Digest of terms
the notion that human beings are capable of perfecting themselves, if only they can be freed from any interfering social constraints. It is associated generally with the notion of utopianism and more specifically with the French philosophy Rousseau as expounded in his educational portrait Emile and fundamental to his Social Contract theory: "Man is born free but everywhere is in chains". It is challenged by the view that human beings are born in a condition which is inherently, though not necessarily exclusively, self-interested and fallen, as evidenced overwhelmingly in human capacity for inhumanity. Disagreement on this issue is classically illustrated in the argument between Augustine's 'original sin' and Pelagius' 'natural innocence'.