Thursday, 7 May 2015

Makiko Sato: Confession of Human Being as Darkness in Augustine

Augustine is known well for describing human beings as darkness. Especially in his Confessiones, we find many such descriptions. Through these descriptions, Augustine points out the imperfection of our knowledge and the inevitable difficulty of controlling our will. According to him, we human beings, even Apostles, are dark deep (Conf. 13, 13, 14), and we cannot distinguish between us, between "sons of night" and "sons of light," which only God can do (Conf. 13, 14, 15). Such a view of human nature becomes the base of Augustine's idea in the Augustinian/Pelagian dispute later.
In contrast, Augustine says in his Retractationes that the book Confessiones praises the just and good God for both the bad and the good that he did (Retr. 2, 6, 2). The acts against God, such as stealing pears and the devotion to Manichaeism, actually seem to be regarded as bad, and the acts toward God, such as the conversion and mystical experiences, seem to be regarded as good. In general, the act of confession can always consist along with the person's recognition of the bad and the good.
However, from the view of "human being as darkness," we have to say that such recognition is always uncertain. Then, what can we "confess"? What can "I-darkness" say about "I-darkness"? In this paper, I will clarify the relationship between the act of confession as speech and the view of human beings as darkness in Augustine's thought.

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