The Qualitative Leap into

If sinfulness in later generations is a consequence of Adam's first sin as traditionally believed, then the first sin of subsequent individuals would presuppose sinfulness as a state or given condition and Adam would stand outside the human race in such a way that the race would not have its beginning with him but through something outside itself, which according to Vigilius is 'contrary to every concept' (CA 30). This untenable conclusion leads him to re-examine the concept of 'the first sin', which in his view is not 'a sin' like others or 'one sin' in a numerical sequence but 'the sin'; that is, it constitutes a new quality which is posited or comes into existence suddenly by a leap or sudden change (30, emphasis added). In proposing that sin comes into the world through a leap rather than through a gradual quantitative or numerical progression, Vigilius expressly sets himself against the view of Hegel, who also affirms the notion of a qualitative leap in the logical, natural, and moral spheres but maintains that it comes about through a quantitative progression.23 Vigilius brands the Hegelian notion of a qualitative change through quantification a 'superstition' and a 'myth' of the understanding, inasmuch as it does not accord with actuality nor with the Genesis story, which in his view is not a myth but 'presents the only dialectically consistent view' in its claim that 'Sin came into the world by a sin' (30 , 32).24 Just as sin came into the world through Adam's first sin, it comes into the world in subsequent individuals in precisely the same way, by their own first sins through a qualitative leap. The first sin of later individuals is not caused by Adam's sin or by the quantitative build-up of sinfulness in the world after the Fall, as this would mean that sinfulness precedes sin, which is a contradiction. Rather, sin presupposes itself, which means that sinfulness comes into the world by sin rather than vice versa, and this is true for subsequent individuals just as much as it was for Adam (32-4). Vigilius observes: 'What often misleads and brings people to all kinds of fantastic imaginings is the problem of the relation of generations,

23 Hegel (1969: 368-71); cf. SKP iv, C 80, where Kierkegaard contends that 'Hegel has never gotten the category of transition right.'

24 Cf. also James and Moggach (2007) on the left-wing Hegelian Bruno Bauer, who also regarded the Genesis account of the prehistory of humankind as a myth.

as though the subsequent human being were essentially different from the first by virtue of descent' (34, translation modified). In his view, the notion of descent is 'only the expression for the continuity in the history of the race, which always moves by quantitative determinations and therefore is incapable of bringing forth an individual' (34). Consequently if the second human being were not descended from Adam, there would be no race and no individual, since all human beings would be merely 'an empty repetition' of the first or simply themselves, not themselves and the race, as in Vigilius's concept of the individual (34).

It is on this issue of derivation and the notion of a prior sinfulness associated with it that Vigilius parts company with Schleiermacher, with whom, as we saw earlier, he is in basic agreement concerning the solidarity of Adam and humankind. While affirming that the first or actual sin of Adam's offspring is not derived from his first sin but is identical to it, Schleiermacher nevertheless maintains that sinfulness precedes sin— not only in Adam's progeny but in Adam himself. He suggests that the seduction of Adam and Eve 'could not have taken effect unless there was something already present in the soul which implied a certain readiness to pass into sensuous appetite; and any such inclination toward sin must therefore have been present in the first pair before their first sin, else they would not have been liable to temptation'.25 Schleiermacher thus concludes that 'Adam must have been sundered from God before his first sin' and that 'whatever idea we may have of the first sin, we must always assume the priority of some sinful element'.26 He further asserts that 'the universal sinfulness that precedes every actual sin in the offspring is to be regarded not so much as derived from the first sin of our first parents, but rather as identical with what in them likewise preceded the first sin, so that in committing their first sin they were simply the first-born of sinfulness'.27 Schleiermacher thus denies that a qualitative change in human nature took place as a result of the first sin and affirms instead a universal incapacity for good in human beings (including Adam and Eve) that is innate in them.28 In place of an original righteousness that is lost in time he substitutes a 'timeless original sinfulness always and everywhere inhering in human nature and co-existing with the original perfection given along with it'.29

29 Ibid. 303. See also Kant, who affirms an innate or natural propensity to evil in human beings which has its origin in a rational free choice that is atemporal (1998: 52-5, 61-5), and

Müller (1852-3: ii. 427), who agrees with Schleiermacher's notion of a timeless original sinfulness. Kierkegaard explicitly criticizes Müller's notion of a timeless fall as 'a basic dislocation of

Christianity' (JP iii. 3093). See also Axt-Piscalar (2007: 155-7), who erroneously suggests that Müller's idea of an extratemporal self-determination to evil is unique. For a comparison of Kant, Schleiermacher, and Kierkegaard on original sin see Quinn (1990). On freedom and

In denying the notion of a qualitative leap and presupposing a timeless original sinfulness, therefore, Schleiermacher both exemplifies and further confounds the dogmatic confusions surrounding original or hereditary sin that Vigilius seeks to point out and to rectify

The Art Of Positive Thinking

The Art Of Positive Thinking

Stop Putting Yourself In The Dumps With your Damaging Self Talk! This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting Serious Results With Positive Thinking! We talk a great deal about self-worth without utilizing it really. Seldom do we make a real judgment of ourselves and consider ourselves as we really are. If we were to get more hard-nosed about ourselves, our lives would absolutely become much more fruitful and productive.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment