Master Class on "Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Metaphysics of Evil"

Oct 28, 2017
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Registration Required. Open to current students and faculty. Copies of the readings will be provided.

To view photos of the master class, visit Lumen Christi's Facebook page.

Saint Thomas Aquinas’s general conception of evil is very well known, and very simple.  Evil, he holds, is nothing other than privation of due good.  This conception has sometimes been criticized, as not adequate to our experience of evil or to certain types of evil.  It is also connected with other controversial positions of his, such as that no one directly intends evil.  And it is not easy to square with his own view that evil can specify moral acts and habits.

In order to evaluate Thomas’s conception of evil, and also in order to understand fully his treatment of specific forms of evil such as sin and vice, we need to study his fundamental, metaphysical account of the nature and causes of evil.  His most complete presentation of the account is in two Quaestiones of the First Part of the Summa theologiae.  The seminar will consist mainly in working through these passages and discussing the questions that arise.

Primary Readings

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, qq. 48-49.  Please bring this to the seminar.  The Latin version is of course recommended, but not required.  PDFs of an English translation, and of the optional readings, will be provided for the participants via a web link.

Optional Background and Secondary Readings

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, q. 5.
  • Stephen L. Brock, “Dead Ends, Bad Form: the Positivity of Evil in the Summa theologiae,” in The Critical Guide to the Summa Theologiae, Cambridge University Press [forthcoming].
  • Lawrence Dewan, O.P., “St. Thomas and the First Cause of Moral Evil,” in Lawrence Dewan, O.P., Wisdom, Law, and Virtue: Essays in Thomistic Ethics, Fordham University Press, New York 2007, Chapter 11, pp. 186-96 (with notes on pp. 546-7).
  • John F. Crosby, "Is All Evil Really Only Privation?," Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 2001, 75 (2002), pp. 197-209.


1:30pm   Coffee & Pastries
2:00pm   Session I
3:25pm   Break
3:35pm   Session II
5:00pm   End, wine and cheese reception