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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 Life of the Mind in Dramas and Dreams

The Life of the Mind in Dramas and Dreams

(p.108) 5 The Life of the Mind in Dramas and Dreams
Augustine's Confessions

William E. Mann

Oxford University Press

This essay examines the ramifications of two passages in the Confessions. In Book 3 Augustine discusses his objections to the theatre. In Book 10 he expresses concern about the persistence of his erotic dreams. The two passages are related in ways Augustine may not have seen. Dramas and dreams are both exercises of what Augustine elsewhere calls spiritus, or imagination. Book 3 introduces the paradox of fiction, the problem of explaining why people seek to be made miserable by taking in tragedies that befall fictional characters. Having noted this paradoxical phenomenon, Augustine subsequently ignores it, perhaps because he ceased frequenting the theatre. Unlike the theatre, he cannot easily avoid dreaming. He holds views about sin and its connection to mental activity that raise the possibility that one can sin while dreaming. Just as plays have playwrights, dreams have “dreamwrights.” Augustine thus leaves himself vulnerable to the claim that he is responsible for sinful dreams.

Keywords:   dramas, dreams, imagination, theatre, sin

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