Stephen L. Brock
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome
Registration Required. Open to current students and faculty. Copies of the readings will be provided.
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.
- 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
3:35pm Session II
5:00pm End, wine and cheese reception
Stephen L. Brock is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei. He is Ordinary Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Brock writes widely on Thomas Aquinas and action theory, ethics, and metaphysics. He is the author of The Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. A Sketch (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and Action & Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action (T&T Clark, 1998). During 2017 he was a visiting scholar in the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago, collaborating in the Templeton Foundation project “Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning in Life,” directed by Candace Vogler and Jennifer Frey.