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Diachronically Unified Consciousness in Augustine and Aquinas

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Abstract Medieval accounts of diachronically unified consciousness have been overlooked by contemporary readers, because medieval thinkers have a unique and unexpected way of setting up the problem. This paper examines the approach to diachronically unified consciousness that is found in Augustine’s and Aquinas’s treatments of memory. For Augustine, although the mind is “distended” by time, it remains resilient, stretching across disparate moments to unify past, present, and future in a single personal present. Despite deceptively different phrasing, Aquinas develops a remarkably similar view when, in order to accommodate Aristotle’s view of memory to Augustine’s, he insists that an implicit self-awareness “time-stamps” all intellectual acts. According to their shared approach, diachronic unified consciousness is the result of the curious way in which the mind is both drawn into and transcends the temporal succession of its own acts.

Affiliations: 1: Seattle University


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