Below you will find basic information on the Nine different English versions of St. Augustine’s On Free Choice of the Will. There is also a link to a downloadable PDF file of the complete text of De Libero in Latin.
Next are citations of De Libero of varying significance which have come to my attention. Mentioned also are books that make significant contributions to the topic of Truth but that have Not cited De Libero.
In addition to the brief Bibliography on this page, an Extensive Bibliography which includes a simple rating system for hundreds of documents dealing with the Nature of Truth, is available here:
Extensive Bibliography (5M pdf)
Aurelius Augustine (354-430 A.D.)
On Free Choice of the Will - De Libero Arbitrio*
*[Not to be confused with another book named On Grace & Free Will.]
Published English translations of De Libero are listed here
in chronological order:
On Free Will - (Book II only)
McKeon, Richard; Selections from Medieval Philosophers; Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1929
This two-volume set contains the first known English translation of part of De Libero. The editor has compiled text beginning with Augustine in the fourth century and ending with William of Ockham in the 14th century. Most of the texts deal with the nature of truth. Brief valuable introductions to each writer are followed by summaries of their work.
The Free Choice of the Will
Tourscher, Francis E.; The Peter Reilly Co.; 1937
This is the earliest known complete translation in English of De Libero. It contains the Latin text and English translation in parallel on facing pages. An unusual topical index at the end is far too brief. The very few notes do not contribute to the Nature of truth discussion.
Saint Augustine on Free Will
Sparrow, Carroll Mason; Univ. of Virginia Studies, Vol. Four; 1947
This translation was based upon an incomplete Latin original. The book was published posthumously and missing sections were added by the editor. The table of Contents displays chapter summaries. This version offers no interpretive comments, an index, or a bibliography.
On Free Will
Burleigh, John H. S.; Library of Christian Classics, Vol. Six; 1953
Contains eight of Augustine’s books. Each book is preceded by Augustine’s review from his own Retractations. It is followed by an introduction and analysis or summary by the translator, whose comments on Augustine’s definition of Truth are not significant. It has a brief Bibliography and a useful index.
The Problem of Free Choice
Pontifex, Dom Mark; Ancient Christian Writers, Vol. 22; 1955
Contains the most extensive and valuable comments and notes with references and an index. Augustine’s Retractations review is in the Appendix. The translator has not seen the significance of “Truth is God”.
On Free Choice of the Will
Benjamin, Anna S. & Hackstaff, L. H.; The Bobbs-Merrill Co.; LCCCN 63-16932; 1964
This volume contains three books by Augustine. Each book is preceded by a brief introduction and bibliography. The translator’s introductory comments on Augustine’s definition of Truth are not significant. A combined brief index of all three books is at the end.
The Free Choice of the Will
Russell, Robert P.; The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 59; CUA Press; 1968
Contains the translator’s introductory notes, a short bibliography, followed at the end by a brief index. The Appendix has the Retractations review. The translator has not seen the significance of “Truth is God”.
On Free Choice of the Will
Williams, Thomas; Hackett; ISBN 0-87220-188-0; 1993
Translator’s introductory comments on Augustine’s definition of Truth are not significant. The Retractations (Reconsiderations) review is at the end. It has is no index.
On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings
King, Peter; Cambridge; ISBN 978-0-521-00129-8; 2010
This volume contains parts or complete text of six books by Augustine. It is a freer translation that loses some impact in important places. The Retractations review is included. Marginal line designations are very helpful. The translator’s introductory notes are valuable but do not address the topic of Truth. It has an extensive index.
The Latin text of Augustine’s book is available here.
The phrase veritas Deus est [= Truth is God]
is on page 64, [184.108.40.206.]
A few writers have commented on
St. Augustine’s nature of Truth.
They are as follows, in chronological order:
1- Augustine, Aurelius (354-430 A.D.) The first person to comment on De Libero is Augustine himself. Near the end of his life, around 427, he wrote a fascinating and ground-breaking book called The Retractations. In it, Augustine comments upon and reviews 93 of his own books, some of which are no longer extant. In chapter 8, he discusses certain issues covered in De Libero. Unfortunately, he does not mention the nature of Truth. The Retractations; M. Inez Bogan, trans.; CUA; 1999; ISBN 0-8132-0970-6.
2- Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) refers to Augustine in his Concerning Truth; Jasper Hopkins, ed.; 1080/1967; LCCCN 67-10679; and endorses the idea that truth is eternal, but quickly falls into error by an uncritical acceptance of Aristotle’s definition of truth. The rest of the book is a record of his attempt to extricate himself from an impossible situation. He has not understood the import of Augustine’s definition of Truth, and begins with an unquestioning assumption that there is truth in “things.” His Proslogium and Monologium do not contribute to the nature of Truth discussion.
3- Grosseteste, Robert (1175-1235) On Truth; found in Selections from Medieval Philosophers; Richard McKeon, ed.; 1220/1929; p263ff. Grosseteste was familiar with Augustine’s works and asked many right questions, but his answers show that he was an empiricist at heart. For an in depth critique of Grosseteste’s work, see this page.
The philosophy of several writers of the Scholastic Era are examined in four informative volumes written by Steven P. Marrone: The Light of Thy Countenance. Science and Knowledge of God in the Thirteenth Century; 2 Vols. Brill, 2001; ISBN 9-00411-947-7.
Vol. 1. A Doctrine of Divine Illumination; deals with the ideas of Robert Grosseteste, William of Auvergne, Bonaventure, Gilbert of Tournai, John Pecham, Matthew of Aquasparta.
Vol. 2. God at the Core of Cognition; examines the epistemology of Henry of Ghent, Vital du Four, William of Ware & John Duns Scotus.
Two earlier works by Steven P. Marrone are: William of Auvergne and Robert Grosseteste: New Ideas of Truth in the Early Thirteenth Century; Princeton, 1983; ISBN 0-691-05383-9 and Truth and Scientific Knowledge in the Thought of Henry of Ghent. Medieval Academy of America, 1985. ISBN 0-910956-91-X.
Unfortunately the idea that Truth and God are identical, i.e. Truth Is God, is not addressed by these scholars or their expositor. They do not attempt to define the word “truth,” and build their epistemology on mathematical “truth” or on the alleged reliability of our senses.
4- Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274) Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ; Zachary Hayes; Intro.; trans.; notes.; Franciscan Institute Publications; 1254/1992; ISBN 1-57659-046-1; Volume IV of the Bonaventure Texts in Translation Series.
Seven questions, dealt with in a Positive and Negative Argument format popular in the scholastic period, on the nature of knowledge both of God and man. Although Bonaventure references St. Augustine dozens of times, of special interest for alethiology is Question IV. Here De Libero is often cited with great insight into the nature of Truth.
5- Aquinas, Thomas (1225-1274) Truth; Robert W. Mulligan, trans.; Hackett Publishing Co.; 1256/1994; ISBN 0-87220-267-4; The text of all three volumes is available online.
The most extensive treatment of the subject by a Christian author. He could not free himself from the idea that geometric and mathematical propositions were eternally true. Aquinas references St. Augustine with respect to the nature of Truth more than any other author listed. It is must reading to begin to understand the intricacies of the nature of Truth. Question 1 with its 12 Articles is available here.
6- Malebranche, Nicholas (1638-1715) The Search After Truth; Thomas Lennon, trans.; 1674/1997; ISBN 0-521-58995-9. Quotes Augustine’s definition verbatim (p233), but rejects it out of hand. He believed “Truth is God” contradicted his belief that truth was evident in mathematics and science. Unlike many other writers, Malebranche seems to have grasped the implications of the proposition.
7- Gordon H. Clark (1902-1985) A Christian View of Men and Things; Eerdmans; 1952/1981; ISBN 0-8010-2466-8; (p318-321) The first modern exposition of Augustine’s definition, but is left incomplete and un-interpreted. Dr. Clark gives only the highlights of St. Augustine’s definition, and evades the crucial conclusion of the nature of truth that “Truth is God.” He credits St. Augustine only in passing and does not mention De Libero at all.
Five years later, in Thales to Dewey; Trinity; 1957/1985; (p218-228); Dr. Clark mentions Malebranche, Augustine and De Libero, and cites Augustine’s conclusion that “Truth is God;” but sensing its controversial nature, Clark does not follow through.
The closest that Dr. Clark comes to giving an unambiguous reference to St. Augustine’s De Libero, is on page 537 of Thales to Dewey. There Dr. Clark references De Libero in Whitney J. Oates’ Basic Writings of Saint Augustine. This two-volume set of Augustine’s major works was published in 1948, four years before the publication of A Christian View of Men and Things. But Dr. Clark’s reference is misleading because Oates’ book does not contain the complete text of De Libero. In the Appendix of volume one, Oates gives what he calls an “Analysis” of De Libero, a much condensed, chapter by chapter summary of Tourscher’s 1937 translation of De Libero. Oates does not quote the “truth is God” of De Libero’s Book II, Chapter 13, but does cite the phrase “truth itself is God” in the summary of Chapter 15.
8- Gilbert B. Weaver The Concept of Truth in the Apologetic Systems of Gordon Haddon Clark and Cornelius Van Til; 1967; tren.com/e-docs; A Doctoral thesis presented at Grace Theological Seminary. A brief analysis of Gordon Clark’s exposition of Augustine’s nature of truth in the context of the Clark- van Til controversy. The writer incorrectly ascribes the “Truth is God” conclusion in Thales to Dewey to A Christian View of Men and Things (p81). The author does not bring new insight into the nature of Truth.
9- Ignace de la Potterie (1914-2003) La vérité dans Saint Jean. I: Le Christ et la vérité. L’Esprit et la vérité; II: Le croyant et la vérité; 1977. A thorough exposition of the concept of Truth in the Gospel of John. His approach is primarily theological rather than philosophical. Many valuable citations of extra-Biblical works. Refers to De Libero but does not comment on Augustine’s definition. Available in French only.
10- Arthur F. Holmes (1924-2011) All Truth is God’s Truth; Eerdmans; 1977; Cites Book II of De Libero in passing (Ch. 3), but it’s obvious that Augustine’s definition has not made an impression upon the author. He modifies the word Truth with such a varied number of terms that it becomes evident that he does not have a clear definition in mind. His assumption that Truth can be discovered, and his confusion of Revelation with humanly acquired information inevitably leads the author’s hypothesis to self-destruct. A critique of the unjustified presumptions on which this book is based and which is evident in its title can be seen on page 10-What Truth is NOT.
11- Ronald Nash (1936-2006) Faith and Reason; Academie Books; 1988; ISBN 0-310-29400-2. An updated and expanded analysis of Gordon Clark’s exposition of Augustine’s definition; (p161-167). It is evident that Dr. Nash has not understood the implications of this definition and distorts it at the end by substituting the innocuous “God is Truth” for “Truth is God.” He then tries to “improve” on Augustine/Clark by introducing the unoriginal and repulsive notion that Truth is what God “believes” to be true. This shows that Dr. Nash’s epistemology has serious deficiencies and that he was unable to free himself from empiricism.
Dr. Nash incorrectly cites Dr. Clark’s A Christian View of Men and Things as his source for the six points of the Nature of Truth. This is a misleading error because the crucial conclusion that “Truth is God” is not given in any of the five editions of A Christian View of Men and Things. Dr. Nash does mention that the original is found in Augustine’s De Libero, but does not cite Clark’s Thales to Dewey, the only place where Clark actually presents Augustine’s compelling and pivotal conclusion that “Truth is God.”
A precursor to Faith and Reason is his The Light of the Mind; University Press of Kentucky, 1969; ISBN 08131-1175-7.
More on Dr. Nash’s ideas can be found here.
Ironically, the Christian faith of many authors has been the cause for the unjustified optimism in the ability of men to discover Truth, a clearly impossible act.
Every writer mentioned above was influenced by Augustine’s incorrect assumptions about truth in mathematics and geometry. This grave but understandable error has misled philosophers down to the present day, and has prevented them from arriving at the correct definition of Truth.
Yet they could not and did not withhold judgment on such an important issue. They needed to take hold of any theory of truth that seemed plausible. In most cases, that has been the Correspondence theory. This error continues to propagate unbiblical definitions of Truth.
In addition, since the discussion on the nature of truth arises while Augustine is trying to “prove” that God exists, most commentators have been unable to see the forest for the trees. They have seen the discussion on truth solely in that context, but have not seen that a valid definition for Truth has been so ably presented.
Other texts where Augustine and his thoughts on truth are mentioned, but which do not contribute to the discussion in a substantial manner:
» The article on Truth in Augustine Through the Ages; A. Fitzgerald; Eerdmans; 1999; is worthwhile reading. This book is an invaluable resource on all things Augustinian. ISBN 080283843X
» A small portion of Augustine’s Book II is given without comment in Faith and Reason; Paul Helm, ed.; Oxford Readers; 1999. ISBN 0199256632
» Elders, Leo J.; mentions Augustine and truth on p. 246 of his The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas; Brill; 1990; but does not pursue the issue. ISBN: 90-04-09156-4
» Boyer, Charles; L’idée de vérité dans la philosophie de Saint Augustin; Beauchesne Et Ses Fils; Paris; 1920.
A disappointing lack of insight into such an important subject. The author has not understood the nature of Truth.
» Portalié, Eugene; (1852-1909); A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine; Ralph J. Bastian, trans.; 1902/1960. Greenwood Press; 1975; ISBN 0-8371-7992-0. Contains detailed analysis of Augustine’s theology. Unfortunately the concept of truth is touched upon very briefly.
» Gilson, Etienne (1884-1978); The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine; Random House; 1929/1960; LCCCN 60-12121. This book is a topical compendium of Augustine’s theology. Although the author does not seem aware of the Nature of Truth problem, the difference between “Truth” and “truth” is cited as necessary in dealing with Augustine’s uses of the word. The author’s brief comments and extensive quotes of the Latin original take up a third of the book. Many references and an index are also included.
» D’Arcy, M. C. et al; A Monument to Saint Augustine, Sheed & Ward; 1945. The writers of this collection of articles are under the incorrect impression that eternal truth can be found in mathematics. One can notice a hint of insight when they refer to “Truth” as something higher than “truth,” but their lack of knowledge of the nature of numbers and science puts them at a disadvantage.
» Oates, Whitney J.; Basic Writings of Saint Augustine, Random House; 1948. This two-volume set contains most of Augustine’s important works. The Appendix of Volume One contains An Analysis of the Treatise On Free Will, a chapter by chapter condensed summary of De Libero. It is based upon Tourscher’s 1937 translation, the only complete English translation that was available at that time.
» Markus, Robert A.; Augustine; chapter 5 of A Critical History of Western Philosophy; D. J. O’Connor; ed.; The Free Press; 1964; is a critical analysis of Augustine’s important philosophical insights. De Libero is cited but the nature of truth is touched upon only lightly.
» Bourke, Vernon J.; The Essential Augustine, Hackett; 1964/1974. Each of the ten chapters of this book deals with an important topic, and several sub-topics. Chapters begin with the editor’s introduction followed by excerpts from several of Augustine’s books. The truth relevant passages from De Libero are cited but not discussed in depth.
» Geisler, Norman & Corduan, Winfried; Philosophy of Religion, Baker 1988; has a one page summary (p.154) of what the authors see as Augustine’s argument for the existence of God from Truth. “Truth” and “truth” are linked, but there is no analysis of this important concept.
» Forrester, John; Lying on the Couch, in the concluding chapter of Dismantling Truth; Lawson & Appignanesi; eds. 1989; states “Augustine’s attack on the doctrine that [it was permitted to tell lies for the sake of a holy end] indicates how truth for him was conceived as identical with the eternal nature of God, indeed that God and truth were the same thing.”
» Byl, John; Theism and Mathematical Realism, Journal of the ACMS; 2001; references the above book by Geisler, and clarifies the conclusion that Truth is God, but interprets that as meaning that mathematics exists in the mind of God, a completely unjustified and unorthodox conclusion.
The following substantial collections do not mention or refer to Augustine’s definition of Truth.
» The fifteen volumes of The Works of Aurelius Augustinus: A New Translation, edited by Marcus Dods and published between 1871-1876 do not contain De Libero.
» The Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers collection of writings by the Church Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, and published in the US in 1885, does not contain Augustine’s De Libero.
Both of the above collections of Augustine’s major works are available online.
» Volume 3, Syntopicon II, of the The Great Books series first published by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1952, contains the second most extensive references on the subject of Truth in one location, but Augustine’s book is cited only as Additional Reading.
» Curry, George; What Is ‘Truth’? A 1997 article in The Churchman, compares various ‘definitions’ of Truth given by influential philosophers beginning with Aristotle. The author has been unable to see past the correspondence theory of truth and does not reference Augustine’s De Libero.
» Marshall, Bruce D.; Trinity and Truth, Cambridge U; 2002. This work is a valuable contribution to the study of the concept of Truth as it relates to Christ, although surprisingly, Augustine’s De Libero is not cited at all. The author’s concern to ascribe truth to Christ’s Resurrection and the Doctrine of the Trinity rather than the more foundational doctrine of Christ’s Deity, has caused the author to miss the mark. Lacking a clear definition of Truth, the author incorrectly assumes that a Tarskian Correspondence is the answer. His interpretation of Truth as given in chapters 1, 8 & 9 is nearest of any writer to the 1TP theory. Sadly his epistemology leads him to conclude that even demons have true beliefs about Christ, a Biblically untenable doctrine.
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