I've been reading this week in one of the foundational texts in Augustinian studies, Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo. In this 30th anniversary edition, he has a fascinating epilogue in which he traces new directions in the field and, more importantly, tries to assess his own changing views.
In reading the epilogue, I was struck, deeply, by the following section. It follows a discussion of how Augustine failed to retain an appreciation of cosmos (the world) in a way that was decidedly different than his contemporaries (a topic which I'd like to address later). But what moved me was Brown's opinion, as an historian, of the impact of major shifts in paradigm on the way in which ideas are both immortalized and diminished.
"A touch of sadness at Augustine's failure to respond to the quiet vision of the cosmos still shared by many of his contemporaries is an entirely appropriate emotion in an historian of ideas. For sadness does justice to the irreducible particularity of any truly creative intellectual system. The effect of a major breakthrough in the history of ideas is to block all alternative visions of the world. Thoughts that had been thought with dignity and profit for many centuries become unthinkable. The loss of an entire world-view cannot but be accompanied by the 'leaching-out' of many necessary nutrients. They are lost to future ages. And thus each epoch passes on to the next the intellectual and religious vitamin deficiencies created by its own, most distinctive achievements."
How does this strike you?