Have the Manicheans Returned? An Augustinian Alternative to Situationist Psychology

Kim, Andrew
November 2013
Studies in Christian Ethics;Nov2013, Vol. 26 Issue 4, p451
Academic Journal
Are human beings ever blameworthy for the choices they make? This essay offers a comparative analysis of two systems of thought that argue they are not. The first is Manicheanism, which places blame on a depraved nature within the individual and in competition with a good nature residing within the same person. The good nature is not accountable for the actions of the bad one. The second is situationist psychology, which posits that situations influence behavior more than any alleged robust traits inhering within the personality of the individual. We are thus not to blame for our bad actions which are produced not by our own volition, but by situational stimuli that are beyond our control. This essay critiques both of these systems of thought from an Augustinian perspective. I argue that while situationism does have something to commend, Augustine’s views on the constraining force of a sinful secunda natura, which influences but does not determine behavior, is a preferable alternative to both Manicheanism and situationism.


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