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St. Augustine and the Death of a Friend

Uploaded by planotJ on Oct 26, 2011

This paper considers St. Augustine’s grief at the death of his friend, his attachments to mortal things, and why he regrets them. (4 pages; 1 source; MLA citation style)

I Introduction

In Chapter IV of his Confessions, St. Augustine describes his terrible grief at the death of a friend, and then goes on to discuss attachments to mortal things, and why he regrets them.
This paper explores Augustine’s reasoning in this situation.

II Discussion

First, it’s interesting to note the terms in which Augustine talks about his reaction to his friend’s death. So many people say, “If he dies, I won’t be able to live without him,” yet here Augustine says, “I was wretched, and yet that wretched life I still held dearer than my friend. For though I would willingly have changed it, I was still more unwilling to lose it than to have lost him.” (IV, vi.) This is a very practical reaction to the fact of death, and yet it in no way diminishes the depth of Augustine’s grief.
This man is obviously Augustine’s “soulmate”, for he says “I marveled all the more that I, who had been a second self to him, could go on living when he was dead.” (IV, vi.) He also finds that he doesn’t want to live as a “half-self,” but is even more afraid of dying, because then his friend would “die wholly.” (IV, vi.)
Augustine relates that he couldn’t find any peace; everything was gloomy and miserable because his friend was gone. When at last he began to find some measure of comfort, when his “soul left off weeping” he found “a heavy burden of misery weighed me down.” (IV, vii). He knew that he should turn to God for comfort, but at that point he didn’t know God’s true nature and considered him only “an empty fantasm.” (IV, vii). And if he sought comfort from this fantasy, it only made him more downcast.
Finally, though, time brought a measure of healing, and here is where Augustine begins a subtle argument about sorrow and the nature of God. He says that the sorrow he felt at his friend’s death was so extreme because he had “poured his soul onto the dust, but loving a man as if he would never die who nevertheless had to die.” (IV, viii). It’s implied, I think, that if...

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Uploaded by:   planotJ

Date:   10/26/2011

Category:   Philosophy

Length:   4 pages (925 words)

Views:   2314

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