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Augustine Confessions

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1 Augustine Confessions
Book II Age: 16 Abandoning his studies, indulging in lustful pleasures, and committing theft Power Point prepared by Rebeka Ferreira, San Francisco State University, Guest Lecturer for Introduction to Philosophy and Religion (Fall 2010).

2 Context Augustine’s adolescent years are regrettably viewed as:
Decadent & useless Lurid & sinful Schooling at Carthage: Regrettable: because the study of rhetoric here goes against the purity of one who is close to God because to excel in law, praise comes with the crafty manipulation of blind men. Learned rhetoric (art of eloquent speaking), literature (Latin and Greek), and dialectic (logical argumentation). Book II offers a few brief insights as to how and why he committed the sins of fornication and theft.

3 Family Dynamic II.1-3 What are Augustine’s parent’s reactions upon learning of their son’s sexual maturity? His father (Patricius) was happy at the prospect of grandchildren. His pious mother (Monica) was worried about his committing fornication and adultery. What does Augustine wish his parents had done in regards to providing him with a sexual outlet? He wishes that they had arranged a legitimate marriage for him. Why did they refuse to do this? Because at that time, marriage to a country girl would have held Augustine back from a brilliant career (ideally in law) where he could make a more socially advantageous marriage to an heiress. Augustine speculates about his parents’ wishes for him. Worldly ambition seems to drive both of their actions, but Augustine reserves his sternest disapproval for Patricius, apparently because he shows no awareness that there is any success beyond the shallow rewards that the world can give. Irony: everyone praised his father for making so many financial sacrifices for Augustine’s education, even though his father cared nothing about the vicious character such an education would develop. Augustine’s mother felt that a literary education would at least do no harm to Augustine’s spiritual life and she too was interested in seeing her son succeed socially.

4 Sexual Sin II.1-3 His account, which begins in Book II, is one of the most famous features of the Confessions. Augustine’s problematic attitude towards his sexual urges—his reluctance to give up sex—ends up being one of the last, painful obstacles to his full conversion. Giving some credit toward love: “the single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and be loved.” * Problem: His love had no restraint imposed on it. He is unable to distinguish between physical love, which satisfies only lust, and the spiritual love of friendship and companionship, which satisfies the heart and mind. Hence, pure love was perverted by its misdirection toward worldly things (bodies). *

5 Christian View of Celibacy II.1-3
Was the highest goal while marriage was a less admirable alternative, suitable only for those who could not fully control their sexual impulses and, therefore, required a legitimate outlet for them. Even with marriage, sexual activity was to be reserved solely for the conception of children, and not enjoyed for its own sake. Sex is used only for procreation

6 Robbing the Pear Tree II.4-10
Motivations Augustine claims that every crime has a motive. Even in the most abstractly driven crimes committed, there is an external motivating factor. Not motivated* by: Self-interest: to combat hunger or poverty Greed (want): to enjoy the taste of the fruit Revenge: to get back at any particular individual or party Was motivated by: a distaste for good behavior. * the presence of his companions—he makes quite clear that he is certain he would not have committed the theft if he were alone. He also observes that part of his impulse toward promiscuity involved bragging rights with his friends, who took just as much pleasure in telling stories (exaggerating the exploits) as in the acts themselves.

7 Clarifying the Motivation to Sin
The mature Augustine was not so much concerned with the mere act of stealing pears. His real concern was with what was happening inwardly. Augustine’s actions simply represent a perversion of his God-given goodness. Each thing he sought to gain from stealing the pears (and everything humans desire in sinning) turns out to be a twisted version of one of God’s attributes. * Rhetorical feat: Augustine matches each sinful desire with a desire to be like God. * Trapped in misdirected love of earthly goods, the soul separates itself from God and tries to demonstrate its power over God by breaking God’s laws.

8 Specific Implications
This sin is a kind of rebellion against God’s omnipotence, a perverse attempt to demonstrate the soul’s imagined self-sufficiency. Even by attempting to deny God’s omnipotence, the sinner imitates it, thereby proving that nothing is outside God’s fullness and dominion. Any motivation one may have to sin would be more truly realized/actualized through the Lord.

9 Generic Implications Theft: analogous to The Fall
Humankind’s fundamental disobedience and fall from grace involved the improper taking of fruit from a tree in the garden. Later, Augustine’s final conversion takes place under a fruit tree in a garden, standing in contrast to the present episode of sin as well as to Adam and Eve’s. Promiscuity: extension of sexual sin Some scholars have seen the episode as an extended metaphor for the sin of promiscuity. This also links to the story of Adam and Eve in that humanity’s Fall was believed to have included a fall from sexual innocence. Augustine even describes the sin of theft as the soul’s “fornication” against God.

10 Contemporary Application
Augustine is painfully aware of the influence of peer pressure, subtle and unspoken, on his own behavior. He attempts to determine what it is about human beings in groups that makes them so susceptible to irrational impulses, impulses they would never act upon if they were alone. Unsolvable problem: people in groups can both support each other in good and influence each other in evil. “Friendship can be a dangerous enemy, a seduction of the mind.” Like love, friendship must be subjected to reason if it is to be truly good. Interestingly enough, Augustine partly blames the theft on peer pressure.*

11 Possible Criticisms Responses
A) Augustine is using this episode to stand both as a generic example of all the other sins committed in his youth and of the common sins of humanity. This encourages readers to recognize and understand their basic sinfulness—the distance they have fallen from God; the corrupt state of the Will. B) Augustine’s aim: stealing is something every child indulges in at some point in their development, hence the episode has come to take on a kind of universality. A) Why does Augustine lavish such anguished and intense self-scrutiny on what sounds like an otherwise minor bit of juvenile delinquency? B) Augustine’s self-criticism has been ridiculed as an example of a neurotic soul that was burdened by excessive and unnecessary guilt. Augustine’s horror at his past sins, which many Christians would regard as minor, marked him as a Christian of the highest spiritual standards.

12 Summary of Book II Augustine’s main concern in analyzing his theft of the pears: His motivation to sin Two types of sin: Lust: as an example of misdirected love, a confused attempt to seek satisfaction in transitory things that can never truly satisfy. Evil for evil’s sake: the love of wrongdoing simply for the doing of it. Like the misdirected love of others that is at the root of lust, misdirected love of self is at the root of rebellion. Augustine often identifies all human sin with lust Concupiscence: a selfish and excessive desire for anything, including the pleasures of the flesh. He constantly identifies misdirected desire as the root cause of his wanderings from God. His attitude toward sex: it is a sinful impulse that reason cannot control The role of reason: Reason will come to play a very important role in Augustine’s spiritual journey as he learns that seeking truth might be more important that worldly success.

13 Augustine’s Confessions
Book III Age: 17-19 The sin of tragedies, Cicero’s Hortensius, a simple Bible, and the errors of Manichaeism

14 The Sin of Fiction III.1-3 Augustine falls in love with a woman whom many assume to be his unnamed concubine and continues to be lost in carnal desires. Augustine recounts his enjoyment of theatrical shows and considers the emotional appeal of fiction. Problem with theatrical tragedies: they constitute immersion in fictional suffering without a recognition of one’s own suffering in sin. Emotional titillation: they create empty emotional reactions in their audience. Producing sensations with no moral ends. Tragedy also encourages a love (enjoyment) of suffering that Augustine now finds absurd and wrong.

15 Cicero’s Hortensius Background
One of the most studied classical Latin authors. Considered to have an almost perfect style of rhetoric Hortensius: Has not survived, and much if what scholars know about it comes from quotations in Augustine’s works. Was a defense of the study of philosophy, encouraging readers to devote themselves to the pursuit of truth. Aimed to rebut the position that philosophy is useless and does not lead to happiness.

16 Augustine, the Hortensius, & the Christian Bible III.4-5
Encounter with the Hortensius is often referred to as his “first conversion.” Augustine was moved deeply by the content of the work—the claim that to pursue true wisdom is the route to a happy life—as opposed to the locution (quality of writing). For the first time, he “longed for the immortality of wisdom with an incredible [passion] in [his] heart.” However, feeling that it lacked a reference to God (which it did since Cicero was a pagan) Augustine felt he needed to look to Catholicism (his religion) and the Christian Bible for answers. Problem: The early Latin Bible was crudely worded and somewhat obscure. For a student of rhetoric like Augustine, its language was too simple to be satisfying and drove him to a strong dislike toward Christian scripture. Consequences: Disliking the plain-spoken Bible is a main reason for his becoming attracted to the more refined and intellectual texts of Manichaeism.

17 Manichaeism Background
Founded by Mani, in the 3rd century CE, who, inspired by a vision, believed himself to be a Paraclete—the last in a line of prophets. Gnostic religion—from gnosis (knowledge)—promises believers a secret knowledge, hidden from non-believers, that will lead to salvation. Dualistic: View the universe as a battleground between the opposing forces of good and evil. Darkness and the physical world are manifestations of evil, while light is a manifestation of good.

18 Manichaeism Background
Elaborate cosmology: Complex mythologies of angels and demons used to explain the workings of the universe. Light and darkness originally existed separately, without knowledge of each other. Good and evil are equal powers and both have always existed. Believed the physical world is of no value: it is the temporary, illusory stage for a struggle of spiritual powers, and all that matters is the release of the divine spirit within us from the contamination of the material body and its return to its true home. Was eventually banned for being seen as: Heretical by Christians A dangerous import from the rival power—Persia—by the Roman state.

19 Manichaean Believers Two Types:
The Hearers Auditors Devoted to caring for the Elect. Incurred the sin of harvesting plants & were released from sin by the prayers of the Elect who ate the food. Not celibate, but forbidden to procreate. Hoped to be reborn as Elect. Augustine was a Hearer The Elect Saints Orthodox Have already reached spiritual perfection Are committed to a missionary life of extreme asceticism: Poverty, celibacy, extreme dietary restrictions, and are even forbidden from harvesting/preparing food.

20 Augustine & the Manichees III.6-10
Comes across the sect in Carthage during his studies and ends up believing strongly in the Manichee doctrine for ~10 years. Manichaeism offered Augustine a way to accommodate his conflicts: He could pursue his career, and retain his partner, while purging his sins through his service to the Elect. He could blame those sins on his lower, alien nature, which like the material world had been made by the power of evil, but which his true self, would eventually shed. This led Augustine to believe that Manichaean dualism compromised his acceptance of responsibility for his sins. Manichaeism responded to his need for the name of Christ (instilled in him by his mother) while allowing him to retain his distaste for the Christian scriptures. He could regard the Bible as a crude and contaminated attempt at truth, whereas the Manichaean scriptures offered both the name of Christ and what seemed to be a profound understanding of the universe and of human life.

21 Manichee Challenges to/Criticisms of Christianity
Manichees: Viewed Christianity as a flawed and incomplete religion. Were extremely critical of the moral failings of the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Stories which described episodes of lust, anger, violence, and deceit led them to believe that the OT God was really an evil demon, not a God of Light. Argued that the books of the New Testament had been altered to corrupt Christ’s actual teachings. Refused to accept the Incarnation—the union of God and human in a physical body—and rejected the idea that Christ had been born from a human mother into a material body, because they viewed the body as evil. Believed that this was actually only the appearance of physicality and death. It was, therefore, also impossible that Christ could have suffered a physical death on the cross.

22 Augustine’s Break From Manichaeism III. 6-10
Error in “picturing” God: Manichee doctrines depended heavily on visualization of the concepts of God and evil, and this dependence greatly delayed Augustine from coming to know God without imagining Him. Manichees did not believe God to be omnipotent, claimed that He struggled against the opposing substance of evil, and that the human soul was of the same substance as God. Bad meeting with Faustus: Upon meeting a highly respected Manichee Elect, Augustine is disappointed by his excessive talking and failure to answer Augustine’s challenges to the Manichee cosmology. This meeting pushes Augustine further away from Manichee beliefs. Perspective in the Confessions: Christian polemic—presenting the beliefs and doctrines as he argues against them Rational philosophy and astronomy persuaded him that the colorful Manichee cosmology is false and lead him to Neoplatonism.

23 Summary of Book III Cicero’s Hortensius introduced Augustine to philosophy—the love of wisdom. What drew Augustine to Manichaeism: Dissatisfaction with the simple language of the Bible. Manichaean texts: Rhetorically embellished Elaborate cosmology What led to his rejection of Manichaeism: Fantastical cosmology and cryptic laws became suspicious It began to conflict with the budding science of astronomy Augustine was ready to explore more truthful, less wordy forms of beliefs after his meeting with Faustus.

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