Augustine

I’ve always looked at the concept that God created everything, and at each step, pronounced it good from a rather Taoist perspective.  If something is “good”, something else must be “bad”, else the good could not exist except in a rather one or two-dimensional space.  This comes from the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away

However, Augustine has a rather different view of good and evil.  His Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope and Love is too long to paste here, but the gist is that the only completely, incorruptibly good entity is God.  All other good is less, and subject to corruption.  The corruption, or diminution of the total good is what is evil, but evil can only exist so long as some good exists, because evil destroys as it corrupts.  So, something may be almost entirely evil, but if there is even a kernel of good, it continues to exist.  If it is entirely consumed by evil, it becomes non-existent.  The corollary is not the opposite.  So, while evil cannot exist without good, good can exist without evil.

So, you have to wonder, as the serpent spoke with Eve, and after the fall, by Augustine’s view, if there mustn’t have been some part of the serpent which was good, because God didn’t destroy it – He cursed it to crawl and be at enmity with particularly women, but mankind in general.  It continued to exist, in altered form, no doubt, but existence, nonetheless.

And see, the concept of good and evil, the destruction of the majority of mankind after God regretted creating us, the granting of free will – all of these things are things I’d love to explore for the stupid essay that I finished, but am terribly unhappy with.  At the moment all I have to do is figure out the citations and where they’re supposed to be (footnotes or parenthetical phrases).  But Augustine’s concept was new to me, and I found it interesting.  Not that I necessarily agree with it, but it is interesting. 🙂

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One thought on “Augustine

  1. Pingback: Tree of Knowledge/Good and Evil/Bad | Passage of Hours

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