Perplexity and Mystery

Metaphilosophy 29 (3):209-222 (1998)
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In this paper I comment on Gareth B. Matthews's “The Socratic Augustine” and Peter King's “Augustine on the Impossibility of Teaching.” Matthews's paper adduces several instances of Augustine's apparent willingness to accept Socratic perplexity in some philosophical matters. Matthews suggests that these cases are compatible with Augustine's dogmatism because Augustine presupposes that the phenomena in question, although perplexing, are actual. I suggest instead that Augustine can be viewed as taking a neutral stance toward many of his examples, because they arise in areas of philosophical inquiry where it is not important to the tenets of his faith that he hold the right opinion. King defends the Augustinian thesis that teaching, construed as the causal transmission of knowledge from teacher to learner, is, if not impossible, at least mysterious. I suggest that much of the alleged mystery may rest on a confusion between epistemological dependency and metaphysical dependency.



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