Problem Of Evil Arguments
Some persons of discernment have wished me to make this addition. I have
the more readily deferred to their opinion, because of the opportunity
thereby gained for meeting certain difficulties, and for making
observations on certain matters which were not treated in sufficient detail
in the work itself.
Whoever does not choose the best course is lacking either in power, or
knowledge, or goodness.
God did not choose the best course in creating this world.
Therefore God was lacking in power, or knowledge, or goodness.
I deny the minor, that is to say, the second premiss of this syllogism, and
the opponent proves it by this
Whoever makes things in which there is evil, and which could have been made
without any evil, or need not have been made at all, does not choose the
God made a world wherein there is evil; a world, I say, which could have
been made without any evil or which need not have been made at all.
Therefore God did not choose the best course.
I admit the minor of this prosyllogism: for one must confess that there is
evil in this world which God has made, and that it would have been possible
to make a world without evil or even not to create any world, since its
creation depended upon the free will of God. But I deny the major, that is,
the first of the two premisses of the prosyllogism, and I might content
myself with asking for its proof. In order, however, to give a clearer
exposition of the matter, I would justify this denial by pointing out that
the best course is not always that one which tends towards avoiding evil,
since it is possible that the evil may be accompanied by a greater good.
For example, the general of an army will prefer a great victory with a
slight wound to a state of affairs without wound and without victory. I
have proved this in further detail in this work by pointing out, through
instances taken from mathematics and elsewhere, that an imperfection in the
part may be required for a greater perfection in the whole. I have followed
therein the opinion of St. Augustine, who said a hundred times that God
permitted evil in order to derive from it a good, that is to say, a greater
good; and Thomas Aquinas says (in libr. 2, _Sent. Dist._ 32, qu. 1, art. 1)
that the permission of evil tends towards the good of the universe. I have
shown that among older writers the fall of Adam was termed _felix culpa_, a
fortunate sin, because it had been expiated with immense benefit by the
incarnation of the Son of God: for he gave to the universe something more
noble than anything there would otherwise have been amongst created beings.
For the better understanding of the matter I added, following the example
of many good authors, that it was consistent with order and the general
good for God to grant to certain of his creatures the opportunity to
exercise their freedom, even when he foresaw that they would turn to evil:
for God could easily correct the evil, and it was not fitting that in order
to prevent sin he should always act in an extraordinary way. It will
therefore sufficiently refute the objection to show that a world with evil
may be better than a world without evil. But I have gone still further in
the work, and have even shown that this universe must be indeed better than
every other possible universe.
If there is more evil than good in intelligent creatures, there is more
evil than good in all God's work.
Now there is more evil than good in intelligent creatures.
Therefore there is more evil than good in all God's work.
I deny the major and the minor of this conditional syllogism. As for the
major, I do not admit it because this supposed inference from the part to
the whole, from intelligent creatures to all creatures, assumes tacitly and
without proof that creatures devoid of reason cannot be compared or taken
into account with those that have reason. But why might not the surplus of
good in the non-intelligent creatures that fill the world compensate for
and even exceed incomparably the surplus of evil in rational creatures? It
is true that the value of the latter is greater; but by way of compensation
the others are incomparably greater in number; and it may be that the
proportion of number and quantity surpasses that of value and quality.
The minor also I cannot admit, namely, that there is more evil than good in
intelligent creatures. One need not even agree that there is more evil than
good in the human kind. For it is possible, and even a very reasonable
thing, that the glory and the perfection of the blessed may be incomparably
greater than the misery and imperfection of the damned, and that here the
excellence of the total good in the smaller number may exceed the total
evil which is in the greater number. The blessed draw near to divinity
through a divine Mediator, so far as can belong to these created beings,
and make such progress in good as is impossible for the damned to make in
evil, even though they should approach as nearly as may be the nature of
demons. God is infinite, and the Devil is finite; good can and does go on
_ad infinitum_, whereas evil has its bounds. It may be therefore, and it is
probable, that there happens in the comparison between the blessed and the
damned the opposite of what I said could happen in the comparison between
the happy and the unhappy, namely that in the latter the proportion of
degrees surpasses that of numbers, while in the comparison between
intelligent and non-intelligent the proportion of numbers is greater than
that of values. One is justified in assuming that a thing may be so as long
as one does not prove that it is impossible, and indeed what is here 
put forward goes beyond assumption.
But secondly, even should one admit that there is more evil than good in
the human kind, one still has every reason for not admitting that there is
more evil than good in all intelligent creatures. For there is an
inconceivable number of Spirits, and perhaps of other rational creatures
besides: and an opponent cannot prove that in the whole City of God,
composed as much of Spirits as of rational animals without number and of
endless different kinds, the evil exceeds the good. Although one need not,
in order to answer an objection, prove that a thing is, when its mere
possibility suffices, I have nevertheless shown in this present work that
it is a result of the supreme perfection of the Sovereign of the Universe
that the kingdom of God should be the most perfect of all states or
governments possible, and that in consequence what little evil there is
should be required to provide the full measure of the vast good existing
If it is always impossible not to sin, it is always unjust to punish.
Now it is always impossible not to sin, or rather all sin is necessary.
Therefore it is always unjust to punish.
The minor of this is proved as follows.
Everything predetermined is necessary.
Every event is predetermined.
Therefore every event (and consequently sin also) is necessary.
Again this second minor is proved thus.
That which is future, that which is foreseen, that which is involved in
causes is predetermined.
Every event is of this kind.
Therefore every event is predetermined.
I admit in a certain sense the conclusion of the second prosyllogism, which
is the minor of the first; but I shall deny the major of the first 
prosyllogism, namely that everything predetermined is necessary; taking
'necessity', say the necessity to sin, or the impossibility of not sinning,
or of not doing some action, in the sense relevant to the argument, that
is, as a necessity essential and absolute, which destroys the morality of
action and the justice of punishment. If anyone meant a different necessity
or impossibility (that is, a necessity only moral or hypothetical, which
will be explained presently) it is plain that we would deny him the major
stated in the objection. We might content ourselves with this answer, and
demand the proof of the proposition denied: but I am well pleased to
justify my manner of procedure in the present work, in order to make the
matter clear and to throw more light on this whole subject, by explaining
the necessity that must be rejected and the determination that must be
allowed. The truth is that the necessity contrary to morality, which must
be avoided and which would render punishment unjust, is an insuperable
necessity, which would render all opposition unavailing, even though one
should wish with all one's heart to avoid the necessary action, and though
one should make all possible efforts to that end. Now it is plain that this
is not applicable to voluntary actions, since one would not do them if one
did not so desire. Thus their prevision and predetermination is not
absolute, but it presupposes will: if it is certain that one will do them,
it is no less certain that one will will to do them. These voluntary
actions and their results will not happen whatever one may do and whether
one will them or not; but they will happen because one will do, and because
one will will to do, that which leads to them. That is involved in
prevision and predetermination, and forms the reason thereof. The necessity
of such events is called conditional or hypothetical, or again necessity of
consequence, because it presupposes the will and the other requisites. But
the necessity which destroys morality, and renders punishment unjust and
reward unavailing, is found in the things that will be whatever one may do
and whatever one may will to do: in a word, it exists in that which is
essential. This it is which is called an absolute necessity. Thus it avails
nothing with regard to what is necessary absolutely to ordain interdicts or
commandments, to propose penalties or prizes, to blame or to praise; it
will come to pass no more and no less. In voluntary actions, on the
contrary, and in what depends upon them, precepts, armed with power to
punish and to reward, very often serve, and are included in the order of
causes that make action exist. Thus it comes about that not only pains and
effort but also prayers are effective, God having had even these prayers in
mind before he ordered things, and having made due allowance for them. That
is why the precept _Ora et labora_ (Pray and work) remains intact. Thus not
only those who (under the empty pretext of the necessity of events)
maintain that one can spare oneself the pains demanded by affairs, but also
those who argue against prayers, fall into that which the ancients even in
their time called 'the Lazy Sophism'. So the predetermination of events by
their causes is precisely what contributes to morality instead of
destroying it, and the causes incline the will without necessitating it.
For this reason the determination we are concerned with is not a
necessitation. It is certain (to him who knows all) that the effect will
follow this inclination; but this effect does not follow thence by a
consequence which is necessary, that is, whose contrary implies
contradiction; and it is also by such an inward inclination that the will
is determined, without the presence of necessity. Suppose that one has the
greatest possible passion (for example, a great thirst), you will admit
that the soul can find some reason for resisting it, even if it were only
that of displaying its power. Thus though one may never have complete
indifference of equipoise, and there is always a predominance of
inclination for the course adopted, that predominance does not render
absolutely necessary the resolution taken.
Whoever can prevent the sin of others and does not so, but rather
contributes to it, although he be fully apprised of it, is accessary
God can prevent the sin of intelligent creatures; but he does not so, and
he rather contributes to it by his co-operation and by the opportunities he
causes, although he is fully cognizant of it.
I deny the major of this syllogism. It may be that one can prevent the sin,
but that one ought not to do so, because one could not do so without
committing a sin oneself, or (when God is concerned) without acting
unreasonably. I have given instances of that, and have applied them to
God himself. It may be also that one contributes to the evil, and that one
even opens the way to it sometimes, in doing things one is bound to do. And
when one does one's duty, or (speaking of God) when, after full
consideration, one does that which reason demands, one is not responsible
for events, even when one foresees them. One does not will these evils; but
one is willing to permit them for a greater good, which one cannot in
reason help preferring to other considerations. This is a _consequent_
will, resulting from acts of _antecedent_ will, in which one wills the
good. I know that some persons, in speaking of the antecedent and
consequent will of God, have meant by the antecedent that which wills that
all men be saved, and by the consequent that which wills, in consequence of
persistent sin, that there be some damned, damnation being a result of sin.
But these are only examples of a more general notion, and one may say with
the same reason, that God wills by his antecedent will that men sin not,
and that by his consequent or final and decretory will (which is always
followed by its effect) he wills to permit that they sin, this permission
being a result of superior reasons. One has indeed justification for
saying, in general, that the antecedent will of God tends towards the
production of good and the prevention of evil, each taken in itself, and as
it were detached (_particulariter et secundum quid_: Thom., I, qu. 19, art.
6) according to the measure of the degree of each good or of each evil.
Likewise one may say that the consequent, or final and total, divine will
tends towards the production of as many goods as can be put together, whose
combination thereby becomes determined, and involves also the permission of
some evils and the exclusion of some goods, as the best possible plan of
the universe demands. Arminius, in his _Antiperkinsus,_ explained very well
that the will of God can be called consequent not only in relation to the
action of the creature considered beforehand in the divine understanding,
but also in relation to other anterior acts of divine will. But it is
enough to consider the passage cited from Thomas Aquinas, and that from
Scotus (I, dist. 46, qu. 11), to see that they make this distinction as I
have made it here. Nevertheless if anyone will not suffer this use of the
terms, let him put 'previous' in place of 'antecedent' will, and 'final' or
'decretory' in place of 'consequent' will. For I do not wish to wrangle
Whoever produces all that is real in a thing is its cause.
God produces all that is real in sin.
Therefore God is the cause of sin.
I might content myself with denying the major or the minor, because the
term 'real' admits of interpretations capable of rendering these
propositions false. But in order to give a better explanation I will make a
distinction. 'Real' either signifies that which is positive only, or else
it includes also privative beings: in the first case, I deny the major and
I admit the minor; in the second case, I do the opposite. I might have
confined myself to that; but I was willing to go further, in order to
account for this distinction. I have therefore been well pleased to point
out that every purely positive or absolute reality is a perfection, and
that every imperfection comes from limitation, that is, from the privative:
for to limit is to withhold extension, or the more beyond. Now God is the
cause of all perfections, and consequently of all realities, when they are
regarded as purely positive. But limitations or privations result from the
original imperfection of creatures which restricts their receptivity. It is
as with a laden boat, which the river carries along more slowly or less
slowly in proportion to the weight that it bears: thus the speed comes from
the river, but the retardation which restricts this speed comes from the
load. Also I have shown in the present work how the creature, in causing
sin, is a deficient cause; how errors and evil inclinations spring from
privation; and how privation is efficacious accidentally. And I have
justified the opinion of St. Augustine (lib. I, _Ad. Simpl._, qu. 2) who
explains (for example) how God hardens the soul, not in giving it something
evil, but because the effect of the good he imprints is restricted by the
resistance of the soul, and by the circumstances contributing to this
resistance, so that he does not give it all the good that would overcome
its evil. 'Nec _(inquit)_ ab illo erogatur aliquid quo homo fit deterior,
sed tantum quo fit melior non erogatur.' But if God had willed to do more
here he must needs have produced either fresh natures in his creatures or
fresh miracles to change their natures, and this the best plan did not
allow. It is just as if the current of the river must needs be more rapid
than its slope permits or the boats themselves be less laden, if they 
had to be impelled at a greater speed. So the limitation or original
imperfection of creatures brings it about that even the best plan of the
universe cannot admit more good, and cannot be exempted from certain evils,
these, however, being only of such a kind as may tend towards a greater
good. There are some disorders in the parts which wonderfully enhance the
beauty of the whole, just as certain dissonances, appropriately used,
render harmony more beautiful. But that depends upon the answer which I
have already given to the first objection.
Whoever punishes those who have done as well as it was in their power to do
God does so.
I deny the minor of this argument. And I believe that God always gives
sufficient aid and grace to those who have good will, that is to say, who
do not reject this grace by a fresh sin. Thus I do not admit the damnation
of children dying unbaptized or outside the Church, or the damnation of
adult persons who have acted according to the light that God has given
them. And I believe that, _if anyone has followed the light he had_, he
will undoubtedly receive thereof in greater measure as he has need, even as
the late Herr Hulsemann, who was celebrated as a profound theologian at
Leipzig, has somewhere observed; and if such a man had failed to receive
light during his life, he would receive it at least in the hour of death.
Whoever gives only to some, and not to all, the means of producing
effectively in them good will and final saving faith has not enough
God does so.
I deny the major. It is true that God could overcome the greatest
resistance of the human heart, and indeed he sometimes does so, 
whether by an inward grace or by the outward circumstances that can greatly
influence souls; but he does not always do so. Whence comes this
distinction, someone will say, and wherefore does his goodness appear to be
restricted? The truth is that it would not have been in order always to act
in an extraordinary way and to derange the connexion of things, as I have
observed already in answering the first objection. The reasons for this
connexion, whereby the one is placed in more favourable circumstances than
the other, are hidden in the depths of God's wisdom: they depend upon the
universal harmony. The best plan of the universe, which God could not fail
to choose, required this. One concludes thus from the event itself; since
God made the universe, it was not possible to do better. Such management,
far from being contrary to goodness, has rather been prompted by supreme
goodness itself. This objection with its solution might have been inferred
from what was said with regard to the first objection; but it seemed
advisable to touch upon it separately.
Whoever cannot fail to choose the best is not free.
God cannot fail to choose the best.
Therefore God is not free.
I deny the major of this argument. Rather is it true freedom, and the most
perfect, to be able to make the best use of one's free will, and always to
exercise this power, without being turned aside either by outward force or
by inward passions, whereof the one enslaves our bodies and the other our
souls. There is nothing less servile and more befitting the highest degree
of freedom than to be always led towards the good, and always by one's own
inclination, without any constraint and without any displeasure. And to
object that God therefore had need of external things is only a sophism. He
creates them freely: but when he had set before him an end, that of
exercising his goodness, his wisdom determined him to choose the means most
appropriate for obtaining this end. To call that a _need_ is to take the
term in a sense not usual, which clears it of all imperfection, somewhat as
one does when speaking of the wrath of God.
Seneca says somewhere, that God commanded only once, but that he obeys
always, because he obeys the laws that he willed to ordain for himself:
_semel jussit, semper paret_. But he had better have said, that God always
commands and that he is always obeyed: for in willing he always follows the
tendency of his own nature, and all other things always follow his will.
And as this will is always the same one cannot say that he obeys that will
only which he formerly had. Nevertheless, although his will is always
indefectible and always tends towards the best, the evil or the lesser good
which he rejects will still be possible in itself. Otherwise the necessity
of good would be geometrical (so to speak) or metaphysical, and altogether
absolute; the contingency of things would be destroyed, and there would be
no choice. But necessity of this kind, which does not destroy the
possibility of the contrary, has the name by analogy only: it becomes
effective not through the mere essence of things, but through that which is
outside them and above them, that is, through the will of God. This
necessity is called moral, because for the wise what is necessary and what
is owing are equivalent things; and when it is always followed by its
effect, as it indeed is in the perfectly wise, that is, in God, one can say
that it is a happy necessity. The more nearly creatures approach this, the
closer do they come to perfect felicity. Moreover, necessity of this kind
is not the necessity one endeavours to avoid, and which destroys morality,
reward and commendation. For that which it brings to pass does not happen
whatever one may do and whatever one may will, but because one desires it.
A will to which it is natural to choose well deserves most to be commended;
and it carries with it its own reward, which is supreme happiness. And as
this constitution of the divine nature gives an entire satisfaction to him
who possesses it, it is also the best and the most desirable from the point
of view of the creatures who are all dependent upon God. If the will of God
had not as its rule the principle of the best, it would tend towards evil,
which would be worst of all; or else it would be indifferent somehow to
good and to evil, and guided by chance. But a will that would always drift
along at random would scarcely be any better for the government of the
universe than the fortuitous concourse of corpuscles, without the existence
of divinity. And even though God should abandon himself to chance only in
some cases, and in a certain way (as he would if he did not always tend
entirely towards the best, and if he were capable of preferring a lesser
good to a greater good, that is, an evil to a good, since that which 
prevents a greater good is an evil) he would be no less imperfect than the
object of his choice. Then he would not deserve absolute trust; he would
act without reason in such a case, and the government of the universe would
be like certain games equally divided between reason and luck. This all
proves that this objection which is made against the choice of the best
perverts the notions of free and necessary, and represents the best to us
actually as evil: but that is either malicious or absurd.