Sunday, October 22, 2006

Augustine on human inertia

Why is it that we remember with such difficulty, but forget so easily? Why is it that we learn with such difficulty, yet so easily remain ignorant? Why is it that we are vigorous with such difficulty, yet so easily inert?

- Augustine, The City of God Bk XXII, chapter 22.

6 comments:

Christopher said...

Didn't Nietzche have something to say about that?
I have forgotten...
seriously

byron said...

So have I...

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with Auguistine (as I do in other areas!). On two counts. Firstly, generally, I don't think it's accurate to describe anything humans do as being done "so easily". Being human is hella hard, whether one remembers, forgets, is vigorous, is inert, etc. Secondly, I do *not* think it is generally relatively easier to forget than to remember. Indeed, this is espcecially true with the really important, really negative things in our stories, things where forgetting is often done almost automatically, while remembering comes with enormous difficulty.

byron said...

Benjamin - you make a very good point. Remembering is not always desired. Though in his defence, Augustine does have a very moving passage about the healing of memories in the resurrection later in this same book (City of God bk 22, ch 30).

I posted this quote because it captured something of my own present awareness of limitations on my memory and intellect as I try to write 15,000 words on Augustine.

I'm curious: which other areas do you disagree with Augustine?

Anonymous said...

I haven't really studied augustine, but my understanding is that he was the one who started the whole "babies are depraved and must therefore be baptized ASAP" thing. or something like that. I think that is ridiculous. Babies are gorgeous and innocent and sweet

byron said...

That's him!
Though I think I'd say that babies, like all of us, are ambiguous - wonderfully made, gorgeous and good; and yet also with an inner tendency to self, to take the path of least resistance. The culpability for this grows as we mature, but the tendency is there from the start; it is not simply a product of family or society (although these can and often do reinforce it, as well as channelling it in certain directions and perhaps thwarting it in others).