From Confessions, what is the "self" according to Augustine?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What is interesting about this text is the way in which Augustine's narrative about his own life and journey towards his religious belief becomes a reflection on self and what it means to be human. Augustine has been noted by critics as creating in this text a new conception of the human self that is coupled with his spiritual development. This development of self is achieved through self-presentation and then self-realisation. He uses his own self as a character who gradually comes to demonstrate these two aspects on his journey towards an understanding of self that is centred around his religious beliefs. One of the most imporatnt quotes in this novel reflects on what Augustine believed to be the crux of the self, or of the identity of humans:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

In Augustine's version of the self, it is only possible to understand who a person is when they have understood how they stand in relation to God, and this is a central aspect of the self that Augustine espouses in this text. Augustine tells a story with himself as the central character, and as a result his struggles between the body and the soul as he seeks happiness assume a bigger importance as a kind of metaphor for the self, which, in Augustine's opinon, can only be truly discovered through a recognition of God's love and man's response to that love.


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