St. Augustine on Time, Time Numbers, and Enduring Objects

in Vivarium
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Throughout his works, St. Augustine offers at least nine distinct views on the nature of time, at least three of which have remained almost unnoticed in the secondary literature. I first examine each these nine descriptions of time and attempt to diffuse common misinterpretations, especially of the views which seek to identify Augustinian time as consisting of an un-extended point or a distentio animi. Second, I argue that Augustine’s primary understanding of time, like that of later medieval scholastics, is that of an accident connected to the changes of created substances. Finally, I show how this interpretation has the benefit of rendering intelligible Augustine’s contention that, at the resurrection, motion will still be able to occur, but not time.

St. Augustine on Time, Time Numbers, and Enduring Objects

in Vivarium




As for example in Danne W. Polk‘Temporal Impermanence and the Disparity of Time and Eternity’Augustinian Studies 22 (1991) 63-82John F. Callahan Four Views of Time in Ancient Philosophy (New York 1948) and Bertrand Russell Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (New York 1948) 212.


Cf. O’DaleyAPM154.


Ibid. XI.27.36“Ergo aut ipsa sunt tempora, aut non tempora metior.” PL 32 col. 824.


Wilma G. von Jess‘Augustine: A Consistent and Unitary Theory of Time’The New Scholasticism 46 (1972) 337-351 notes that the thesis that Augustine’s final definition of time was a distentio animi was “taken severely to task” by a number of scholars in the 1950’s. Richard Sorabji in Time Creation and The Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (1983) 30-32 also claims that Augustine defines time as a “dimension of the mind.” Sorabji gets around the problem of Augustine’s other views of time by suggesting that Augustine abandoned his psychological view of time in his later writings.


Michael F. Wagner‘Real Time in Aristotle, Plotinus, and Augustine’The Journal of Neoplatonic StudiesVol. IV No. 2 (1996) 111 also follows the interpretation just offered. Cf. Aristotle De memoria et reminiscentia 452b6-25 which should be compared to the above account.


Cf. Katherin A. Rogers‘St. Augustine on Time and Eternity’American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly70:2 (1996) 207-223. Rogers emphasizes the importance of the angelic doctrine of time but (incorrectly I think) believes that Augustine is committed to the thesis that God is metaphysically unable to perceive time since His perception is restricted to a eternal present and that finite conscious beings must exist in order for time to be at all.


Cf. SorabjiTCC167-168.

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