Plotinus and Augustine on evil and matter

Maurizio Filippo Di Silva


The aim of this paper is to examine whether and,
if so, how far, the Augustinian notion of malum is related to
Plotinus’ concept of evil, as it appears in Ennead I. 8 [51].
The Augustinian notion of evil will be analyzed by focusing
on the De natura boni, considering plurality and unity in
Augustine’s identification of malum and nihil, both in their
ontological and axiological dimensions. Topics selected for
special consideration will be, first, evil as lack of modus, species
and ordo naturalis (De nat. b., 4), and, secondly, corruptio
as cause of defectio boni (De nat. b., 6). The second part will
analyze Plotinus’ notion of evil, as spelled out in Ennead I, 8
[51], considering the Plotinian identity of to kakon and me
on. Topics selected for analysis will be, first, the concept of
evil as lack of measure, form and order (Enn. I. 8. 3), and
secondly, the notion of to kakon as lack of good (Enn. I. 8.
5) simpliciter. The third part of this paper will consider the
differences between Augustine’s and Plotinus’ identity of evil
and non-being, as related to the notion of matter. Topics selected
for analysis will be, firstly, Plotinus’ identity of matter and evil (Enn. I. 8. 10), and, secondly, Augustine’s concept of
matter as capacitas formarum (De nat. b., 18). The conclusion
will bring out how Plotinus’ concept of steresis suggests both
a different relation between evil and non-being while being
closely resembling Augustine’s pattern of malum and nihil.


Augustine; Plotinus; matter; evil; non-being

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