Major Department



College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Carrie Figdor

Thesis Mentor

Carrie Swanson


This paper discusses illumination, recollection, and dialectic in Augustine’s early works, but chiefly in the De Magistro. The fundamental contention of my essay is that illumination and recollection are not competing theories as they are sometimes presented in the secondary literature. Rather, Augustine has a doctrine of both, and once the nature of each has been correctly explained, the concord and harmony of the theories becomes apparent. The first part of the essay explains Augustine’s attack on the knowledge-transmission model of language in the De Magistro, arguing that knowledge is not the kind of thing, given the nature of signs, that can be transferred from one person to another. This is because understanding in the Augustinian sense is something each person must have for themselves. In the following section, I discuss the nature of divine illumination. Examining the early corpus, it becomes apparent that Augustine’s doctrine of illumination is a claim concerning systematicity of Truth or the intelligible structure of the intelligible world as Augustine understands it. The upshot of such an interpretation is that it is not patient of usually objects to illumination, the foremost of which is that illumination renders the human subject merely passive as he receives the light of illumination. My essay demonstrates that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory. If divine illumination does not transfer our knowledge to us, then how do we arrive at knowledge according to Augustine? In the third part of my essay, I contend that this is the role of recollection. Recollection for Augustine is identical to learning. The recollective process involves gathering together, properly ordering, distributing, and defining the latent principles within us so as to mirror the ordered structure of Truth or the intelligible world.


Augustine, illumination, recollection, dialectic

Total Pages

56 pages


Copyright © 2018 Evan Kramer