Augustine and the Inner-Self Meme
The focus in this chapter is on the very personal and introspective writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, author of one of the earliest autobiographies, inventor of the soliloquy, and one of the early Church fathers. He represents a key anchor point for building the case for the evolutionary nature of individualism with his focus on experience rather than argument such as the ancients had done. He presaged Descartes by centuries with his understanding of the importance of a first-person standpoint as a foundation for truth, and he is the original Western model of “getting in touch with one’s feelings.” This chapter will show through his writings how Augustine was the pivotal bridge between the ancient world, which was literally collapsing around him, and modern Western individualism. He made himself a character in his own literary work and tells a grand narrative of redemption that will not be surpassed until Dante. Indeed, his counsel on plumbing one’s inmost self is strikingly modern, and he clearly articulates an inner self that became a pervasive cultural meme visible in subsequent generations of Western writings.