Chapter

Overcoming Moral Evil

Mark S. Cladis

in Public Vision, Private Lives

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195125542
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834082 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195125541.003.0007
 Overcoming Moral Evil

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Rousseau is often celebrated or cursed as an exemplar Enlightenment philosopher who declared that although humans are naturally good, society tampers with us and thereby corrupts us. Although Rousseau's complex and even contradictory writings engender disagreement among his interpreters, all seem to agree that Rousseau spurned any notion of original sin – of innate corruption – and that he blamed corrupt, irrational social institutions for the majority of our miseries. Ch. 6 argues, however, that this standard interpretation of Rousseau's account of evil is too facile. Rousseau positioned himself at the crossroads of Enlightenment and Augustinian thought, and this awkward position enabled him to produce a rich and complex view on the nature of evil and human culpability. We will see that, in Rousseau's view, humans naturally gather and court harm, and that, in spite of this pessimism, Rousseau could also optimistically declare God's creation and human existence to be good.

Keywords: Augustinian; culpability; Enlightenment; evil; original sin; pessimism; Rousseau

Chapter.  13094 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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