The Concept of Innocence

In contrast to Schleiermacher's notion of an innate sinfulness in Adam and humankind prior to the first sin and in direct opposition to Hegel, Vigilius reaffirms the traditional notion of Adam's innocence before the Fall, which in his view has been confused with the concept of immediacy in Hegel's logic (CA 35).30 As conceived by Hegel, immediacy is a pure state of being in innocence or ignorance that should be annulled by mediation or reflection in an immanent, necessary movement to a higher state of being in knowledge. Contra Hegel, Vigilius maintains that innocence is an ethical concept, not a logical one, and therefore should not be annulled, or more accurately, it is annulled by guilt, not by reflection. He thus contends: 'Just as Adam lost innocence by guilt, so every person loses it in the same way If it was not by guilt that he lost it, then it was not innocence that he lost; and if he was not innocent before becoming guilty, he never became guilty' (35, translation modified). Moreover, in Vigilius's view, 'Every person loses innocence essentially in the same way that Adam lost it'—by a qualitative leap (36, translation modified). Innocence is therefore a crucial concept in the doctrine of original sin, for without it human beings could not be held responsible for having brought sin into the world. As Vigilius sees it, however, innocence is not a state of perfection that should be regained after having been lost, nor is it a state of imperfection that should be transcended, as in Hegel's view.31 Rather, innocence is a quality or state 'that may very well endure', although Vigilius regards it as a waste of time, foolish, and sinful to speculate on what might have happened if Adam had not sinned (36-7, 50).32 He does not subscribe, therefore, to the notion of a 'fortunate fall' (felix culpa) as suggested or implied by some commentators.33 Vigilius agrees with Hegel that innocence is ignorance, original sin in Kant and Kierkegaard see Rumble (1992); Green (1985; 1992: 156-67). On Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard see also Frawley (2006).

32 Cf. EUD 125-7, where Kierkegaard nevertheless engages in a bit of speculation in this regard.

33 See Davenport (2000: 139); Tanner (1992: 73); McCarthy (1978: 39-40). See also Mahn (2006), who suggests that Vigilius's view reflects a felix fallibilitas (fortunate fallibility) rather than a felix culpa.

but to boast of becoming perfect through the gaining of knowledge 'at the expense of innocence' is not in his view something that would ever occur to anyone who has lost it by becoming guilty, which is the only way it can be lost (37).

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