Augustinian Studies

Volume 54, Issue 2, 2023

Matthew RobinsonOrcid-ID
Pages 131-156

Moral Motivation, The Pitfalls of Public Confession, and Another Conversion in Confessions, Book 10

This article focuses on the unresolved scholarly question of how Confessiones, book 10 should be interpreted, proposing a new explanation as to how and why the second half of book 10 is critically important to this text. Emphasizing important relations between the introductory chapters and the second half of book 10, the article revisits Augustine’s treatment of ambitio saeculi, interpreted as a state of will, with which author Augustine continues to struggle, even during his act of confessing publicly (i.e., in composing the book 10 text for publication). As a corruption of the motive behind his act of public confession, ambitio saeculi threatens to undermine the moral integrity of this same act. After Augustine recognizes that he cannot solve this moral flaw, he despairs and considers abandoning his human audience, and so, the very publication of his text. However, he is made newly capable of remaining, as confessant, before his readership, through a new, deeper conversion. This conversion to a new humility is given in and through the confessant’s participation in the eucharistic sacrament, which provides a hopeful resolution to his ambitio saeculi.