Sophie’s philosophical education continues with discussions of the origins of Christianity, the influence of Greek culture on the developing Christian Church, and onto the Renaissance period in the 14th to the 17th centuries. The worth of humans, their potential and inherent value, called Humanism, developed in the Renaissance. People awoke to their abilities, their potential.
Prior to the Renaissance, the emphasis was always on the sinfulness of humans, their weakness and, their, usually pitiable, attempts to copy the gods. In Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the emphasis was on the debasement of humans when they were evicted from the Garden of Eden
Of course, Adam tried to blame Eve but we will never know what would have happened if Eve had been evicted and Adam left to enjoy the good life.
We do know that the story is that they were evicted because they disobeyed God, they ate the fruit from the tree that was expressively forbidden to them. Although I love the symbolism and emotion in this story, I have two problems with it. Firstly, it smacks of entrapment. Here’s the perfect definition of entrapment from Wikipedia, “In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit. It is a type of conduct that is generally frowned upon, and thus in many jurisdictions is a possible defense against criminal liability.“
Perhaps Adam and Eve could have got off if they had a good lawyer, perhaps they would have only been condemned to temporary banishment, and we would all have been spared such troubles and tribulations.
My second problem with this part of the Book of Genesis is that it is counter-evolutionary. Humans suffer a huge setback from which they never recover. Of course we all suffer setbacks, some huge and some not so huge, some recoverable from and some not, but evolution, by its very nature, goes on, improving, developing.
However, the setback Adam and Eve allegedly suffered, (as their lawyer would have put it), is the basis of many beliefs in religions, for example we are told the reason Jesus died on the cross was to obtain God’s forgiveness for this ‘original’ sin. It’s also used by modern day philosophers such as M. Scott Peck and Eckhart Tolle in the development of their philosophies. We will look at it again in the near future.
Back to the Renaissance; it was a small step from humanism to individualism as people developed the self-confidence and education to express themselves as unique individuals; blogging and twitter merely continue the process. The new, Renaissance, view of humans lead to a whole new outlook. Humans did not exist only for God’s sake, to simply adore and glorify God. Each person also had a unique life to fulfill.
The downside, which we still suffer from, was a loss of restraint but this unbridled enthusiasm for humans and their abilities lead to a flourishing in arts, sciences, philosophy, literature, music and architecture. Attitudes to Nature also changed. Many held that God was present in all creation, that God could be found in everything.
The changes in attitudes during the Renaissance opened the door to our present western cultures.
Express yourself but practice restraint – keep to the middle way.