Augustine on the Varieties of Understanding and Why There is No Learning from Words

This paper examines Augustine’s views on language, learning, and testimony in De Magistro. It is often held that, in De Magistro, Augustine is especially concerned with explanatory understanding (a complex cognitive state characterized by its synoptic nature and awareness of explanatory relations) and that he thinks testimony is deficient in imparting explanatory understanding. I argue against this view and give a clear analysis of the different kinds of cognitive state Augustine is concerned with and a careful examination of his arguments concerning the deficiencies of testimony in producing these cognitive states.
Keywords Augustine  medieval philosophy  philosophy of language  epistemology  testimony  understanding  De Magistro  Wittgenstein
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