Some advice from Augustine, part 6.

Continuing my reading of Augustine’s work, I now deal with some advice that I found in the Confessions and in De Magistro. I already talked about the latter in a text about rape. Confessions is an autobiographical philosophical reflection of Augustine. He remembers his life and reflects on it philosophically. But De Magistro is a dialogue between Augustine and his son, Adeodatus, on the relationship between words and the things to which the words refer.

No child is innocent.

Reflecting on his childhood and looking at the childhood of others, Augustine questions the idea that children are innocent. Children are jealous, yearning for dominance, aggressive and, I would add, prototypical pervs. This is because no one is innocent and no one is innocent because of original sin. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, the so-called “child purity” is a myth. The child does not learn to do things that we adults think are wrong because children are born predisposed to these things. Isn’t that kids learn to be naughty, but they learn not to be naughty, with the education they receive from environment. From a scriptural point of view, it is not possible to support childhood innocence with the doctrine of original sin. Either the child is a sinner from birth or is innocent at birth. It is not possible to agree with both.

As adults place a high value on useless things, a lot of useless stuff is taught at school.

School, in fact, is an ideological device at the service of the state. This is not abnormal. We use public education to teach current values ​​to future generations. The problem is that this opens up the possibility that the school will teach a lot of nonsense, that is not worth teaching, simply because adults value such nonsense. You can probably think of some examples from your youth.

When an intelligent person engages in the study of lies, you do not need to correct him.

Let’s assume that someone you consider to be very wise or intelligent begins to study the idea that the Earth is flat or is getting into anti-vaccine activism. You start to worry about the possibility that he will become an anti-science bastard. Now, calm down; if he is really as wise and intelligent as you think, he will see inconsistencies in such a positions by himself and will drop them. It is like Bolsonarism. Many people were led, in good faith, to vote for Bolsonaro. Most have already regretted it.

A theory does not increase its value if it is presented in a more beautiful way. Whoever falls into the hands of a bad doctor, begins to avoid all doctors, including good ones, for fear of repeating the trauma.

A trick that is widely used by fake news spreaders is to make a person who looks professional say the bullshit “scientifically”. That’s because we have a tendency to judge people by their appearance and an argument by the person who utters it. So, if you show up in a lab coat, saying in a scientific tone that “covid-19 is a system”, a lot of people will believe you. But that does not make what you are saying true. You are still lying, but you’re lying in a beautiful way. This is also true when it comes to weak scientific theories.

Unfortunately, when a person is deceived in many ways by different people, he falls into deep skepticism. Fearing being tricked again, he no longer believes in anything. Like the person who has undergone treatments with several doctors and remains ill soon stops seeking treatment altogether.

The joy of the drunk who bought his drink with clean money is better than the joy of the corrupt sober.

The drunkard who legally bought his drink is overwhelmed by a lawful joy and a hangover that goes away rather quickly. But the person who acquires his money through immoral or even illegal means has a lot to worry about. Such joy is inferior to the joy of the drunk who worked honestly to buy the beer that makes him drunk.

Women make it difficult for men to appreciate religion.

It is not so much the woman that hinders the man’s ascension to the divine, but the desire for her. Christianity has very strict sexual rules. Devoting yourself completely to religion requires sacrifices of a sexual nature, which many are unwilling to do. For this reason, Augustine, before converting, was always leaving his conversion for later, procrastinating it, because he did not want to stop enjoying his babes.

One of the forces that makes many convert to religion is the meaninglessness of life.

Not much is said about this, but I think that every Christian and even all atheists should ask themselves this question once in their lives: what makes a particular person convert? In the days of Augustine, and even today, one of these reasons is the lack of meaning in life. Why be healthy, wise, rich, happy, if we are going to die eventually? The person who thinks this way will give little value to material life. He will seek a spiritual life, an eternal hope, and will only be able to find it in a mystical way. It is a legitimate reason to convert. Unfortunately, not much of it is seen today. It seems that today many people go to church hoping to become rich. I just wonder how can someone hope to get rich by giving money to a pastor, instead of investing said money in a business.

Instead of fueling strife among men, you should cool them down.

Any common cause must be guided by this principle. Let us set aside our differences and focus on how to achieve our common goal in the best possible way. If disputes arise, we must suppress them until we have peace again. If that is not possible, at least do not feed the strife, or they will spread and involve larger portions of the movement, weakening it.

Memory retains information about things that reach our minds, even if they didn’t get there through the senses.

There are things stored in our memory without being first seen, heard or felt. This is the case with the idea we make of thought. It is not possible to apprehend our thoughts through the senses. The same can be said of other metaphysical concepts, such as justice. Nobody sees justice. We see acts of justice, but not justice itself. And yet, we have the concept of justice in our memory. Where did it enter through? That’s because, in addition to material things, there are intelligible things, which are captured by reason, instead of the senses.

Moderating food is more difficult than moderating sex.

To avoid having too much sex, just avoid hot people or other triggers of this nature. But, unlike sex, food is necessary to live. You have no choice but to expose yourself to food. And by exposing yourself to food, you are tempted to eat what you should not or to overeat. Also, in sex, you have to seduce a person and get them interested in you. In the case of food, you just gotta prepare it or pay someone to prepare it for you. Thus, there are fewer impediments to eating than to sex. Therefore, it is more difficult to get rid of bad eating habits than bad sexual habits.

Better to be ostracized for telling the truth than to be praised thanks to a lie.

A lie always ends up turning against us. The well-being of humanity is very much tied to the truth. When we believe in a lie or participate in it to have praise among those who believe it, sooner or later we pay for it. And when that happens, those who stood in the side of the truth will rub in our faces that we were wrong. And they will then say “you deserved it.”

Past and future have no objective existence, but only subjective, as memory and hope.

This is the most interesting reflection of the Confessions, the one that talks about the passage of time. The present has no fixed duration and we only know of its existence because of instant perception. The past, if it has passed, is no more. The future, if it has not yet come, does not yet exist. But we can access both in the present: the past as memory and the future as anticipation. With reference to present perception, memory and expectation, it is possible to measure time, calculating the “distance” between one moment and another. It is as if the perception of time was a mental ruler, which we use to measure the distance between two events (points in time), just as we use spatial measurements to calculate the distance between two points in space.

When there are two distinct, but equally plausible, interpretations of the Mosaic law, preference should be given to the interpretation that best achieves the goal of charity, as love of God and love of neighbor are the goal of every law in the Mosaic code.

Jesus said that the purpose of the law of Moses is to ensure that each person will do to others what they would like to be done to themselves. If so, then, when interpreting the law of Moses, we have to give preference to interpretations that best adapt to this principle, whenever the text opens the possibility for different interpretations.

Two interpretations for the same text can both be correct, being complementary.

If two people conclude different things about the same text, it is possible to keep both interpretations if they are not antagonistic. In fact, if they are not antagonistic, they can be complementary. Treating them this way can help to clarify other obscure points in the text.

It is easier to love a peaceful person. Just as the doctor tolerates undisciplined patients, so we must tolerate those who hear the truth and revolt against it.

I selected this advice because of “MAPs” ( minor-attracted people ). If MAPs maintain a calm, non-combative stance, but without giving up what they are or what they believe in, it will be easier to achieve the long-awaited tolerance. Because it’s easier to love a person who doesn’t go out armed chasing you. This is not a position of submission, but of active defense: avoid insults, ignore those who are not open to dialogue and politely counter-argue when the opportunity arises. But don’t go down to their level by being rude, attacking the antis cowardly or making threats.

You should not be angry with the antis. Rather, you should pity on them. Keep that in mind and you may even have more peace with yourself. You may even seem more civilized than your opponent, which encourages people to see you under a more positive light.

It is possible to communicate ideas without using words, using other signs or showing the very thing represented by the idea we want to communicate.

If words were necessary to communicate ideas, how would deaf people communicate? They communicate by gestures. Also, when asked about something, you can show the person what they are asking about. Words are not always necessary.

Words are signs of the things they mean, not necessarily the things they mean. The knowledge of things is superior to the knowledge of the words used to mean them, among other things because the person who uses the word is not always honest or is always aware of what he says.

The word must not be confused with the thing to which the word refers. This reflection found in De Magistro aroused my interest because of the judicial term rape of vulnerable victim. In law, we use this term to describe any libidinous act involving at least one participant who is not yet fourteen-years-old, with or without his consent. But it is just a term. It’s not because we use that term (“rape” with vulnerable victim) that we must assume that there was violence, since the crime can occur even with consent between the parties. Again, the word is not the thing. It is just a legal term and, if you read the definition of the term, you see that there is no need for force, damage, or penetration for something to be legally considered rape of vulnerable victim.

Because of this, knowledge of the concrete case is more valuable than knowledge of the term used to describe it. When two twelve-year-olds experience sexual play without penetration, in mutual agreement, they are committing an offense analogous to the crime of rape of vulnerable victim. If you only had the technical term of what they did (“offense analogous to the crime of rape of vulnerable victim”), you would think that one of the two was violently forced to participate, which did not happen. Of course, Augustine just said that words are not things and that the knowledge of things is superior than the knowledge of words. The judicial example I used is by me, and is not found in the book, to make it more clear what it means to differentiate thing and word.

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