St. Augustine

The Inner Light 


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The Mind and Experience

Knowledge is a product of the processes of thought, but there has been little understanding of the way in which the subjective mind achieves knowledge. 

The nature of the human mind has been the subject of long-running philosophical disputes. Materialists see the mind as a state of matter. For them the "brain" and the "mind" are different ways of looking at the same entity. Rene Descartes is credited with the first statement, within the Western tradition, of the separate natures of mind and matter, and Karl Popper has more recently restated the theory. 

In this epistemological project the investigation of the human mind is pursued independently of the brain. Compatibility with Cognitive Psychology is maintained by an approach based on the study of observable behaviour. This is supplemented by the study of experience. Experience gives the problems and behaviour represents the response. The mental actions that relate the problems and the behavioural solutions may be inferred, where inference is a problem solving activity. 

The Western philosophical tradition has seen the processes of the mind to be logical, but this approach has always been fraught with problems and the Postmodernists have, on good grounds, denied its validity. Karl Popper has suggested that knowledge is produced by certain psychological processes. The understanding of these processes of the mind is fundamental to any theory of knowledge.

David Hume (1711-1776) proposed to investigate the nature of mental processes to discover how the intellect reached knowledge. This was to be carried out using the experimental method employed so successfully in physics by Isaac Newton. The study would result in a "science of man" which would be the only solid foundation for all other sciences. Hume's own investigation of mental entities and processes has been heavily criticised and is now discredited. 

Hume's programme is taken up, with the substitution of scientific methodology for Hume's method of reasoning. Hume's epistemological project, as amended, is a scientific investigation of how experience is processed within the human intellect to produce knowledge. 


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Knowledge and Reality


The existence of Reality is the explanation for the set of human experience. The cognitive self is taken as the datum and all experience is seen to occur to that self, and its source is a reality external to the self. 

Familiar experience may be understood and the correct behaviours for dealing with it may be invoked from existing intellectual resources. New experience constitutes problems of understanding and a problem solving method must be applied. The form is:-


The true understanding of experience is knowledge of reality. The programme of knowledge is the search for the meaning of reality.

Experiences divide naturally into two categories, the one referring to the ultimate reality of God, and the other to created reality. Ultimate reality and created reality meet in the scheme of fundamental reality. Ultimate reality is personal, intelligent and moral. Fundamental reality is systematic, purposeful, and benevolent. These realities provide the substrata for created reality.

Created Reality

In the analysis of created reality the starting point is St.Augustine's observations on the nature of time. In St.Augustine's view the cognitive self never experiences a past, nor a future, time. Its experiences are always in the Now. It exists in the everlasting present which is eternity.

The experiences of thought lead to the idea of the Intellect which is seen as external to the intelligent and cognitive self. The self is aware of thought and in observing the entities and processes of thought sees them objectively. The intellect may be augmented and changed, perhaps radically, with the assent of the self. There is no observation that the self is changed in these operations and the self is taken to be distinct from them. The world of thought is then external to the nuclear self. The intellect lies in time but not in space. 

The experiences of space and matter give rise to the idea of the physical universe which is external to, and farther removed from, both the cognitive self and the intellect. The physical body is part of this subreality.

The human individual is seen, then, as an entity with three parts which are the spirit, the intellect and the body. The human spirit or intelligent and cognitive nucleus exists always in eternity. The intellect exists in time and the physical body exists in both time and space. This contradicts the materialist model of the human individual, which sees the human being as existing entirely in time and space.

In the Augustinian model of created reality the human situation is that of the spirit as Will exercising the power of choice based on understanding as given by the intellect, and the physical reality is the external reflection of the consequences of those decisions. 

New understanding is given by the Holy Spirit on simple requisition. By achieving the right understandings and making the correct choices individuals can change their realities. 


Ideal Reality

For human beings the viewpoint is always from within the intellect. It is the intellect which is the primary environment of the individual and the Cosmos is external, secondary, and logically remote. The Intellect Support System is the interface with external reality and the intellect lies logically between this interface and the Source of new ideas.

Diagram 3.1.1 shows the relationships of the entities comprising intellectual reality, which, in addition to the intellect itself, are:-

* The Intellect Support System, which is the most immediate entity. This system incorporates the psychological processes involved in the creation of knowledge and understanding.

* The Cosmic Manager which, through the changing patterns of the cosmos, gives the raw data of experience. The cosmic management system is that set of rules or laws controlling the operation of the physical universe.


Diagram 3.1.1


The intellect, through its support system, is in tandem with its body during the course of natural life, and its objectives with regard to the body are executed through the cosmic system. The purposes of the individual, both practical and moral, are taken into account by the Cosmic Manager. Feedback, in terms of sensory data, is returned through the support system. Feedback, in terms of feeling, is obtained directly through the individual's emotional investment in the physical body.

* The Creative Source which gives all understanding of reality.

The concept of imagination as a source of new understanding and creative behaviour, both intellectual and artistic, has a long history. Leonardo da Vinci and William Shakespeare, for example, are regarded as creative geniuses.

The idea of the involvement of the creative faculty in the innovation of ideas considered as knowledge, has more recent origins. Albert Einstein has been seen as a creative thinker.

Creativity is unlimited intelligent power and recognises truth, subject to the requisition for truth. The general form is:- 


Creativity is the power to create, and in creating the solution to the problem of experience in the form of knowledge, where knowledge is true understanding and correct mental and physical behaviours, it gives the intellect the power to deal with that aspect of reality which gave rise to the problem.

The thesis of rational scientific epistemology is that both the cosmic system and the Creative Source are functions of the Holy Spirit. From external reality there is a flow of experience in the form of problems. From the Creative Source of new ideas come the solutions. Between the two the intellect grows in understanding and power. This arrangement of external physical reality, support system, intellect, and Source, constitute the entities of human intellectual reality. They function as a co-ordinated whole to promote the understanding of intellects committed to exploring the truth.


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The Requisitioning of New Ideas


Experience in the form of problems of understanding is the foundational matter for the production of understanding and knowledge. Experience, either in its sensible form or in its intelligible form, does not amount to understanding of reality. The problems of experience are transformed into understanding and knowledge through a psychological process. 

The formula for the production of new solutions from the problem understanding is 


The stages of problem solving up to and including the solution specification present no special problems. However, the leap from the solution specification to the solution involves a logical discontinuity. It is not possible to trace the ideas incorporated in the solution back to the solution specification or the problem definition. These ideas are new. The problem is to explain where they come from and how they are formed into the meaningful logical construction which is the solution.

According to Karl Popper, there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas. Theories, and the understandings they spring from are not, in this view, the products of intellectual logical processes, but their origins lie in the psychological dimension in which the intellect exists. 

The method is given by 

PROBLEM UNDERSTANDING...> SOLUTION SPECIFICATION...> {psychological process for generating new understanding}...> SOLUTION 

Thomas Kuhn says much the same thing. According to Kuhn, no ordinary sense of the term "interpretation" fits those flashes of intuition through which a new theory is born. Instead what happens is that the new theory is invented/discovered/realised by some psychological process.

The problem of the emergence of new ideas is not confined to scientific epistemology. Every writer, whether of novels or more practical papers such as letters and reports, has the experience of seeing his work emerge as a flow of ideas which the conscious mind does not originate but only absorbs. 

Most people can experience the process of writing, and even if the resulting work is judged to be substandard, the process of having ideas and writing them is not difficult. The ideas, in general purpose language sentences, flow into the consciousness of the writer, whose task is to write them. 

The creation of new ideas requires that a specification or pattern is set up to initiate and control the flow of ideas in the process of writing. However, individuals are not totally in control of the process. The output from the process is not constructed or assembled or otherwise methodically formed by the individual but simply appears. The intellectual power is to specify, to criticise and to modify.

It is this ability to specify what ideas are wanted and to have them emerge into the conscious intellect that is of interest to epistemologists endeavouring to explain innovation in ideas. What appears to happen is that the writer starts with an idea for the work. This is the covering idea which determines the validity of new ideas, and annexes these new ideas where appropriate, and grows and matures in the process. 

The covering idea has some influence on the flow of new ideas in that clearly incompatible ideas are not generated. A writer may have an idea to write about the exploits of a fictional bomber group in Second World War Europe. In sitting down to write he would be very surprised if the flow of ideas related to some story about the expedition of the Spanish Armada. Such a violation of the writer's specification does not occur. 

If this were not the case, not only would it be impossible to write a coherent story, but it would be impossible to think consecutively and constructively about any matter.

That new ideas are generated in response to the specification implies a relationship between two logical entities which may be called The Required Idea Set and the Idea Generator. The nature of the relationship is one of specifying the required ideas by the individual and the creation of the required ideas by the source of new ideas. This source of ideas responds to the meanings of specifications and is sensitive to the idea of truth. 

New ideas, whether true or false, must be seen as creations rather than as interpretations, inventions, or discoveries. The character, function, and mode of operation of this creative source of new ideas should be investigated in order to clearly understand the process of innovation.


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The Inner Light as the Teacher


St.Augustine refers to the Creative Source of new ideas and knowledge as the Interior Master. It is known to Christians generally as the Holy Spirit or the Teacher. Philosophers know it as the Light of Reason and theologians call it the Inner Light. 

Scientific Epistemology sees it as a system of God. The corpus of true understanding which is knowledge follows from the understanding of this system.

The NEXT PAGE  discusses the teaching system of God seen as the Inner Light.







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