Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

By David Baggett; Shawn E. Klein | Go to book overview

10

A Skewed Reflection:
The Nature of Evil

DAVID and CATHERINE DEAVEL

Why is there evil in the world? To answer that, we need to know what evil is. The Potter books’ dramatic portrayal of a fight between good and evil gives a general outline of what evil is, particularly moral evil. The books portray evil by using three main concepts: D evil is a privation, or a deformity parasitic on something good; 2) evil, due to this weakness, must accordingly mask itself by deceit; and 3) moral evil can only really exist as the result of free choice.


Evil Doesn’t Exist

The first thing we learn from the Potter books is that evil doesn’t really exist. Evil does not really exist in itself, but is a privation, a lacking in what something is supposed to be. It is a lacking of what is good.

Before we show how the books present this idea, let’s clarify what it means to say that an evil is a lack of something. People lack lots of things, but are these lacks really evils? What if Hermione were to say, “I don’t have wings, which are good things to have: that, Harry, is an eviti Augustine of Hippo (354–430) knew someone might ask this and made the distinction between an absence and a privation} Hermione’s lack of

1The Confessions, Book 7, especially xii and xiii. René Descartes explicitly
makes use of this same distinction in his Meditations on First Philosophy,

-132-

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