Tips for reading: Make sure you read the introduction.
Augustine's autobiography is, in part, an intellectual one, so you need to be aware of
matters like Ciceronian rhetoric, Manichean religion, and Neo-platonic philosophy. Keep in
mind that Augustine's work is both a form of prayer addressed to God and a testimony
addressed to others. As you read, you will need two methods: 1) a sense of story and 2) a
sense of poetry. Read for the narrative flow of the events. Yet when you encounter
passages that seem more like prayers, read for the poetry of the ideas. You might even
consider praying along with him. Some of Augustine's prayers have provided moments of
worship for many readers. Also stay aware of how Augustine weaves in scripture to his
NOTE: We will be using the Roman numeral book and section numbers; these are not
always the same as the medieval paragraph numbers in parentheses.
1.1: What is the significance of Augustine's prayer, "You stir
man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart
is restless until it rests in you"?
1.4: What is God like in this section? Try to summarize.
1.6: Note how and why Augustine praises God for his early childhood.
1.9 (cf. 1.14): Note what Augustine's view of corporeal punishment in schools is.
1.13-14: Note Augustine's view of reading Virgil and Homer. You will need this for a
Terence: (190-159 BC) The Roman playwright Publius Terentius Afer was author of
popular Latin comedies that adapted older Greek plots for the Roman stage. Most of his
plays were tragi-comedies with well-built, but slow-moving, plots.
1.18-19: Note why, according to Augustine, rhetorical skill is not enough.
1.20: Note what things a child has to be grateful for.
2.3: Explain why Augustine's father and mother have differing
reactions to their son's growing lusts.
2.4 (cf. 2.6-2.8): Explain why Augustine steals the pears. Why does the "act have
nothing lovely about it"? (2.6)
2.8-9: Describe Augustine's "partners in sin." Why did they steal together?
3.2 (cf. 3.6): Why does Augustine consider his experience of the
theater destructive? Do you agree? Contrast this with his view of other literature.
3.3: Note who the Wreckers are.
Cicero: (103-43 BC) Cicero is the most famous Latin orator of classical
antiquity. His most famous work Of Oratory influenced generation after generation
of rhetorical teachers and thinkers in the West.
3.4-3.5: Explain how Cicero influenced Augustine in his love of wisdom and distrust of
3.11: Describe Monica's dream concerning her son.
4.3: Note why Augustine gives up astrology.
4.4-7: What is the significance of how Augustine describes his grief at the loss of a
4.12: Explain why we should love the things of this world in God and not apart from
4.14: Note why Augustine admires the orator Hierius.
4:15-16: Contrast Augustine's work on aesthetics and his education in logic and
rhetoric (e.g. Aristotle's Categories) with his need to know the true source of
beauty and rationality.
5.2: Explain (according to Augustine) why the wicked do not know God.
5.3-5: Note how the Manichean doctrines of the stars compare to the astronomy of
5.5: Note why according to Augustine there is a relationship between sceintific
knowledge and salvation.
5.6-7: Describe Augustine's disappointed respect for Faustus. How does this help
release him from the Manichean religion?
5.8-9: Note why Augustine moves to Rome and how Monica reacts.
5.10-11: Note the beliefs of the Manicheans that Augustine still finds convincing.
5.12-13: Explain what prompts Augustine to apply for the appointment in Milan.
5.13: Explain why Augustine is first attracted to Ambrose.
6.2: Note why Monica gives up taking memorial meals to saints'
6.3: Explain Ambrose's practice of reading.
6.4-5: Note Augustine's growing belief in Christianity and the Bible.
6.6: Explain why Augustine envies the beggar.
6.7-11: Note how Alypius is pulled into the gladiatorial games, is cleared of the
charge of thievery, and is attracted to a life of celibacy.
Book 7 is Optional
Epicurus: (342-270 BC) Epicurus founded a school of philosophy based on the
pleasure principle. He believed that the goal of life was to achieve the highest pleasure
possible since God did not exist nor was there an afterlife. Intellectual and ethical
pleasures are the highest in Epicurus' view.
7.1-2: Note why Augustine is tempted to believe that God is a
7.3-5: Note what kinds of questions concerning the origin of evil Augustine struggles
7.6: Note how Firninus' story of the two births convinces Augustine that astrology is
Plotinus: (204-270 AD) The founder of neo-platonism borrowed a number of ideas
from Plato. For Plotinus, God is the One, the impersonal Absolute Unity that transcends
all duality, material limitations, or intellectual distinctions. The One is Nous or
mind, which orders the universe.
7.9-11: Explain what aspects of scripture Augustine found in the Platonists and which
he did not.
7.12-13, 15-16: What is the significance of what Augustine learned about the grandeur
of the physical world?
7.18: Why does Augustine describe Christ as "your Word, eternal truth"?
7.19: Note Augustine's and Alypius' early views of Christ.
Apollinarianism: A heresy begun by Apollinarius the Younger (300-392 AD) which
held that Christ as the divine Logos dwelled in the body of the man Jesus, but that the
two were not strictly synonymous,. Apollinarius believed that the human soul would have to
be sinful; thus, he denied the true humanity of Christ.
8.2, 8.5: Note why Simplicianus tells Augustine the story of
8.5: Explain how Augustine describes the war within himself to convert to Christianity.
8.6: Note what decision Antony makes concerning the Christian life.
8.7 -8.12: Note the stages in Augustine's decision.
9.2: Note why Augustine decides to quit his job at the autumn
9.4: Describe Augustine's reaction to reading scripture.
9.6: Note Augustine's view of Adeodatus' intelligence.
Arianism: A heresy begun by Arius between 318 and 323 AD. Arianism holds that
Christ is not truly God but a created Being (the Logos) whom God the Father created before
the world began, a kind of superpowerful but finite expression of God.
9.7: Note the miracles that took place in Milan.
9.8-9: Note the events in Monica's life and character.
9.12: What is the significance of Augustine's not weeping for Monica at first? What
prompts him finally to do so?
Book 10 is Optional
10.1-3: Explain what purpose Augustine's work serves for God, for
himself, and for others.
10.4: Note who, according to Augustine, is a "true brother."
SKIP sections seven through twenty-one which discuss Augustine's theory of memory.
10.27-29: Note how Augustine describes his love for God's true beauty and charity.
10.30-34: How do Augustine's different senses tempt him? When is beauty in sight and
sound acceptable for him?
10.35: When is curiosity misplaced?
10.36: Why does Augustine pray, "Let it be for your sake that we are loved"?
10.40: Why is God the Truth a safe haven for one's mind?
10.43: Why is Christ the Mediator an example of the Father's great love for humans?