Augustine gave the concept of Evil in his book. This concept has been subject to criticism by many philosophers and theology experts but Augustine proved his point by justifying every question. However, philosophers still have doubts about it. Also, the act of Adam and Eve, as explained by him has raised many questions. In such controversies, there is some proof that Augustine and Socrates had same believes about the evil. In this paper, I will try to form a connection between the two and prove that the idea of Augustine was Socratic.
Socrates and Aug have presented same ideology in different ways. The choice of their words and their media is quite different but if we look into the core concept of the philosophy, it revolves around the evil. Setting Socrates as the base, he believed and told people that we humans do not want to act evil. It is not our choice. A person never wants to go against the good and get punished but if we still commit any bad deed, that is just out of ignorance. Humans fall for it unintentionally. No person wishes to do so, but sometimes, self-interest or their acts on impulse make them go against the good. A person is equipped with instincts which help him in making decisions and thinking about his good but sometimes, out of ignorance, he slips. The act is not good or the method to do anything is not good, in both the cases, results are evil. However, he explained no vital connection between morality and self-interest. He justified himself with the fact that evil is done out of ignorance or when a person does not know what the greatest benefit actually is. The major focus of Socrates has always been on self-interest. For him, right and wrong does not matter because a person usually seeks to derive best benefit from the options. He does not care if it it a good or bad action. Self-interest rides it all. They chose to be altruistic and take benefit from everything.
On the flip side, Aug gave a similar concept based on the good. For him, everything was good. There is no such thing as evil. God has created all of us and He is the one who takes care of everything, therefore, God is good. Good is a characteristic which varies from person to person and situation to situation. This concept was the base but the question was to define evil. To counter it, he said that evil is nothing, but only the absence of good. If there is no good, there is evil. For him, evil is something abstract. Evil causes harm and harm is a result of loss of something positive and good. Evil can be termed as a moral hole. After defining evil in his own philosophy, he countered the questions about the choice of evil, the way Socrates had to face these. However, Augustine’s response, states that no person chooses evil. This is what exactly Socrates said and believed. For Augustine, a person only goes away from some good cause and commits a bad deed. He is never intending to do that but out of ignorance, he commits it. Also, turning away from a greater good can cause bad deed or even a lesser good because Augustine said that everything is good.
Summing up the essay, Augustine and Socrates has similar idea but they both explained their point of view in a bit different way. However, the above explanation proves that evil was the same for them, that is, the loss of the good.
Harrison, Simon. “Do We Have A Will?: Augustine’s Way in to the Will.” In The Augustinian Tradition, edited by Gareth B. Matthews, 195-205. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
Menn, Stephen. Descartes and Augustine. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998
O’Donnell, James J. Augustine: Confessions, vol. 2, Commentary on Books 1-7. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992