St. Augustine on text and reality (and a little Gadamerian spice)

Heythrop Journal 50 (1):98-108 (2009)
One way of viewing the organizing structure of the Confessions is to see it as an engagement with various texts at different phases of St. Augustine’s life. In the early books of the Confessions, Augustine describes the disordered state that made him unable to read any text (sacred or profane) properly. Yet following his conversion his entire orientation— not only to texts but also to reality as a whole—changes. This essay attempts to trace the winding paths that lead up to Augustine’s conversion through his various encounters with texts (and individuals) and to examine his struggles both intellectual and spiritual along the way. In the final section, I bring Augustine into conversation with Hans-Georg Gadamer in order to highlight a number of hermeneutical continuities shared by premoderns and postmoderns. After comparing premodern and modern hermeneutical orientations, I conclude that Augustine’s approach to Scripture contrasts sharply with a (strict) modern grammatico-historical biblical methodology, whereas premodern hermeneutics share a number of continuities with Gadamerian and postmodern emphases. Lastly, in light of Gadamer’s famous statement, ‘all of life is hermeneutics’, I suggest that perhaps we could read Augustine’s life as affirming this claim. By taking a close look at Augustine’s story, I will attempt to show how pre-judgments, interpretative traditions and a dynamic/analogical rather than a static/univocal understanding of text (and reality) decisively affected his spiritual and intellectual vision—observations Gadamer would no doubt heartily affirm.
Keywords Augustine's hermeneutics  Gadamer's fusion of horizons  Augustine and textual encounters
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2008.00422.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Cynthia R. Nielsen, St. Augustine on text and reality (and a little Gadamerian spice)
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
George Heffernan (2008). Augustinian Skepticism in Augustine's Confessions. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 14:73-86.
G. R. Evans (1982). Augustine on Evil. Cambridge University Press.
John Arthos (2004). “The Word is Not Reflexive”. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 78 (4):581-608.
Paul Helm (2003). Augustine's Griefs. Faith and Philosophy 20 (4):448-459.
G. Matthews (2004). The Aporetic Augustine. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 78:23-39.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

169 ( #24,742 of 1,924,755 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

8 ( #107,577 of 1,924,755 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.