Augustine on our vision of “Wisdom itself”

Augustine gives a proof that we know that we  see the existence of “wisdom itself”:

But wisdom itself never was unwise, and never can become so. And if men never caught sight of this wisdom, they could never with entire confidence prefer a life which is unchangeably wise to one that is subject to change. This will be evident, if we consider that the very rule of truth by which they affirm the unchangeable life to be the more excellent, is itself unchangeable: and they cannot find such a rule, except by going beyond their own nature; for they find nothing in themselves that is not subject to change.

De doctrina christiana I c. 8.

We know that there is wisdom itself because we have seen it; and we know we have seen it since we use it as an infallible principle of judgment, as when we see that a habitual and assured life of wisdom is preferable to an unstable and uncertain one. If we hadn’t seen the principle, the experience of the judgment would be instead the experience of merely drawing out a conclusion from a stipulation – we wouldn’t experience it as a deductive argument but as a logical progression that we were simply following out to see where it might go. Clearly, there is nothing peculiar to wisdom in the terms of the argument – any perfection that is always better to have than not have would have a transcendental exemplar, and so we wouldn’t have to change the structure of the argument to prove a truth itself, good itself, nobility itself, etc.

%d bloggers like this: