Augustine's Confessions Book 6. Ch. 5

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praepositus
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Augustine's Confessions Book 6. Ch. 5

Post by praepositus » Sat Mar 21, 2020 11:43 pm

Hello all.

This is one of those sentences that I haven't been able to puzzle out on my own, eventually checked a translation, and yet still don't get how the Latin could mean what it apparently means. I've even dug through Lewis and Short and Allen and Greenough to see what grammatical construction I was missing. It is the very first sentence of the chapter; Augustine is explaining why Christian belief is to be preferred to the Manichean. I've highlighted the part that gives me trouble:

Ex hoc tamen quoque iam praeponens doctrinam catholicam modestius ibi minimeque fallaciter sentiebam iuberi, ut crederetur quod non demonstrabatur - sive esset quid, sed cui forte non esset, sive nec quid esset - quam illic temeraria pollicitatione scientiae credulitatem inrideri et postea tam multa fabulosissima et absurdissima, quia demonstrari non poterant, credenda imperari.

Here is the Outler translation of the segment that ends with the bolded part:

Still, from this time forward, I began to prefer the Catholic doctrine. I felt that it was with moderation and honesty that it commanded things to be believed that were not demonstrated--whether they could be demonstrated, but not to everyone, or whether they could not be demonstrated at all.

I realize that, from the context, sive esset quid, sed cui forte non esset, sive nec quid esset must be saying something about the possibility of proof or the lack thereof, but a whole lot of words must be implicit for it to make sense. Perhaps I can break my question down into more specific questions.

1. If I'm not mistaken, in a conditional protasis, quid means "something" or "anything." The literal meaning of sive esset quid ought therefore to read, "whether something exists." The trouble is, this is rather remote from the intended meaning. For example, I would expect, not indefinite "something," but a reference to those things that Christianity actually commands to be believed. And there is no reference either to possibility as such or to the idea of demonstration.

2. What is esset doing here, exactly? The clause is supposed to be expressing possibility, so perhaps a form of possum is implied somewhere. Or perhaps esset here is being used to mean something other than "it exists"?

3. I'm also struggling with the interpretation of cui ... non as "not to everyone." Could cui in a positive protasis mean "to everyone"? Or "to anyone whatsoever"? I didn't think so; previously, I would have always read that as "to somebody," but now I'm not sure.

A short pair of clauses not crucial for understanding the rest of the passage, yet they've been driving me crazy!

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