Philosophy Class

"The Truth will make you odd."

Thomas Aquinas on Evil

EVIL according to Aquinas: To Aquinas evil is in the object, not a creation of the mind or the feelings.

St. Thomas Aquinas, heights of the Middle Ages Intellectual development. Golden Age of Medieval times.

1. Moderns sometimes erroneously believe that the medieval times were totally benighted.

2. The truth is in philosophical and other areas, and we are only speaking of philosophical areas, not religious, or even architectural or artistic, there was cultural and intellectual development which surpassed that of the Golden Age of Greece.

3. Here, in medieval philosophy, was the roots of what we euphemistically, and perhaps erroneously, call "modern science".

4. It developed out of a new discovery of the works of Aristotle which were unappreciated in the west, because of the lack of good translations of same, an misinterpretation of Aristotle, and other reasons like the attachment to the ideas of Plato (remember the early centuries AD?)

5. Aquinas wrote his treatise on evil to "settle the Manichees"

6. His analysis is totally metaphysical.

7. First he analyses the notion of being itself.

8. He says BEING = GOOD. All being is good.

9. We will not do this here, but he discusses the attributes of God.

eternal, immutable, perfect.

10. He says, "God is not only his own essence but his own existence."

11. He discusses goodness in general.

12. His first question is "Whether goodness differs really from Being?"

13. "Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea".

14. "Goodness is what all desire"

15. "Goodness presents the aspect of desirableness which being does not present."

16. "Therefore, being has goodness, because it has being."

17. God the cause of all being has all goodness.

18. "Every being that is not God is God's creature."

19. "Creatures also possess goodness in deriving goodness from God>"

20. "Every creature of God is good."

21. "God is the greatest good."

22. "In the greatest good, evil is not present"

23. So we must wait till the "Treatise on Creation" to find where evil is discussed..

24. We can only understand evil after we understand good.

25. He poses the question: "Whether evil is found in things"

26. "Perfection of the universe requires that there should be some which can fail in goodness"

27. "Evil is that a thing fails in goodness."

28. "Hence...evil is found in things, for corruption is itself an evil." "Evil is absence of good in a being which should possess that good."

29. "We know now that evil is not a specific Being." (Manichees)

30. "The essence of evil is failure."

31. There are 2 kinds of absence of good:

1. One would be a non-privative absence. (Lack of sight in a stone)

2. Lack of perfection in a being which should by its nature possess this perfection.

EX: Blindness in a man

32. Privation presupposes evil exists in good beings.

33. Evil exists as in a subject.

34. There is evil of pain and fault in rational creatures.

1. pain - withdraw of the due operation in a being

2. Evil of fault in rational creatures. "Subtraction of due operation in voluntary things has the nature of fault. (Remember Aristotle's properly functioning man. It was his choice to pursue virtue or not.) (Free will is dealt with in another section)


Please check out Joe's page on God & Evil.