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Augustine's Confessions: The story of a divided self and the process of its unification

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The goals of this paper are twofold. The first is to show that William James' (1902/1982) discussion in The Varieties of Religious Experience of the divided self and the process of its unification offers an invaluable lens through which to understand the conversion experience of Augustine (c.a. 397-400/1960) as presented in his Confessions. The second is explore the question of how Augustine became a divided self, a question that James chooses not to speculate about because he is suspicious of theories of causality, especially those that have little if any empirical evidence in their support. To explore this question, I will discuss E. R. Dodds' (1927-1928) article, "Augustine's Confessions: A Study of Spiritual Maladjustment." He was Professor of Greek at the University of Birmingham at the time that the article was published, and later Professor of Classics at Oxford University. Dodds believes that the origins of Augustine's divided self "are to be looked for in his family history" (p. 44) and he makes what I consider to be a persuasive case in support of this belief. Significantly, his discussion of Augustine as a divided self has distinct resonances with James's own discussion, suggesting that he was almost certainly aware of James' earlier work.


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