Do People Really Like Originality?

Adam and Eve: Then their eyes were opened … Genesis 3:7

Adam and Eve: Then their eyes were opened … Genesis 3:7

Mormon teachings emphasize the doctrine of the “fortunate fall”: It was part of God’s plan that Adam and Eve should fall, so that they could learn from their own experience and gain knowledge. Lehi, the prophet whose visions set the Book of Mormon narrative in motion, taught:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:27)

Many other Christian religions are much harsher in their view of Eve and Adam’s courageous decision to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in one of the foundational stories of Western culture. Just like the range of different views of Eve and Adam’s legendary choice, there is a great range of views both among various people and ambivalence within individuals’ judgments about intentional life experiments of others that break new ground in our knowledge of the possibilities for human experience. This is a topic John Stuart Mill’s addressed in On Liberty chapter III, “Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being,” paragraph 12.

I insist thus emphatically on the importance of genius, and the necessity of allowing it to unfold itself freely both in thought and in practice, being well aware that no one will deny the position in theory, but knowing also that almost every one, in reality, is totally indifferent to it. People think genius a fine thing if it enables a man to write an exciting poem, or paint a picture. But in its true sense, that of originality in thought and action, though no one says that it is not a thing to be admired, nearly all, at heart, think that they can do very well without it. Unhappily this is too natural to be wondered at. Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of. They cannot see what it is to do for them: how should they? If they could see what it would do for them, it would not be originality. The first service which originality has to render them, is that of opening their eyes: which being once fully done, they would have a chance of being themselves original. Meanwhile, recollecting that nothing was ever yet done which some one was not the first to do, and that all good things which exist are the fruits of originality, let them be modest enough to believe that there is something still left for it to accomplish, and assure themselves that they are more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of the want.