are the natural motions of the special element making up the celestial spheres. This, however, does not entail that they have no need of an external unmoved[39]mover: the motions of the sublunary elements also occur under the influence of a moving cause. Nevertheless, the celestial bodies cannot be moved by an external mover of the same sort as the sublunary elements. These celestial bodies are eternal and ungenerated. Consequently, Aristotle cannot appeal to the entity which produced them as responsible for their locomotions. As they do not encounter any hindrance during their revolutions, there is no room for an accidental mover which would remove any obstacles in their way. Nevertheless, as celestial revolutions are motions, albeit eternal ones, they include some component of potentiality, which is actualised in the motion, and hence this potential component is in need of an actuality as a mover. This requirement implies that whatever can be the mover of these eternal motions needs to be in actuality without any restrictions (Metaphysics 12.6).[40] Moreover, such an entity has to possess an infinite power[41]which it communicates to the moved celestial sphere. Hence, this entity cannot be divisible and cannot have extension (Physics 8.10).

All this testifies to the exceptional status of the first movement, and behind it, of the first mover in the universe. The mover of these spheres possesses nothing but actuality, but this actuality is not what is transmitted in the process of causation. As we have seen in Section 3 above, this would not be exceptional as such: locomotion need not be caused on the transmission model of causation. But locomotions caused without immediate transmission were understood to be be embedded in larger patterns of causation which observed the principle of causational synonymy, and it is exactly such a larger pattern of causation which is missing in the case of celestial motions. Instead, what we hear in Metaphysics 12.6 is that the first mover moves as an object of love and striving,[42] which comes perilously close to abandoning the claims of Physics bk. 8 to the effect that there is an unmoved mover serving as the efficient cause of the motions of the cosmos. Such doubts, however, should be dismissed. Aristotle is describing here in the terminology of his physics a supra-physical entity without which the universe could not function or persist. Small wonder if its mode of operation needs to subsume several different dimensions of physical causation.

images (1).jpg

Glossary of Aristotelian terms

  • action: poiein
  • actuality: energeia or entelecheia
  • art, craft: technê
  • capacity: dunamis
  • cause: aitia or aition
  • change: kinêsis or metabolê
    to effect change or motion: kinein
    to undergo change or motion: kineisthai
    qualitative change: alloiôsis
    quantitative changes—growth: auxêsis; shrinking: phthisis
    locomotion: phora
  • to come to be: gignesthai
  • coming to be: genesis
  • force: bia
    forced: biâi
  • form: eidos or morphê
  • in so far as: hêi
  • genus, kind: genos
  • goal: telos
  • kind, species: eidos
  • matter: hulê
  • magnitude: megethos
  • motion: kinêsis
  • nature: phusis
    natural: phusikos, phusei
    according to nature: kata phusin
    contrary to nature: para phusin
  • passion: paschein
  • to perish: phtheirein
  • perishing: phthora
  • place: pou (as one of the categories, literally: where) or topos
  • potentiality: dunamis
  • power: dunamis
  • quality: poion
  • quantity: poson
  • substance: ousia
  • time: pote (as one of the categories, literally: when) or chronos


Primary Sources

  • Aristotle, De generatione et corruptione, translated with notes by C. J. F. Williams, Oxford: Clarendon Press (Clarendon Aristotle Series), 1982.
  • Aristotle, On coming-to-be and passing-away (De generatione and corruptione), revised Greek text with introduction and commentary by Harold H. Joachim, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926.
  • Aristotle, Du ciel, (De Caelo = On the Heavens), Greek text and French translation by Paul Moraux, Paris: Les Belles lettres (Collection Budé), 1965.
  • Aristotle, Physics, Books I-II, translated with introduction and notes by William Charlton, Oxford: Clarendon Press (Clarendon Aristotle Series), 1970 (2nd. ed. 1992).
  • Aristotle, Physics, Books III-IV, translated with notes by Edward Hussey, Oxford: Clarendon Press (Clarendon Aristotle Series), 1983.
  • Aristotle, Physics, Book VIII, translated with commentary by Daniel W. Graham, Oxford: Clarendon Press (Clarendon Aristotle Series), 1999.
  • Aristotle, Physics, revised Greek text with introduction and commentary by William David Ross, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936.

Secondary Sources

  • Ackrill, J. L., 1991, “Change and Aristotle’s theological argument,” in H. Blumenthal and H. Robinson (eds.), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (Supplementary Volume), Oxford: Clarendon, pp. 57–66; reprinted in J.L. Ackrill, Essays on Plato and Aristotle, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997, 131–41.
  • Annas, Julia, 1982, “Aristotle on inefficient causes,” Philosophical Quarterly, 32: 311–26.
  • Bodnár, István M., 1997, “Movers and elemental motions in Aristotle,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (Volume 15), Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 81–117.
  • Cherniss, Harold F., 1944, Aristotle’s criticism of Plato and the Academy, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Code, Alan, 1987, “Soul as efficient cause in Aristotle’s embryology,” Philosophical Topics, 15: 51–59.
  • Coope, Ursula, 2004, “Aristotle’s account of agency in Physics III.3,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 20: 201–221.
  • –––, 2009, “Change and its relation to actuality and potentiality,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 277–291.
  • de Haas, Frans and Mansfeld, Jaap (eds.), 2004, Aristotle: On Generation and Corruption, Book I: Symposium Aristotelicum, Oxford: Clarendon.
  • Falcon, Andrea, 2005, Aristotle and the science of nature: Unity without uniformity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Frede, Michael and Charles, David (eds.), 2000, Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda: Symposium Aristotelicum, Oxford: Clarendon.
  • Freeland, Cynthia A., 1987, “Aristotle on bodies, matter, and potentiality,” in Allan Gotthelf and James Lennox (eds.), Philosophical issues in Aristotle’s biology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 392–407.
  • Furley, David, 1978, “Self-movers,” in G.E.R. Lloyd and G.E.L. Owen (eds.), Aristotle on mind and the senses, (Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium Aristotelicum), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 165–79; rReprinted in David Furley (ed.), Cosmic problems: Essays on Greek and Roman philosophy of nature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 121–31.
  • Gill, Mary Louise, 1980, “Aristotle’s theory of causal action in Physics III. 3,” Phronesis, 25: 129–47.
  • –––, 2009, “The theory of the elementst in De caelo 3 and 4,” in Alan C. Bowen and Christian Wildberg (eds.), New Perspectives on Aristotle’s De caelo, Leiden-Boston: Brill, pp. 119-161.
  • Hankinson, R.J., 2009, “Natural, unnatural, and preternatural motions: Contrariety and argument for the elements in De caelo 1.2–4,” in Alan C. Bowen and Christian Wildberg (eds.), New Perspectives on Aristotle’s De caelo, Leiden-Boston: Brill, pp. 83-118.
  • Judson, Lindsay, 1994, “Heavenly motion and the unmoved mover,” in Mary Louise Gill and James G. Lennox (eds.), Self-motion: From Aristotle to Newton, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 155–171.
  • Judson, Lindsay (ed.), 1991, Aristotle’s Physics: A collection of essays, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Kelsey, Sean, 2006, “Aristotle Physics I 8,” Phronesis, 51: 330–361.
  • –––. “The place of I 7 in the argument of Physics I,” Phronesis, 53: 180–208.
  • Kosman, L. Aryeh, 1969, “Aristotle’s definition of motion,” Phronesis, 14: 40–62.
  • Makin, Stephen, 1990/1991, “An ancient principle about causation,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 91: 135–52.
  • Marmodoro, Anna, 2007, “The union of cause and effect in Aristotle: Physics 3. 3,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (Volume 32), Oxford: Clarendon, pp. 205–232.
  • Matthen, Mohan and Hankinson, R.J., 1993, “Aristotle’s universe: Its form and matter,” Synthèse, 96: 417–435.
  • Moravcsik, Julius M., 1991, “What makes reality intelligible? Reflections on Aristotle’s theory ofaitia,” in Lindsay Judson (ed.), Aristotle’s Physics: A collection of essays, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 31–48.
  • Mourelatos, Alexander P., 1967, “Aristotle’s powers and modern empiricism,” Ratio, 9: 97–104.
  • –––, 1984, “Aristotle’s rationalist account of qualitative interaction,” Phronesis, 29: 1–16.
  • Solmsen, Friedrich, 1960, Aristotle’s system of the physical world, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • Sorabji, Richard, 1988, Matter, space, and motion: Theories in Antiquity and their sequel, London: Duckworth or Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 1983, Time, creation, and the continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the early Middle Age, London: Duckworth or Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • Turnbull, Robert G., 1958, “Aristotle’s debt to the ‘natural philosophy’ of the Phaedo,”Philosophical Quarterly, 8: 131–43.
  • Wardy, R., 1990, The chain of change: A study of Aristotle’s Physics VII, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Waterlow, Sarah, 1982, Nature, change, and and agency in Aristotle’s Physics, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Wildberg, Christian, 1988, John Philoponus’ criticism of Aristotle’s theory of aether, (Peripatoi 16), Berlin: De Gruyter 1988.

Copyright © 2012 by
Istvan Bodnar <stb@elte.hu>


First published Fri May 26, 2006; substantive revision Mon Jan 16, 2012

San Laurenzo

Deus, cuius caritátis ardóre beátus Lauréntius servítio cláruit fidélis et martýrio gloriósus, fac nos amáre quod amávit et ópere exercére quod dócuit. Per Dóminum.

Dóminus nos benedícat, et ab omni malo deféndat, et ad vitam perdúcat ætérnam.