Against the Academicians by Saint, Bishop of Hippo Augustine

By Saint, Bishop of Hippo Augustine

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Then I said: 'Let us examine the case one point at a time and settle it as if we were eyewitnesses. Behold! let us suppose a certain man is present whom we shall describe. Your brother comes in from somewhere. ' Then the man says, 'How much he resembles his father! ' 'Indeed not,' Licentius said. ' I said. ' VIII. 20. Then Trygetius said: 'It seems to me that the caution of the Academicians is far different from the foolishness of the man whom you depicted for us. ' 'As if, indeed, he would not be more foolish if he should say, 'Indeed, I do not know his father at all nor have I ever been told how much the boy resembles him; but still it seems to me he looks like him',' I replied.

Hereupon Licentius, who I thought would have a question to ask after this definition, immediately added: 'Why, then, I ask, do we not call that profligate man wise who, we know well, is wont to be charged with all kinds of debaucheries, I mean that notorious Albicerius who gave such astonishing and correct answers to those who consulted him for many years at Carthage? I could mention a number of examples if I were not speaking to those who are familiar with them; so a few will now be sufficient for my purpose.

24 Augustine's main objective in the Contra Academicos was the refutation of the skepticism of the New Academy as portrayed by Cicero in the Academica, and the proof that truth can be attained by man. Page 31 Second Book I. 1. 2 But since men, if they seek wisdom at all, do not seek it diligently, and since they are turned away from the desire of seeking it by the many and various trivialities of this life, as is the case with you, Romanianus, or by a certain insensibility of their mental powers, or by indolence, or by sluggishness of mind, or by despair of ever finding wisdombecause the star of wisdom does not appear so easily before our minds as light does to our eyeor even by a false conception of truth when it has been discovered by them, an error which is common among people, the result is that knowledge is seldom attained and only by a few people; and from this very fact it happens that the arms of the Academicians, when one meets them in a hand to hand struggle, seem invincible and, as it were, Vulcan-like (Vulcania),3 not merely to men of ordinary ability, but even to those who are keen-minded and scholarly.

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