Perceiving Other Animate Minds in Augustine

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This paper dispels the Cartesian reading of Augustine’s treatment of mind and other minds by examining key passages from De Trinitate and De Civitate Dei. While Augustine does vigorously argue that mind is indubitable and immaterial, he disavows the fundamental thesis of the dualistic tradition: the separation of invisible spirit and visible body. The immediate self-awareness of mind includes awareness of life, that is, of animating a body. Each of us animates our own body; seeing other animated bodies enables us to see other animating souls or minds. Augustine’s affirmation of animation lets us perceive that other minds are present, but Descartes’ denial of animation renders others ineluctably absent. Augustine’s soul is no ghost, because his body is no machine.
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Archival date: 2016-02-05
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