Terrance Walsh

Bonum est causa mali
A Problem and an Opportunity for Metaphysics in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas and Hegel

16/1 - Spring 2011, pages 86–116
Date of online publication: 24 mars 2011
Date of publication: 24 mars 2011


How to explain the existence of evil if being by its very nature is good? My paper examines an interesting and perhaps significant parallel between two exponents of the metaphysical tradition usually thought to stand widely apart, Thomas Aquinas and Hegel. I argue that Hegel's system shares certain features of Aquinas' convertibility thesis (S.T. 1, 5, 1), that upon closer inspection will yield a set of interesting reflections not only about the problem of evil, but also about the limits and possibilities of metaphysical method. I discuss Aquinas' thesis of the convertibility of being and good and how it determines his treatment of evil. I then construct a Hegelian version of convertibility and argue that Hegel's system fails for similar reasons to provide a satisfactory account of the problem of evil. This leads to my central question: should the inadequacy of traditional approaches to evil call for a reversal or abandonment of metaphysics, or invite a deeper reflection about reality that would not subsume the world's darkness under what Hans Blumenberg once called "metaphysics of light"?


Cite this article

Walsh, Terrance. “Bonum est causa mali: A Problem and an Opportunity for Metaphysics in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas and Hegel.” Forum Philosophicum 16, no. 1 (2011): 86–116. doi:10.5840/forphil201116116.


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