December 26, 2010

Evil & Suffering XI: Augustine of Hippo-Part II-Privatio Boni

 ...a continuation of the previous post.

Augustine & Privatio Boni (The Privation of Good)

In Augustine’s enchiridion "Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love" we see in “Chapter III. God the Creator of All; and the Goodness of All Creation” under item numbered 11, the following statements concerning evil or more specifically-we see statements about what evil is not. Augustine is referring to the ontologically parasitic nature of evil. Evil is the antithetic of good or an ontological parasite that cannot have or maintain an existence without good.

Chapter III, No. 11: What is called evil in the universe is but the absence of good.
“…in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present--namely, the diseases and wounds--go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance,--the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils--that is, privations of the good which we call health--are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.”
We see in additional statements in Augustine’s work about humans being made good but not perfectly good as so being prone to sin and corruption. We also see the host/parasite nature of good/evil. This is a further elaboration on the modified rationalistic approach. Chapter IV: The Problem of Evil within items 12, 13 and 14. For the sake of clarity and brevity I will only give the title/thesis of Augustine’s numbered points.
Chapter IV, No. 12: “All beings were made good, but not being made perfectly good, are liable to corruption” In other words they have the choice to choose evil.

Chapter IV, No. 13: "There can be no evil where there is no good; and an evil man is an evil good

Chapter IV, No. 14: “Good and evil are and exception to the rule that contrary attributes cannot be predicted of the same subject. Evil springs up in what is good, and cannot exist except in what is good.”
There are more modern branches off of the Augustinian free will philosophy. I will not be going into all of them as there are too many and they are too intellectually dense to get into without literally writing a book on them (I’ve already written one). I will mention a few since they diverge into other topics that should be mentioned within the scope of this paper. The first of which is a view put forth by Alvin Plantinga. Alvin’s theory stems mostly from a desire to refute an atheistic attack by J.L. Mackie and Anthony Flew on the free will argument. In his book: “Evil and Omnipotence” Mackie stated that God (if he actually existed) He could have given both free will and moral perfection, resulting in humans choosing the good in every situation. They were referred to as “Good Robots” by Mackie. According to Mackie, the simultaneous existence of evil and an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good God were "positively irrational". The nature of and venomousness of Mackie’s attack on God prompted Alvin Plantinga to respond with his version of the Free Will Defense that is an extension and contemporizing of the Augustinian free will argument to address a contemporary attack against God’s character.

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