But there is major difference between Augustine’s journey inwards and the journey that has characterized Western thinking since Rousseau. For Augustine, the journey inwards is ultimately the journey outwards. When Augustine probes to the depths of his soul, he finds memory and the existence of memory—the fact that he is able to know at all. This fact carries him outwards to God, his creator and the auditor of his great monologue.
Modern identity, however, knows no such outward turn. The quest for authenticity, cast as psychological well-being, is inwardly directed. My reality is my experience. My happiness is my sense of safety and well-being. Transposed into politics, this model conceives of oppression in psychological, rather than more traditional economic or legal, categories. Hence the current hoo-hah about micro-aggressions and word crimes, and the angst about the legitimacy of freedom of speech on campuses.