Saturday, October 25, 2008


This is an interesting blog post partly because it confuses me.

I'm preparing to see if I can have laser eye surgery, and in order to do that I need to go off of the contacts I had been wearing. For a couple days everything was blurry, then when I put on contacts yesterday, everything was super clear.

Then I got to thinking, would we know what blurry is if we didn't know what clear was?

To make this bigger, can we say that there would be no good if there were no evil? How can we believe that there is good, if we believe that there is no evil?

I don't even know, so I'll have to do research.


Mamselle Clare Duroc said...

I simply love your blog, Max!!

Honestly, it's quite rare that I stumble across a blog that really makes me think.

Your question here is a wonderful one, and a deep one. I have some half-jumbled thoughts on why there is Good regardless of evil (having to do with God and His nature), but I only just woke up and have to run to a violin lesson in ten minutes.

I think I'll have to haul the old Aquinas texts down from the shelf and join you in the research, though!

Elenatintil said...

Ah...very interesting...remember, Adam and Eve ate from the Tree "Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." Thus implying that prior to eating from the tree, they had knowledge of neither.

max said...

Agreed. Good point Elena (laziness takes over)

Mamselle Clare Duroc said...

Well, here's a quick thought, for what it's worth:

We believe that Goodness is one of the attributes of God, right? God is Good. And goodness is defined by God. In other words, we learn what is good through God. I think C.S. Lewis talks a bit in Mere Christianity.

Now, before I go on, I have to mention that I certainly believe in the existence of evil. And I do think that we define what evil is by good. We know what it is evil because it is contrary to what has been revealed to us as good, what natural law dictates is good. It seems that you could say that we cannot have evil without good.

However, I'm not sure that it applies the other way around... that we define good by our knowledge of what evil is. Otherwise we have no constant. If evil is defined by good, and good by evil, where is our starting point?

Good is the constant in this case. God is Good. We can't possibly say that God is defined by evil. Dietrich von Hildebrand, talking about two extremes of error, compares them to the two extremes of a pendulum's course. For example, he gives the case of marriage and the marital embrace: in the one case, an overemphasis on procreation to the point where the mystery of unity and love is ignored; and in the other case, an overemphasis on 'love,' to the exclusion of procreation. Both extremes are erroneous. However, we can't say that Truth is safely in the middle, because this would imply that Truth is defined by the error, as the middle is by the two ends. Truth is above the errors.

In the same way, we can't say that God, Who is Good, is defined by evil... He doesn't rely on evil to be what He is. To say that God is dependent on evil immediately strikes one as wrong.

So, in short, I believe that good has to be independent of evil, not defined by evil. It is above evil, self-sufficient, and connected firmly to Truth, which doesn't rely on error for its definition.

Eh... have I made any sense?

max said...

Great comment! evil is defined by good, but good is independent of evil. I think this answers the question.