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Augustine's ConfessionsPhilosophy in Autobiography$
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William E. Mann

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577552

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577552.001.0001

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The Desire for God and the Aporetic Method in Augustine’s Confessions

The Desire for God and the Aporetic Method in Augustine’s Confessions

(p.71) 4 The Desire for God and the Aporetic Method in Augustine’s Confessions
Augustine's Confessions

Stephen Menn

Oxford University Press

This essay discusses the Confessions’ aporetic method—specifically its versions of Meno’s paradox, beginning in Book 1, about how we can search for God if we don’t already know him. Augustine says that belief in God guides us in searching until we know him. But how can we have intentional attitudes toward God—belief or desire—if we haven’t yet encountered him? Augustine’s solution comes partly in Book 7’s analysis of God as truth, partly in Book 10’s argument that we have an irreducible desire for truth: although we desire joy, joy requires a propositional content, and ceteris paribus we prefer joy based on true rather than on false stories. I explore how Augustine’s aporetic accounts of memory and of temptation function together in Book 10. The theory of the three temptations, and especially of “curiosity,” shows why desire for happiness—for joy based on truth—does not always prevail.

Keywords:   Augustine, Confessions, Meno’s paradox, aporia, intentionality, truth, temptation, tripartition, curiosity

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