Saturday, 11 April 2015

Kyle Hubbard: Idolatrous Friendship in Augustine's Confessions

In Book Four of his Confessions, Augustine recalls his grief at the death of his closest friend.  Augustine explores his thinking at the time to determine why he grieved so much.  Many commentators have concluded that Augustine believes he grieved because he loved his friend too much and was thus too attached to his friend.  However, I will suggest that Augustine believes he was so devastated because he did not in fact love his friend at all, but only loved himself in place of his friend.  He loved his friend as an idol, which he believes inevitably ends in self-love.  To illuminate the problems with Augustine’s friendship, I will draw on Jean-Luc Marion’s helpful analysis of the idol from God Without Being.  In doing so I seek to clarify not only Augustine’s position on proper human love in the Confessions, but also will suggest a way to understand his infamous uti/frui (use/enjoyment) distinction from On Christian Teaching, a nearly contemporaneous text to the Confessions.

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