LITERATURE: Confessions – On the Nature of Man

There has evidently always been the question of whether the egg or the chicken came first, and Augustine, in this epistle of faith includes science in the form of empirical consideration of infants–thereby acknowledging ignorance of his own infancy and the relationship with all mankind in this instance–addresses the nature of man:

Yet for an infant of that age, could it be reckoned good to use tears in trying to obtain what it would have been harmful to get, to be vehemently indignant at the refusals of free and older people and of parents or many other people of good sense who would not yield to my whims, and to attempt to strike them and to do as much injury as possible?

(…) I have personally watched and studied a jealous baby.  He could not yet speak and, pale with jealousy and bitterness, glared at his brother sharing his mother’s milk.  (p. 9)

Augustine does not merely quote the notion of original sin–a religious belief–but rather backs up his opinion that evil is inherent in man’s nature and must be overcome to be abandoned in favor of the good.  This is a point that has been argued likely for thousands of years and there still is disagreement on it.  Why is it relevant or necessary to know? 

Because society must establish some sort of functioning community and it does that by understanding the natural tendencies of the individual.  Rather than blame upbringing or society alone for spoiling a perfect infant predisposed to do good, it needs to recognize that the tendency leans toward selfishness and disregard for others.  Hence, approach the matter from a different point and adapt a reasonable solution accordingly.

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