published on April 20, 2017
Margaret R. Miles
To Die For
Bodies, Pleasures, and the Young Augustine
The perennial human need to ground the self in something greater than itself takes many forms. This article explores several values that are often considered worth dying for, from one’s country or religion, to—among the many that are often advocated in contemporary Western societies—one’s sexuality. Given the recent level of interest in Augustine’s early sexuality, I argue that, for Augustine, sex, when compulsively pursued, was a failed value. His experience revealed to him that the ultimate object with which the self can be identified is God: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessiones 1.1.1). Augustine’s Confessiones narrate the long process by which his lust problem was transmogrified into the love project: “My weight is my love; by it I am carried wherever I am carried” (Confessiones 13.9.10).