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William of Ockham on Original Sin - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 347
Original sin/Ockham/Kilcullen: There has been a tendency in Christian thought to say that after Adam's fall into sin, the human mind is too depraved to be capable of genuine moral insight; indeed, that since the Fall no human being can do anything but sin and can have no rights, without God's special grace.*
Ockham, Thomas Aquinas and the medieval Church strongly rejected this opinion and attributed to 'fallen' human nature, even apart from grace, the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to possess rights, and to direct human action to ends that are legitimate (though without grace it is impossible to attain the very highest end of 'beatitude').
Non-Christians: This optimistic view of the moral capacities of even unregenerate nature is at the root of Ockham's contention that non-Christians are capable of genuine 'lordship' in both senses, i.e. of governmental power and of property rights. >Natural justice/Ockham.
Natural rights: Later theologians inspired by this conception of natural rights defended the property and governmental rights of the natives of America against European aggressors, some of whom argued that unregenerate savages could have no rights (see Muldoon, 1966(1); 1980(2)).
Luther/Calvin: Luther and Calvin, despite their emphasis on the corruption of human nature by Original Sin, and despite their maxims sola scriptura and sola fide, still found a place for natural law (see McNeill, 1946(3)).
Hooker continued this natural law tradition, arguing (as Ockham and the conciliarists had done) that natural reason can be a source of principles even in regard to Church polity (see Kirby, 1999(4)).

*(...) Hooker was opposed by Calvimsts who, unlike Calvin himself, rejected the idea of natural law; see Kirby (1999)(4). Karl Barth (1946)(5) also rejected natural law on theological grounds.


1. Muldoon, James (1966) 'Extra ecclesiam non est imperium: the canonists and the legitimacy of secular power'. Studia Gratiana, 9: 533—80. Reprinted in James Muldoon, Canon Law, the Expansion of Europe, and World Older. London: Variorum, 1998.
2. Muldoon, James (1980) 'John Wyclif and the rights of the infidels: the Requerimiento re-examined'. The Americas, 36: 301—16. Reprinted in James Muldoon, Canon Law, the Expansion of Europe, and World Older. London: Variorum, 1998.
3. McNeill, John (1946) 'Natural law in the teaching of the reformers'. Journal of Religion, 26: 168-82.
4. Kirby, W. J. Torrance (1999) 'The theology of Richard Hooker in the context of the Magisterial Reformation. ' Online at http://www.mun.ca/animus/1998v013/kirby3. htm#N I . Also in his The Theology of Richard Hooker in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Seminary Press.
5. Barth, Karl (1946) 'No! Answer to Emil Brunner'. In Natural Theologv, trans. P. Fraenkel. London: Bles.

Kilcullen, John 2004. „Medieval Politial Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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