Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thought for the Day -Thursday, Third Week of Lent, 2007

When he [Augustine] asks (himself)[in the Confession], when he asks in truth of God and already of his readers why he confesses himself to God when He knows everything, the response makes it appear that what is essential to the avowal or the testimony does not consist in an experience of knowledge. Its act is not reduced to informing, teaching, making known. Stranger to knowing, thus to every determination or to every predicative attribution, confession shares [partage] this destiny with the apophatic movement. Augustine's response is inscribed from the outset in the Christian order of love or charity: as fraternity. In order to make them better in charity, Augustine addresses himself to "brotherly and devout ears" (10.34.51), and to the "brotherly mind" so that it "loves in me" what you, God, "teach us to love" (Amet in me fraternus animus quod amandum doces) (10.4.6). Confession does not consist in making known-and thereby it teaches that teaching as the transmission of positive knowledge is not essential. The avowal does not belong in essence to the order of cognitive determination; it is quasi-apophatic in this regard. It has nothing to do with knowledge-with knowledge as such. As act of charity, love, and friendship in Christ, the avowal is destined to God and to creatures, to the Father and to the brothers in order to "stir up" love, to augment an affect, love, among them, among us (11.1.1). And so that we give thanks to God and pray to Him for us in greater numbers (10.4.6). For Augustine does not respond only to the question: Why do I confess to you, God, who know all in advance? Augustine speaks of "doing the truth" (veritatem facere) , which does not come down to revealing, unveiling, nor to informing in the order of cognitive reason. Perhaps it comes down to testifying. He responds to the question of public, that is to say, written testimony. A written testimony seems more public and thus, as some would be tempted to think, more in conformity with the essence of testimony, that is also to say, of its survival through the test of testamentary attestation. I want "to do the truth," he says, in my heart, in front of you, in my confession, but also "in my writing before many witnesses" (in stilo autem meo coram multis testibus) (10.1.1). And if he confesses in writing (in litteris, per has litteras) (9.12.33; 10.3.4), it is because he wants to leave a trace for his brothers to come in charity in order to stir up also, at the same time as his, the love of readers (qui haec legunt) (11.1.1).2 This moment of writing is done for "afterwards" [apres]. But it also follows the conversion. It remains the trace of a present momem a: the confession that would have no sense without such a conversion, without this address to the brother readers: as if the act of confession and of conversion having already taken place between God and him, being as it were written (it is an act in the sense of archive or memory), it was necessary to add a post-scriptum-the Confessions, nothing less-addressed to brothers, to those who aR called to recognize themselves as the sons of God and brothen among themselves. Friendship here has to be interpreted as charity and as fraternity. But the address to God itself already implies the possibility and the necessity of this post-scriptum that is originarily essential to it. Its irreducibility is interpreted finally, but we won't elaborate on that here, in accord with the Augustinian thought of revelation, memory, and time.
Jacques Derrida, "Sauf le nom (Post-Scriptum)," On the Name, tr. David Wood, John P. Leavey, Jr., and Ian McLeod (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press 1995), 38-40.

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