The denial of the concept of sin is the denial of one facet of intelligibility, yielding freedom without order, which is inanity. A sin is a willful act opposed to the nature of man, who understands himself by gaining knowledge of himself through knowledge of material reality. Sin presupposes that the nature of man is intelligible in itself and is known by the individual. This is a particular expression of the second self-evident principle, namely, that all of reality is inherently intelligible.
Self-Evident Principles and Intelligible Causality
There are two self-evident principles: Things exist and are inherently intelligible in their existence. A self-evident principle is one, the denial of which renders impossible, both all human knowledge and all human communication.
The perennial philosophy of Aristotle recognizes three levels of intelligibility in material things: form, motion, and purpose. These correspond to formal, efficient and final causality. Modern philosophy, i.e. scientism, acknowledges the first two levels of intelligibility to a limited extent and shuns the third. This is due to its infatuation with technology, the artful employment of the inanimate, natural sciences. These sciences are the inference of mathematical relationships naturally inherent among the measurable properties of material form and material motion. Purpose, i.e. final causality, is not a measurable property. Scientism also ignores those aspects of formal and efficient causality which are not measurable.
The philosophy of Scientism, content with the discovery of the mathematical relationships inherent in form and motion at the material level, denies the existence of final causality; namely, that the intelligibility of purpose is inherent in material things.
Richard Dawkins, for example, identifies purpose as solely a creation of the human intellect, which incorporates purpose into the artifacts designed by man. According to this philosophy, it is an erroneous homomorphic extrapolation to claim that purpose is inherent in natural material entities (The God Delusion, 157-158). Thus, the will of man is without any intelligible extrinsic guide, thereby yielding freedom without order.
Philosophy Distinguishes One Science from Another
The natural sciences are not distinguished from one another scientifically, but philosophically. The distinction between physics and chemistry is the philosophical distinction between non-substantial change and substantial change. I once asked a chemical engineer how he distinguished chemistry from physics. Declining to put on a philosopher’s hat, he gave the perfect answer: “I don’t. I just do chemistry.”
Biology Is Distinguished by the Causality of Purpose
That the distinctions among the natural sciences are philosophical is especially evident in the distinction between the inanimate sciences and the biological sciences. The very identity of the animate, which is the focus of biology, is not only philosophical but based on purpose, final causality. A living entity is one which is capable of acting for its own good or the good of another of its kind.
Goodness, which is the goal of non-geometric orientation, cannot be objectively measured. Nevertheless, among material living things, goodness is evident in assimilation and reproduction, which can be measured and are the object of scientific study, but not explicitly as “good.” Of course, a biologist, as both a scientist and as a human being, would be constantly distracted if he attempted to categorize his every thought as either scientific or philosophical.
The philosophical distinctions within the biological sciences are particularly evident in the scientific study of mammalian anatomy and physiology. Within anatomy and physiology, a variety of systems are identified by purpose. These include the skeletal, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems.
All of the mammalian systems are complete in the individual of the species and each fulfills its purpose with the individual, except for one system. The one system, which is not complete in the individual mammal and does not have as its purpose that individual, is the reproductive system. Half the system is present in an individual, identified as male, and the other half of the system is in an individual, identified as female. The purpose of the reproductive system is not in the individuals in which it is partly present but in a new individual of the species, whose existence is the result of the operation of the whole reproductive system formed through the complementarity of a male and female pair.
Purpose in Humans Rises to the Level of Morality
Among living material things, plants move toward their good, without any form of knowledge and any form of desire. Animals move to their good partly directed by sense knowledge and appetite. Humans move to their good partly directed by intellectual knowledge and free will. It is free will which makes possible virtue and sin.
Both animals and man are ordained toward seeking good at the material level by pleasure. One form of sin is for man to seek pleasure for its own sake, specifically diverting human acts from their inherent goals of assimilation and reproduction. Pleasure is an inducement to do good and not a good isolated by itself. To seek pleasure for its own sake is inane.
For the most part, assimilation is not within human cognizant control. Similarly, for the most part, the processes of sexual reproduction are not within human cognizant control. Eating for the sake of pleasure alone is seldom immediately obvious. In contrast, sexual gratification outside of marriage, i.e. for the sake of pleasure alone, is clearly identifiable and it is clearly disoriented from reproduction. In humans, reproduction requires the stability of monogamous marriage to rear children to adulthood. Because they are antithetical to the inherent purpose of sex, homosexual acts are sinful. In their inanity, they differ not from masturbation, which is pleasure for the sake of pleasure.
Scientism, the dominant philosophy of our time, in its denial of the inherent intelligibility of purpose in material entities, renders the will of each human an unguided source of freedom, thereby yielding freedom without order, which is inanity. Rob Marco recently noted that the denial of objective truth tends toward the reign of a totalitarian chaos.
This essay has set out some of the principles by which sin subverts the intelligible order inherent in the natures of material entities. This subversion is of the human intellect to the human will. The result of this subversion is the inanity of sin. This subversion, as a philosophical concept, has been developing in character and extent in western civilization for many centuries. The next essay in this series of three, “Sin, Freedom, and Order, Part 2: Historical Development”, will be based largely on the analysis of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.