© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.



by Saint Augustine

Confessions Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Book.Section.Paragraph)

Quote #1

These questions I must put to you, for I have no one else to answer them. (I.6.4)

Actually, Augustine, you bring up a good point. When we don't have the answer to some question—like, in this case, what happened when we were in the womb?—how are we supposed to go about finding it? Are some things just unknowable? Having God around as this Magic Eight Ball who knows everything suggests that the answer exists, even if we don't have access to it. Basically, God's existence suggest that, theoretically, everything has an explanation that could be revealed to us. Yet, when Augustine asks God for an answer, what kind of answer does he expect? It's not like God is going to beam down an answer directly to him, à la Star Trek. Instead, the sheer act of asking God shows us the limits of human knowledge. Deep.

Quote #2

Need it concern me if some people cannot understand this? Let them ask what it means, and be glad to ask: but they may content themselves with the questions alone. For it is better for them to find you and leave the question unanswered than to find the answer without finding you. (I.6.6)

Translation: it's more important to believe in God than to understand him. Okay, but this statement raises some questions. Like, why doesn't Augustine follow his own advice? You will recall that one of the major obstacles preventing him from accepting Christianity is that God's immateriality doesn't make sense to him. Maybe Augustine has learned from his mistakes; or maybe he assumes that he's smarter than most people and doesn't want that to prevent their conversion. So, he's actually subverting knowledge to spirituality here.

Quote #3

I learned it without being forced by threats of punishment, because it was my own wish to be able to give expression to my thoughts. (I.14.1)

It seems pretty intuitive that we have an easier time learning our native language than trying to learn one in school later on, right? So what does this have to do with Augustine's conversion? Think about it: Augustine is basically saying that when we are not afraid, and actually want to learn something, we are more receptive to it. Hm, maybe this might have something to do with how we should approach learning about God…

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...