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Volume 51 • Number 4

October 2014



Being and Goodness

by David S. Oderberg

The old scholastic principle of the "convertibility" of being and goodness strikes nearly all moderns as either barely comprehensible or plain false. "Convertible" is a term of art meaning "interchangeable" in respect of predication, where the predicates can be exchanged salva veritate albeit not salva sensu: their referents are, as the maxim goes, really the same albeit conceptually different.

The principle seems, at first blush, absurd. Did the scholastics literally mean that every being is good? Is that supposed to include a cancer, a malaria parasite, an earthquake that kills millions? If every being is good, then no being is bad—but how can that be? To the contemporary philosophical mind, such bafflement is understandable. It derives from the systematic dismantling of the great scholastic edifice that took place over half a millennium. With the loss of the basic concepts out of which that edifice was built, the space created by those concepts faded out of existence as well. The convertibility principle, like virtually all the other scholastic principles (not all, since some do survive and thrive in analytic philosophy), could not persist in a post-scholastic space wholly alien to it.

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ISSN: 2152-1123