Topics: Augustine of Hippo, Soul, Manichaeism Pages: 1 (272 words) Published: February 25, 2013
Jonathan ( phaerimm67) wrote,
@ 2010-01-10 14:14:00

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Entry tags:augustine, evil, philosophy, platonism, theology

Augustine's Meontic Theory of Evil
This is the text of an essay I wrote for my philosophical theology course last term, on Augustine's theory of the 'meontic' nature of evil. St. Augustine admits in his Confessions that the question of evil was in part what drove him to Manichaeanism.[1] He further admits to having been deceived thereby: ‘I did not know [then] that evil has no existence except as a privation of good, down to that level which is altogether without being.’[2] Here he points ahead to what he claims to be his crucial understanding of what evil is, or, to be more precise, what it, in fact, isn’t. I shall consider what might be described as Augustine’s ‘meontic’ theory of evil,[3] and more contemporary analyses of evil along the same lines, later, but it is first worth answering briefly the question as to how Augustine came to hold such a position. Augustine arrived at his ‘meontic’ theory of evil in part because of his preceding rejection of Manichaean cosmic dualism. It made no sense to posit two opposing active principles, the one good, the other evil, because this led to a logical impossibility, as demonstrated by Augustine’s friend Nebridius.[4] How could the Manichaeans say that God (the good principle) was incorruptible, if the soul, which is supposed to be ‘some portion of [God]... an offspring of [his] very substance’, is subject to corruption? And if the soul is subject to corruption, how can the
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