The purpose of the paper is to show a mutual interaction of Platonic and Christian ideas in the pear theft narrative from Book Two of the Confessions. Augustine is provocatively questioning the Platonic theory of good, evil, and love by suggesting that in the theft he loved evil itself. He is considering three possible explanations, but is not fully content with any of them. Not having any better theory than the Platonic one, Augustine is suggesting that moral evil is completely beyond understanding. What is new in Augustine’s provocative analysis is placing the irrationality and incomprehensibility of moral evil in the context of the “I-Thou” relationship of the soul with God.
For summaries see E. Kevane‘Christian Philosophy: the Intellectual Side of Augustine’s Conversion’Augustinian Studies17 (1986) 49-83and R. Crouse ‘Paucis mutatis verbis: St. Augustine’s Platonism’ in R. Dodaro G. Lawless (eds.) Augustine and His Critics: Essays in Honour of Gerald Bonner (London – New York 2000) 37-50. Cf. also R. Sorabji Time Creation and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca 1986) 163-73; J.J. McEvoy ‘Neoplatonism and Christianity: Influence Syncretism or Discernment?’ in T. Finan V. Twomey (eds.) The Relationship between Neoplatonism and Christianity (Dublin 1992) 155-70; P. Cary Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self. The Legacy of a Christian Platonist (Oxford 2000) 45-60; C.G. Vaught Encounters with God in Augustine’s Confessions (Albany 2004) 37-42; B. Dobell Augustine’s Intellectual Conversion: the Journey from Platonism to Christianity (Cambridge 2009).
Cf. J.C. Cavadini‘The Darkest Enigma: Reconsidering the Self in Augustine’s Thought’Augustinian Studies381 (2007) 119-123 and 128; J.P. Kenney ‘Confession and the Contemplative Self in Augustine’s Early Works’ Augustinian Studies 381 (2007) 135-7 and 146. About the role of pride in Augustine’s concept of sin see also W.M. Green Initium omnis peccati superbia: Augustine on Pride as the First Sin (Berkeley – Los Angeles 1949); Macqueen ‘Contemptus Dei’ 227-93; B. Kent ‘Augustine’s ethics’ in E. Stump N. Kretzmann (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (Cambridge 2005) 217-20; S. MacDonald ‘Petit Larceny the Beginning of All Sin: Augustine’s Theft of the Pears’ in W.E. Mann (ed.) Augustine’s Confessions. Critical Essays (Lanham 2006) 45-69.