Digest of terms

fallen-ness

description given to the human condition 'after the Fall'. According to the Jewish and Christian creation stories in Genesis 1-11, aboriginal humanity as pictured in Adam and Eve was innocent. However, it fell apart from the moment that human appetites for wider knowledge were aroused. The Genesis stories identify several aspects of human life as in need of challenge: sexual gratification (Eve's apple), knowledge and the capacity to be attracted by both good and evil, family life and rivalry, and international ambition and its exclusiveness. The notion of an initial condition of primal innocence is also found in other traditions - eg Chinese, Graeco-Roman, and Indian - and shows a recurrent judgement that living realities are not as they ought to be.

The picture of innocence is also painted in regard to children. This is the view expounded by Rousseau in his Emile. The child is playfully innocent in nature but corrupted by adults. This carries over into an educational philosophy, which favours children being left to learn at their own time and pace. What it has to reckon with is the evidence of the universality of built-in evolutionary drives to protect and promote self-interest. These in turn become used as justification for introducing methods of discipline and control, which can be highly oppressive of the individual.

Fallen-ness may not be so widely used a term as alienation or estrangement. In the context of moral education however it may quite helpfully be used to draw attention to the condition of ambiguity, which characterises human living. For instance, scientific discovery and sexual experience are fundamental to human civilisation, yet within them, as within the whole of life, there is powerful ambiguity, they are capable of giving rise to both good and evil. They have been so throughout history, and their capacity for such is further magnified by technology. 'After the apple' there is no avoiding of ambiguity in all aspects of life. The challenge is to be morally creative with the power we now have, personally, socially and politically. Religious prescriptions claim direct relevance, which is variously accepted or challenged.

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