Hegel, Plotinus, and the Problem of Evil

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The article begins by defining evil, rejecting proffered negative definitions, for example, evil is privation, from which little further insight is obtainable, nor progress to be made towards a resolution of the problem, in favor of a more a constructive definition of evil in terms of an abnegation of responsibility for, or commitment to, one’s dictions or actions. This is an attitude that is both irrational and unintelligible, enabling a connection to be made between Plotinus’ view of evil as unintelligible matter, that is, impassive and inactive nature; and Hegel’s view of evil as that which is real and active, but against reason. For Plotinus, evil is formless matter, matter that is unintelligible, separated from the intellect, unlimited because not bounded by conceptual categories; and hence, what is evil is all darkness. For Hegel, for whom the rational is actual and the actual is rational, evil is an irrational perversion of the world’s inner essential rationality. But these ideas can be connected, for the purpose of finding a solution to the problem of evil, through a more specific understanding of the concept that we offer; that evil is a failure of commitment, a denial of responsibility for one’s actions; and this is in itself both irrational and unintelligible. We can then demonstrate that what that evil, though it certainly exists, is imperfection, and the good, being rational, is already complete and fulfilled and firmly established in the world, and therefore evil cannot possibly oppose it from any position of equivalence; for the good is rational and therefore true, whereas evil is irrational and therefore false.

About the authors

E N Sobolnikova

Russian Christian Academy for the Humanities

Email: sobolnikova@list.ru
Naberezhnaya Fontanki, 15, St. Petersburg, Russia, 191011

D Proud

University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK


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Copyright (c) 2018 Sobolnikova E.N., Proud D.

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