The Damnable Principle of Plenitude

Their eyes were opened: a continuation of the process of temptation. It is arresting to note that in the Tempation narrative, it is better not to see some good things than to see them.

The modern assumption is that all good potentialities are to be expressed. This actually is a an echo of what Lovejoy, in “The Great Chain of Being”, called the Principle of Plenitude, which has corrupted man’s thought about God since the pre-Socratics. The Principle has seeped down and become psychologized, like everything else formerly metaphysical has become psychological.  From something like “everything that can happen, will” to “everything I can be, I should.”

THis principle only makes sense in an atomistic context. Surely, God gave Eve the ability to see the beauty of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But her potentiality carries no independent right to become actual. If a potentiality exists, and if it can be thougth of as good, then it must also have a purpose, and that purpose must be relational, since the entire ethical universe of man is relational.

Now all this may seem elementary to some. And it is. But notice how many times in popular culture (which includes the news media, because journalists are anything except deep thinkers) you find the unexamined assumption that the person has some sort of right to actualize his or her potentialities.

No, you don’t. You have an obligation to love. Any potentialities you stumble on as you “discover yourself” are there for that purpose.

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