Origin of Evil in The Confessions by Augustine

In the Confessions, Augustine wrote about his struggle with understanding how evil exists in a world created by God. He questioned how it was possible and why God allows evil in his creations because God is supremely good. After delving into finding a solution, Augustine concluded that evil does not exist, and the things deemed as evil are caused by free will. This paper will argue that Augustine has successfully proven that evil does not exist by explaining his earlier explanation of the origin of evil taught by the Manicheans, explaining Augustine’s teachings, and finally, using the textual descriptions of Augustine’s unwillingness to convert as support for his conclusion.
When Augustine joined the Manicheans he was faced with questions about evil and its origin which allowed the group to teach Augustine the Manichean ideas of evils source. The Manichean belief is not explicitly explained by Augustine (maybe because the people of Augustine’s time already knew about the Manicheans). The texts glossary explains the allusion by explaining that the Manicheans attributed evil to an evil force (Satan) that is in combat with God (Confessions 330). This evil is thought to have elements which are also evil and in one of these, the human body was included, meaning humans are inherently evil (Confessions Glossary. 330). The inherent evil conflicts with Augustine’s view which attributes the origin of evil to a will favoring lesser things, because this claims that “Human beings therefore, are not ultimately responsible for their own actions” (Confessions Glossary. p. 330). This would mean that God had created evil things, which is in direct conflict with Gods good nature and evil is caused by the divine. Augustine ultimately rejected the M...

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...lighted” Augustine’s body (Confessions VIII. 5, p. 148). In this example, regardless of Augustine’s want to will succumbing to God, he found that his habits had rendered him unable to. His will in favor of the lower things held Augustine tighter than his will for God, which caused Augustine to choose the lesser good, which left him “in the midst of that great tumult I had stirred up against my own soul in the chamber of my heart” (Confessions VIII. 7, p.152). His two wills tore at him until he fully abandoned his earthly lust for the spiritual Godly desires; supporting his conclusion that free will in favor of the lesser goods causes evil. Therefore, free will is the ultimate source of evil.
Through narration of his own life, Augustine successfully proved that evil is not an inherent human quality rather it is caused by free will and therefore the fault of humans.
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