Literature and Personal Values by Patrick Grant (auth.)

By Patrick Grant (auth.)

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Sample text

Traditional religion of course continued to offer resistance, or to provide a leaven in various forms, but the Augustinian theory of Original Sin with its metaphysical explanations and governing symbols had decisively surrendered its privileged position under the weight of the Englightenment critique. Yet the problem of the Flaw in relation to our sense of belonging persisted, as it still does, demanding an assessment appropriate for the cultural phase we both inherit and are called to fashion.

The gluttonous baby, the boy raiding the cellar, and the incontinent youth are examples of concupiscence. The boy taken with stage plays and spectacle exemplifies the sin of curiosity. The envious baby and the arrogant schoolboy are proud. The theft of pears, which to some readers has seemed disproportionately emphasised, is now seen to warrant that emphasis because stealing fruit from a garden reminds us of Eden, and thus represents the mystery of iniquity in general, encompassing the other three types of transgression.

34 This, in turn, helps to explain her influence in the concubine episode, and in attempting to have Augustine betrothed in a regular manner. His affairs are examples of cupiditas, the identity-dissolving opposite of love. Thus Augustine tells us he loved his mistress 'in a wayward passion, void of understanding' (VI, 2), and consequently he wanders 'severed amid times', as he says, 'whose order I know not'. A whole series of correspondences now begins to open up. Cupidinous love represents fallenness, anxiety and self-division.

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