How Can the Best Become the Worst? Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus on the Sin of the Devil

Tobias Hoffmann (Catholic University of America)

Date & Time:

Thursday, November 5, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


JRC 126
University of St. Thomas
2115 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

How can people under optimal psychological conditions do evil? For Socrates, evildoing presupposes ignorance; for Aristotle, it presupposes a momentary obstruction of knowledge caused by passions. But according to Christian teaching, some angels sinned, despite being “ideal agents” who are infallible, have all naturally attainable knowledge infused in them from creation, and lack passions as well as any innate inclinations to evil. Paradoxically, the best and most intelligent angel, Lucifer, is thought to have sinned first and to have led others into sin. This talk gives a brief account of two rival explanations of the sin of the Devil, by Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. Hardly any other topic could bring into clearer light the different conceptions they have of free choice and its connection with happiness.

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