The Metaphysical One in Platonic and Augustinian Thoughts Essay

The Metaphysical One in Platonic and Augustinian Thoughts Essay

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The legacy of Plato left its distinctive brand of influence on St. Augustine's beliefs and writings, of this there is no doubt. In Confessions, Augustine himself professed that it was the Platonic books that enabled him to attach himself to his God. However, it is evident that Augustine re-augmented much of the Platonic thoughts and, combining them with the early Christian doctrines, configured the hybrid into what became the foundation of Catholicism. The differences—as well as similarities—that exist between the two thought systems can be dissected from two points: the nature of the metaphysical supreme One and its relationships with the Many.

At the heart of Platonism is the concept of eidos, or Forms: the theory of an absolute and unchangeable Idea that is manifest in all things that are made so by its essence. One of the best definitions of the concept is offered in "Meno" in regards to the Form of Virtue: "…what is this very thing, in which [the individual virtues] are all the same and do not differ from each other? … Even if they are many and various, all of them have one and the same Form which makes them virtues." ("Meno", 72c, p61.) Plato searched for not individual aspects of a concept but the exact, complete definition of it. It is clear that he did not concern himself with the physical realities of the world but rather The Reality, the Immaterial which supercedes the Material.

The questions then rises about Plato's attitudes towards the pagan gods and his belief about the totality of the universe. Judging from the absence of Greek deities from the Dialogues, one is compelled to believe that Plato thought of the conventional gods as unnecessary and sought after the very Being of the universe, which is the eterna...

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...ate Good the soul can achieve nothing. In addition, Augustine evidently was most anxious to attack Manicheism, hence altogether rejecting that God is within human beings (a notion echoed by the Manicheans) would have been essential.

In his Confessions, Augustine successfully remolded Platonism to match his Christian ideals and interpretations. According to Platonism, the abstract eidos is the metaphysical perfect existence and the primal Universal Principle can be perceived as the Form of Being. Augustine took after Plato in his belief of an eternal, immaterial and unifying One, but his God departs from its Platonic counterpart in that He is active, personal, and ultimately the only hope of human salvation. Still, through Augustine and the Catholic Church, the pantheistic Platonism and its metaphysical One has survived throughout the Middle Ages into the present.

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