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Lesson 8 – Origin of GOOD and EVIL
Arnel O. Rivera
Based on the presentation of:
Mr. Alexander Rodis
Augustine fashioned a philosophical framework for
Christian thought that was essentially Platonic
THE ABSENCE THEORY OF EVIL
He also saw in Platonic and Neoplatonic doctrines the
solution to the problem of evil.
This problem can be expressed in a very simple
HOW COULD EVIL HAVE ARISEN IN A WORLD
CREATED BY A PERPECTLY GOOD GOD?
HOW COULD EVIL HAVE ARISEN IN A WORLD CREATED
BY A PERPECTLY GOOD GOD?
One solution to this problem that Augustine
considered was that evil is the result of creative force
other than God, a force of darkness.
But isn’t it there supposed to be just one and only one
For Plato, the FORM OF THE GOOD was the source of
all reality, and from this principle it follows that all
that is real is good. Thus given Plato’s principle, EVIL
IS NOT REAL.
Because evil is not something, it was not created by
This theory of evil is plausible enough as long as you
are thinking of certain “physical evil”.
However the absence theory of evil does not plausibly
explain MORAL EVIL, the evil that is the wrong doing
HOW DID ST. AGUSUTINE ACCOUNT FOR MORAL
His explanation of moral evil was a variation of
another idea of Plato’s, the idea that a person never
knowingly does wrong, that evil actions are the result
of ignorance of the good, of misdirected education,
Augustine added a new twist to this idea. Moral evil,
he said, is not exactly a case of misdirected education
but instead, a case of misdirected love.
For St. Augustine, natural law governs all morality and
human behavior must conform to it.
Augustinian natural law is the eternal law of God as it
is written in the heart of man and woman and is
apprehended by them in their conscience; and the
eternal law is the “reason and will of GOD”
Thus, the ultimate source of all good is God and God
alone is intrinsically GOOD.
Our overriding moral imperative is therefore to love
The individual virtues are simply different aspects of
the love of GOD.
For Augustine, although there is nothing wrong with
loving things other than God, you must not love them
as if they were good in themselves for only God is
To love things other than God as if they were
inherently good is disordered love: it is to turn away
from God, and moral evil consists in just this
Happiness consists in having all you want and wanting not
In any event, the only conceivable way to have all you want
and to want no evil, is to make God the supreme object of
For Augustine, MORAL EVIL arises when man turns away
from God. Thus, God, is not the creator or moral evil; it is
we who create evil.
But does it not then follow that we can create good?
No, because God is the source of all that is good. We can do
good only through GOD.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1255-1274)
He christianized the philosophy of Aristotle.
Aristotle said that the good of each kind of thing is defined with
reference to the function or the nature of that kind of thing and
is in fact the goal or purpose of that kind of thing. In the case of
humans, goodness is happiness.
Aquinas agreed that the natural (moral) law, which is God’s
eternal law as it is applied to man on earth, is apprehended by us
in the dictates of our conscience and practical reasoning, which
guide us to our natural goal, happiness on earth.
But there is also, according to Aquinas, an eternal, a temporal
good – namely, happiness everlasting. That law that directs
us to that end is God’s divine law, which the creator reveals to us
through his grace.
The natural law of Aquinas is the law of reason, which leads us to
our natural end insofar as we follow it.
The divine law is God’s gift to us, revealed through his grace.
According to Aquinas, there are
two sets of virtues:
The higher virtues of faith, love, and hope
Natural virtues, such as fortitude and prudence,
which are achieved when the will, directed the
intellect, moderates our natural drives, impulses, and
Although Aquinas’ ethics are thus type of virtue ethics, he treats
the moral goodness of an action.
“When evaluating an act, and only voluntary acts are
subject to moral evaluation, we must consider not only what was
done but also why it was done and the circumstances under
which it was done.”
Now supposed someone does something, or refrains to doing it,
because the person’ conscience tells him or her that this would
be the morally proper thing to do or refrain from doing.
And suppose further that in this case the individual’s conscience
is mistaken. Yes, an erring conscience is possible, according to
Aquinas, despite the fact that it is through conscience that we
become aware of natural law. In such case, if the person acts as
he or she honestly thinks is morally right, and the mistake in
thinking is due to involuntary ignorance on the person’s part, the
person has not really sinned.