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St. Augustine Essay, Research Paper

In his Confessions, St. Augustine gives an absorbing analysis of time. He unleashes a complex discussion about the relevance and validity of the notion of time. He raises some interesting questions that force a more detailed investigation of current presuppositions that encircle this subject. He uses a very careful examination of time to explain and prove God s existence. His argument follows several very important themes; 1) nothing existed before God created it. 2) The phenomenon of time is greater than man because he has no understanding of it and therefore could not have created it. 3) He also examines paradigms of past and present and its relationship to the time continuum. He concludes that the past flows in to the present, and if the past ceases to exist after it has ended, then the past no longer exists. Since the observation of time can only exist in the context of the past, then time itself does not exist. With this observation he surmises that God must be responsible for the creation of time, because only he is powerful enough to create something that can defy all logic and have the presence to exist and yet not exist simultaneously.

One of the first points that St. Augustine raised is that nothing existed before God created it. You are the maker of all time, and before all time you are, nor was there ever a time where there was no time! At no time then had you not made anything (219). Augustine argues that if there were no time before the creation of time, the act of making time would concurrently be the first act of creation at any time. Augustine in this case does not assume that the first thing that God made was time, but he does put forth the claim that there was no time when God had not made anything. What can be assumed from this is that time has an origin, and is a tangible thing because time was something that was created by God. Time is representative of the ultimate starting point for life and without time, there can be no existence. Augustine questions God s motivation in creating time. Everything around humanity and mans way of life revolves around time and the passage of it. How would the world function if there were no beginning or end to life? If there were no time would everything stand still, as if a present moment were extended for eternity, or would the world still function normally without time. Consequently, in an existence where there is no time, how is it possible to conceive of an idea such as time? And by the same token, in an existence where time exists, how is it possible to conceive of existence without time? Augustine concludes that it is man s ignorance of this perplexing question that not only indicates that he did not create time, but that it was God that did.

St. Augustine proceeds logically in his intellectual quest. If time exists and is tangible and so encompassing, why is it so difficult to define? What then is time? Is there a short answer to that? Who can put the answer into words or even see it in his mind? Yet what commoner or more familiar word do we use in speech than time (Pg. 219). Augustine grapples with definitions and themes of boundaries and origins. He understands that the more questions that are asked about the subject of time, the more perplexing and confusing it becomes. He argues that his lack of definitive knowledge on the subject is a sign of his profound conjecture on the subject. In his quest for knowledge, he examines how the human mind deals with the structure of time. He argues that people strive for the savor of eternity, but their mind is still tossing about in the past and future moments of things (Pg. 217). This analogy is very interesting because it harkens to man s search for the eternal afterlife. Augustine realizes that many cannot comprehend eternity because they are brewing in the quagmire of the past, or alternatively, overly concerned with future events, leaving the present to deal with itself. If the present only becomes the past, if people dealt with the present, it would leave them less to worry about in the past. Due to a combination of a lack of understanding about time, and thinking about time in past and future tenses, both concepts that only exist within the mind, can only lead to incorrect conclusions.

Augustine wrestles with the issue of past, present and future with a more detailed study. However the more detailed his study, the more paradoxical it becomes. Augustine through his earlier analysis concluded that that if the present was always the present that would be eternity, but since the present is always flowing to the past, so must time. Since the past does not exist, St. Augustine draws the conclusion that it tends towards not being. But where does time come from, and by what way does it pass, and where does it go? (223, 224) In attempting to understand how time passes Augustine analyzes the past, present, and future. Is it plausible to state that time comes from the future when those events have not yet occurred? Moreover, the same problem applies also to the past. How can time come from the past, if the past no longer exists, It probably cannot. In asking, Where does time come from? Augustine reveals a critical assumption that he has made. Can time really come from anywhere? When something comes from a location, we have a clear understanding of its origin and that its endpoint is its location at the present. If we cannot pinpoint time at a single location, how is it possible to tell how it is passing? Thus we can affirm that time is only in that it tends towards not being . If time does not exist, then according to his earlier reasoning, neither do we. Augustine has presented a classical paradox and unfortunately it is one he is unable to resolve through the physical realm. Augustine s conclusion rests on the basis of the existence of God. Only God is able to create something that is able to exist and not exist concurrently. Only something that is not bound by time could create time, because of its property to exist. Time had to be created outside of the constraints of itself.

The fact that God is above all time, eternal, an idea which people don t give full weight to or fully comprehend, is what harkens to the crux of his argument. God defies time because he has created existence. St. Augustine marveled in this powerful vision and he saw his exploration of issues of time as an important tool to illustrate God s authority and existence. God is beyond eternity, and is not bound by constraints such as time, a concept that no matter how ubiquitous in use, we still have no true understanding of.


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