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Summary Against Modern Thought: Evil is Not Intended

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Evil is not intended, but it often results because of lack of knowledge of The Good or the will is not directed toward The Good.

That evil in things is not intended

1 From this it is clear that evil occurs in things apart from the intention of the agents.

2 For that which follows from an action, as a different result from that intended by the agent, clearly happens apart from intention. Now, evil is different from the good which every agent intends. Therefore, evil is a result apart from intention.

3 Again, a defect in an effect and in an action results from some defect in the principles of the action; for instance, the birth of a monstrosity results from some corruption of the semen, and lameness results from a bending of the leg bone.

Now, an agent acts in keeping with the active power that it has, not in accord with the defect of power to which it is subject. According as it acts, so does it intend the end. Therefore, it intends an end corresponding to its power. So, that which results as an effect of the defect of power will be apart from the intention of the agent. Now, this is evil. Hence, evil occurs apart from intention.

Notes St Thomas knew of genetic diseases! (Joke.)

4 Besides, the movement of a mobile thing and the motion of its mover tend toward the same objective. Of itself, the mobile thing tends toward the good, but it may tend toward evil accidentally and apart from intention. This is best seen in generation and corruption. When it is under one form, matter is in potency to another form and to the privation of the form it already has.

Thus, when it is under the form of air, it is in potency to the form of fire and to the privation of the form of air. Change in the matter terminates in both at the same time; in the form of fire, in so far as fire is generated; in the privation of the form of air, inasmuch as air is corrupted.

Now, the intention and appetite of matter are not toward privation but toward form, for it does not tend toward the impossible. Now, it is impossible for matter to exist under privation alone, but for it to exist under a form is possible. Therefore, that which terminates in a privation is apart from intention. It terminates in a privation inasmuch as it attains the form which it intends, and the privation of another form is a necessary result of this attainment. So, the changing of matter in generation and corruption is essentially ordered to the form, but the privation is a consequence apart from the intention.

The same should be true for all cases of change. Therefore, in every change there is a generation and a corruption, in some sense; for instance, when a thing changes from white to black, the white is corrupted and the black comes into being. Now, it is a good thing for matter to be perfected through form, and for potency to be perfected through its proper act, but it is a bad thing for it to be deprived of its due act. So, everything that is moved tends in its movement to reach a good, but it reaches an evil apart from such a tendency. Therefore, since every agent and mover tends to the good, evil arises apart from the intention of the agent.

5 Moreover, in the case of beings that act as a result of understanding or of some sort of sense judgment, intention is a consequence of apprehension, for the intention tends to what is apprehended as an end. If it actually attains something which does not possess the specific nature of what was apprehended, then this will be apart from the intention. For example, if someone intends to eat honey, but he eats poison, in the belief that it is honey, then this will be apart from the intention.

But every intelligent agent tends toward something in so far as he considers the object under the rational character of a good, as was evident in the preceding chapter. So, if this object is not good but bad, this will be apart from his intention. Therefore, an intelligent agent does not produce an evil result, unless it be apart from his intention. Since to tend to the good is common to the intelligent agent and to the agent that acts by natural instinct, evil does not result from the intention of any agent, except apart from the intention.

Hence, Dionysius says, in the fourth chapter of On the Divine names: “Evil is apart from intention and will.”

34 thoughts on “Summary Against Modern Thought: Evil is Not Intended Leave a comment

  1. At HansErren: “The existence of evil simply falsifies a benevolent omnipotent God.”

    imnobody00 replies: “No, it does not.”

    Which raises some philosophical questions/discussion — if anyone is up to it:

    If God is both a) omnipotent and b) benevolent why allow evil?

    Futility Closet has a curious paradox at: https://www.futilitycloset.com/2016/02/21/the-revelation-game/

    On a more whimsical theme for the philosophically inclined:

    Soliciting certain things is a crime, regardless of the solicitation returns nothing (such as collusion among bidders for a contract, etc., etc.),
    Is it cheating to ask God for help [via prayer] during an exam, where one is supposed to present ONLY One’s Own Work/Knowledge?

    Philosophy professor Roy Sorenson says yes:

    I once questioned a student about his suspicious behavior during a logic examination. He confessed that he was praying for the correct answer. I felt this was cheating. Even if God did not give him the answer, the student was soliciting the answer from Someone Else.

    Praying for help on a test, in other words, seems to be solicitation for God to join unethical behavior.

    Take that a few steps further, and one has to wonder just how much a supreme deity could allow prayer to influence His interventions in response to prayer….that is, how illogical it would be for the deity to answer most (if not all) prayers.

  2. If you remove evil, Ken & Hans, you remove choice. God does not answer prayers Ken, God helps you choose, hopefully the right way. The whole concept of Saints and asking Saints or God for intervention is abhorrent.

    Yes Matt, genetic defects were once considered evil (or a sign thereof). Hey, just joking, ya know! Amazing innit, you put a ‘just joking’ after just about anything and you can absolve yourself seemingly of anything.

  3. An opposition to this (Thomistic) argument requires, and presupposes, an absurdity; things that did not exist caused themselves to exist.

    That is, that everything is self-perfectible.

    What Tom is saying is that any defect in the intended perfection of a “thing” is “evil”… and that is so. The defects may be the result of the corruption of the Natural Order intended by its Creator, and the corruption of the Order by sentient beings refusing physical and metaphysical gifts that they need to attain their proper end.

    Everything that we have and are is a gift … life, consciousness, knowledge, understanding… are a gift of “natural” or metaphysical environment. One cannot create themselves. The wild man from the Amazonian jungle or “New Age” subculture has no hope of appreciating, or even reasonably despising, Faith or Reason because they do not have the gift of cultural linguistic and cognitive tools to comprehend it.

    [quote=andydymouse]If you remove evil, Ken & Hans, you remove choice. [/quote]

    That is quite so because one cannot create their own good… they can only accept what is offered or reject it. The rejection of some good offered is culpable evil but the lack of some good is/maybe a natural result of Original Sin.

  4. Because the World is no longer the Garden of Eden; the Creator is not your servant; it is better to attain Life through suffering and calamity than be damned replete with pleasures and self-satisfaction.

  5. @ Oldavid,

    “Because the World is no longer the Garden of Eden;”

    The world has never been the Garden of Eden. No such place has ever existed, nor would it even make sense for a place where only good things happen to exist.

    “the Creator is not your servant;”

    Meaning what exactly? I’m not it’s servant either, and I wouldn’t be even if it was proved to me that such a thing exists. Maybe you’re suggesting that God can do whatever it wants with it’s creation – I rightly call such a god evil.

    “it is better to attain Life through suffering and calamity than be damned replete with pleasures and self-satisfaction.”

    So how is a baby squashed by an earthquake supposed to “attain life”?

  6. @ noisyfish
    “The world has never been the Garden of Eden. No such place has ever existed, nor would it even make sense for a place where only good things happen to exist.”

    How do you know?
    The conceit of your ignorance is astonishing.

  7. ‘How is a baby squashed by a earthquake supposed to “attain life?”‘

    precisely illustrates my point. How MUCH better will never occur to him.

  8. @ acricketchirps,

    “precisely illustrates my point. How MUCH better will never occur to him.”

    Standing up for a mass murdering god, on the grounds that heaven will be a sufficient compensation for a terrible, short life and painful death. It doesn’t seem to occur to you that you’re defending a dreadful, cruel god who makes us suffer for no reason, even though he has absolutely nothing to lose from just stopping all the suffering and sending us all straight to heaven.

    In any case, how can a baby which hasn’t been baptised or submitted to Jesus get into heaven in the first place? If a nonbelieving baby can get into heaven, why can’t I?

    “‘Physics. Biology. History’ … of which SFTromb, not God, is master.”

    Surely you’re not suggesting that God has lied to us by planting false physical, biological and historical evidence of a past without a Garden of Eden? If not, why is there no evidence for the Garden of Eden?

  9. Was not getting tetanus sufficient compensation for the horrible pain your parents put you through when you were just a wee minnow cornet?

  10. A God who allows suffering is not cruel for the simple reason that SFT cannot divine the reason for it. In fact Christ’s supreme suffering pays for man’s sins. Every other instance of suffering is privileged to be potentially offered up and united to His. There may be countless souls in Heaven eternally joyfully thanking God for the privilege of having been crushed to death as infants by earthquakes and for Grace they were able to receive thereby. Or maybe not. Maybe the economies of salvation work themselves out in other ways. But you have to view it from a Heavenly perspective to have any clue at all. And to say but there is no Heaven is to beg the question.

  11. Ah! what wisdom can be found in stillness and contemplating Nature. Even the chirping of a cricket is a balm for the soul.
    [quote] “Maybe the economies of salvation work themselves out in other ways.” [/quote]
    Yes, indeed. It is the height of diabolical hubris to demand that He conform to our myopia and egotism.

    Noseynoisyfish has consistently refused to consider even the most basic principles of science and has instead erected an ephemeral, chimerical totem that he worships without any of the restrictions imposed by reality.

  12. @ acricketchirps,

    “Was not getting tetanus sufficient compensation for the horrible pain your parents put you through when you were just a wee minnow cornet?”

    If my parents had created tetanus, your analogy might make some kind of sense.

    “A God who allows suffering is not cruel for the simple reason that SFT cannot divine the reason for it.”

    The idea that humans can’t understand God’s reasoning in allowing suffering is just a cop-out, and it flat-out contradicts your claim that Heaven will be “sufficient compensation”.

    If people cause suffering, we rightly call them cruel. Why should God be exempt from this? In almost all cases, human cruelty has some sort of reason, like personal gain, laziness or stupidity. God has no excuses. He’s supposed to be omnipotent, so it would take literally no effort for him to stop all suffering.

    Also, you seem to be assuming that all these suffering people are going to Heaven – surely, many will be going to Hell, so that’ll be more suffering, and God is also responsible for allowing Hell to exist.

    “In fact Christ’s supreme suffering pays for man’s sins.”

    You can’t pay for someone else’s sins. If someone upsets you, can I forgive them? Obviously not. Also, “supreme suffering”? According to the Bible, perfectly ordinary criminals were executed in exactly the same way, but didn’t get resurrected a few days later, so they were worse off.

    “And to say but there is no Heaven is to beg the question.”

    No, it doesn’t. There’s no evidence for the existence of Heaven. Or Hell.

  13. @ Oldavid,

    “It is the height of diabolical hubris to demand that He conform to our myopia and egotism.”

    Fantastic sentence.

    “Noseynoisyfish has consistently refused to consider even the most basic principles of science”

    Come off it! You reject evolution, quantum mechanics, and relativity.

  14. If God had created evil your objection might make some kind of sense.

    I didn’t say humans don’t understand God’s reasoning, I said–or rather implied–you don’t. Other humans understand it in a throughtheglassdarkly sort of way to the extent they take a Heavenly perspective.

    If people cause suffering, we rightly call them cruel. Not necessarily. Only if it’s pointless suffering–but you’re not going to beg the question again are you?

    The existence of Hell is your best rejoinder–a hard question. It takes a better mind than mine to make the argument for how Hell is a product of Love. Only it IS impossible, logically, for there not to be a “the other place” if there is going to be a Heaven which God by Grace allows people the freedom to choose. God certainly sends no one to Hell.

    Of course it is possible to for one man to pay another’s debt. Your forgiveness example is not on point at all. Honestly I’m not sure you’re intellectually up to arguing the atheists team’s side. You really don’t seem to be much brighter than I am. Or perhaps you’ve just stopped trying, God bless you.

    I have been told that of Christ’s supreme suffering the physical torture and execution was only an infinitesimal part–kind of just a symbol of the deeper internal suffering beginning in the garden the night before. And at least one of those executed in the same way ended up pretty well off.

    Finally, It certainly is to beg the question, when you’re using the existence of pain/evil argument to demonstrate the none existence of God, to assume there is no Heaven, whatever the evidence or lack thereof for it be. Anyway, there’s not no evidence for it (Our Lady is in Heaven and she reappears Thence to make a report, as it were, from time to time) just none SFT will accept.

  15. @ noseynoiseyfish

    I freely admit that I reject the scientifically impossible superstition of “Evolution”.
    Quantum mechanics is fascinating stuff and not to be discounted as far as it is simply a statement that “sub-atomics” do not comply with “Newtonian Laws” that govern “super-atomic” reality. The fanciful ideological (religious) extrapolations of QM are entirely without foundation in observation or experiment.
    Einstein’s version of relativity cannot be matched to observations without various gratuitous “fudge factors” being introduced.

    I will not “burn incense” to your ridiculous man-made totem of scientism.

  16. Fair enough, Chirpy, but there are some monstrously, unbelievably (to ordinary people) perverse and cruel people “out there”.

    What they have in common is the presumption that human life is an accident to be consumed according to their means and proclivities.

  17. @ acricketchirps,

    “If God had created evil your objection might make some kind of sense.”

    God created everything, including evil. It’s called the Problem of Evil, surely you’ve heard of it?

    “I didn’t say humans don’t understand God’s reasoning, I said–or rather implied–you don’t. Other humans understand it in a throughtheglassdarkly sort of way to the extent they take a Heavenly perspective.”

    What is it then?

    “If people cause suffering, we rightly call them cruel. Not necessarily. Only if it’s pointless suffering–but you’re not going to beg the question again are you?”

    I answered this point. People have excuses or reasons for causing suffering, God doesn’t. An omnipotent being has no excuse.

    “The existence of Hell is your best rejoinder–a hard question. It takes a better mind than mine to make the argument for how Hell is a product of Love.”

    You’re probably not as good at lying to yourself and others as those “better men” who pretend to justify a loving God being responsible for sending people to a place of infinite torture.

    “Only it IS impossible, logically, for there not to be a “the other place” if there is going to be a Heaven which God by Grace allows people the freedom to choose.”

    There’s nothing logical about this. There doesn’t have to be a place of infinite torture to create choice, and a loving parent doesn’t allow their kids the choice to walk in a road or drink bleach anyway. I have to ask: why is God’s behaviour and reasoning inferior to that of perfectly ordinary, fallible humans?

    “God certainly sends no one to Hell.”

    He’s responsible for everything in the universe, so he’s responsible for sending people to Hell.

    “Of course it is possible for one man to pay another’s debt. Your forgiveness example is not on point at all. Honestly I’m not sure you’re intellectually up to arguing the atheists team’s side. You really don’t seem to be much brighter than I am. Or perhaps you’ve just stopped trying, God bless you.”

    Why do theists always veer into silly insults? Did I accuse you of not being “intellectually up to arguing the theist team’s side”? No, even though you’ve mostly failed to make any arguments at all. This assertion is a case in point:

    “Of course it is possible to for one man to pay another’s debt.”

    If person A is owed money by person B, person C may be able to pay that debt, but that doesn’t mean person A will forgive person B, and this isn’t about debt, it’s about forgiving sins. We’re supposed to be forgiven for our sins by Jesus’s suffering on our behalf. This idea doesn’t make any sense. If you disagree, kindly come up with a reason rather than falling back on insults. Also, please don’t pretend that there’s anything intellectually superior about believing in the contents of a book of mythology.

    “I have been told that of Christ’s supreme suffering the physical torture and execution was only an infinitesimal part–kind of just a symbol of the deeper internal suffering beginning in the garden the night before. And at least one of those executed in the same way ended up pretty well off.”

    So, about 24 hours of unquantified mental suffering? This still doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad as things that billions of people have been through, like Altzheimer’s or cancer.

    “Finally, It certainly is to beg the question, when you’re using the existence of pain/evil argument to demonstrate the none existence of God, to assume there is no Heaven, whatever the evidence or lack thereof for it be. Anyway, there’s not no evidence for it (Our Lady is in Heaven and she reappears Thence to make a report, as it were, from time to time) just none SFT will accept.”

    I’m not using the Problem of Evil to demonstrate the non-existence of God, I don’t need to demonstrate the non-existence of God, theists need to provide sufficient evidence for it, and they haven’t done so. Also, you’re claiming there’s “not no evidence for it”, but I said there wasn’t sufficient evidence.

    Do you accept the evidence that the Koran is the word of god?

  18. Don’t let this berk intimidate you, Chirpy.

    Evil is the lack of some due good… it is not some “stuff” invented by a deity or the perverse imaginations of some egomaniac.

    There is only ONE way to condemn yourself… unrepented Mortal Sin which is the deliberate refusal of some good, natural or supernatural. There is NO other road to perdition.

    Noseynoisytwitt: you do need to “demonstrate the non-existence of God” and in doing so you will need to demonstrate the non-existence of everything because a thing that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist.

    The Koran has the same claim to authenticity as Talmud, Kabbalah, Wicca, Satanism and Evolution… to name but a few irrational beliefs.

  19. @ Oldavid,

    “Evil is the lack of some due good…”

    I don’t buy this. Good and evil are just labels we attach to particular behaviours, and their use depends on social and historical context. The Bible condones slavery, we condemn it. Is it good or evil? What about a serial killer, using his (or her!) free will to decide to go out and kill people – it’s really stretching things to pretend this is just a “lack of good”.

    “you do need to “demonstrate the non-existence of God” and in doing so you will need to demonstrate the non-existence of everything because a thing that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist.”

    That which is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. (Hitchens)

    “The Koran has the same claim to authenticity as Talmud, Kabbalah, Wicca, Satanism and Evolution… to name but a few irrational beliefs.”

    That’s odd, because I’ve just been reading on another comment thread that the Talmud is included in the list of extra-Biblical sources for the authenticity of Jesus…

  20. You nutty Bible-bashers of every description love to take a few things out of context and use it to dismiss the very basis of reason; that is, to know, to understand, to extrapolate. Unless you take the time to consider the explanations of the cumulative wisdom of 2000 years of scholarly exegesis you are just a bitter egomaniac showing off your wilful ignorance.

    Hitchens’ statement is, at best, both foolish and irrational because it is impossible to know or understand anything without underlying self-evident premises… that is the very basis of the notion that there can be anything called “evidence” anyway. For example, we must assume the laws of logic (at least the Law of Non Contradiction) for any observations or reason to have any validity whatsoever.

    What you are trying to do is to rationalise your irrationality by trying to spuriously insinuate that the very definition of rationality and “evidence” is solely determined by whether or not it agrees with your irrational ideology.

    I don’t do Bible-bashing because it’s a field (mostly) reserved to idiots with a few (generally unknown) scholarly exegetes excepted. I prefer to stick within the constraints imposed by reality (including logic).

  21. For the benefit of any genuinely interested and honest enquirers who may be still following this topic “Evil is Not Intended” I will add a few thoughts that may help to make sense of this prickly subject.

    A wise bod once made a metaphor of the “problem” of evil. He said: “life is like a great symphony” in which Nature is the instruments and we are the players. If someone, or even a whole section of the orchestra, plays a wrong note (whether by ignorance, ineptitude, or malice) the conductor/composer does not immediately halt or abandon the performance but He carries on making the error part of another melody and harmony that relies on the “good” musicians to join with Him to “salvage” or redeem the performance and the performers.

    Nature (that is, the instruments) are no longer self sustaining in their original perfection as they tend toward a degradation according to entropy in which they naturally go out of tune or fail altogether. This affects both the “good” and “bad” players alike because all of Creation has been diverted and perverted by the Rebellion.

    The evil of natural disasters is permitted because that is the “accidental” result of deformed Nature; a Nature that is not just a blessing but a burden and a risk as well. It is tending to an end that was not intended. Beyond Nature, though, in spite of grief and suffering (indeed, often because of) EVERYONE is judged on their merits. NO ONE is condemned except by their own fault in rejecting some good that is offered them. Invincible ignorance of natural morality (law) is practically the exclusive preserve of infants.

    S. Tom Aquin. Tackled the problem of evil here:
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1049.htm

    If Tom was around here and now I’d like to discuss or challenge some very minor points of his discourse based on what he’s said elsewhere and some pragmatic observations but, ultimately, I have no fundamental disagreements.

    For those that are not familiar with Tom’s (Scholastic) Method it goes a bit like this:
    First, he poses the question.
    Then he proposes all the various opinions he knows about.
    Then he proposes his alternative, “on the contrary”.
    Then he offers his explanation, “I contend that”…
    And he finishes up by refuting his mentioned objections.

    Generally, his whole argument is summarised in the last sentence of his “contention”.

    It’s not stuff tailored to the willful ignorance of the diabolically insane.

    On a more general topic:
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm

  22. @ Oldavid,

    “Unless you take the time to consider the explanations of the cumulative wisdom of 2000 years of scholarly exegesis you are just a bitter egomaniac showing off your wilful ignorance.”

    Why would the Word of God require 2,000 years of scholarly exegesis (i.e., thinking up excuses) in order to be made sense of?

    “Hitchens’ statement is, at best, both foolish and irrational because it is impossible to know or understand anything without underlying self-evident premises. For example, we must assume the laws of logic (at least the Law of Non Contradiction) for any observations or reason to have any validity whatsoever.”

    It isn’t “foolish” or “irrational” to ask for evidence, and it’s not possible to prove the existence of God from logical first principles, no matter how much you might want it to be the case. For example, your “a thing that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist” doesn’t necessarily apply to the universe, so can be dismissed as irrelevant.

  23. @ Oldavid,

    “For the benefit of any genuinely interested and honest enquirers who may be still following this topic I will add a few thoughts that may help to make sense of this prickly subject.”

    Thank you. I’m a genuinely interested and honest enquirer, which is why I’ve become an atheist.

    “life is like a great symphony in which Nature is the instruments and we are the players.”

    God wants to keep the world, with all its flaws, going because he’s already started? This is the weakest justification for evil I’ve ever heard.

    “Nature (that is, the instruments) are no longer self sustaining in their original perfection as they tend toward a degradation according to entropy in which they naturally go out of tune or fail altogether. This affects both the “good” and “bad” players alike because all of Creation has been diverted and perverted by the Rebellion.”

    Why would God make innocent people suffer because of the actions of others? This doesn’t look like the behaviour of an “all good” being. Any average person can see this is unfair and thereby hold higher moral standards than God.

    “The evil of natural disasters is permitted because that is the “accidental” result of deformed Nature; […]”

    This makes no sense. Earthquakes (for example) happen because the interior of the Earth is molten due to leftover heat from its formation, and radioactive decay. Are we expected to believe that before Eve eat an apple, the Earth’s interior was cold and there was no radioactive decay? The entire idea that there was ever a perfect, completely safe Gardon-of-Eden situation is just a fantasy with no supporting evidence at all.

    If anything, the Garden of Eden myth appears to be about the loss of childhood innocence we experience as we grow and learn – that makes a lot more sense than any kind of literal interpretation.

  24. @ His Irrational Majesty: “For example, your “a thing that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist” doesn’t necessarily apply to the universe, so can be dismissed as irrelevant.”

    If Hitchens’ bland statement could be said to apply to anything why wouldn’t it apply to your gratuitous, logically and observationally absurd, assertion?

    Up to date you have spuriously repudiated the very basis, the fundamentals, required for any kind of valid science or reasoning by the tacit redefinition of “science” to mean anything that agrees with your irrational assumptions.

    Similarly you have reduced the science of metaphysics (e.g. logic) to a clone of your supremely ignorant Bible-bashing.

  25. @ Oldavid,

    “If Hitchens’ bland statement could be said to apply to anything why wouldn’t it apply to your gratuitous, logically and observationally absurd, assertion?”

    You claimed that: “a thing that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist”. Really, you should back it up, otherwise it might look like you’re just trying to reverse the burden of proof. however, I understand that you can’t, so I’ll give you some reasons why my counter-claim is correct instead:

    1. There’s no evidence that the universe has ever not existed. (So the first part of your claim may not apply to it)

    2. There’s no evidence that something can’t “just exist”. (So the second part of your claim may be false.)

    3. If your claim is true, God can’t exist.

    “Up to date you have spuriously repudiated the very basis, the fundamentals, required for any kind of valid science or reasoning by the tacit redefinition of “science” to mean anything that agrees with your irrational assumptions.”

    You can’t deny evolution, then dispute QM and relativity, but still pretend to be motivated by science.

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