Subject Area

Philosophy; Theology


This paper delineates the thrust of Augustine's theodicy against the broader background of his Christian Neoplatonic outlook. We examine Augustine's initial Manichean influences and see how these beliefs carry over to his mature thought, which is evident in the seventh book of the Confessions. After Augustine's time with the Manicheans, we look at how he was so influenced by the books of the Platonists (libri platonicorum). Although Augustine's position regarding the problem of evil shifts, his idea of the primacy of the soul is still evident in his thought process. To wit, Augustine posits that evil must be considered a privation of the Good, so much so as to reach the point of complete nonentity. Human beings' ability to be corrupted by evils rests in their position as being created ex-nihilo by God. With this creation also comes an inherent mutability. Due to human mutability, Augustine believes that God is not responsible for such evil actions.

This paper also contrasts this belief with modern empiricist David Hume's idea regarding God's responsibility for human actions. Hume argues that the volition of all human actions rests in God as Creator of the world. As creator, Hume claims that God places human beings in a position to act. If humans are predisposed to perform evil actions, they cannot be faulted. Augustine would counter that argument by claiming that evil is not a substance. Not being a substance, evil is there not ascribable to God. Ultimately, Augustine's theodicy is based upon the goodness of God.


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