The Retractions offers another bonus.
It provides the changes that Augustine himself desired to the texts because of the development of his thoughts in the light of subsequent knowledge and experience.
Somewhat in the way that there are television "special events" that show how some famous movie was filmed, Augustine in his Retractions also commented on how and why he originally wrote some of these works.
In his Retractions, for example, Augustine revealed a plan he had at the time of his baptism in Milan to write a series of books on what today are called the liberal arts.
In this way, he desired to show that the beauty of creation could lead people to the beauty of the Creator. (Retractions, 1, 6)
Of this intention, he wrote only De Ordine ("On Order"), in which he strongly professed that the liberal arts were a means of pursuing Eternal Truth.
The older Augustine writing his Retractions, however, was no longer as confident in the matter as had been the younger Augustine when writing De Ordine so many decades previously.
As a famous bishop of the Church in his own time, Augustine was a man whose opinion was sought from all over the Christian world, and he wanted to make certain that future generations had a reliable list of his works.
He also wanted to be the first interpreter of his writings.
Professor James O'Donnell, an Augustinian scholar now at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., also respectfully suggests that in his Retractations Augustine was offering future biographers the best possible image of his scholarly stances.
Augustine thus made it difficult for them not to be clear about what he stood for at the end of his life - even if he did not stand as clearly for all of it during the previous seventy years while his thoughts were developing.
Professor O'Donnell also remarked, "Another effect of the book is to imprint even more deeply on readers the view of Augustine himself on his own life."
"There is very little in the work that is false or inaccurate, but the shaping and presentation make it a work of propaganda."
"The Augustine who emerges has been faithful, consistent, and unwavering in his doctrine and life. Many who knew him would have seen instead either progress or outright tergiversation, depending on their point of view."
In the Augustinian Encyclopedia that he edited, Allan Fitzgerald O.S.A. proposes that it is possible to regard the Retractions as a natural successor to the Confessions; in each of these books, Augustine's personal search for truth is advanced, with the corresponding benefits for others clearly in his mind.