Roland J. Teske, S.J. Paradoxes of Time in Saint Augustine. ISBN 0-87462-163-1 (Aquinas Lecture 60 [1996]). $15

Professor Roland Teske, author of over thirty articles on Augustine, is already well-known for having traced the roots of the Confessions’ conception of time to Plotinus. In this work Teske turns to a comprehensive examination of Augustine’s philosophy of time. Augustine never repented his early rejection of blind faith’s response to the rationalist question, What did God do before creating? Instead, for the first time in Christian thought, as Teske shows, Augustine developed a notion of timeless eternity, based on Plotinus — a notion as essential as the privation of evil to his conversion from Manichaeism.

Roland TeskeAs for time itself, Augustine offers a classic refutation, unappreciated in the scholarly literature, of time’s non existence in the external world. In showing that time has extension only in the mind, Augustine establishes that ‘the distention of the mind is a necessary condition of our perceiving temporal wholes.’ At the same time, as Teske explains, this condition is unnatural to the rational soul, for Augustine as for Plotinus, and results from original sin.

Contrary to Bertrand Russell, however, Augustine’s notion of time is not merely subjective but is grounded in a universal soul, through which we await a return to the eternal One. This philosophy of time allows Teske a new reading of the Confessions as the story not of one but of every human, as a Christian and Plotinian philosophy of human existence crowned by the final three books.


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