THE PARADOX OF INQUIRY IN AUGUSTINE'S CONFESSIONS

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Abstract:

Abstract:

The Confessions recounts Augustine's successful search for God. But Augustine worries that one cannot search for God if one does not already know God. That version of the paradox of inquiry dominates and structures Confessions 1–10. I draw connections between the dramatic opening lines of book 1 and the climactic discussion in book 10.26–38 and argue that the latter discussion contains Augustine's resolution of the paradox of inquiry as it applies to the special case of searching for God. I claim that he develops a model, relying on the universal human experience of joy and truth, that identifies a starting point that (1) is common to all human beings, (2) is sufficient for guiding a successful search for God, and (3) avoids commitment to recollection of experiences prior to birth. The model is crucial to Augustine's rejection of traditional Platonist views about recollection.

Keywords: Augustine; Confessions; Meno's paradox; happiness; joy; paradox of inquiry; recollection; truth

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9973.2008.00529.x

Affiliations: Sage School of Philosophy, 218 Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA, Email: macdonald@cornell.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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