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Argument Against Augustine

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In Augustine’s Confessions, he has an internal conflict about his hesitation to convert to Christianity. He claims to disagree with the Manichean ways and beliefs, and lists his reasons why in several passages. The subject of these passages is about will, specifically complete and incomplete wills. However, one of his arguments about this concept makes it apparent that he is influenced by Manichean ideas. In Augustine’s second passage, he clearly states that there are two wills, complete and incomplete. By doing so, he is subtly showing that he is influenced the Manichean theory of two wills.
Augustine’s first argument begins in section 20, starting with his hesitation to convert and comparing it to a man’s physical lack of strength. He then introduces his position on wills. He proclaims that it is easy for the body to obey the soul and to obey the soul’s will. On the other hand, it is not as easy for the soul to obey itself and it’s wills. Augustine thinks that this is because his will was not whole, and if it was whole he would not be pondering it still, he would have just done it already, similar to how his body moves without hesitation.

In section 21, Augustine goes forward with his claim that they mind commands the body, yet when the mind commands the mind it struggles to obey. He reasons this by explaining how the body can so easily obey the mind’s will, making it hardly even distinguishable as a will. Augustine argues that this is because the will is only there while it is being done. The moving of a hand and the converting to Christianity are the same will, but the body moving the hand is barely noticed as a will because it is too easy, it is a routine thing. Furthermore, if the mind does not command a will, it is because the will was not whole. The will commands the will to exist. If this command is incomplete, the will does not happen, and therefore was never a will. On the other hand, if a will were complete, it would no longer have a command to exist, and therefore the will would not exist at all. This is the reason why Augustine believes the Manicheans are wrong, and that there is no ‘monstrous’ split between willing and unwilling. However, Augustine then says that there two wills, and both are incomplete. They separate because one has what the other lacks.

In the next section, 22, he explains his reasoning for why the Manicheans are evil, and that they are far away from God due to their arrogance. Augustine proceeds with his argument, which is that the wills can not divide into two separate wills, because they are both incomplete and that makes them identical. Augustine then explains his belief that the self which proposes the will is the same self that is unwilling; not two separate minds, but the same. To be neither willing nor unwilling is to be in conflict with yourself. Augustine ends this section with his understanding that it is not his fault for being willing and unwilling at the same time, but it is a punishment for being a son of Adam, the original sinner.

Augustine continues this into section 23. This section starts with Augustine advancing his disagreement with the Manicheans. His claim is that if the wills are separated due to indecision, there would be many more wills than just two. He challenges the validity of being lead by a good will or a bad will, questioning that both of these directions could be bad wills. He questions how a will can be divided into good and bad, if it is the same will? Augustine finishes this section by subtly admitting he is choosing to convert to Christianity, by calling it the true view of the soul and because in Christianity there is the belief of a single soul, not multiple souls or multiple minds that come from split wills.

In section 24, the last of Augustine’s arguments, regards his opinion of the multiple split wills. Arguing with the Manicheans, he claims again that both wills can be bad and there can be many more than just two directions of these wills. He reasons this by restating that a person has only one mind, the wills can not be separated. When Augustine states that there are two wills in section twenty-one he contradicts his argument against the Manicheans, which goes to subtly show that his views are influenced by the Manicheans. Throughout all five sections, Augustine argues that there is only one will. Yet he boldly states that the Manicheans are evil and far from God from thinking there is a split will. Augustine says that a split will would mean there are two opposite wills, and two wills would mean there is two minds. His argument is that everyone has only one mind, so it is impossible that there can be two opposite wills. However, Augustine completely contradicts himself at the end of section twenty-one where he clearly states “So there are two wills.” Although his approach is not exactly the same as the Manicheans, this statement makes it very apparent that their concept of two wills influenced Augustine’s position. Augustine does not exactly agree with the split, opposite, wills, but he is influenced because he does still believe there are two separate wills of complete and incomplete.

Augustine placed this case in the midst of his conversation about his hesitation to convert to Christianity. He strategically inserted it here to illustrate how thought-provoking and tough this decision is for him. He is so lost that he is philosophically thinking about why he can not make a decision as easily as he can move his hand. This causes him to ponder on the different wills, which brings him to the conclusion that all wills are incomplete, otherwise they are not wills at all. Another reason he placed these sections here is to explain to the readers that only the incomplete will wills, thus all wills are incomplete. The last probable reason is to describe to the readers where the conflict of willing and unwillingness comes from. Augustine had come to the conclusion that it is a punishment from the original sinner, Adam.

While rejecting the Manichean positions, it is clear that Augustine chooses to convert and not to stay with the ‘arrogant’ and ‘evil’ Manichean beliefs. His interpretation of wills clearly express that it was distressing for him to decide to convert. For example; he explains the conflict between willing and unwilling as a punishment due to Adam’s sins. On the other hand, he does put a lot of thought into arguing with the simplest of Manichean beliefs, their idea of split wills, and use even that against them. This fact alone makes it clear that Augustine had an incomplete will to convert to Christianity.

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Argument Against Augustine. (2018, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from
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