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Addressing The Problem Of Evil In On Free Choice Of The Will By Augustine

2268 words - 10 pages

In “On Free Choice of the Will”, Augustine indicates the importance of his beliefs and opinions of human nature and of God. He thinks as greatly of God as possible and centralizes his thoughts of goodness with the concept of being/form (God); he also gives a description of how God’s rightness can be interpreted clearly through the evil doings of the world. One of the biggest and most difficult problems facing people is the problem of doing evil. If God is being, unchanging, eternal and all-powerful, then how is it that people do evil? Augustine tries to solve the problem by examining the “source of evil” and “what evil is”. He explores the ways in which to live a happy life and an evil-free life by having a perfectly ordered soul—a life willed by the virtues—through free will. In the pursuit to find out how it is that evil exists, Augustine explores how people sin with inordinate desire as the driving force and free will. He lists the things we need to possess in order to sin and to live a happy life—goods of the will and temporal goods—that is, one cannot sin without temporal goods, inordinate desire, and free will. In the same way, one cannot live a happy life without goods of the will and free will.
The opening question in “On Free Choice of the Will” is “Isn’t God the cause of evil?” (Augustine, 1). Evodius examines into this question as opposed to “what is the cause of all evil?” because God is the creator of people—in which sinning comes from. From the premise, which states that: 1) God created everything; 2) God allows for the existence of evil, people do evil and sin, we can conclude that “God is the cause of all evil” because he created everything and everything that has form comes from God:
We believe that everything that exists comes from the one God, and yet we believe that God is not the cause of sins. What is troubling is that if you admit that sins come from the souls that God created and those souls come from God, pretty soon you’ll be tracing those sins back to God (Augustine, 3).
Augustine answers the question of “Isn’t God the cause of evil?” by differentiating between the two types of evil, which are “evil done” (Augustine, 1) and “evil suffered” (Augustine, 1). He states that God is the cause of evil suffered, which is God’s punishment for the wicked (these punishments appear to be evil to those who suffer them) –however, this does not contradict God’s goodness. Augustine says that “It follows that God is a cause of the second kind of evil, but in no way causes the first kind” (Augustine, 1). Augustine realizes that the answer to the “cause of evil” cannot be answered without knowing what evil is. He argues that there is no one source of evil, but somewhat, human beings are the source of their own evildoings; by this, he examines how it is that we sin. He argues that “There is no single cause of evil; rather, everyone who does evil is the cause of his own evildoing” (Augustine, 1).
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