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Plotinus and Thomas Aquinas: Different Views on Providence of God

The two philosophers, Plotinus and Thomas Aquinas, were separated not only by many centuries but also by their divergent views on the divine providence of God. Plotinus, a pagan, viewed God as the source of all things, although he did not believe that God created evil; evil is simply "the absence of good" ("God: A Priori Arguments"). Aquinas, on the other hand, believed that God is the cause of everything that exists and that everything depends upon Him for its well-being. There is some merit to each of these arguments, but it is Aquinas who is more correct in his views of divine providence.

Plotinus' perspective on God is that everything emanates from Him: "There was only one God, from whom all things have flowed in a descending fashion, with each descent things becoming progressively more imperfect" (Raftery). Plotinus saw things becoming increasingly more imperfect the farther they were from their source, as they became "less and less filled with His goodness" (Raftery). Finally, "at the end of this flow is the most basic form of matter, having none of the goodness of the all-perfect source," and "This the root of all evil and the cause of corruption and decay in creatures; it is the source of all suffering and tribulation in the world" (Raftery). From the standpoint that Plotinus saw God as the source of all good, he was correct. Likewise, assessing corruption and decay as being far from God is also an apt evaluation. On the other hand, Plotinus' belief that evil was simply an absence of the goodness of God is illogical. If God is the source of all things and He is completely good, then there is no such thing as a being that was created to be more removed from God than another. A completely good God would never create one being more favored than another, nor would He create a being more removed from His goodness than another. Either eventuality would signal that God is partisan, unfair, and...

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