Literature Study GuidesThe ConfessionsBook 10 Sections 37 57 Summary

The Confessions | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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The Confessions | Book 10, Sections 37–57 (Memory) | Summary

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Summary

Augustine continues his train of thought and begins to think about where he first found God, not in "a place." He then lapses into his celebrated prayer, which begins, "Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new." Augustine finishes praising God in the next few sections and then turns to an examination of the five senses, praising their goodness when they are fed in moderation and cataloging the many types of concupiscence (irrational greed or lusting after sensual pleasures) in which people overindulge their senses. Even the intellect can fall into concupiscence when it exhibits "frivolous, avid curiosity." Augustine confesses to his own sins of concupiscence during this analysis, using himself as an object lesson for others.

Analysis

The saint's discourse circles back into praise before turning to an extensive discussion of the types of sin that can be committed through the senses and mind. Since Augustine has been thinking about the senses, the conduits of knowledge about the world, he logically moves to the subject of how the senses are the vehicles through which human beings can either find God or move further away from him. In the prayer in which he calls God Beauty, he says the "shapely things" of the world took him away from God. According to the editors of Maria Boulding's translation of The Confessions, these passages on concupiscence are directed at the Pelagian heresy, which minimizes man's sinfulness and even denies original sin. Augustine freely admits his own failings, as part of his teaching that man is sinful and needs the grace of God for redemption.

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