Concupiscence in Augustine and AquinasWhy are human beings evil The Judaeo-Christianexplanation is in terms of original sin The notion oforiginal sin comes from the biblical story in Genesis of howAdam and Eve lived in paradise yet how they freely chose todisobey God and how they were punished by God by being castout of paradise This casting out was not the onlypunishment however In the biblical story the woman isspecifically punished by God in that her childbearing willnow be painful and also in a loss of equality with her matewho will now rule over her In turn the man is alsopunished in that now he must laboriously work the soil inorder to gain any food from it Yet all of these punishmentsfrom the biblical story give no inkling of why it is humanbeings are inclined toward evil Many early commentators onthe biblical story however began to see how this first ororiginal turning away from God who is good is the firstinstance of evil They then argued that it must be onaccount of this first evil or original sin that human beingsare inclined towards evil Yet few ever attempted to explainhow the punishment for original sin affected thisinclination In the Christian tradition the first thinker to attempta coherent explanation in this regard was Augustine of Hippo Augustine felt that the punishment for original sin wasvisited first upon the will by weakening it and thusinclining it towards evil since it was through this freewill that God had given them that Adam and Eve chose todisobey and turn away from God Through the will theeffects of original sin are visited upon the mind and thebody as well making the whole person inclined towards evil Together the effects of original sin on the will mind andbody are covered by modern theologians in the termconcupiscence The task of the chapter one then will beto provide the background against which Augustine came tothese conclusions concerning concupiscence In the second chapter the Augustinian conception ofconcupiscence will be more rigorously analyzed The firsttask will be to cut away all the religious entailmentsunderlying concupiscence since they are philosophicallyproblematic In the end concupiscence will be redefined asthe inclination toward evil Yet since Augustines view ofevil as privation which is presented in the first chapteris also problematic because of its religious entailments amore coherent view of evil to underlie this leaner definitionof concupiscence will be discussed This view is that evilis unjustified harm inflicted on human beings Another problem with Augustines view of concupiscencethat will be presented is that it conflicts in a major waywith his moral theory Augustine believed that only chosenactions were morally culpable Yet his view thatconcupiscence entails a radical weakening of the will seemsto point to a lack of free will and thus to a lack offreely chosen actions In choosing the view entailed byconcupiscence as the more plausible it will be argued thatunchosen actions and even the unchosen concupiscence from which these unchosen actions flow are morally culpable In the third chapter Aquinas subtle reinterpretation ofAugustines notion of concupiscence will be presented andanalyzed Aquinas thought with Augustine that human beingswere inclined toward evil after the Fall Yet Aquinasdiffered with Augustine as to the degree of damage originalsin inflicted on humanity Aquinas felt that concupiscencewas compatible with human beings being inclined also towardthe good Thus for Aquinas concupiscence after once againcutting away all the indefensible entailments will bepresented as the pool of all human desires which can beeither good or evil This view of concupiscence is even moreplausible than Augustines in that it acknowledges theprevalence of evil in the world yet also recognizes thepossibility for human goodness CHAPTER 1 AUGUSTINE ON CONCUPISCENCEAs GR Evans points out Augustine was preoccupied withthe problem of evil for most of his life Indeed much ofthe early chapters of the autobiographical Confessions isconcerned with cataloguing the stirrings of evil in the youngAugustine Yet one might wonder knowing Augustine as oneof the major Christian philosophers in history why it tookhim so long to turn to the Christian faith he had been raisedwith in trying to grapple with this problem Part of theexplanation is that he knew the Christian faith through hismother Monica only superficially and thus when he left hisnative town of Thagaste to study rhetoric in the big city ofCarthage he did not feel strong loyalty to Christianity Instead as a student Augustine became enamored of thephilosophy of Cicero of whom he says the one thing thatdelighted me in Ciceros exhortation was the advice not tostudy one particular sect but to seek and stronglyembrace wisdom itself wherever found Thus startedAugustines journey as a philosopher One of the firstplaces Augustine thought to look for wisdom was in theScriptures of the religion which he had been brought up with Yet the Bible disappointed Augustines search for purephilosophical wisdom since it seemed to me unworthy incomparison with the dignity of Cicero He thought that theBible was a text lowly to the beginner and Augustinedisdained to be a little beginner since he was now a man ofletters So Augustine began to search for an alternative toChristianity in the pantheon of Carthage that would satisfyboth his religious and his newly found philosophicallongings Augustine soon found an answer to these longings in theunorthodox Christian sect called the Manichees As has beensaid one of the major stumbling blocks for Augustineconcerning Christianity was the lowly or crude nature ofthe Scriptures The crudity of expression is perhaps evenmore evident in the colorful human stories of the HebrewScriptures which also form the bulk of the Christian Bible One reason the Manichees were attractive to Augustine wasthat they rejected the Hebrew Scriptures and only focused onthe Christian scriptures or New Testament Other factorsabout the Manichees also attracted Augustine namely theidea that God gives direct illumination to the enlightened which of course appealed to Augustines newly foundenthusiasm in his search for wisdom The fact that thiswisdom could only be found by the enlightened as opposed tothe lowly made Manicheism tantamount to an intellectualelitism This also appealed to Augustine who as has beenseen did not wish to be counted among the lowly especiallythe intellectual lowly These ideas are what drew Augustine to the Manichees What kept him with them however was their explanation ofthe problem of evil which was as has been seen from hismemory of events in his early childhood a nagging yetperhaps up until that time subliminal problem TheManichees held what might be mockingly called a dualdualism The first dualism was a dualism in reference toGod For the Manichees there were two primary entities onegood that is God and one evil This dualism flows fromthe idea that nothing but good could come from God Itmay be asked here whether the Manichees held that God inaddition to being the cause of good was identical with thegood such that God was in everything that is good Yetthere are no indications that the Manichees were pantheistsof this sort Thus in the thinking of the Manichees ifonly good can come from God then evil must have anotherorigin independent of God Although this explanation preserves the goodness of Godit poses a real problem for Gods omnipotence If evil isindependent of good then it seems unlikely that the goodGod could be totally unaffected by or be in total controlover the principle of evil Yet omnipotence requires suchtotal control Thus it would seem that for a dualist ofthis sort God cannot be omnipotent Evans says as much whenshe states that Augustine came close to believing that Godcould be affected by evil Augustine recalls that whatattracted him most about this dualism was that it was moreacceptable to say your Gods substance suffers evil thanthat their own the Manichees including himself substanceactively does evil In other words rather than takingresponsibility for the evil he caused Augustine preferred toplace the source of evil on the cosmic level away fromhimself This cosmic dualism is only one of the two dualisms theManichees espoused The second concerns the constitution ofhuman beings It is the classic philosophical dualism whichholds that the human being is constituted of both body andsoul Yet this dualism flows from the aforementioned cosmicdualism in that the soul is identified with good whereasthe body is identified with evil Furthermore the soul asidentified with the good is divine and thus the goal forthe Manichee is to transcend the evil passions of the bodyand to focus instead on the direct illumination of the soulby God One can see here why this type of theory would beattractive for Augustine in its emphasis on the intellectualwhich can be here identified with the spiritual The bestexplanation of this identification is that Greek philosophywas beginning to have an impact on the Christian traditionof which Manicheism was a part For Plato the soul hasthree parts one of which is the rational part whichresembles the divine and is immortal Many Christianthinkers in the intervening period between Augustine and thewriting of the New Testament began to see similaritiesbetween the Platonic and the Christian conceptions of animmortal soul Thus through a process of syncretism theChristian conception of the soul which previously saw noconnection between the soul and rationality came to adoptthis Greek identification of the immortal soul with thatwhich is rational or intellectual Augustine remained a disciple of the Manichees for nineyears Yet in that time ever the philosopher he did notgive up his search for wisdom Indeed his readings ofphilosophy while in Carthage raised many questions in hismind concerning Manicheism questions he hoped would beanswered by the leading Manichee bishop of his time namedFaustus Their long awaited meeting proved to be a hugedisappointment As Augustine relates When I put forwardsome problems which troubled me I quickly discovered him tobe ignorant of the liberal arts and thus Faustus modestlydid not even venture to take up the burden of answeringAugustines questions Thus began Augustinesdisillusionment with the Manichees Shortly after thisincident he left Carthage and with it his enthusiasm forManicheism This whole discussion of Augustines Manichee period mayat first glance seem pointless since it is a position thatAugustine ultimately abandoned Yet as shall be seenalthough Augustine did indeed abandon vehemently the firstcosmic dualism that the Manichees espoused it is a matter ofsome debate in Augustinian scholarship whether he ever losthis affinity for the second dualism that the Manichees held As an example of this difficulty Evans points out that muchhas been written about the preoccupation Augustine seems tohave had even after his Manichee period with the evil he feltwas involved in the pleasure gained from human sexualintercourse On the surface one can interpret this as anexample of how Augustine still perhaps held to the Manicheedualism that sees the body as evil and the soul as good Evans contends however against some critics that inAugustines position here there is no evidence that hebecame obsessed with the matter Augustines opinion aboutsex is the logical outcome of his overall thought it and itis balanced by his concession that the sexual act had aproper place in marriage in that it is procreative YetEvans is willing to grant that there persisted however alingering association between matter and evil which Augustinenever quite severed Thus it would seem that althoughthere might be some evidence to support the argument thatAugustine never abandoned the anti-body tendencies ofManicheism his position is sufficiently different from theManichees In order to show this however one must nowturn to the positive post-Manichee teaching of Augustine onevil After the beginning of his disillusionment withManicheism Augustine began to cast about searching onceagain for wisdom and answers to questions that Faustus couldnot provide He seems to have found answers in the Neo-Platonic philosophy of Plotinus from which he gained newinsight into problem of evil The major impact of thisphilosophy was to enable Augustine to see an alternative tothe cosmic dualism of the Manichees The foundation of thisalternative is pointed out by Henry Chadwick who in histranslation of the Confessions notes that Augustine oftenuses the Platonic dictum that existence is a good ForAugustine this dictum is based on the biblical truth thatour God has made all things very goodGen 131 Thusto put these two thoughts together since God made everythinggood then everything that exists must be good Yet this emphasis on existence as good has furtherimplications as can be seen when Augustine states thatwhatever things exist are good and the evil into whoseorigins I was inquiring is not a substance for if it were asubstance it would be good Therefore to conclude theline of argument all things that are corrupted sufferprivation of some good Thus in contrast to Manicheismwhere good and evil were separate independent entities inthis new theory evil is a privation a negation of the good To flesh out this argument more everything that iscreated by God and therefore exists is good Furthereverything that exists is a substance or a part of asubstance or a relation between substances and thereforeevery substance is good Evil then in general terms is aturning away from or a falling short of the goodness whichinheres in substances This turning away or falling short isthus a privation or a negation of goodness To put thisanother way when substances are good they are fullysubstantial Evil takes away from this substance in itsprivation or falling short of full goodness Further theopposite of existence in substance is nothingness Thus inthe end evil in its privation of substance tends towardsnothingness Finally since normally evil negates thegoodness of existing substances making them tend towardnothingness by privation evil in and of itself is nothing This view is not without its problems though Does itmean that all such privations tend towards nothingness andare thus in and of themselves nothing For example isinsanity as the privation of sanity nothing IfAugustines line of reasoning is to remain consistent herethen he would indeed have to say that insanity is nothing In other words sanity exists and is good and thereforeinsanity as privation of that sanity is nothing Yet thisseems to be intuitively wrong in that insanity certainlyseems to be something that does exist in the insane person Even so this line of argument is not essential to thedefense of Augustines view of concupiscence to which thischapter has been leading and which the next chapter willfocus on What is essential is that Augustines view on evilas a privation is one of the building blocks from whichAugustine constructs his treatment of concupiscence One might also be able to detect here some evidencerelevant to the question of whether Augustine reallyabandoned the anti-body tendencies of Manicheism That isif all existing things are good then human bodies can not beevil in and of themselves since they were created by God Human bodies thus must be intrinsically good However thisevidence by no means settles the question at hand in thatthere is still plenty of evidence of Augustines propensityto see the body as evil More will be said on this subjectshortly but one should note that there is another problemthat crops up as a result of Augustines contention that evilis merely a privation If God is the creator of all then Augustines teachingconcerning evil as a privation could also lead one to theuncomfortable conclusion that God is also the creator ofevil However Augustine in keeping with what has beensaid could say that if evil is nothing then there is noproblem of evil Yet Augustine was too painfully andpersonally aware of the presence of evil in the world toaccept this conclusion What this whole argument againstevil as a privation assumes is that only God can beresponsible for evil However to avoid the Scylla ofholding that God is responsible for evil and the Charybdisof holding that there is no evil Augustine staked out amiddle ground namely that human beings are themselvesresponsible for the evil they commit Evans calls this aman-centered solution to the problem of evil as opposed tothe God-centered approaches that have been discussed Yet in order to make this view work Augustine must explainhow it is that God is not responsible for evil and humanbeings are Augustine first attempts to flesh out this viewconcerning human responsibility for evil in his treatise DeLibero Arbitrio here translated as The Free Choice of theWill The work starts out in Platonic fashion as adialogue between Augustine and his friend Evodius who asksTell me please whether God is not the cause of evil Theanswer to this is of course no for reasons that havealready been discussed Instead Augustine and Evodius cometo the conclusion that nothing else can make the mind thecompanion of evil except its own will and free choice Thereason for this is as Evans points out that it seems toAugustine and Evodius that the common factor in all evilacts is lust in some form or that misapplication of thewill which makes a man want what he should not want Thushuman beings are themselves the cause of the evil theycommit not God and the reason they are the cause is theirmisuse of the freedom of their will Yet if human free will is the source of evil it leadsto the question which Evodius asks at the end of Book I ofThe Free Choice of the Willwhether he who created us should have given us that very freedom of choice For without this power we apparently would not have been capable of sinning and there is thus reason to fear that God will be adjudged the cause even of our evil deeds In response Augustine states in Book II that we must notsuppose that because a man can also sin by his free will thatGod gave it to him for that purpose He reasons that Godgave human beings free will because if man were without freechoice of the will what would become of the good calledjustice whereby sins are punished and good deeds arehonored As Evans comments if one had made nocontribution of his own to his actions both punishment andreward would be unjust Put more generally God gave humanbeings free will so that they could freely choose God andthus not be predestined automatons After the discussion of whether God should have givenhuman beings free will in The Free Choice of the WillEvodius still has several questions concerning evil and freewill His questions concerning free will revolve aroundresolving how Gods omniscience seems to entail some sort ofdeterminism yet this topic would take the discussion toofar afield and thus the focus will be on the questionconcerning the cause of that movement by which the willitself turns from the unchangeable good towards allkinds of transitory goods In the De Libero ArbitrioAugustine tries to answer this question by again emphasizingthe freedom of the will in turning towards evil Thisquestion is one Augustine would return to again and againthroughout his life partly because of the new heresy beingpropagated by Pelagius Pelagius took Augustines own wordsfrom the De Libero Arbitrio concerning how evil begins in thefree will and extrapolated to make the claim that since thewill is free human beings can also make themselves good During the long period after completing De LiberoArbitrio Augustine had been made a Catholic priest and thenbishop It is as a teacher and pastor that he again takesup the question of why the will is inclined towards evil inthe treatise De Natura et Gratia On Nature and Grace Thegeneral question that Evodius had posed before concerning whythe will is inclined to evil is secondary here since themajor question Augustine is trying to answer is How couldthat which lacks substance evil which is nothing weaken orchange human nature Augustine answers this Pelagianquestion with a powerful analogy To abstain then fromfood is not a substance and yet the substance of our bodyif it does altogether abstain from food is impairedby broken health In the same way sin is not asubstance Thus Augustine shows how it is that evilwhich is a privation and therefore not a substance canaffect human nature which is a substance albeit spiritual Yet as has been said Augustine also returns in aroundabout way in On Nature and Grace to this question of howthe will is inclined towards evil He statesMans nature indeed was created at first faultless andwithout any sin but that nature of man in which every one is born from Adam now wants the Physician because it is not sound All good qualities which it still possesses in its make it has of the Most High God its creator and maker But the flaw which darkens and weakens all those natural goods it has not contracted from its blameless Creator- but from that original sin which it committed by free will In this statement one can see several facets of Augustinesteaching that have been discussed that human nature is goodas created by a good God and that the source of human evilis in the free will Yet what is new in this exposition isthat the human will is inclined towards evil on account oforiginal sin The notion of original sin comes from the biblical storyin Genesis of how Adam and Eve lived in paradise yet freelychose to disobey God and were thus punished by God by beingcast out of paradise Augustine thus goes on to argue thatthe punishment visited upon Adam and Eve by God has weakenedhuman nature In particular the punishment for original sinhas weakened the very will by which it was engendered Yetthere is a problem here which Evans points out concerning howthe effects of original sin were passed on from Adam and Eveto their descendants By making the will the locus of humanevil Augustine cannot explain the transmission of theeffects of original sin as happening bodily by procreationsince the will is a faculty of the mind or soul Unfortunately Augustine never came to any conclusion on thisquestion preferring to keep an open mind on the matter This however is only a minor problem compared to severalmajor ones that Augustine must face concerning his teachingon original sin The main issue concerns clarifying the effects oforiginal sin on the will Clearly for Augustine if humanevil begins in the will then the effect of original sin isto weaken this will One should point out here thatAugustine is making a perhaps unwarranted assumption whichwill be discussed more fully in the next chapter What needsto be emphasized here is that there are other effects of theweakening of the will namely that the body and the mindboth become subject to the whims of the will The mindbecomes clouded and the body is swept easily away bylusts With this nexus of effects visited upon the willmind and body as a result of original sin the topic ofconcupiscence is finally broached According to moderntheologians concupiscence is the effect of original sin onhuman nature including the will mind and body In otherwords original sin is the crime and concupiscence is thepunishment One should immediately point out however that thisdefinition is broader than what Augustine meant by the wordconcupiscentia As Gerald Bonner points outAs a very general principle it may be said that when Augustine wishes to speak of lust in the sense of sexualdesire libido and concupiscentia are virtually interchangeable but when any other lust is mentioned libido is the word used This quotation would seem to indicate that the wordconcupiscentia is used by Augustine to refer only to sexuallust This hypothesis is supported by the fact thatAugustine often uses the word concupiscentia in conjunctionwith the word carnalis to indicate that he is indeedspeaking of fleshly or sexual desire Thus one must inferfrom this that it is only after Augustine that this term tookon a more general meaning To review the conclusions reached in this chapter oneshould first note that Augustine was preoccupied with theproblem of evil for much of his life He was attracted bythe Manichees dualistic explanation which made evil anindependent principle and which saw the body as evil and thesoul as good To the question of whether Augustine everreally gave up the belief that the body is evil the answeris both yes and no The answer is yes in that Augustinebelieved that human nature as created by a good God isgood Yet original sin spoiled this nature and thus thefree will which enabled human beings to become evil becameitself weakened as a punishment for originally turningtowards evil Thus the will is weakened and thus the mindis clouded and the body is lustful on account of the whims ofthe will Therefore the answer to the question of whetherAugustine ever gave up his Manichee belief that the body isevil is also no in that after original sin the body also wasinclined towards evil Yet one should note that thisteaching is different from the Manichee teaching in thatAugustine felt that the will mind and body were all inclinedtowards evil whereas the Manichees saw the body as evil andthe soul as good The focus of this chapter has been thus toexplain the background concerning Augustines teaching onevil coming in the end to an understanding of what is nowcalled concupiscence The next chapter will begin byanalyzing the Augustinian conception of concupiscence inorder to discover what implications of it are defensible After this further implications of its defensible elementswill be drawn out CHAPTER 2 AN ANALYSIS OF AUGUSTINIAN CONCUPISCENCETo examine more rigorously the modern conception ofconcupiscence which flows from Augustine one should beginwith its underlying conception of evil As was shown in theprevious chapter Augustines definition of evil as privationis not without its problems One major problem is that thisdefinition is of itself merely formal and it tells onenothing about what particular actions are evil Yet if adefinition of evil is to have moral relevance it must beable to identify particular instances of evil especially asit is caused by and affects human beings What such a definition might be will be discussedshortly In the meantime one should note that theAugustinian definition implies that evil is a negation ofthat which is good Evil is thus a turning away from Godwho is for Augustine all-good This makes evil coextensivewith sin Sin is a religious concept however and thus isnot very useful unless one is willing to accept whatreligious belief entails namely that there is a God andthat there is some standard by which one can determine whatconstitutes a turning away from God Of course not everyoneis willing to accept these entailments because of theirobvious and often stated philosophical problems Thereforea more inclusive definition of evil is needed in place of theAugustinian one Another problem is that if one accepts Augustines viewin De Libero Arbitrio that the effects of original sin arefirst felt in the will one is confronted with a majorinconsistency If the will has been weakened as an effect oforiginal sin then the freedom of the will is also weakened In fact according to the Augustinian view the will isradically weakened and therefore the extent to which thewill is free must be radically diminished This is contraryto the whole spirit of Augustines work entitled The FreeChoice of the Will Indeed this fact leads to a majorincoherence since for Augustine as for most Christianmoralists after him only freely chosen actions are morallyculpable or praiseworthy Unfortunately Augustine never fully appreciated thisinconsistency He felt that on account of these effects oforiginal sin the only way one could perform good actions waswith the grace or help of God In his earlier writingsparticularly De Libero Arbitrio he also allowed for thecooperation of the will in this endeavor yet by the end ofhis life he was convinced that it was by the grace of Godalone that one could do good which by his definition wouldinvolve doing those things in accordance with the good God What this amounts to is a kind of religious occasionalism inwhich God steps in at the occasion of human beings doing agood deed and enables them to carry their actions through Putting this religious occasionalism aside however he neverrealized the inconsistency of holding on the one hand thatonly chosen actions are properly praised and blamed and onthe other that concupiscence radically diminishes thecapacity of the will to choose any action freelyOne must now take stock of what remains of theAugustinian conception of concupiscence Concupiscence aswas stated in the first chapter is the effect of originalsin on the will mind and body As has been said theunderlying definition of evil as privation must be leftbehind because it is not sufficiently inclusive due to itsreligious implications One should point out here that thesame is true of the part of the definition that deals withoriginal sin Original sin is another religious concept thatcarries with it a lot of unneeded entailments What is thenleft of the Augustinian definition of concupiscence Nothing it would seem except possibly a very general claimthat concupiscence is an inclination toward evil One might object here that this definition is so denudedas to be void of all content This seemingly vapid claim
however is precisely what will be the base upon which onecan start to examine the entailments that flow from thephilosophically more plausible notion of Augustinianconcupiscence Before beginning this examination howeverit is obvious that the first task will be to try to come to abetter understanding of evil in itself since the negativetask of clearing away the religious entailments ofAugustinian concupiscence has shown that Augustinesdefinition of evil is inadequate The aim of the discussionthen is to find a definition of evil which while notstrictly Augustinian remains faithful to the spirit ofAugustine and at the same time does not openly contradicthis intentions As a first step towards providing such a definition ofevil one that will serve as a base for seeing concupiscenceas the inclination toward evil one might begin with theconcept of harm If evil can be seen as connected withharm then the next question to ask is what harms what Andhere one comes back to a distinction that was alluded toearlier namely the distinction between what is often calledhuman or moral evil and natural evil One obvious way toparse this distinction is to see human evil as involving onlyhuman beings that is human beings harming human beings From here natural evil can be seen as involving naturalforces causing harm for human beings Examples of naturalevil then would be a volcano erupting and killingeverything in its path or cancer afflicting a human beingTo relate this distinction to the Augustinian definitionof evil as privation one should note that although as hasbeen mentioned this is a purely formal definition that hasnot been made explicitly morally relevant when one realizesthat implicitly this definition of evil is equivalent to ahuman being turning away from God or sin one can see thatthe Augustinian definition of evil does not explicitlyaccount for natural evil Evans says as much of Augustinewhen she states that animal pain disruptions to the naturalorder such as earthquakes traffic accidents that isnatural evil is seen by Augustine as a subset of his beliefthat the problem of evil is man-centered What is meanthere is that Augustine as has been seen really believedthat evil came into the world as a result of the Fallbrought about by human free choice Before the Fall theworld was paradise where there was neither natural nor moralevil After the Fall the world itself also became hostileto human beings as part of Gods punishment Thus forAugustine natural evil must be the result of human evil Once again this view is problematic because of its religiousentailments That is one must accept that natural evil isthe result of the punishment meted out by God for human evil If one does not accept this Augustines explanation ofnatural evil is inadequate In any case to return to the issue at hand one mustask oneself whether the definition of evil that is underconstruction here needs to take natural evil into account If one were giving a full account of evil the answer to thisquestion would obviously be yes but since the task here isto give an account of evil in keeping with the definition ofconcupiscence as the inclination toward evil the answershould be no The reason for this is that for Augustineconcupiscence as an inclination toward evil refers to humanbeings With this stipulation one can now say that evil as harmmeans human beings harming human beings The next questionone might ask however is is it possible to imagine asituation in which harm might be justified and thus mightnot be considered evil Causing someone physical harm bythrowing him out of the way of a speeding car might be such asituation It is clear in this case that although physicalharm was indeed caused by this action it is justified inthat this person is better off with the slight physical harmcaused by being thrown out of the way of the car than if hehad been hit by the car in which case grave physical harmwould have been the result Another example is thatpsychological therapy often requires potentially painful orharmful realizations about ones self Yet thispsychological harm is justified in that the ultimate goal isoverall better psychological health Thus since there areclearly cases in which causing harm might be justified onemight adjust the definition to include this distinction Thus evil is unjustified harm inflicted on human beings byhuman beings Before moving on however one must ask what does harmmean In answer it should be noted that for harm toconstitute evil the harm caused must be serious Furtherharm is serious when it prevents its victim from normalfunctioning for an extended period of time Next one mightsay that this damage can be physical or psychological Inother words the definition of harm can not just includephysical harm there must be a recognition that there is alsopsychological harm such as humiliation or exploitation A full acount of evil would require further analysis The task here however is not to give such an account butto provide an adequate and compatible basis on which the ideathat concupiscence is the inclination toward evil can beconsidered The next step in that direction is to considerwhether this notion of concupiscence has any plausibility ofitself Are human beings inclined toward evil As a firstattempt to answer this question one might note theprevalence of evil in the world as an indication that humanbeings are inclined towards evil The ruthless slaughter ofmillions by Hitlers Nazi Germany the cruel authoritariandictatorship of Stalin the violent ethnic hatred in thecivil war in the former Yugoslavia rampant crime in largeurban areas these are all examples of how prevalent evil isin the world What Augustines view of concupiscence also seems toentail however is that human beings are fundamentally evil One can see how this might follow from the fact that humanbeings are inclined toward evil yet the two are notsynonymous Being inclined toward evil seems to imply apotentiality whereas being fundamentally evil seems to implythat this potentiality has been actualized However itseems that for Augustine to remain faithful to theChristianity he had embraced the only way for thispotentiality not to be actualized is for the human being tohave sufficient freedom to overcome this inclination towardevil Yet as has been pointed out earlier this isprecisely what is inconsistent in the Augustinian view Ifthe inclination toward evil radically weakens the will thenit would seem that concupiscence radically diminishes onesfreedom Thus it would seem that it is impossible for oneto overcome this potentiality for evil and in the end theinclination toward evil inexorably leads one to becomefundamentally evil Yet the view that human beings arefundamentally evil is problematic as will be argued at theend of this chapter It is time now to examine more closely this fundamentalinconsistency in the Augustinian treatment of concupiscence If concupiscence radically diminishes ones freedom then whydoes Augustine ignore this fact in his moral theory andbelieve that only actions which are freely chosen are morallyculpable The most likely reason for this is that he was notaware of this inconsistency Yet if these views areinconsistent then one must choose one of them over theother To do this reasonably one must ask which is moreplausible In answer to this question it should be clearthat since this whole thesis is about concupiscence and notabout Augustines moral theory the viewpoint that isentailed by concupiscence will be chosen as the moreplausible In trying to say why the view entailed by concupiscenceis more plausible one might begin by examining the moralimport of both viewpoints In the view entailed byAugustines moral theory only chosen actions have moralimport In the view entailed by concupiscence on the otherhand the inclination towards evil is itself unchosen orput another way it is part of human nature and leads toactions that are unchosen Unfortunately this fact seems totell one nothing about the moral import of these unchosenactions The fact however that concupiscence is aninclination toward evil indicates that the evil actionswhich flow unchosen from this unchosen inclination do indeedhave moral import Thus if one follows the implications ofwhat concupiscence entails then in this view unchosenactions have moral import In distinguishing the two views in this way one is ledto an interesting question that runs parallel to the questionof which view is more plausible that is are only chosenactions alone morally culpable or are there grounds forincluding unchosen actions within the domain of moralculpability In answer to this question one might considerthe example of Oedipus On the surface it seems thatOedipus is unjustified in condemning himself for the horriblecrimes of patricide and incest that he has committed sincehe was ignorant that the man he killed was his father orthat the woman he married was his mother and in fact hemade every attempt to avoid these actions Yet if one goes deeper than the level of whether hefreely chose to commit these actions one will see thatOedipus was indeed right in condemning himself Oedipus mustsee these actions as morally culpable since they flow from adefect in his own character as a result of which hehabitually goes against his moral tradition by asserting hisindividuality In other words Oedipus had at the core ofhis personality an inordinately headstrong pride whichcontinuously made him go against the limits of his moraltradition This defect was partially unchosen in that hischaracter was formed to a certain extent by forces that werebeyond his control like his upbringing which gave him acertain moral outlook What should be noted in this example is that thepartially unchosen defect in Oedipus character has led himto unchosen actions that are nonetheless morally culpable At this point one might distinguish between this unchosendefect which is part of Oedipus character as a moral agentand the unchosen actions which flow from this feature of hismoral agency Oedipus is culpable for both his unchosencharacter and the unchosen actions of killing his father andmarrying his mother which flow from it Is this a defensible position In answer to thisquestion one might ask how is it that Oedipus can committhese horrible crimes and still not be morally culpable Inone sense it seems that the very nature of these crimes criesout for some sort of culpability In other words Oedipusbecause of these crimes is in a very different position fromthose who have not committed such crimes And indeedOedipus himself felt culpable for the heinous nature of hiscrimes and acted on it by gouging out his eyes Oedipus sawthat there was something in the objective nature of what hehad done that was evil and morally culpable To return to the definition of evil provided earlierOedipus had caused unjustified harm to human beings and onthat basis felt morally culpable for his actions even thoughthey were unchosen One should note that this answer to thequestion of whether Oedipus should be held culpable has up tothis point dealt with his unchosen actions and why it seemsright that Oedipus was morally culpable for these actions Yet as has been said Oedipus is also morally culpable forthe partially unchosen character defect from which theseunchosen actions flowed The reason for this is preciselybecause these objectively evil and therefore morally culpableacts flow from this defective character In the end one must realize that if one is to be amorally committed agent then one must be committed to theminimization of evil People like Oedipus who habituallycause evil are morally culpable even if the defectivecharacters that they have are unchosen and even if thecharacteristically evil actions which flow from suchdefective characters are unchosen However one must realizethat what is at issue here is the appropriateness of moralculpability not the degree of moral culpability In otherwords it may very well be that those who choose to havedefective characters and those who choose to do evil may beeven more morally culpable than those who do not so chooseyet that is not the issue being discussed here The issuehere is that moral culpability is appropriate in somedegree for those who have unchosen defective characters andwho perform unchosen evil actions How does this case relate to the issue at handconcerning concupiscence It would seem that as in theOedipus case concupiscence is an unchosen defect of themoral agent that carries with it moral import Here thedefect is not in the character of a certain individual butis an overall defect of human nature This defect namelythe inclination toward evil leads to unchosen actions forwhich the moral agent is culpable precisely because they areobjectively evil that is causing unjustified harm to humanbeings Furthermore to return to the larger issue raisedearlier if the unchosen defect in human nature known asconcupiscence leads to unchosen actions that are morallyevil then it is clear that this view flowing fromconcupiscence is to be preferred over the view fromAugustines moral theory that only chosen actions are morallypraiseworthy or culpable What this treatment leaves out however is the questionof whether the view entailed by concupiscence rules out thepossibility that there are any freely chosen actions at all This must be left as an open question precisely because ofthe inconsistency of Augustines views If taken to itslogical conclusion the fact that concupiscence radicallyweakens the will entails that there are no freely chosenactions Yet the very fact that he has posited another viewwhich is inconsistent with this one leads one to think thathe was struggling with this issue in such a way that heperhaps implicitly wanted to capture something of value inboth views even though he may have been unaware of theirinconsistency Thus since Augustine left this perhapsunwittingly an open question this treatment of the clearentailments of Augustines treatment of concupiscence mustleave this question open as well Yet there is one major problem with Augustinianconcupiscence that remains The problem is that the moralentailments which flow from concupiscence as the inclinationtoward evil necessarily focuses on the negative task of theminimization of evil while ignoring the positive good-producing task of morality In other words such a view ofhuman nature leads to a morality which is focused mainly onavoiding evil but pays little attention to trying to dogood For Augustine one might point out that his view thatone can perform good actions only with the grace of God isthe good-producing aspect of his morality Yet thesereligious claims are not philosophically defensible and thusone is left with the view that human beings are inclinedtoward evil and thus with a view of morality that focusestoo heavily on the avoidance of evil The next chapter willconsider a subtle reinterpretation of concupiscence based ona modern reading of Thomas Aquinas to see if the moralconsequences that follow from it suffer from the same defectas those that follow from the Augustinian conceptionCHAPTER 3 AN EXPOSITION AND ANALYSIS OF THOMISTIC CONCUPISCENCEIn examining Aquinas conception of concupiscence thedetail that was exhibited in putting forth Augustines viewwill not be duplicated here since Aquinas is largely building on the work of Augustine To begin with then itwasnt until this century that anyone fully appreciated howAquinas slightly shifts Augustines prior conception ofconcupiscence What this slight difference entails issuccinctly explained by Karl Rahner widely regarded as oneof the greatest Catholic theologians of this centuryalthough Rahner did not explicitly mention Aquinas as theimpetus for his new treatment of concupiscence Rahner feelsthat there are two distinct traditions in Christianityconcerning concupiscence As he states itOn the one hand concupiscentia must be seen as a power weighing down on man with all the shattering impetus attested to by St Augustine and Luther If from this first point of view concupiscentia appears as a power oppressing man in his very depths and driving him on to moral transgression from the second point of view it presents itself as something immediately given with human nature and so really a matter of course indeed almost necessary The first view spoken of here is the one dealt with in thefirst and second chapters of this thesis namely Augustinesview that concupiscence is the inclination toward evil whichdrives one to moral transgression Yet this second view of concupiscence as immediatelygiven and somewhat necessary is one which Conan Gallaghercorrectly links originally to Aquinas In the PrimaSecundae of Aquinas masterwork the Summa Theologica in thearticle entitled Whether Original Sin Is Concupiscence hebegins by stating thatThe whole order of original justice consists in mans will being subject to God which subjection first and chiefly was in the will so that the will being turned away from God all the other powers of the soul become inordinate Here Aquinas agrees with Augustine in that original sinfirst affects the will and from there moves to the rest ofthe faculties of the human soul A discussion of what thesespecific faculties are for Aquinas is unnecessary It issufficient to note that what Aquinas means by the facultiesof the human soul is roughly equivalent to what Augustinemeant when he said that original sin first affects the willand then through the will affects the mind and the bodyThus Aquinas is in agreement with Augustine on thispoint As a next step Aquinas states that theinordinateness of the powers of the soul consists chieflyin their turning inordinately to mutable good whichinordinateness may be called by the general name ofconcupiscence Here Aquinas again seems to be agreeingwith Augustine in that what Aquinas means by turninginordinately to mutable good is roughly equivalent to thestripped down conception of Augustinian concupiscence as theinclination toward evilTo flesh out Aquinas meaning here a bit more to saythat these powers of the soul are inordinate is to say thatthey are directed to the wrong goal in this case turningtowards a mutable good which means a good that is fleetingsuch as the pleasure taken in eating sex or some othertransitory activity as opposed to immutable goods that havelasting value such as learning and are in keeping with theimmutable good namely God This is not to say that thesemutable goods are not to be enjoyed Mutable goods aregoods when taken in the proper proportion The problemarises when they are turned to inordinately One mightrightly suspect here that by turning inordinately to mutablegoods one is turning away from God as the immutable good Turning away from God constitutes for Aquinas as it did forAugustine sin Sin as has been shown in its turning awayfrom the good God is a privation of the good and is thusfor Aquinas like Augustine evil Thus to say thatconcupiscence is turning inordinately to mutable goods is tosay in a basically equivalent way that concupiscence is aninclination toward evil Up to this point then Aquinasshares all the weaknesses of the Augustinian view that werediscussed in the last chapter as well as all the strengthsof the Augustinian view if cut free of all its religiousentailments Once again up to this point Aquinas is in agreementwith Augustine So where is the difference between the twoviews Shortly after the above quoted definition ofconcupiscence Aquinas goes on to saySince in man the concupiscible power is naturally governed by reason the act of concupiscence is so far natural to man as it is in accord with the order of reason while in so far as it trespasses beyond the bounds of reason it is for a man contrary to reason Such is the concupiscence of original sin With this mention of how concupiscence is in one waynatural to human beings one is confronted with the secondview of concupiscence that Rahner mentioned earlier Whatthis statement means is that if concupiscence is in line withreason or rationality it is in this way natural whereasif it is not in line with reason it is thus inordinate andthus inclined towards evil Yet what does Aquinas mean by concupiscible powerhere In answering this question one should note thatearlier on in talking about appetites Aquinas hasdistinguished between the sensitive and intellectualappetites What he means by appetite here is any conativepotency or more simply desire From here then thedistinction of the sensitive and intellectual appetitesroughly corresponds to the desires generated by the bodysensitive and the mind intellectual Aquinas then goeson to divide the sensitive appetite into the irascible andconcupiscible powers The concupiscible power is what is ofinterest here which Aquinas defines as the power throughwhich the soul is simply inclined to seek what is suitableaccording to the senses and to fly from what is hurtful Thus it would seem that generally speaking thisconcupiscible power or appetite involves desires to seekpleasure or avoid pain To put the two thoughts together then any act ofconcupiscence that is any act that flows from desires toseek pleasure or avoid pain is natural and good if it is inaccord with reason and inordinate and evil if it is not Atthis point one must ask whether or not this new view ofconcupiscence has any plausibility There are two majorproblems with this new view as Aquinas presents it Thefirst is with the notion that the concupiscible power isgoverned by reason and the second is with the notion of aconcupiscible power in itself In reference to the first problem one might ask doesnot original sin also affect a human beings rational powers Indeed as has been shown Aquinas says that original sinfirst affects the will and then it affects the other partsof the soul one of which is the rational part Thus whyshould one think that reason should rule the other facultiesof the human being when reason is itself infected byoriginal sin It seems here that Aquinas falls into thesame type of inconsistency that Augustine did except thatAquinas weak point is his emphasis on reason whereasAugustine fell into inconsistency in his emphasis on thewill To reiterate the inconsistency here is that Aquinaswants to give reason pride of place in ruling over otherhuman faculties such as the will or the emotions yet reasonhas been affected by original sin just as the will and therest of the human faculties have and thus there seems to beno clear notion of why reason should have such pride ofplace Aquinas might try to counter this objection by sayingthat the effect that original sin has on reason is not asradical as the effect Augustine felt it had on the will andthus there is room for seeing how on some occasions reasonmight correctly guide the desires of the concupiscible power Yet on what occasions For Aquinas those occasions wouldbe ones in which Gods grace aids human reason to help itdiscern what would be in accord with Gods will Yet thisreligious occasionalism is once again indefensible from aphilosophical point of view and without it there seems to beno real reason to believe that reason should have any realpower over the concupiscible power If reason is in any wayaffected by original sin or non-religiously inclined towardevil or inordinateness it is hard to see why it should takeprecedence over any other human faculty Any such precedenceseems somewhat arbitrary To make this objection even clearer one might considersome possible counterexamples to the view that in the normalstate of affairs reason is to guide the desires of theconcupiscible appetite or power For example how would thisview deal with cold calculating rational killers likeprofessional hit men One might suppose that certain ofthese people do not kill for enjoyment but on a rationallevel kill because they have to that is it is part oftheir job In fact on the level of their desires they mayhave some sort of compassion or wish that they did not haveto kill anyone In these cases the desires have beencontrolled by reason Yet it would seem that in instancessuch as these the desires of such people are morepraiseworthy than their cold calculating rationality woulddictate Thus in such cases if one accepts Aquinas claimthat reason should rule over ones desires one would be leftin a morally more culpable position than if one had allowedones desires to dictate over ones reason In other wordshit men who suppress their compassionate desires and killpeople in a cold calculated and rational way because it istheir job are more culpable than someone who is paid to killsomeone but who allows these compassionate desires tooverwhelm their cold calculating reasonThe second problem with Aquinas new view ofconcupiscence concerns the nature of the concupiscible powerin itself Why is it that only the desires of theconcupiscible power are mentioned in this revised notion ofconcupiscence when just shortly before this Aquinas haspointed out that all powers of the soul are susceptible toturning inordinately to mutable goods as a result of originalsin To be consistent here it would seem that any desirerational or sensitive should be affected by original sin andshould thus come under the heading of concupiscence With these objections stated what is left of Aquinasnew interpretation of concupiscence Once again not verymuch except perhaps a very general claim that concupiscenceis the pool of all human desires which can be inclinedtowards either good or evil and which possesses thepotential to be acted upon and thus become morallypraiseworthy or blameworthy One might wonder at this pointhowever how Aquinas in the passages cited at the beginningof this chapter was able to go from a conception ofconcupiscence that was essentially concomitant withAugustines to a view of concupiscence that was quitedifferent than Augustines What one is faced with here is the use of the wordconcupiscence by Aquinas in two different senses Thefirst is a more general sense that accords with theAugustinian conception as an inclination of the whole humanbeing toward evil and the second is the pool of humandesires good and evil that flow from the concupisciblepower Yet one should notice that these two senses seeminconsistent in that one sees concupiscence as aninclination toward evil whereas the other sees concupiscenceas desires which can be good or evil The only possible wayto make the two usages consistent is to hold the second usageas the more general one which includes all the casesentailed by the first In other words one must see thesecond sense of concupiscence as including all those caseswhere concupiscence leads to evil actions and in additionall those cases where concupiscence leads to good actions Yet by making the second sense of concupiscence morerestrictive Aquinas has made any attempt at a reconciliationof the two senses seemingly impossible In any case it is clear that Aquinas probably meant forthe two senses to be consistent if indeed he even realizedthat he was using the word in two different ways With thisin mind one must attempt to carve away the inconsistency forhim which in effect has been done in that the twoobjections raised to Aquinas new reading of concupiscenceeffectively remove the restrictive nature of the second senseof concupiscence and broaden the claim to be in the end thatall human desires are inclined towards either good or evil Thus understood concupiscence as has been said includesall cases and thus reconciles both usages This being said one might next wonder where the realbasis of difference between the Augustinian and Thomisticviews of concupiscence lies The difference on the surfaceseems to be that as has been stated the Augustinian wouldstate that every desire whether it comes from the mindrational or body sensitive is inclined toward evilwhereas the Thomist would say that some desires are inclinedtowards good and some are inclined toward evil orinordinateness Yet what is the basis of this difference The fundamental difference seems to be in the implied degreeto which Augustine and Aquinas feel that human nature hasbeen wounded by original sin Augustine it would seem is more pessimistic in thatoriginal sin radically affects all human faculties such thatthe human being is fundamentally oriented toward evil Thisview of Augustines is borne out by the fact that by the endof his life as has been said he believed that one could dogood only if upheld in Gods grace No cooperation of thewill is admitted here because no free will is possible Aquinas on the other hand seems to have a moreoptimistic outlook on the effect of original sin One mustgrant that for him as a result of original sin all the humanfaculties have become disordered yet the degree to whichthey have become so seems far less radical than in Augustine This leaves open the possibility that human beings can havedesires that are inclined toward good And just as theinclination toward evil is unchosen the inclination towardgood is in this way also unchosen Furthermore just as wasstated in the last chapter the unchosen actions that flowfrom these inclinations are morally blameworthy orpraiseworthy Thus in the end for Aquinas human beings aremore of a mixed bag with potentialities for both good andevil Now that the problems with Aquinas view of concupiscencehave been examined and the basis of his difference withAugustine probed it must be asked next what is right aboutthis notion of concupiscence First of all one should notethat this Thomistic definition of concupiscence in itsrealization that human beings are mixed bags capable ofboth good and evil overcomes the problem with Augustinianconcupiscence stated at the end of the last chapter Theproblem with Augustinian concupiscence is that one consequence of the view that human beings are fundamentallyevil is that the morality thus entailed will focus tooheavily on the minimization of evil For Aquinas howeverthe moral consequences of his admission of the possibility ofhuman goodness are that they allow for the positive good-producing task of morality as well as the negative task ofminimizing evil Yet one might ask is Aquinas right about there beinginstances of human goodness In the last chapter it waspointed out that the presence of horrific evil in the worldsuch as in Hitlers Germany or Stalins Russia makesAugustines view seem plausible Yet the fact that therestill exists examples of heroic human goodness as well ashorrific evil in the world makes Aquinas view perhaps moreplausible People like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas areacknowledged by their faith community as having performedmany good deeds during their lifetime and as having sterlingcharacters such that this faith community has declared themsaints Such saints are actualizations of the potentialityof human goodness In the beginning of this chapter Rahner was quoted assaying that in opposition to the view of concupiscenceadvanced by Augustine there was the view that concupiscencewas natural and necessary The notion of concupiscencebeing natural has already been discussed but how is one tounderstand the claim that it is necessary In closing thistreatment of Thomistic concupiscence one might offer anexample of how seeing it as necessary can be taken in theright and the wrong way The example is taken from popularculture namely an episode of the original 1960s futuristicscience-fiction television series Star Trek In the episodeentitled The Enemy Within the Captain of the StarshipEnterprise James Kirk is transported to an alien planet bya process called beaming down in which every molecule ofthe persons body is converted to energy on a ships platformand is then reassembled into matter at the appointed place Unfortunately in the process of beaming back to the shipfrom the planet the transporting device malfunctions andsends back two Captain Kirks one good and one evil What isof interest here is that by the end of the show the goodKirk and his crewmates realize that he cannot survive withoutbeing reunited