On the Privation Theory of Evil
A Reflection on Pain and the Goodness of God's Creation
Augustine’s privation theory of evil maintains that something is evil in virtue of a privation, a lack of something which ought to be present in a particular nature. While it is not evil for a human to lack wings, it is indeed evil for a human to lack rationality according to the end of a rational nature. Much of the literature on the privation theory focuses on whether it can successfully defend against counterexamples of positive evils, such as pain. This focus of the discussion is not surprising, given that the privation theory is a theory about the nature of evil. But it is also a theory that protects venerable theological concerns, namely, that God is the good creator of everything, and that everything is good. It is the purpose of this article to further this discussion on both fronts. I argue that the counterexample of pain still defeats the privation theory despite the most recent defense. What is more, I suggest, this is not theologically disastrous. The individual who rejects the privation theory is not obligated to reject the theological theses which motivate it. To show how a rejection of the privation theory is a live option, I offer an alternative view of evil that also maintains these theological theses and encompasses both privative and positive evils.
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