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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: November 2020

Chapter 6 - Does Evil Have a Cause?

from Part II - Whence Evil?


Chapters 6–7 constitute Part II, entitled “Whence Evil?” Chapter 6 studies theories of the first cause of evil in Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius. Assuming that moral evil came about in a world created good, Augustine faces the question of what first causes evil. If one assumes that evil has a cause, one is faced with the dilemma that moral evil is caused by either a good will or an evil will; but a good will cannot cause moral evil at all, and an evil will cannot cause the first moral evil. So Augustine argues that evil does not have an efficient cause, but only a deficient cause, which means that evil ultimately lacks an explanation. Augustine holds that evil originated in something good, but cannot be caused by something good. Pseudo-Dionysius agrees with Augustine that evil lacks an efficient cause and adds that evil cannot be a final cause: no one acts for the sake of evil.

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