Foucault and Augustine

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The opening line to V of “Technologies of the Self”, Foucault relates early Christianity to that of a “truth game” (242). People prayed privately to God and confessed what they perceived as their sins to him. This in itself is a great moral examination of conscience. Just as people are obligated to tell the truth in their religion if they are of that faith, they are also obligated to be truthful to themselves. God is omniscient, but it would still be wrong or considered a sin for a Christian to lie to God in confessions or prayers. One must be true to oneself, as well as to God. The idea that “the truth obligations of faith and the self are linked together” (242) expressed by Foucault is exampled in Augustine’s Confessions. Even though it is an autobiographical account of sin and conversion, it is all written down in a one-way conversation with God. Augustine even practices both exomologesis and exagoreusis to know himself. These models that were presented in Foucault’s essay are metaphorical to Augustine’s experiences. Writing an autobiography in the form of a confession provides an example to both techniques. What Augustine wanted was the truth. In the moments that were leading up to his conversion, he could have handed himself over to God at any time, but he was not yet aware of himself, even though he knew what he needed. He wanted to convert, but at the same time his sexual desires kept him away longer. He writes, “my two wills, one old, the other new, one carnal, the other spiritual, were in conflict with one another, and their discord robbed my soul of all concentration” (140). It was only when Ponticianus told the story of his conversion that Augustine had an intense self-examination and was able to convert to Catholicism.
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