10 September 2007

Augustine on privation

From the Enchiridion:

For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? in the bodies of animals, diseases and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present --namely, the diseases and wounds-- go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshy substance --the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils --that is, privations of the good which we call health-- are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.

Enchiridion XI

Homework assignment: Pains seem to be evil in and of themselves. Yet pains are real and definite things. How can Augustine account for the badness of pain? Is Augustine committed to the view that insofar as they are real, pains are themselves good? If pains were to be bad as privations, what would they be privations of? Discuss.