Pursuing Pankalia: The Aesthetic Theodicy of St. Augustine

In Benjamin McCraw & Robert Arp (eds.), The Problem of Evil: New Philosophical Directions. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. pp. 69-83 (2016)
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Abstract
This chapter summarizes Augustine’s often-neglected aesthetic theodicy that balances his metaphysical definitions of evil and human agency against the ultimately beautiful story Augustine sees God, as the author of all Creation, writing. First, Augustine’s neo-Platonic conception of evil as the “privation of goodness” is explained which effectively eliminates much of the apparent evil in the world under the guise of a preeminent God’s loving care of the Creation which He fashions as good, but is later corrupted. Secondly, Augustine’s conception of the nature of this corruption at the hands of free agents is laid out with a particular sensitivity to the apparent shifts in Augustine’s thought as he aged. Finally, Augustine’s foundational aesthetic themes of contrast and universal harmony (in Greek, pankalia) are explained to demonstrate precisely why, in Augustine’s words, God might “judge it better to bring good out of evil than to allow nothing evil to exist.”
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