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Do We Have A Will?: Augustine’s Way Into The Will

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, raises many questions. In such controversies, there is some proof that Augustine and Socrates had the same beliefs about evil. In this paper, I will try to form a connection between the two and prove that Augustine’s idea was Socratic.

Socrates and Aug have presented the 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 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, it 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 that help him make decisions and think about his own 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 that there is no vital connection between morality and self-interest. He justified himself by saying that evil is done out of ignorance or when a person does not know what the greatest benefit actually is. Socrates’s major focus has always been on self-interest. For him, right and wrong do not matter because a person usually seeks to derive the best benefit from the options. He does not care if it is a good or bad action. Self-interest rides it all. They chose to be altruistic and take advantage of 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 that varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This concept was the basis, but the question was how 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 the 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 and 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 never intends to do that, but he commits it out of ignorance. Also, turning away from a greater good can cause bad deeds or even a lesser good because Augustine said that everything is good.

Summing up the essay, Augustine and Socrates have similar ideas, but they both explain their point of view in a slightly 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 into 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



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