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GUILT AND VALUE PHILOSOPHY In a Decree of the Holy Office, August 24th, 1690, Alexander VIII condemned the following propositions under the title "Errores de bonitate actus et de peccato philosophico" Bonitas objectiva consistit in convenientia objecti cum natura rationali: formali vero in conformitate actus cum regula morum. Ad hoc sufficit, ut actus moralis tendat in finem ultimum interpretative. Hunc homo non tenetur amare ñeque in principio ñeque in decursu vitae suae moralis. (Declarata et damnata uti haeretica.) Peccatum philosophicum seu morale est actus humanus disconveniens naturae rationali et rectae rationi; theologicum vero et mortale est transgressio libera divinae legis. Philosophicum, quantumvis grave, in illo, qui Deum vel ignorât vel de Deo actu non cogitât, est grave peccatum, sed non est offensa Dei, ñeque peccatum mortale dissolvens amicitiam Dei, ñeque aeterna poena dignum. (Declarata et damnata uti scandalosa, temeraria, piarum aurium offensiva, et errónea) (Denzinger 1290). This very clear condemnation of the concept of philosophical sin by denying that there is any distinction between it and theological sin still allows the philosopher-theologian to speculate with the aid of revelation on the real hideousness of sin. The real viciousness of sin and wickedness can reveal itself to one who has a penetration of the idea of macula contained in the concept of peccatum. Any ethical system which refuses to recognize the seriousness of human sinfulness is in disconformity with the facts of human psychology and the testimony of human experience. The preoccupation at the present time in the theatre and the cinema as well as in literature with the harshest reality of tragedy forces us to reconsider the problems of philosophy associated with moral evil. In particular, we would like to point out that the value-philosophy of Von Hildebrand explores very profoundly the ugliness of sin and human frailty. We can shed some light upon the nature and quality of the macula implied in every sin by subjecting to a critical analysis whatever reason and faith offer on this point. There is no reason to deny that our moral reaction to wickedness appears to us as a genuinely ethical reaction . It is ridiculous to say that theology has contaminated ethics and moral philosophy with the notion of sin. From the condemnation of Alexander VIII and from our own study of the problem we would be 15·227 228T. A. WASSMER inclined to agree with Professor A. E. Taylor (The Faith of a Moralist, p. 163) that moral philosophy has introduced the notion of sin into theology. Reason corroborates the teaching of faith in the reality of sin. It was Pascal who said that man is more incomprehensible without the mystery of Original Sin than the mystery is incomprehensible to him. Cardinal Newman sets out an argument in much the same terms and although the reasoning is not absolutely conclusive it is not altogether valueless. Therefore we might admit that while reason can offer no sole demonstration of the root explanation for all the contradictions in man and assign to it the name of Original Sin, yet there are distinct characteristics which distinguish our human experience of guilt and wrongdoing from any other experience. Other creatures than man know no wants beyond their assigned limits but man's needs and desires are insatiable and he finds in himself the deepest misery associated with the loftiest pretensions. Shakespeare could say in one of his plays: "I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me." St. Paul so frequently refers to himself as a sinner: "Si dixerimus quoniam peccatum non habemus, ipsi nos seducimus." We are concerned here with the element of macula in sin whether that sin be original or actual; however the conclusions will be more acceptable to the evidence of moral psychology if we restrict ourselves to actual sin. What are the characteristics which sharply demarcate moral guilt from non-guilt? What are the radical explanations for these differences ? Let us concentrate on the stain, the macula in every personal transgression. The notion of macula in personal sin will be more easily discernible than in the original sin with which each...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 227-240
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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