"No Block Creation": Good and Evil in William Desmond's Augustinian Philosophy of Elemental Order

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Book Chapter

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This chapter examines William Desmond’s idea of what an elemental appreciation of creation entails, by placing his work in the context of his Augustinian concerns. I begin with an image of creation that serves as a counter-example to the model of creation under consideration: that creation is a clock, left to us by a now absent clock-maker.I then discuss the idea of a “block creation”, as Desmond calls it, and challenge this specifically with the attributes of elemental creation. Thirdly, attention shifts to the significance of those moments in which we feel an absence rather than a presence of goodness in our lives. Finally, the experience of the other as radically evil is examined as a key point in elemental appreciation of the real possibility of being good in the face of what cannot be rationally known in its entirety. As I conclude, for Desmond, moments in which evil, presented to us in the face and actions of the “malign(ed) other”, can provoke only one response appropriate to the agapeic origin of creation. Only forgiveness can be true to our source, and the ultimate meaning of anything and everything that takes place in the realm in which we find ourselves, the metaxu. That this response is ethical, and thus lived, is significant in that it underlines again the elemental realities of good and evil, inseparable from us as we intermediate with others, world, and ultimately God. Furthermore, true forgiveness extends beyond simple reasonability by refusing to explain away evil.


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