'You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive': Demonic Agency in Augustine

Dionysius 29:9-27 (2011)
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This paper examines demonic agency and epistemology in the thought of Augustine. When Augustine claims that demons can “work miracles,” he means this in a specific sense: the actions and intelligence of demons are only miraculous from the standpoint of humans, whose powers of perception and action are limited in relation to those of demons. The character of demons’ bodies and the length of their lives provide abilities beyond what humans possess, but, as natural, created beings, demons adhere to the physical rules of nature. Demons possess neither supernatural powers, nor perfect knowledge. Just as our wonder ceases when we are shown how a magic trick is executed, human astonishment makes way for rational understanding once we comprehend demonic nature.

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Seamus O'Neill
Memorial University of Newfoundland


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