God and Self in Confessiones IV and Beyond: Therapeia, Self-Presence, and Ontological Contingency in Augustine, Seneca, and Heidegger

Matthew William Knotts

Loyola Academy, Theology Department, Wilmette, Illinois, USA , United States


This article investigates Augustine’s reflection on the death of his friend in Confessiones IV. A critical treatment of this passage discloses the three key themes which will form the main substance of the analysis: self-presence, the contingency of being, and divine absence. Integrating philosophical and theological methodologies with an historical-critical treatment of Augustine’s work, this article relates Augustine’s insights to his foregoing classical context and his reception in posterity, with particular attention to Lucius Annaeus Seneca (ca. 4 BCE-65 CE) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). This investigation shows that these three figures are connected by an appreciation of how self-presence and ontological instability are constant facets of human life, though easily neglected. Each advocates a curriculum of philosophical training, whereby one learns to pacify the mind by an awareness of the true nature of mundane reality. This research contributes to the renewed appreciation of how the therapeutic aspects of classical philosophy influenced early Christian authors; illuminates a key episode in Augustine’s life en route to his conversion to Christianity; and raises questions about the “apophatic” dimensions of Augustine’s theology and anthropology.


Augustine, Confessiones, Therapeia, Facticity, Death, Seneca, Heidegger

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Knotts, M. W. (2022). God and Self in Confessiones IV and Beyond: Therapeia, Self-Presence, and Ontological Contingency in Augustine, Seneca, and Heidegger. Vox Patrum, 82, 113–144. https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.12725

Matthew William Knotts  matthew.w.knotts@gmail.com
Loyola Academy, Theology Department, Wilmette, Illinois, USA https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2486-2652


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