Below is the text of a paper that I wrote for my tutorial on St. Augustine last semester. It was in response to the question: to what extent did Augustine appropriate, adapt, and transform Neoplatonic notions of the problem of evil? I’m posting it for various reasons, which largely revolve around the fact that this topic (at least, evil) seems to keep coming up in discussions and classes recently. I think Augustine has a pretty nuanced understanding of evil, and I hope to get that across in my paper. However, lately, I find myself rethinking a lot of things.
I wonder what happens to this framework if we understand “God Without Being,” as Jean-Luc Marion and others influenced/a part of the theological turn in French phenomenology argue. I would guess that, at best, it needs some serious reconsideration. I’m not really familiar enough with these thinkers to say more, but it’s something I’d like to start reading more on.
I’m hesitant to want to admit evil as a being (“Satan”?), because it seems to inevitably set up a dualism that has to be untenable. I do not think that evil is some kind of problem which needs an intellectual solution; having said that, one of the most helpfully succinct statements that I’ve read, which I quote in the paper, is that “evil is a good thing run amok.”
Anyways, I’m really interested in discussing this, whether it is your own understanding of evil, thoughts/suggestions on the theological reading of someone like Marion, anything related to whether “Satan” is a being, or evil is a being, etc. I recently read a great piece in The Other Journal on hell which is worth discussing; please comment! I’ve included the bibliography in order to also list helpful/important related readings in case people are interested (all credit for these sources goes to my tutor, Dr. Stan Rosenberg, who originally pointed me to all of them).
Edit: 12/21/09 – this post continues to get lots of hits for some reason. If any of the lurkers want to comment, feel free. I’ve updated the post to include the hopefully more readable Scribd version of my paper.