St. Thomas summarizes perennial wisdom when he defines evil as the absence of good. But what defines the good whose absence constitutes evil?
In its broadest sense, “good is everything appetible,” or worth desiring. “Since every nature desires its own being and perfection,” it follows that, according to the objective order of things, “the being and the perfection of any nature is good.”
Being and perfection are closely related, since perfection is the realization of the potential inherent in a thing’s nature.
In seeking to preserve a thing’s existence, however, one can sometimes obstruct or even subvert its perfection. A tree that is overwatered grows shallow roots, to its eventual detriment.
Something similar can be observed in human affairs, which ought to promote the being and perfection of human persons.
First in the “order of natural inclinations” is the instinct by which “every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature.”
In practical affairs, the beginning is the end (or goal). Properly understood, the natural desire for (and obligation to seek) “whatever is a means to preserve human life” must be understood as serving the related but higher goal of seeking whatever perfects human life.
This includes facilitating access to whatever is necessary to generate and educate offspring, “to know the truth about God, and to live in society.”
Whatever seriously thwarts our efforts to engage in these perfective activities, even if such obstructions are presented as life-saving measures, must be carefully scrutinized.
As this latter day disputation aptly argues, “The face, more than other body part, represents the fullness of the person.” What becomes of us, then, when the clearest sign of our humanity is labeled “a threat of illness and a reminder of death”?
Let us reflect that, under the tutelage of a pseudo-aristocracy, what is presented as healthful by the powers that be may in fact be contrary to human flourishing, and hence evil.
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