Certainly, by the time he wrote the Confessions, Augustine had read some Plotinus and become much influenced by his style and arguments.
This is evident in the Confessions, both in the persistent series of questions with which Augustine pursues a difficult problem (as in Confessions 1.3.3-4.4), and in occasional flashes of exhortation (as at Confessions 1.18.28).
Neo-Platonism influenced in Augustine his entire concept of God and of Creation.
In the Neo-Platonist view, all things (including souls) had an infinite, timeless, and unchangeable God as the cause of their existence.
Neo-Platonists held that everything existed only to the extent to which it participated in God. Plotinus taught that a person must turn inward to find God, who is identical with the inner reality of the soul.
For Plotinus the soul, at its core, was divine. But Augustine, despite his lasting regard for the wisdom of Plotinus, held back at this point because he felt compelled by his Christian belief to insist upon there being a distance between the Creator and the creature.
This separation of God and the human person - so that God is no longer understood as being the philosophical core of the person - is now taken for granted in the Christian West.
But this was a move by Augustine which came to separate the anthropology
of western Christian religion from that of the Christian East (more thoroughly based on Plato).
On the subject of evil, the stance of Neo-Platonism was cherished by Augustine. According to this doctrine, evil has no actual existence.
Things are only "evil" or "wicked" according to a hierarchy of being in which some things are closer to the supreme and infinite God than others things are.
For Neo-Platonists it would be possible to categorise things as being either "good" or "less good" and not "evil" at all.
For Neo-Platonists, evil arises only as a relative quality, i.e., things lower down the hierarchy have less complete being than things higher up, and so are imperfect or "evil" by comparison.
(Continued on the next page.)