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Evil

Added: Tuesday, August 13th 2019 at 5:53pm by tjdonegan
Related Tags: wicked, warped, ego, god, truth
 
 
 

 

When one asserts that something is “evil,” one presupposes much; one may, but need not, detail all that is presupposed – such would be an exhaustive endeavor – nominally we assert that those who claim something is evil, are positing God – whether conscious or nay - and a created rational order. Many argue that evil as the antithesis of the “good,” but neither Saint Thomas Aquinas (He wrote a 500 + page treatise: On Evil), Saint Augustine, nor Einstein argued such; we treat their conceptions of evil below.

 

Einstein defined evil as: “the absence of God.” This presents a problem since God cannot be absent from His Creation i.e., Existence - for God is the very cause1 all that is, and all that is not God is contingent. Moreover God’s absence would contradict His omnipresence, and His absence would be non-being – which rational-beings (a.k.a. moral—beings2 e.g., humans) may not register/apprehend; God may be seen as “absent” – he is not absent, but instead is passive in relation tomoral-beings whom direct their own paths, asserting their will’s in opposition to finality3 i.e., the purpose for which a thing was intended - thus God although not absent, is acquiescent to His creature’s free-willed4choice, and to choose contrary to God’s intention, may be said to be “the absence of God.” Such a view accords with Saint Thomas Aquinas understanding of evil, if God is omitted from the moral being’s choice, such choices would then oppose God’s created intention – many Satanists specifically choose the inverse of God’s intention, in their choice (The Masks of Satan 1983, by Christopher Nugent)…

 

1. God as the cause of all that is may be understood as the simultaneous co-joining of two metaphysical principles of being and essence; being understood as a verb i.e., God’s Act, by which the metaphysical principle called essence i.e., God’s conception, is made to be the substantial thing e.g., Man may be conceived as an “image and likeness of God,” but that conception differs from the walking, talking, breathing entity - known as man – inthat God has willed the concept/essence to be. To differentiate how essence i.e., what a thing is, from being i.e., why it is, is to understand why God may not be absent from His Creation; analogously nothing may be seen in darkness, but when illumed, by the light, then things are visible – or are made visible – God’s Act is analogous to the light, by which things are made visible, except that God’s Act not only makes them visible, it is also the means by which they are… Perhaps a more definitive, somewhat less analogical way of describing why God is never absent from His Creation is Einstein’s equation regarding the relation between matter and energy i.e., e = mc2. One may assert that all is energy, and that matter is but temporarily formed energy – yes potential, but for our purpose energy that temporarily is formed to hold an atomic or molecularstructure – that temporary structure, or form, is not separable from its essence which determines the structure of that energy, temporarily formed, to be that existent; the energy is, that to which every material thing is reducible and is analogous to the Creative act by which essence is reduced to existent… We resist the impetus to discuss/explore the fascinating topic of how quantum mechanics relates to the existential realism of Saint Thomas Aquinas…

 

2 Moral-being a.k.a. rational-being: entities – such as humans – which possess the discerning faculties – which know reality through its measure, presupposing measure has been conveyed to existence - to determine what the moral law is, and what actions are consistent with the moral law, moreover they possess the ability to choose to act contrary to their desire.

 

3 The final cause i.e., finality is the fourth cause in the doctrine of metaphysics of realism; the 4 causes are: 1. the formal i.e., the essence form or character of a thing/object; 2, the material cause i.e., that of which an object/thing is comprised or made e.g., a water is made of hydrogen and oxygen; 3. the efficient cause i.e., the means why which a potency is altered to become e.g., the clay (material cause) of the cup is molded into the shape (formal cause) of the cup, by the activity (efficient cause) of the maker whom intends/wills (finality/purpose) to fashion a vessel to hold something to drink, to accord with the pattern (form cause)in his/her mind.

 

4 Free-willed: Simply the condition of being able to choose contrary to desire and inclination; generally a free-willed action is one in which the moral-being chooses conformity to a principle over a contrary impetus.

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas argued that evil – has no being of its own, but subsists parasitically on the good, as an accidental5 property of the good i.e., it is a defect in the good, as e.g., blindness in the eye; specifically in moral beings, as a malformation of the will. Moral beings are those creatures whom can discern the path of “ought” – and ought presupposes an ontological6 teleology7 with which the moral-being seeks to accord - as well as the of naught i.e., ought not, and then choose to act. The moral being that chooses what ought not to be chosen, is ordered in opposition to the moral law i.e., opposed to God, and thus the moral being is, at least temporarily, an agent-of-darkness8, wickedness, evil. Generally speaking, though, the individual that chooses what ought not to be chosen, does not necessarily choose to inflict harm on another; harming another is generally an unintended consequence, or by-product, of the individual seeking to sate their desire, whatever that desire may be. We can thus assert, that it is generally the case, but not always, that acts of evil are perpetrated by moral beings enslavedto their passions…

 

5 Accidental: accidental properties – or qualities – are those that an object, or entity, may possess, but need not possess e.g.,” redness” with an apple; accidental is contrasted to essential qualities i.e., qualities that an object, or entity, ceases being that object or entity should the quality be removed, or be missing e.g., rationality for humans…

 

6 Ontological: Ontology is that branch of metaphysics concerned with being as being i.e., existence as existence, this involves any number of other concepts e.g., intention, or purpose, all of which form the construct and conditions of a Created order.

 

7 Teleology: that area of philosophical inquiry which is concerned with purpose.

 

8 Agent-of-darkness: A moral-being which chooses – whether knowingly, or unknowingly, to act in opposition to the moral law. Moreover, as an agent of darkness, is opposed to the Light, these agents are opposed to truth… We assert truth is the intentioned order God willed His Creation, with the caveat that free-willed creatures may reject the intended order…

 

Saint Augustine claims evil is: “loving that which cannot be possessed, and acting, so as to move everything out of one’s path so as to possess that which cannot be possessed.” Ultimately, Saint Augustine says that: “one can only possess one’s own will, for everything else may be taken from you.” So it seems that Saint Augustine gives us the modus operandi of moral evil, rather than general descriptions - as St. Thomas and Einstein do - but Saint Augustine is saying that, rather than desiring the possession of things, which can be taken from you, a moral being should desire to possess his/her own will. Each of the descriptions places the locus of the moral wickedness in the will…If one ruminates for a bit on the three descriptions of Evil i.e., Einstein’s, St. ThomasAquinas’s & St. Augustine one may decide or derive, that Evil, for moral beings is: the desire to be God. Note that such a desire is not measurable9 for a finite being, and thus irrational i.e., the antithesis of what a rational being ought to seek…Note too that desire is driving/controlling the will; such a disposition is described by Plato – via Socrates, in The Republic – as the disposition of the Tyrant.

 

9 Measurable: An existent is a metaphysical composition of a nature (also form, eidos, character, essence) – each a term to describe what an existent is, and the act of will that makes the potency i.e., the nature, to be actualized. The essence of a rational being, is to measure existents, identifying i.e., becoming the existent – in the act of intellection - intentionally in judgment. The use of the term measurable with emotion is an unintended double entendre; what was meant was not rational or ordered, but it isalso the case that desire is a penumbra i.e., indistinct, like a cloud.

 

Saint Thomas also asserts that evil is: “a lacking in an entity, or object, which it should naturally possess10 – moral evil then would either be a lack of knowledge pertaining to what a moral being ought to do, or moral evil would be an opposition, to what ought to be done, or chosen. In the former instance, the acquisition of knowledge either alters the moral being’s choice to accord with finality11, or it does not. If it does, then that knowledge begets an accord with the entity’s raison d’être i.e., purpose for existence, thus the rationalbeing's essence, acquires a disposition of virtue i.e., becomes a rational being accidentally, and is – at least in this instance – essence subsumes accident. If it does not alter the moral agents choice, it is because the ontological intention is rejected by the moral being – such beings know better, better than God, what ought to be done/chosen; more on that in a bit.

 

10 “Lacking a quality that an object, or entity, should naturally possess.” A moral being, is by definition 'a rational being,' and a rational being’s telos is to be rationally ordered/organized, and thus tending towards, and desiring self-possession i.e., a virtuous disposition i.e., to be constrained by a principled, self-imposed limits upon visceral, as well as psychological, impetuses.

 

11 Finality: The purpose for which a thing exists, and/or is created.

 

Regarding the “lack of a quality, that an entity should naturally possess,” and the “desire to be God” note that the moral-being’s – who’s knowledge of reality is acquired through its measure – mind was fashioned to apprehend the truth i.e., to apprehend the order and intention God conveyed to His Creation; the wickedly disposed, lack not the ability to know the truth, nor is it that they lack the desire to know the truth, but instead they hold the truth, and the good, as irrelevant for them i.e., he/she, desire to be the ordering principle of existence, to be the determiner of what is right, and what is wrong i.e., the desire to God; such as they are only restrained by fear of punishment. Why is that so?

 

Humans – as social creatures – all may experience, to varying degrees/intensities, the panoply of desires, emotions, sentiments, impetuses – if given a moral environment12 (note that morality may not be separated from love, for “love is truth realized.”); will experience a dissatisfaction with suffering pain, as well as causing pain which engenders in the individual, a generalized empathy which meshes with principles of morality to produce a well-adjusted creature, one with virtuous bent (I remind the reader that I stipulated that such occurs in a moral environment); an individual whom admonished themselves for anti-social conduct… Such an individual strives to “remove the log from their eye, beforeattending to the splinter in their neighbor’s eye…” Attending to their neighbor moral rectitude is both a duty – reducing the aggregate suffering of society – and an act of love, for: “criticism, sans malice, edifies!” Such a society is approximately possible – within the folds of a Christendom that is lived in accordance with its principles - but axiomatically impossible in a culture that personifies the following paraphrase of Nietzsche’s dictum for transvaluation: ‘Everything that was formerly called good, we now call evil, and everything, and everything that was formerly called evil, must now be called good!’

 

12 Moral environment: A moral environment may be approximated when the Institutions – Church, State, and Family etc. delineate, advocate and encourage the practice of moral and virtuous conduct. Without developing this theme (another topic for another day), I will attempt to provide an intuition, by the juxtaposition, from the Frank Capra’ movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed et al) of Bedford Falls – which apparently is a wholesome, lovingly neighborly community, through the influence of George Bailey’s selflessness, and Potterville which is the transformation of Bedford Falls absent George Bailey’s theinfluence.

 

Many people’s conception of evil is malice, i.e., choices and behaviors which aim and desire overtly harming others; malice, however, does not generally reveal itself – even the malicious may not be conscious that malice is their motivation - but instead is often clothed in empathy, magnanimity and ameliorating the human condition e.g., a historical favorite has been ridding existence of the Jews, whom have historically – as we all know – been involved in a cabal against non-Jews* (A friend has advised me to make clear that I am kidding about the Jewish cabal, else wise Lefties will assert that I am anti-Semitic, thus: I am kidding about the Jewish cabal!). Moreover, we must recall that evil, has no being of its’ own, but parasitically subsists upon the good; thus the ego of an individual – wickedly disposed - deludesthemselves lest it should know his/her true motivation and desist.

 

* A similar argument has been made quite successfully – of late – by President Obama, and the Democrats, regarding the “selfish-rich.” One wonders which group of Americans – perhaps gun-owners - Obama, the Democrats and the obsequious Press will target for vilification next

 

Insouciance, apathy, ennui, torpidity, lethargy, all ‘siblings-of-sloth13’enable the panoply of choices and behaviors, which although not malicious in and of themselves, contribute to the creation of an environment whereby the malicious are empowered, admired and sometimes even worshipped… A habituated acquiescence before those of evil disposition – whether the acquiescence is out of fear, due to seduction (not all seduction is sexual), or because one sees a good being realized through wickedness’s triumph – each advance emboldens the lawlessness, encouraging even more lawlessness…

 

13 Sloth- neglecting that to which one has a moral obligation to attend; inattentiveness to that which we are obliged to attend.

 

Pope John Paul II in proclaiming Western Culture, formerly known as Christendom14, the “Culture of Death15” could have as easily called it the “Culture of the Antichrist” – one wishes that he would have. Each of us - in an organic synergistic ignorance – through our individual reflexive choices, laden with hubris, promote our Culture’s decline; this because we collectively reject objective morality – thinking it alternately16 unnecessarily absurd, private, subjective, bigoted and intolerant – unconscious of all that we collectively dismiss, along with objective moral imperatives.

 

14 Christendom: The synthesis of Greek, Roman and Hebrew Culture’s; a tapestry woven together by the Catholic Church - particularly Saint Thomas Aquinas – which produced the ascendency of Western Culture, and the United States of American, for Christendom was still largely intact for the Founding Fathers.

 

15 The Culture of Death: Pope John Paul II initially described decline of Christendom as the: “Culture of Death” in 1994 World Youth Day tour, in Denver Colorado, and again in 1995 encyclical: Evangelium Vitae. A culture-of-death is one whose institutions promote decay and vice, and in fact echo Nietzsche calling evil good, and good evil.

 

16 Alternately reject objective principles of morality: “Unnecessarily absurd” e.g., the claim of the typical erudite perspicacious atheist - you know becuz they be really, really, really smart guys (just ask them…) – whom invalidates reason, invalidating their claim; Private because you should “mind your own affairs” but a culture is a bit analogous to a swimming pool (Are all cathartic bodily processes the same? Are all deposits of waste, the same? If not perhaps one may see the flaw in the claim that morality is a private affair); Subjective: dismiss objective morality as subjective – because it is hubris to assert that one knows the truth - via anobjective claim i.e., a claim that one knows the truth, that all principles of morality are subjective. Generally this is a confusion of morality – what ought to be done - with sociology – what is done; Bigoted: An individual whom thinks an advocacy of objective moral principles is intolerable, is the definition of a bigot; Intolerant: a repeat of what has already been said is probably unnecessary, but is opposing objective morality an act of tolerance?

 

Thus, although malice certainly is opposed to comity and the moral law – forming the kernel of envy and wrathful anger – seldom must the “wolf show it’s fangs” before the conditions conducive to its ascendancy are created by the devil-may-care, the proud, the slothful, the lustful, the greedy and the gluttonous. How dispositions of these vices – shall we say - both organically, and synergistically - enable the ascendency of the malicious, we shall only touch on**; an exhaustive description i.e., “to arrange the dominoes, so as to knock them all down,” is another – albeit related – topic, for another day… Moreover, if we allow the definition of “evil” to be the desire to be God, that desire would preclude the possibility of deference to God, and HisCreated hierarchy of being, with its attendant intentional order; thus one possessed of the desire to be God, will by logical implication stand in opposition to the moral law, as well as moral restraints e.g., the virtues, and such as was previously stated – is lacking the virtuous disposition natural to a moral being; thus we again conclude that such is description of evil vis-à-vis moral-beings.

 

** In touching upon how the malicious are empowered we choose to contemplate Sloth – or inattentiveness to what constitutes one’s duty - as a citizen, and duty as moral being. Regarding duty as a citizen: If an individual does not know why the repeal of the 17thAmendment, may save the United States, you fail the responsible citizen test; if you don’t know what the 17th Amendment is, you should not be allowed to vote, for you are an enemy of the U. S. Constitution, and a threat to Constitutional Liberties. You will likely advocate “term-limits,” or some such ineffective nostrum to deal with the corruption of the Federal government, but the power will remain centralized…Thus, as a slothful individual, you thoughtlessly glom onto a meretricious advocacy which will comewith its attendant unintended consequences, leaving the unelected bureaucracy in place. Regarding duty as a moral being: If you do not understand why Abortion & ubiquitous hedonism are inimical to an enduring culture, you fail in your duty as a moral being, and you my friend, are an advocate of the rule of might-makes-right and dystopia!

 

Thomas J. Donegan

 

guildma@msn.com

 

 

 

 

User Comments

Of course Saint Thomas 's and Einstein's definitions are superior for they are more general! I particularized the definition to that which animates a sapient (rational) being...

tjd

You think so?

Einstein never said that Evil is the absence of God, if you are going to footnote your footnotes you should also provide actual references to your material. You pretend here to be expert but what of this isn't opinion? Einstein was an atheist, and no, he did not recant on his deathbed. Truely unreadable.

 

Hello, actual!

 

I checked the Einstein quote and - according to snopes - you are right; it indicates that Einstein never wrote such a thing. It seems - again, according to snopes - there is a story floating about on the internet that Einstein took one of his college professors to task for ridiculing the concept of God. Thank you for bringing – to my attention, actual – my error!

 

In the narrative Einstein argues "evil" is the absence of God. So we score a small point for you, for two reasons 1.) as I've written - in a blog-post "Instruments of Measure, and God" all arguments presuppose God; one does not prove God' existence, but one presupposes (generally this is not a conscious presupposition) an intelligent correlation between the subjective consciousness and other; the intelligent correlation can only be trusted if a transcendent Mind orders reality (Socrates credits the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides with such a claim… Moreover, the ancient Greeks Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have god concepts which may be relatable to the Hebrew God in his most rational reading…). One may opt to reject such a claim, but only as a nihilist, but consistent nihilists make no arguments, or claims, because they know them to be absurd… 2.) I included what I believed to be Einstein’s description of “evil” because he is neither philosopher, nor theologian; I thought – wrongly – that Einstein had made such an argument, and included it because it was interestingly rational (made more cogent in light of Aquinas’s definition…) – in his youth – but had likely avoided such claims/discussions once he came under the influence of Ernst Mach and logical positivism; which would tend to bracket such concepts…

 

Now, although I will now amend the essay on Evil, removing the claim – ostensibly made by Einstein – doesn’t seem to weaken to force of the argument regarding evil… As it is, the essay was a preliminary to address particular acts of wickedness e.g., abortion, pedophilia, sex-trafficking, manipulating populations, and people for political advantage, forsaking one’s moral obligations etc…

 

Regarding Einstein as an ‘atheist’ and the “recanting his atheism on his deathbed” (that, I believe is what is claimed to have occurred with Jean Paul Sartre…); I don’t believe that I ever claimed Einstein to be a theist…? I believe Hawking in his Theory of Everything intimates that the god concept – similar to that of Spinoza, or the ancient Greeks – to be amenable to the man-of-science without necessitating they alter their lifestyles. As it is science qua science hasn’t a thing to argue for or against God; I’ll take it that you may induce such from the criteria, and method, of science.

 

Take Care, actual!

 

Cordially, tjd

 

 

I will be more inclined to think that evil is the absence of good with an intent to cause unjustified harm or terror. 

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