Augustine and metaphysics

Jean-Luc Marion claims that the word ‘metaphysics’ does not apply to ancient thought at all – despite the fact that Heidegger regularly cites Aristotle as exemplifying ‘the onto-theo-logical structure of metaphysics.’

Scholars such as P. Aubenque, J.-F. Courtine, T. De Koninck, F. Nef have shown that Aristotle's plural and aporetic investigations do not constitute an ontotheology in the sense developed by the commentators such as Alexander of Aphrodisias and Simplicius, or by Avicenna, a theory in which the notion of being, whether analogical or univocal, acts as a pivot in a systematic ontology of universal ens commune grounded in the divine summum ens. But in a broader, simpler and more radical sense, Aristotle is surely a metaphysician, identifying being as ousia, substance, and grounding beings causally in the supreme being, the divine 'self-thinking thought.' Let us not forget the phenomenological bearing of Heidegger's thought. It is from the intellectualization of the phenomenon of the ontological difference between beings and their being that metaphysics emerges; and metaphysics from the start is ontotheology, that is a logos about being. Heidegger wants to return to a different kind of logos, a legein that sets forth being and beings in their primary phenomenological senses, before the construction of a metaphysical logos.

Marion's position has the effect of cutting off Augustine from the history of metaphysics, and situating him in an extraterritorial realm of purely Christian thought. With the phenomenological purism that is his hallmark, Marion can thus clear the ground for a ‘reduction’ of Augustine in terms of a number of ‘saturated phenomena’ such as divine truth that enlightens conscience or the ineffable divine ultimacy. These phenomena are severed from their close relationship to Neoplatonic experience of similar realities, or rather, in Augustine’s own view, of the same realities.

see Joseph S. O'Leary
see Journal de l'Hypertexte en philosophie

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