Taking St. Paul Seriously: Sin As an Epistemological Category

by Merold Westphal

I want to suggest in this essay that for Christian philosophers sin should be an essential epistemological category and to suggest something of what that might mean.

By sin I mean neither sins nor the tendency to commit sins but the fundamental project of which both sins and the tendency to commit them are expressions. With the Augustinian tradition I find this project best described as pride, the self-assertion which usurps a role in life not proper to me, depriving God and neighbor of their rightful places as, respectively, my absolute superior and my equal.  Since the self which pridefully asserts itself beyond its proper limits is as easily corporate as personal, sin is as much a matter of chauvinism as of egoism in the individual sense.  We are as capable of inordinate self-assertion as I am.