Is evil really the absence of good?


It is not necessary to have that explanation to act evil. It is enough “when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered”. (VS 70)


What you describe is the absence of good in that person committing that act. In extension souls in hell are there because of their absence of good.


Personally, I think that good and evil are subjective terms, and therefore nothing possesses within itself the quality of being good or evil. Not even God. Conscious beings simply apply such judgments to things as they deem it appropriate.

I also think that debating such things ad nauseam only serves to demonstrate that people will believe whatever they choose to believe, and reason and logic can do very little to change that. So beyond this one post, I won’t even try.


Evil is the absence of good not the absence of God. This article is filled with many errors but according to the topic at hand principally with thinking that evil is a kind of real being in the same way that quantities or qualities such as hot or cold are or anything that has actual being. St Thomas Aquinas explains in the following text how evil can be said to exist in things:

“As the Philosopher says (Metaph. v, text 14), being is twofold. In one way it is considered as signifying the entity of a thing, as divisible by the ten “predicaments”; and in that sense it is convertible with thing, and thus no privation is a being, and neither therefore is evil a being. In another sense being conveys the truth of a proposition which unites together subject and attribute by a copula, notified by this word “is”; and in this sense being is what answers to the question, “Does it exist?” and thus we speak of blindness as being in the eye; or of any other privation. In this way even evil can be called a being. Through ignorance of this distinction some, considering that things may be evil, or that evil is said to be in things, believed that evil was a positive thing in itself” (ST, Pt. I, Q. 48, art. 2, reply to obj. 2).


Read St Augustine who defined evil as the absence of good or the imbalance in the soul


Do you believe in the devil? in satan?


I think that evil exist. That is my argument.


That’s the best politically correct answer I’ve seen so far. Most of society have been taught to believe it. However…the fact that you are here suggests that you are critically thinking about whether it is actually true or not. That’s good :wink:


This sounds a little like what Shakespeare writes in Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”


Do you think the devil exists? If so, you would be interested in what St Augustine has to say, I think. :innocent:


No. Evil is not just the absence of good. Evil is an intelligent, conniving power which actively intends to destroy all that is good. If evil was just the absence of good, it would be a “nothing”; but a nothing cannot act, have an intention, or make plans. If evil was just an absence, it would be mostly harmless. Unfortunately, evil is something much, much worse than this.

It’s very important to understand how big the difference is. Don’t fall for the idea that “evil is really just an absence of good”, because once you believe it you’ll no longer be able to recognize true evil, and you’ll start taking an overly lenient view of the state of affairs in the world: “It’s not that bad.” The authentic religious walk of life, on the other hand, requires a sense of urgency. To underestimate evil by defining it as “only an absence”, insidiously makes man’s problem seem less urgent, and less severe. Thus this misunderstanding sabotages your Christian Walk.


A mortal sin is an evil and it merits eternal punishment so evil can affect us. Evil is distant from both simple being and simple not-being, in between like. It is a privation in a subject. Good is the subject of evil and evil is only known through good. Evil is not simple not-being or it would follow that what does not exist is evil. Nor is evil simple being or it would follow that being or existing is evil. On the contrary, good is convertible with being for being is desirable. Now, evil is the contrary of good and so it follows that evil is the contrary of being. Consequently, evil is not an entity or being but a privation in a subject.

Also, God is the Supreme Being or Being itself and the Supreme Good or Goodness itself. He possesses the plentitude of being and goodness and He is the cause of being of all things that are not God, namely, all of creation in whatever manner of being in creation. Now, if evil is an entity or being and God is Being and Goodness itself and the first cause of all being in creation, it would follow that God is not All-Good but good and evil at the same time and the cause of evil. This is wholly inadmissible. Again, we must conclude that evil is not an entity or being.

Since the subject of evil is the good or being, we can experience or have knowledge of evil. A person can experience or have the knowledge of going blind or deaf which are evils, i.e, the absence or privation of good and being, namely, sight and hearing. We may also experience or have knowledge of sickness which is the privation of health. But sickness may not wholly consume or kill us and so we experience or have knowledge of this privation or absence of good through the being and good that we still have for the subject of sickness is not health but the man/woman/child or animal.


Good is not evil whether it is called good or very good. It is true that the ‘very good’ in verse 31 comes after the creation of mankind. However, the scripture says “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). In other words, everything that God made is called very good.

The quote from Isaiah is a testament to Divine Providence to which the whole of creation is subject including the free actions of human beings. Where it is said in this verse that God creates woe or evil which humans may experience from God, I understand this to be at least in one sense God’s judgement or punishment on mankind for their sins. But God’s judgements and punishments are from his justice which is good but humans experience it as evil or penal. God’s punishments in this life are meant to be medicinal for repentance and conversion and in atonement for our sins and those of others, at least for those who suffer them willingly with the right and good intentions following the way of the cross of the Lord Jesus.


Of course devil exist. I think that Absolute Devil, so called Satan, also exist. What St Augustine says in regard to devil?


Are these statements correct: (1) Being is good and (2) Absence of good is evil? If yes then (3) follows from them. (4) is trivial. (5) is (3). (6) follows from (4) and (5). (6) is obviously wrong. (4) cannot be wrong. Then the only premises which could be wrong are (1) or (2) or both.


No one does evil for the sheer sake of evil. There’s always some desire that’s being fulfilled, some “good”, at least in their eyes, even tho that good is twisted and less than the good that should otherwise be realized. Power, glory, pleasure: these are goods that have their place when properly acheived, but are abused and exploited when acheived by harming neighor.

And, speaking generally, if evil exists apart from good, then God created evil.


‘(5) Evil is nothing, (6) Therefore evil cannot affect us’, is true in one sense and false in another sense. It is true in that since evil is a kind of non-being it cannot cause anything for that which doesn’t exist cannot be a cause. Consequently, the cause of evil can only be the good or being and it only has an accidental cause since nothing causes or desires evil as evil. For a cause produces being but evil in itself is a non-being. But, the being that a cause produces may be defective or lack good and being in some manner and thus the effect may have some evil in it or the absence of good.

(6) is false in the sense that evil does exist in things as a privation of good such as blindness in a human or animal. In another post, you stated “Evil in itself is something, you experience it. It is a quality.” At first glance, what your saying here seems to be true in some sense and I’ve been mulling over it. For example, pain or injury to the body we definitely perceive and experience through our sense of touch and thus pain is a passion and something real. But, pain or suffering in the body is said to be an evil. Consequently, pain as an evil appears to be a real entity or being. However, upon closer examination of what is going on here, it does not necessarily follow that the evil of pain or something hurtful in the body results in evil being considered an entity or real being.

Evil is said to exist only in being and good as a privation or absence of some good. Accordingly, the pain we experience and perceive in the body is real and an entity in so far as the body is real and an entity or being as well as its passions. But, insofar as pain is considered an evil it denotes the absence of some good of the body and thus in this sense pain is not an entity or being but a privation of some good. Accordingly, since evil can only exist in good or being, the perception of pain in the body has an element of good and being in it as well as an element of evil or the absence of some good of the body. Pain is like a defective or incomplete being like a morally bad or evil human act having an admixture of both good and evil, namely, being and the absence of being or good. It is this element of the absence of good in pain that we call evil.

Incidentally, God through his wisdom in Jesus Christ draws good out of evil and so pain and suffering of the body though penal can be meritorious and medicinal for us in atonement and satisfaction for our sins if we accept it as such leading us to eternal life following the way of the cross of the Lord Jesus.


Persons do not agree on whether all being is good; a murderer of me would not consider my being to be good, but only the being of ones he wanted to “be”.
“Good” has to do with “desirability of participation in being”, and it is subjective.
We might say that there is an objective good, in a manner of speaking: If there is a creator who gives the true definition of goodness to what he creates, then whether we subjectively agree or not, his definition of Good would be actual (thus, Adam and Eve, knowing a different good than the LORD, than ‘I AM’, were incorrect in their comprehension of reality, desiring to flee the presence of the Angel of the LORD rather than to stand naked before him. Their Knowing of Good and Evil was defective; they considered the presence of the LORD to be evil (not desirable to participate in his presence).

“Being” unqualified is God himself, ‘I AM’, and is good.
Participation in God, in Being, is good, whether we know it is participation or not; when we say, ‘I Am’, it is not an absolute statement, but a caused being. Further, our being is temporally manifested, being both potential and actual, though not complete.

As a human I have eyes, yet they are somewhat defective compared to the universal “eyes of a human”; my individual eyes, actual, are defective and give me nearsighted vision. It is a defect in the eyes of my being, thus “evil” to me concerning my eyesight is my participation defectively in the universal definition of the Human Species. My eyes are GOOD - I DESIRE TO HAVE THEM, which is the definition of good, my good. Yet, I wish I could see 20:20 unaided - I am participating where there is defect of what ought to be good.
My eyes exist. They are good.
My eyes are defective of the universal definition of “eyes”, thus there is evil that I am enduring as my Soul Actualizes my Good Eyes in my Body.
My body, though disposed to be animated by my soul, and though I like and desire it, is accidentally different or defective from the ideal of the species, and I could desire it were otherwise - this is the evil I endure while still being and considering my body good.

Good will not be found looking out in a vacuum disinterested in what is there. It is found in whether you want to be there with what you see or not. In every case, what you do not want to be united to, there will be a defect of what should be in a universal definition of the object, making it undesirable.

John Martin.


God created all things good, but man can use these things for evil. Just because evil doesn’t have an ontological foundation doesn’t mean evil isn’t concrete or real. It means that evil exists as a parasite on the good. It means good can exist without evil, but evil can only exist in relation to good.

Life can really exist without death, but death cannot really exist without life. And this is fundamentally what we mean when we say that evil is an absence of good.


A person is affected by evil insofar as they perceive or are affected by a defect in some good.

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