In this fairy-tale critique I propose that Eve did the right thing. I admit that I cannot prove this, but I have faith.
I refer to Eve from the Book of Genesis, as understood by popular thought in Western culture. Here I take the legend on its own terms, as befits fairy-tale critique; but I myself do not read the tale literally.
To me Genesis is a fairy tale, but I don’t mind; I’ve written fairy tales myself. A fairy tale is a lie that tells a deeper truth. This distinguishes it from propaganda, which is a lie that tells a deeper lie. So a fairy tale differs from propaganda by how the reader takes the tale.
The deeper lie in the common reading of Genesis is that Eve did something wrong, in fact did everything wrong. If she had not disobeyed Yahweh and eaten the Apple, then she and Adam would not have been expelled from Paradise; nor would there be any evil in the world; and therefore disobedient Eve is responsible for all sin.
To which I reply; if she is responsible for all sin, then she is also responsible for all virtue. She did not eat an Apple of Evil; she ate the Apple of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Such knowledge implies moral choice; so this was also the Tree of Choice.
It is true that the Apple gave her, and Adam, and their descendants, the capacity for evil; but it also gave them the capacity for good, and the freedom to choose between them. Eve partook of none other than the Liberty Tree, whose mind-opening fruit is Wisdom.
But alas, wisdom can be bitter. Eve and Adam heard some bitter wisdom right away, from Yahweh himself, about the oppression of women by men, the oppression of men by labor, and the oppression of all by death. This passage is commonly read as a punishment: I read it as warning and initiation. The truth will set you free, but first it will hurt.
For then Yahweh set them free! Or expelled them, as a mother expels a baby from her womb. Eve and Adam were growing up, they were acting out, they were a breeding pair, it was time to release them into the wild. Yahweh was practicing sound wildlife management.
And as for Eve; what courage! What initiative! What gumption! She took a risk; how brave! It was for freedom; how spirited! For love, she shared her knowledge; how noble! And Adam accepted; how sweet!
And she suffered for this. Is that not martyrdom? Ask any daughter of Eve if Eve and her daughters are not martyrs!
So blessed be Eve! She suffered for the good of all!
Or did she? Can I be sure that she did the right thing? For it was the sense of right and wrong itself that (according to the tale) was what she stole. Is the human sense of right and wrong itself right?
But how am I to decide such a question? With my human sense of right and wrong? That would be circular logic, which proves nothing. Therefore I speculate that no-one can prove that the human sense of right-and-wrong is itself right. Morality is inherently dubious.
I call this the “conjecture of inherent doubt”, which I distinguish from the “doctrine of original sin” so central to the popular, propagandistic, reading of Genesis. The doctrine of original sin is like the scolding of an irritated moralist; it is sure that Eve did the wrong thing. The conjecture of inherent doubt is like the questioning of a perplexed philosopher; it is not sure that Eve did the right thing.
Are we in the right? That is; is the human moral judgement itself justified? Should we know good from evil?
The doctrine of original sin says no! It claims that without that knowledge, we would be innocent. To this I reply that ignorance is not innocence. Ignorance of the Law is no excuse.
For suppose that the doctrine of original sin is false, and we ought to know right from wrong. Then the doctrine would not just be wrong; it would be a grave mental disorder, for it denounces moral knowledge itself. Now suppose that the doctrine is true; then it would itself be moral knowledge, which is what it denounces!
Therefore the doctrine of original sin is either insane or hypocritical. Either way it is a sin.
Now consider the conjecture of inherent doubt; that you cannot prove the rightness of our sense of rightness. Suppose that the conjecture is false; that in fact you can prove the rightness of our rightness. Then the conjecture would be an error that’s corrected by the proof. Now suppose that the conjecture is true; then it would be moral knowledge which you can’t prove; hence a revelation.
Therefore the conjecture of inherent doubt is either a correctable error or it’s a revelation. Either way it is forgivable.
I cannot tell if the doctrine or the conjecture is true; but I must choose; so I must wager. Of the two bets, the conjecture of inherent doubt seems (to my possibly-flawed judgement) to be the better bet.
And so I say that Eve did the right thing, even though I cannot prove it! But I have faith.
Therefore I praise and honor Eve, for her courage, her curiosity and her hard-won wisdom. I also praise and honor her daughters.
Thus I end this fairy-tale critique.