A sceptic is one who does not know, and who holds out little hope that a satisfactory philosophical explanation to the mysteries of life and truth actually exists.
A sceptic is one who finds it impossible to find anything that he or she can believe with any degree of confidence.
As Augustine continued to grow in intellectual capacity, he asserted that his primary aim was the search for truth.
In this search, Augustine first joined the Manichean sect, a group that believed in many of the Christian precepts but had difficulty accepting that the divine Christ was found in the human being named Jesus; and the Scriptures did not impress him.
He followed the Manichean sect for quite some time, but abandoned it when he saw its flaws.
At one point at late adolescence in Carthage, he had even studied astrology while he considered the possibility of the world being hinged upon chance.
While living and teaching in Milan between the years 383 and 386, the intellectual and existential path of Augustine had three distinct phases - Manichean, sceptic and Christian.
The Manichees having failed him, Augustine lingered for a while in skepticism. He could not immediately trust another authority because his trust had been betrayed: “While [my soul] could not be healed except by believing, it was refusing to be healed for fear of believing what is false.
Stumbling upon the books of the Academics, he easily understood their skepticism of the human capacity to know truth.
Not only was Augustine's skepticism an obstacle to his entrance into the Christian tradition, but the Manichean tradition he thought he had abandoned stayed with him, blinding him to narratives he would soon encounter when relooking at Christianity.
Disillusioned in his pursuit of hedonism, paganism, Manicheanism, and even of power and ambition, it is understandable that Augustine began to entertain the notion that ultimate truth might not be able to be known or attained.
He became impressed with the philosophical scepticism that had become prominent in old school of Plato, which was called the Academy. Augustine fell into "Academic Doubt," as it is still called.
He fell into a profound depression and indeed despaired of ever coming to know the truth.
"The Academicians kept my rudder for long in the middle of the streams, resisting all winds," he wrote.
He suffered deeply from the most dreadful doubts that can attack a person who has felt the impotence of many varieties of thought in the face of spiritual problems.
He felt the depressing effect of the question, Can a human being know anything at all?
(Continued on the next page.)