Moral Personality, Perversity, and Original Sin

Journal of Religious Ethics 23 (1):3 - 25 (1995)
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This essay sets forth a philosophical reformulation and defense of the doctrine of original sin. The sticking point of the traditional doctrine is its apparent commitment to the proposition that moral guilt is heritable. While I make no claim to defend the justice of vicarious punishment (the idea of having one person suffer for the sins of another), I credit nevertheless the idea of vicarious guilt. As responsible beings, we have to answer for evil that we cannot conceivably have willed ourselves. The reformulation of original sin and guilt takes its inspiration from Kant's conception of radical evil, which is refined in light of some contemporary reflection on the nature of responsible freedom.



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