18 December 2010

The Nature of Evil

In Yahoo!Answers, a college student called Tolly117 asked about Thomas Aquinas and the nature of evil. Homework is kind of fun for those of us for whom it is voluntary, so I gave her a hand with the following.


In the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas begins by asking whether God exists. He starts by proving that the existence of God is not self-evident: proving that we need a proof. Next step? He advances the arguments an atheist might use for the contrary conclusion, in order to rebut them. One of those arguments is this: "It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the name God means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist."

So: how does Thomas answer that argument? "This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good."

That's an important contention. It suggests that the nature of evil is that of a challenge, and God's goodness is demonstrated through His ability to master such challenges. If there were no such challenges, then, the world would not be as good as it can be -- and is.


I just include that here because I'm too lazy to think of something more fresh just now.

1 comment:

Henry said...

What specious nonsense! What about the challenge of making the world as good as it can be without allowing evil to exist? Is God not up to that? Aquinas here does not face the problem of theodicy -- that the existence of evil means that God is either not good or not omnipotent.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.