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Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil$
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Brian Davies

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199790890

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790890.001.0001

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The Creator and Evil

The Creator and Evil

(p.65) 7 The Creator and Evil
Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil

Brian Davies

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the topic of God and causation. If God is the Creator in Aquinas's sense, must he not be causally responsible for evil or badness in any form? And if God is this, can anything be salvaged of the claim that God is good? Given what is discussed in the previous chapter, you might imagine Aquinas replying, “Well, God's goodness is not moral goodness, so even his causing of what is bad does not tell against it.” But he did not take this line. He seemed to think that directly to will evil as an end in itself is indicative of badness, for he often said that what is good (or goodness in general) produces only what is good. And, when it comes to creation and God's causing of evil or badness, the approach he adopted is simply to deny that God causes evil directly and as an end in itself. Philosophers other than Aquinas have defended this way of thinking by arguing that much that is evil or bad should be thought of as a necessary means to goods aimed at by God. The idea here is that God wants to produce certain goods, but cannot do so without also permitting certain evils, and there is a sense in which Aquinas did buy into this argument. He did not do so, however, insofar as the argument is construed as suggesting that God's creating what is good ever involved him in having to put up with there being evil. This is perhaps best understood by noting what Aquinas took God's omnipotence to involve.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, God, omnipotence, goodness, evil

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