Access to God in Augustine's Confessions: Books X-XIII, Books 10-13

SUNY Press
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This is the final volume in Carl G. Vaught’s groundbreaking trilogy reappraising Augustine’s Confessions, a cornerstone of Western philosophy and one of the most influential works in the Christian tradition. Vaught offers a new interpretation of the philosopher as less Neoplatonic and more distinctively Christian than most interpreters have thought. In this book, he focuses on the most philosophical section of the Confessions and on how it relates to the previous, more autobiographical sections. A companion to the previous two volumes, which dealt with Books I–IX, this book can be read either in sequence with or independently of the others.

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“This book has been written for the artist, for the theologian, and for the philosopher, each of whom must be concerned with the question, “What does it mean to be human?” But at a deeper level, it is written for any reader who knows what it means to be fragmented, and who is willing to undertake a quest for wholeness in experiential and reflective terms.” — from the Preface

The Quest for Wholeness is a philosophic odyssey into humankind’s feelings of fragmentation, and the search for unity born of those feelings. It blends the concreteness of art and religion with the discipline of philosophy to illuminate those places in experience and reflection where fragmentation is encountered and the meaning of wholeness is first discovered.

Carl Vaught discusses the problems of fragmentation and unity, beginning with the aesthetic concreteness represented by the quest in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; moving through the religious dimension represented by the biblical stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses; passing on to the reflective discourse in Plato’s Euthyphro; and ending in a confrontation with Hegel that unites the concrete particularity of religious and communal life with the dialectic of Socrates’ normative reasoning.

This book is written with the conviction that the professional philosopher should not address a merely professional audience, but the larger world as well, and that in the end he must come to terms with himself and with the most pressing questions that confront the human spirit.
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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2012
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Pages
294
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ISBN
9780791483527
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Medieval
Philosophy / Religious
Religion / Christianity / Catholic
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This detailed discussion of Augustine’s journey toward God, as it is described in the first six books of the Confessions, begins with infancy, moves through childhood and adolescence, and culminates in youthful maturity. In the first stage, Augustine deals with the problems of original innocence and sin; in the second, he addresses a pear-stealing episode that recapitulates the theft of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and confronts the problem of sexuality with which he wrestles until his conversion; and in the third, he turns toward philosophy, only to be captivated successively by dualism, skepticism, and Catholicism. Augustine’s journey exhibits temporal, spatial, and eternal dimensions and combines his head and his heart in equal proportions. Vaught shows that the Confessions should be interpreted as an attempt to address the person as a whole rather than through our intellectual or volitional dimensions exclusively. The passion with which Augustine describes the end of his journey is reflected best in a sentence found in the opening chapter of the text—“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Interpreting this statement, Carl G. Vaught presents a more emphatically Christian Augustine than is usually found in contemporary scholarship. Refusing to view Augustine in an exclusively Neoplatonic framework, Vaught holds that Augustine baptizes Plotinus just as successfully as Aquinas baptizes Aristotle. It cannot be denied that Ancient philosophy influences Augustine decisively. Nevertheless, he holds the experiential and the theoretical dimensions of his journey toward God together as a distinctive expression of the Christian tradition.
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