Therapie der Affekte. Augustins Confessiones als Dokument christlich-philosophischer Seelsorge

Journal article
(Original article)

Publication Details

Author(s): Köckert C
Journal: Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte
Publication year: 2016
Volume: 127
Journal issue: 3
Pages range: 293-314
ISSN: 0044-2925
Language: German


This article proposes interpreting Augustine’s Confessions against the backdrop of ancient philosophy as therapy of the soul. This proposition is argued by a close reading of selected passages as examples of what may be termed ‚Augustine’s narrative psychology’: On the one hand, Augustine demonstrates how emotions arise in man’s soul and how from repeated emotions fully-fledged bad habits grow (e.g., conf. 3,2,2 f.; 3,4,7 f.; 6,8,12–13; 6,12,22). On the other hand, he demonstrates how God mercifully acts upon man’s soul by means of human discourse, philosophical and biblical texts (e.g., conf. 3,4,7 f.; 5,12,23 f.; 7,9,13–7,21,27; 8,2,3–5; 8,6,14 f.; 8,7,16–18). This applies also to the famous passage conf. 8,12,29 f. The scene of conversion in the Milanese garden is not to be read allegorically, nor as a mere account of historical events. Rather, it is a psychological analysis in narrative form. In Confessions, Augustine delineates a specific therapy of emotion that can be regarded as the practical side of his famous doctrine of grace. This is supported by a philosophical reading of conf. 10,30,41 f. The article further demonstrates that Confessions reflects practices of spiritual exercises widespread in ancient philosophy. Confessions should, therefore, be read as a Christian exercise that aims at redirecting and transforming the soul and at developing a new habit. In regard to the philosophical tradition, Augustine’s therapy of the soul proves to be provocative: On the one hand, he presents Christianity as superior with effective means to heal even the worst corruptions of the soul. On the other hand, he denigrates pagan philosophy by refuting its claim to transform people and to lead them to a happy life.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Köckert, Charlotte Prof. Dr.
Lehrstuhl für Kirchengeschichte I (Ältere Kirchengeschichte)

How to cite

Köckert, C. (2016). Therapie der Affekte. Augustins Confessiones als Dokument christlich-philosophischer Seelsorge. Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, 127(3), 293-314.

Köckert, Charlotte. "Therapie der Affekte. Augustins Confessiones als Dokument christlich-philosophischer Seelsorge." Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 127.3 (2016): 293-314.


Last updated on 2018-10-08 at 11:11

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