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Friday, September 20, 2002

Malevolent freedom.

Jay N. wrote:

I know that malice is usually a second or, more dangerously, a third person perception. Still, I usually experience or see "sin" as having malice as an essential part. Chris Walton, is there a place for malice in your understanding of sin?

What an interesting question! I think you are asking in part because I had said, "I think of sin and salvation primarily in terms of tragic contingency and creative freedom," which makes sin look like our circumstantial inability to make perfect choices, while salvation looks like our individual ability to act freely.

I had been thinking of "original sin," which I usually think about in terms of the human condition and its limitations.

But I think you're on to something important. I see no reason to believe that people act benevolently by default, or that, as Plato thought, people always strive to maximize the good and only err by selecting false goods. Most modern psychological theories suggest that people sometimes intentionally seek to harm themselves or others, and that they sometimes are quite aware that the choices they are making are malevolent. I can remember occasions in my own life like this. Acting with spite is something I bet all of us have done.

I guess I think of this kind of sin as partly an expression of creative human freedom, which includes the capacity for malevolence. But I don't want to attribute to fate the fact that we sometimes (or often) act spitefully. (It's not due to Adam's Fall.) We're not really predisposed to malice by virtue of being human; those few individuals who do seem predisposed — incorrigibly violent criminals, for example — have other curses besides being human.

(Originally posted to UUCF-L)

Copyright © 2002 by Philocrites | Posted 20 September 2002 at 5:47 PM

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