Johnson Srigiri

Is Time Just the Tip of the Iceberg? Discovering in Augustine’s Corpus Human Cognition as Giving Rise to Temporality

While the recurrent theme —Augustine on time, continues to hold its sway, both in the academic and popular works, most of its pertinent conversations continue centre around Confessions XI. Revisiting the text prompted in me a serendipitous moment: While the focus in the text indeed centres on the origin and nature of time, it is also steeply posited in Augustine’s complex views on the capabilities of the human mind for cognition. The inseparable connection between time and human cognition, I felt, could be a game changer and a quest to know it with greater certainty, necessitated the survey of the corpus which not only strengthened the impetus but also led to two more significant observations. One, the intricate mixture of theological and philosophical knowledge that lays behind the narrative of his conversion as a better starting point to wonder at both time and cognition than Confessions XI and, two, as evidently found throughout his corpus, that the human cognition, with its capabilities for perception, belief and language and its concerns for reality, rationality, relationality and certainty seem to give rise to the complexity of temporal notions far beyond the concepts of time and eternity. To state it otherwise, there seems to be a perichoresis, as it were, of temporal notions and cognitive complexity that can be seem as temporality in human mind. Although Augustine himself never thought about temporality in the modern sense of the term, the concept well captures the spectrum developed through the very history of the shared human collective cognition as found in his corpus. This thesis (the inseparable relationship between temporality and human cognition) is reinforced in reverting to and elaborating two pieces of the corpus, namely Confessions XI and On Music. The work ends by highlighting Augustine’s usage of temporality in his Scriptural exegesis and his overall theological enterprise. The Appendix, with an anticipation to set into motion a dialogue between Cognitive Sciences and Theological hermeneutics, wonders whether or not Augustine would be surprised to find temporality, as shown today, on ‚Neuroscience’s watch‘.

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