Volume 46, Issue 2, 2015
Augustine on Extending Oneself to God through Intention
This essay examines Augustine’s notion that a person can transcend temporal “distention” by “extending” his soul to God by way of “intention” (intentio). Augustine conceived of intentio as an activity of the will that functions to connect the soul to beings and objects in the world (thus allowing one to perceive, remember, think). Augustine links his notion of “intention” to the activity of “extending oneself to God” (based on Paul’s Philippians 3:13). How do the soul’s “intention” and “extension” work together to combat temporal “distention”? Augustine suggests that Paul extended himself to God but could not fully overcome distention. In his vision of God in Confessions 9, by contrast, Augustine (briefly) transcends distention. Here, Augustine’s memory and self have been transcended as his soul “extends itself” to God “through intention.” Even in this state of self-transcendence, his intentio directs and connects his soul to God.