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But in many other aspects it does not resemble

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But in many other aspects it does not resemble Augustine’s work: cer-tainly not in its relationship to Christian belief, nor in its way of referringto the eternal being. The last paragraph concludes with a request and achallenge. May that eternal being gather the vast crowd of the author’sfellow beings so that they may hear his confessions, so that they maycringe at learning about his disgraceful acts and blush at his woes. Wouldthe work be received according to Rousseau’s challenge to his readers,each one of them would take his turn and open up his heart at the feet ofthe throne of the eternal being with the same kind of sincerity, and thenjust one should dare to address the divinity and say, I was better than thisman there. It is rather remarkable that the function of God, the supremejudge, is not to determine the value and fate of the individual’s soul butrather to orchestrate and oversee the publication and reception of Rous-seau’s book entitledConfessions. God is the authority to guarantee theutter uniqueness of Rousseau’s work.Especially after Foucault’s critique of the disciplinary aspects of nine-teenth- and twentieth-century institutions and practices concerned withexamining the individual’s inner self, Rousseau’s challenge to his readers to“listen” to his confessions and then to follow in his footsteps and uncovertheir own hearts with the same kind of sincerity might be taken for theprogrammatic announcement of the modern culture of confession and sin-cerity. Indeed, it has almost become a commonplace to see in Rousseau’sConfessionsthe beginning of that individualizing subjection that wouldthen with the aid of psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis seek tolocalize in a person’s desiring structure the key to that individual’s secret,sexuality, and subjectivity that needed to be studied, cured, and normalized.In other words, Rousseau’sConfessionshas been frequently considered theprototype of the transition from a religious to a worldly practice of the self,which only at first glance looks like a liberating move but actually main-tains or even heightens the disciplinary aspects of the religious confession.2
PA RT I I( 79 )The emphasis on the sincerity of the confessing subject, the focus onthe minute observation of the stirrings of one’s soul, and the disregard forworldly opinions and judgments are indeed decisive elements that char-acterize Augustine’s as well as Rousseau’sConfessionsand the Christianpractice of confessing one’s sins. However it needs to be noted that thesacrament of penance and the confession of one’s sins took on many dif-ferent shapes throughout the history of Christianity. There has never beenjust one practice and speech genre of the confession. Moreover, through-out the history of Christianity there have been other uses and meanings ofthe termconfession.The term has not only been used to refer to the sincereand accurate account of one’s trespasses and failings based on the thor-ough examination of one’s conscience but also to the kind of speech thatprofesses one’s adherence to a particular creed (the profession of faith orthe credo), as well as the speech genre that codifies a particular creed (suchas the Augsburg Confession). In fact, as I shall show in the first sectionof the Rousseau chapter, Rousseau was quite aware of these different uses

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