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CHAPTER VIIThat Evil is not a Nature or Essence516516St Thomas in this and the next two chapters is not arguing that there is no evil in the world, but that evil has no substantial being, no, nor positive accidental being either: there is no evil substance, there is no positive attribute essentially evil: there is good at the bottom of everything, even of things evil: there is a right use of everything, and a place for all positive being in the scheme of creation. He allows that there may be a substance much out of place, as a bull in a china shop, a bad man in power, an “embossed carbuncle on my flesh.” He allows that there are evil attributes, or vices, as the next chapter will explain. But a vice is a good quality overstrained, or perverted. Pride is an inordinate reaching out to high things: but to reach out to high things in itself is a good point in a man. Cowardice is an inordinate care of one’s own safety, a thing that one is bound to have some care of.

EVIL is nothing else than a privation of that which a thing is naturally apt to have and ought to have. But a privation is not an essence, but a negation in a substance.

5. Every essence is natural to some thing. If the essence ranks as a substance, it is the very nature of the thing. If it ranks as an accident, it must be caused by the principles of some substance, and thus will be natural to that substance, though perhaps not natural to some other substance. But what is in itself evil cannot be natural to anything: for the essence of evil is privation of that which is naturally apt to be in a thing and is due to it. Evil then, being a privation of what is natural, cannot be natural to anything. Hence whatever is naturally in a thing is good, and the want of it an evil. No essence then is in itself evil.517517St Thomas here speaks, as philosophers always speak, in the universal, not of this individual and that. No natural kind or class, as such, either is evil or is the subject of evil qualities, i.e., of privations of what is due to nature. The kind, as such, has all things that it is proper for its members to have, though sundry members of the kind are wanting in some of these things. There are one-eyed men, but mankind has two eyes: there are invalids, but the race is healthy.

6. Whatever has any essence is either itself a form or has a form,518518Or, as we might say, ‘is either an attribute or a substance.’ for by form everything is assorted in some genus or species. But form, as such, has a character of goodness, being the principle of action and the end which every maker intends, and the actuality whereby every subject of form is perfected. Whatever therefore has any essence, as such, is good.

7. Being is divided into actuality and potentiality. Actuality, as such, 190is good, because everything is perfected by that whereby it actually is. Potentiality too is something good: for potentiality tends to actuality, and is proportionate to actuality, not contrary to it; and is of the same genus with actuality; and privation does not attach to it except accidentally.519519When a thing is in potentiality to some further perfection, it is only by accident that it does not attain it. If it were incapacitated for that perfection essentially, it would not be in potentiality at all. An undergraduate, radically and essentially debarred from taking his degrees, would not be an undergraduate. If he is too stupid to take it, that is an accident. Stupidity is not of the essence of his condition. Everything therefore that is, in whatsoever way it is, in so far as it is a being, is good.

8. All being, howsoever it be, is from God (B. II, Chap. VI). But God is perfect goodness (B. I, Chap. XLI). Since then evil cannot be the effect of goodness, it is impossible for any being, as being, to be evil.520520The great contradictor of this fundamental doctrine, — not to mention Schopenhauer, — is Buddha and Buddhism, which makes all conscious thought as such, an evil, and the grand aim of life to be rid of it. Manicheism and Platonism complete the circle, by making matter evil. Between evil mind and evil matter, we may close our philosophy books.

Hence it is said: God saw all things that he had made, and they were very good (Gen. i, 31): He made all things good in his own time (Eccles. iii, 11): Every creature of God is good (1 Tim. iv, 4).


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