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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Sin 4

Thanks to CR for raising the matter of the seven deadly sins in her comment. The 'Seven Deadlies' were not my primary concern in On Sin 3, but rather a characterisation or thematisation of sin as a whole (which, then, the seven deadly sins would seem to instantiate in various ways). Nevertheless, it got me thinking...

It is fascinating - and outrageous - that in numerous identifiable ways the seven deadly sins are now no longer considered sins as such, but rather are actually relied upon and positively encouraged as the basis of much of our society and (especially) economics, and in that sense has become the basis of our supposed security.

If we did not have envy, for example, we could not have fashion - the planned 'obsolescence' of otherwise serviceable clothing - and could not then have an industry and its resultant profits surrounding it. (Not that it is only envy, but it is at least that.)

One of the dilemmas of capitalism, historically, is how to create demand in order to sustain production. Recourse to (at least some of) the seven deadly sins has been one of the solutions.

Naturally, for Christians at least, any structure which relies on - rather than merely accounting for - the seven deadly sins must be held in some suspicion.

But turning to the seven deadly sins themselves, I wonder if there isn't actually a polarity or dualism within them? (I haven't done much work on these, so this is probably a banal observation.) That is to say, it seems relatively easy to get locked into an orientation which reacts against (say) lust, and assumes the opposite (say, anhedonia) to be the virtuous position. But to take this position - reacting against lust - actually incorporates lust into virtue, as virtue becomes a reaction against it, a rejection of it, rather than something which has gone beyond it. Getting beyond these dualisms seems increasingly important to me.

If we instead think of virtue as - well, not merely a mean between extremes, but rather something escaping or transcending the dualism, then we seem to get closer to what we are called to by God as humans.

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