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Other Contexts

Countless reform movements within the world's major religions have framed their critiques by denouncing the corruption of pure or pristine doctrines. Indeed, on one view, Buddhism itself grew out of a deep dissatisfaction with the corruption and increasingly complex nature of Hinduism, not entirely unlike the early Protestants who attacked the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and called for a return to simpler ancient doctrines. Often these critiques point to the effects of wealth and luxury on the purity of religious doctrines Night, an engraving from the graphic series The Four Times of the Day (1738) by William Hogarth. Numerous examples of moral corruption and the dissipation of the human spirit are depicted as night falls on a London street. © HISTORICAL PICTURE ARCHIVE/CORBIS and practices, and moral standards more generally: echoing civic republican themes, the fourteenth-century Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun bluntly asserted that "luxury corrupts morals" (pp. 131–132).

The biblical account of the Fall is perhaps the paradigmatic corruption metanarrative, with its account of a lost, originally virtuous, condition and the ongoing struggle for redemption. But other religious traditions draw on the images of corruption as well: according to the Buddhist Milindapañha "[t]he virtuous and well-conducted man … is like a medicine in destroying the poison of human corruption; is like a healing herb in quieting the disease of human corruption; is like water in removing the dirt and defilement of human corruption" (ch. 5, sec. 98). The virtue here described is, of course, not social republican virtue, but rather a specifically religious understanding of what is required to stave off the corruption that can grow from within.

Finally, we should note the classical tradition that utilizes the terms "generation and corruption" in reference to the body and things subject to growth and decay in the physical realm. Plato (c. 428–348 or 347 B.C.E.) describes philosophers as those who love eternal verities "not varying from generation and corruption," and regards gymnastic, given its emphasis on the body, as "having to do with generation and corruption" (Republic 485b, 521e). Indeed, Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) announces in the first sentence of his On Generation and Corruption, that his task is "to study coming-to-be and passing-away." Later, Augustine (354–430) brought a Christian view of the immortal soul to this classical understanding, describing the "soul pressed down by the corruptible body, and weighed down by earthly thoughts, many and various" (De Trinitate, 8.2).

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshCorruption - Corruption, Civic Republicanism, And Republican Historiography, Political Corruption, Other Contexts, Conclusion, Bibliography