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Augustine and Academic SkepticismA Philosophical Study$
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Blake D. Dutton

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452932

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452932.001.0001

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Inquiry and Belief on Authority

Inquiry and Belief on Authority

(p.95) Chapter 5 Inquiry and Belief on Authority
Augustine and Academic Skepticism

Blake D. Dutton

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines Augustine of Hippo's advocacy of belief on authority as a legitimate basis of philosophical inquiry and how it put him at odds with the Academics. Augustine's entry into the life of the Church at the age of thirty-three led him to believe that he had come into possession of the truth he had long been seeking. Broadly speaking, this was the truth concerning God and spiritual things, and it initiated a form of inquiry known by the motto “faith seeking understanding.” This chapter explores the disagreement between Augustine and the Academics over inquiry and the role of belief on authority within it. In particular, it considers three problems that the Academics identified with belief on authority, all of which are found in the writings of Cicero and which were therefore known to Augustine: the Problem of Dubious Benefit, the Problem of Lack of Authority, and the Problem of Recognizing Authority. Finally, it looks at Augustine's attempt to resolve the Problem of Recognizing Authority.

Keywords:   belief on authority, Augustine of Hippo, philosophical inquiry, Academics, truth, faith seeking understanding, Cicero, Problem of Dubious Benefit, Problem of Lack of Authority, Problem of Recognizing Authority

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