The treatise De magistro ("On the Teacher") was written about the year 389.
He composed it while in his lay community in his home North African town of Thagaste.
This is also the case with his work, LXXXIII Questiones ("Eighty three Questions")," De Genesi contra Manichæos ("On the Book of Genesis against the Academics"), and De Vera Religione ("On the True Religion.")
The only participants in the dialogue in De magistro are Augustine and Adeodatus, his son who was then about eighteen years of age. Adeodatus died soon after this time. According to Augustine’s Confessions, On the Teacher is based on the type of dialogues in which Augustine and Adeodatus engaged.
On the Teacher is a polished work, and is likely the reflective compilation of a number of conversations; certainly, it is far too orderly to be the transcript of one conversation.
It demonsrates that at this period of his life Augustine was interested in the liberal arts as an instrument for turning the mind away from the corporeal and towards its proper concern for the incorporeal.
De magistro is also the fruit of a proud father’s writing down what he recalls and wishes to remember of his philosophical discussions with his son.
Augustine produced a number of dialogues in the years 387 and 389, the period between his moral conversion and his baptism. On the teacher is of a slightly later period, for it is the only one that was based on conversations in Africa (at Thagaste) rather than in Italy (at Cassiciacum).
On the teacher is the only dialogue mentioned by name in his Confessions, and the only one for which Augustine saw so need to include corrections in his Retractions.
The first ten chapters of De magistro contain the dialogue between Augustine and his son, Adeodatus, upon the general question of what can be learned from a teacher.
The final four chapters reveal the epistemology of Augustine on the subject of truth. The questions raised by Adeodatus are indeed profound.
The concluding words are by Adeodatus, the natural son of Augustine. It is thought highly probable that, as well as being brilliant, he was highly devoted to his father.
(Continued on the next page.)