Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pelagian controversies

Heh heh - Paul Evans, who blogs at Never Trust a Hippy, has done Actually Existing's political spectrum test, only to learn he is - of all things - something of a hippy.

Disconcerting for him - and I was struck by how many people who took the test remarked that, unlike my own, they had results revealing themselves to be hippies of one kind or another.

Part of the reason for the surplus of hippies, I reckon, was the way 'Pelagian' was defined:
"A Pelagian believes that, ultimately, people are good; politics is, or should be, concerned with enabling people to work together, play together and generally enjoy life in ways which have hitherto not been possible."
It's all a bit, 'let's hold hands and teach the world to sing' and being unlike those stone-faced Augustinians. I don't think this does justice to what Pelagius was all about. Pelagians didn't just believe people were 'basically good'; they believed in Original Innocence and that the perfectibility of the human condition was possible. In practice, 'hippy' isn't at all an appropriate description of their attitude to life for they were ascetic and by all accounts fairly unsympathetic and humourless people.

My own view is that contrary to some liberals who argue the doctrine of Original Sin has done great mischief to human society by producing authoritarian governments, the doctrine of Original Innocence is the parent of totalitarianism because the notion of the perfectibility of man brings with it the idea of a perfect social order.

And has not history shown, as Isaiah Berlin argued, that this idea has produced a higher pile of corpses than any other? For there is always, as Milan Kundera said, a gulag attached to the side of Paradise.

No comments:

Blog Archive