The Example Of A Woman Essay Research — страница 7

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are wallowing inflesh and blood. Is it because they have gone ahead thatwe are ashamed to follow? And do we feel no shame at noteven following at all?”> Renunciation, continence,imitation and the shame of the learned and weak-willedwho cannot do what the simple (indocti) dare to do:these are the issues around which Augustine’s musingsrevolve. The turning point began after Ponticianus left(Conf. 8.7.18). Augustine turned inward in a mannerreminiscent of his Neo-Platonic contemplations in Bk. 7.What stands out here is the high moral awareness thatAugustine brings to his introspection, which suggeststhat probably the most important thing he learned fromhis encounter with the Neo-Platonists, apart from hisnew found ability to think of non-material, spiritual,entities, was a

vocabulary of inwardness and a moralconsciousness which compelled him to even deeperintrospection. Earlier, I made the point that the intellectualproblems had been resolved in favor of Christianity, andAugustine had no difficulty at Conf. 8.1 recognizing hisultimate good in the church. However, in De beata vitahe wrote about delaying his philosophical retirementbecause of the esteem of some individuals in Milan, andhe related that delay also to his desire for a wife.Before going any further I should like to suggest onepossible way of construing this aspect of Augustine’sproblems in the context of the anxieties brought on by apossible marriage. Having arrived at the conviction that Christianconversion required of him a life of sexualrenunciation, Augustine recognized the need to

abrogatethe marriage he had all but contracted. In thissituation only the courtesies of the aristocraticcircles in Milan prevented him from doing what hethought necessary. It is highly doubtful that Augustinecould have stayed in Milan after annulling the marriage,even if he had not dreamed of a philosophicalretirement. It is doubtful too that the MilaneseChristian aristocracy could endure what would have beenperceived as an affront, a slight by the youngrhetorician who had sought their patronage, and from anAfrican no less. In a world so conscious of social rank and theprobity of one’s actions towards one’s patrons it wouldbe reasonable for Augustine to worry about hisreputation at this point. One even suspects that theapparently shrewd (though not altogether untruthful)

wayin which he resigned his chair may have been part of ageneral desire not to elicit any undue attention in hisdirection (Conf. 9.2.2-9.2.4). It would have beenexciting to renounce rhetoric the way Victorinus haddone, but for Augustine such a public disavowal of theold ways would have been too flaunting. He had notreached anyway near the status and reputation ofVictorinus (another African) to go through so public arejection of the old ways. Besides, turning down aproper marriage would not commend Augustine to the verywell-connected families in Milan. A quiet retreat wasreasonable and much to be desired.> These considerations may have added to Augustine’sanxiety, but it still leaves out why he made theinextricable link between Christian conversion andsexual renunciation in

the first place. Getting marriedneed not have been so problematic unless Augustine had become convinced that there was something inherentlywrong and unchristian about getting married in hiscurrent condition. Although De beata vita 1.4 impliesthat reading the Platonists had formed in him theconviction to disavow marriage, it does not account forthe strength and force of that conviction. It is onething to be suddenly enamored of the idea of totalsexual renunciation because of the influence of Neo-Platonic spirituality, it is quite another thing to beso convinced of this that it becomes a test of one’sintegrity. Augustine, the onetime champion of a life ofphilosophy which included marriage, must have hadsomething more fundamental on his mind in order to evencontemplate breaking an

engagement to a daughter of theMilanese Christian aristocracy. Whatever it was, it cutvery close to his being, and so required a drasticchange in orientation. Continence and Augustine’s Inner CircleThe language of continence appears in one very tellingreference to Ambrose. The mood is distant and almostacademic. From his vantage point as a listener ofAmbrose’s sermons Augustine evaluates the MilaneseBishop’s presence. Augustine does not seem to have foundAmbrose’s example relevant to his own life at the time–except perhaps in the negative sense that he felt astrange sympathy for the man he admired but did not knowpersonally, whose only trouble, he thought, was havingto endure a life of sexual continence (caelibatus tantumeius mihi laboriosus videbatur).> Of