Well before his entry into the religious life in the spring of 386 C.E., Augustine had embarked on a lengthy comparison between teachings on the self in the philosophical traditions of Platonism and Neoplatonism and the treatment of the topic in the Psalms, the letters of St. Paul, and other books of the Bible. Brian Stock argues that Augustine, over the course of these reflections, gradually abandoned a dualistic view of the self, in which the mind and the body play different roles, and developed the notion of an integrated self, in which the mind and body function interdependently.
Stock identifies two intellectual techniques through which Augustine effected this change in his thought. One, lectio divina, was an early Christian approach to reading that engaged both mind and body. The other was a method of self-examination that consisted of framing an interior Socratic dialogue between Reason and the individual self. Stock investigates practices of writing, reading, and thinking across a range of premodern texts to demonstrate how Augustine builds upon the rhetorical traditions of Cicero and the inner dialogue of Plutarch to create an introspective and autobiographical version of self-study that had little to no precedent.
The Integrated Self situates these texts in a broad historical framework while being carefully attuned to what they can tell us about the intersections of mind, body, and medicine in contemporary thought and practice. It is a book in which Stock continues his project of reading Augustine, and one in which he moves forward in new and perhaps unexpected directions.
Brian Stock is Senior Research Associate at Victoria College, University of Toronto and Honorary Fellow at Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto. He is author of After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text and Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past, both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
"A refreshing and exciting literary exploration of the title's subject, the "integrated self." Stock models the ongoing importance of engaging with thinkers such as Augustine, Plotinus, and Paul as he cuts through disciplinary propriety in order to think with the ancients. The driving forces behind Stock's study are questions of enduring human interest: Who are we? How do we form ourselves, and one another, as happy, ethical selves? What resources does the ancient world offer to us for understanding ourselves?"-Reading Religion
"As Brian Stock's books on the themes of contemplation and the history of reading are some of the most important published in this subject area, he is, as it were, his own standard. He is one of only a handful of scholars in the field of medieval studies who take the project of close reading seriously."-Rachel Fulton Brown, University of Chicago