Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is No Highest Evil

Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is No Highest Evil

Previous post.

The good is “that which all things desire.” With that, and in these two chapters, we wrap up the subject of evil. We next time move to the good, and what that ultimately is. It’s getting exciting!

That There Is No Highest Evil

1 As a consequence, it is evident that there cannot be any highest evil which would be the first source of all evils.

Notes Again, there is no cosmic good-versus-evil battle going on.

2 The highest evil ought to be quite dissociated from any good; just as the highest good is that which is completely separate from evil. Now, no evil can exist in complete separation from the good, for we have shown that evil is based upon the good. Therefore, the highest evil is nothing.

Notes Repeat that: the highest evil is nothing.

3 Again, if the highest evil be anything, it must be evil in its own essence, just as the highest good is what is good in its own essence. Now, this is impossible, because evil has no essence, as we proved above. So, it is impossible to posit a highest evil which would be the source of evils.

4 Besides, that which is a first principle is not caused by anything. But every evil is caused by a good, as we have shown. Therefore, evil is not a first principle.

5 Moreover, evil acts only through the power of the good, as is clear from what has been established previously. But a first principle acts through its own power. Therefore, evil cannot be a first principle.

6 Furthermore, since “that which is accidental is posterior to that which is per se,” it is impossible for that which is first to be accidental. Now, evil arises only accidentally, and apart from intention, as has been demonstrated. So, it is impossible for evil to be a first principle.

7 Again, every evil has an accidental cause, as we have proved. Now, a first principle has no cause, whether direct or accidental. Therefore, evil cannot be a first principle in any genus.

8 Besides, a per se cause is prior to one which is accidental. But evil is not a cause, except in the accidental sense, as we have shown. So, evil cannot be a first principle.

9 By means of this conclusion, the error of the Manicheans is refuted, for they claimed that there is a highest evil which is the first principle of all evils.

That The End of Everything is a Good

1 If every agent acts for the sake of a good, as was proved above, it follows further that the end of every being is a good. For every being is ordered to its end through its action. It must be, then, that the action itself is the end, or that the end of the action is also the end of the agent. And this is its good.

2 Again, the end of anything is that in which its appetite terminates. Now, the appetite of anything terminates in a good; this is how the philosophers define the good: “that which all things desire.” Therefore, the end for everything is a good.

3 Besides, that toward which a thing tends, while it is beyond the thing, and in which it rests, when it is possessed, is the end for the thing. Now, if anything lacks a proper perfection, it is moved toward it, in so far as lies within its capacity, but if it possess it the thing rests in it. Therefore, the end of each thing is its perfection. Now, the perfection of anything is its good. So, each thing is ordered to a good as an end.

4 Moreover, things that know their end are ordered to the end in the same way as things which do not know it, though the ones that do know their end are moved toward it through themselves, while those that do not know it incline to their end, as directed by another being. The example of the archer and the arrow shows this clearly.

However, things that know their end are always ordered to the good as an end, for the will, which is the appetite for a foreknown end, inclines toward something only if it has the rational character of a good, which is its object. So, also, the things which do not know their end are ordered to a good as an end. Therefore, the end of all things is a good.

Notes Note carefully the archer often misses.


  1. Does Aquinas disprove here the existence of the personalised Satan and Antichrist?

  2. DG

    No “highest evil”? You mean there’s no “supreme evil” as in a supreme being that is pure evil like in Manichean ditheism.

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