Richard Houchin's Reviews > The Confessions

The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
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Feb 03, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: philosophy
Read from February 03 to 19, 2010

I wrote in the margins on just about every other page. Augustine is a clever writer, and provocative. His formal training as a rhetorician shines through in his wordplays and intricate constructions of arguments. It's too bad he never encountered a more scientific way of thinking, for had he done so he may have produced something worth more than an example of what not to do.

Instead, Augustine's Confessions can be boiled down to: "My premises cannot be flawed, it must be me!"

Chapter 1 of Book 1 has Augustine describe a way of knowing that first settles upon a desired conclusion, and then seeks confirmations. The scientific method by contrast settles upon one of many conclusions and then seeks disconfirmations.

Augustine has a desire for immortality that gives rise to the creation of a contradictory conception of God and then, rather than question the desire for immortality, Augustine wrestles with the contradictions.

This struggle is more neatly handled by first accepting nonexistence as what is when you are not and saving any further meditations on the incoherency of an infinite being who sustains immortality for after such a being is concretely demonstrated.

Through the Confessions Augustine shows himself to be a part of an anti-academic, anti-curiosity, and anti-thinking mode of being. Augustine wisely says he has no time for anyone who does not accept the existence of an infinite God -- for although he is confident he can convince anyone who does hold such a belief that they should particularly believe in Christ, he is at least sharp enough to understand that he has nothing to offer a person who moderates their belief in proportion to the evidence.

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