Confessions Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Discuss Augustine's early life. Why does he specifically mention his infancy? To what does he liken his childlike helplessness? Why do you think that he places personal responsibility on infants and children who, by modern psychological standards, are not held accountable for their actions? What purpose does this serve? Do you agree with his assessment, or do you think his view of children and morality is wrong?

  2. 2

    Recap the event in the bathhouse where Patrick becomes aware that Augustine is sexually mature. Why does Patrick become "intoxicated"? Do you think that this intoxication is literal or figurative? What are Augustine's thoughts about his father's reaction? Do you think that Augustine is negating the importance of the body in his attitude towards sex, or do you think he is simply striving for a higher spirituality?

  3. 3

    Augustine often discusses peer pressure among young people, especially adolescents. Do you think that adolescent peer pressure is the same today as it was in Augustine's day? What did Augustine's friends pressure him to do, or to at least say that he did? Are these the same sort of things that happen among adolescent groups today? Do you think that Augustine is too severe in his condemnation of a normal phenomenon that happens in all human societies, or do you think his criticisms are valid? What does he think that he, as an adolescent, should have done instead of falling in with his friends' actions?

  4. 4

    Explore the Manichaean beliefs as described by Augustine. What would have attracted Augustine to this kind of religion? Why do you think that Augustine didn't ultimately become a Manichaean Elect rather than a Christian bishop? What role did Monica play in this decision? Do you think it was a forgone conclusion that Augustine would become a Christian because of Monica's beliefs, or do you think that Augustine came to his decision freely?

  5. 5

    Why did Augustine have such difficulty with "spiritual substance"? What prevented Augustine from picturing God in a Christian way? Did Augustine's extensive philosophical education help or hinder him with trying to understand the nature of God? Do you think that his ideas about God are well-founded, or do you disagree with them? Do you accept Augustine's explanation for evil in the world?

  6. 6

    What do you think of Augustine's visions? Does his vision of Lady Continence make any sense to you? What about his vision of the rewards heaven with his mother? Are these visions real, or are they the product of an overactive imagination? Augustine was fond of analyzing dreams and visions, and, though he was careful not to misinterpret, put a great deal of faith in them. Monica was a visionary, too, before Augustine became one. Discuss how the visions she and Augustine experience are instigations for action or change in Confessions.

  7. 7

    Why is it so important that Augustine reconciles the creation story with doctrine? What prompted him in Books XI and XII to spend so much time performing exegesis on the Genesis text in order to prove a figurative reading? Discuss why this was so important to Augustine and the early Church, and if you think Augustine's interpretation was right or wrong.

  8. 8

    What was Augustine's idea of women? Near the end of the book, he claims that women are the equal in all things of men, but in practice Augustine doesn't seem to follow this idea. Would Augustine's treatment of women, before his conversion, be acceptable today? Did his relationship with Monica affect his attitudes at all?

  9. 9

    What is the nature of evil for Augustine? Contrast Augustine's idea of evil with the ideas of the Manichees. Which seems closer to the truth for you? Is Augustine's explanation of theodicy accurate and enough for you, or do you find holes in his theory.? Explain what your idea of evil in the world is, its source and the possible solution for avoiding it.

  10. 10

    What role did Augustine's friends play in his conversion? Do you think that Augustine was an intellectual snob, or was he just academically curious? Specifically, was the conversion of Alypius right after Augustine a sincere conversion? What about Nebridius's efforts to guide him away from Manichaeism, while Nebridius was still a Manichee himself? What does Augustine think about earthly friendships?

  11. 11

    Write about Augustine's family, specifically his concubine and son. Were his attitudes toward them cold, in your opinion? What about his faith would have made his actions acceptable? Augustine wrote, in a different book, a dialogue with his son Adeodatus as the philosophical speaker opposite himself. Was Augustine sufficiently involved in his illegitimate son's life? Why doesn't Augustine talk more about him in Confessions?