Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the by Brian Stock

By Brian Stock

Augustine of Hippo, a crucial determine within the background of Western suggestion, is additionally the writer of a thought of examining that has had a profound impression on Western letters from the a while of Petrarch, Montaigne, Luther, and Rousseau to these of Freud and our personal time. Brian inventory offers the 1st complete account of this conception in the evolution of Augustine's early dialogues, his Confessions, and his systematic treatises.

Augustine used to be confident that phrases and photographs play a mediating position in our perceptions of fact. within the union of philosophy, psychology, and literary insights that types the foundation of his concept of studying, the reader emerges because the dominant version of the reflective self. Meditative examining, certainly the meditative act that constitutes examining itself, turns into the portal to internal being. whilst, Augustine argues that the self-knowledge analyzing brings is, of necessity, restricted, because it is religion instead of interpretive cause which could translate analyzing into different types of knowing.

In making his idea of interpreting a important trouble, Augustine rethinks historical doctrines approximately photographs, reminiscence, emotion, and cognition. In judging what readers achieve and don't achieve from the sensory and psychological knowing of texts, he is taking up questions that experience reappeared in modern considering. He prefigures, and in a manner he teaches us to acknowledge, our personal preoccupations with the phenomenology of studying, the hermeneutics of culture, and the ethics of interpretation.

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Additional resources for Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation

Sample text

In the course of his reading he came upon a volume by Cicero, a writer, he later realized, admired more for his elegance of expression than for the depth of his thought. Yet the book in question, the Hortensius, appeared to be an "exhortation" to the serious study of philosophy. 160 It quite altered the way he felt: his desire for success seemed vain, even pointless, in the face of its timeless wisdom. The transformation was brought about by a book that he did not read to sharpen his tongue or to improve his style but because of the personal relevance of its message.

In the one, ethical considerations are subordinated to enjoyment; in the other, enjoyment is postponed until ethical imperatives are met. For the ascetic reader, this moment does not have to coincide with the time of reading; it may occur during thinking, meditation, or recollection at some remove from the aural or visual experience of the text; it may even lie beyond the physical life of the reader, namely in the afterlife. Augustine's suggestions build on comparable statements made in De UtiUtate Credendi in 391 and in De Doctrina Christiana.

14o In favour of this interpretation, he notes that the theft did not replace one good by another; nor was there a hidden incentive. 141 He did not disobey his parents' wishes; God too was silent;142 and he had little or no understanding of general laws of morality. 143 As an addendum to these observations, he invites his readers to think of "discipline" as the patterning of conduct into a sequence of events that we should wish to live. The choice of the script that we follow initially appears to be ours; and, once we make a generic decision, our behaviour is organized as a recognizable narrative, whose plot is revealed through memory, since we revise our lives on the basis of the type of conduct that we have previously experienced and are able to recall.

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