The mystical daydream: Fictive being and the motive of evil

Kirk George Kanzelberger, Fordham University


The Thomistic philosophical tradition characterizes moral evil as the voluntary defect of the agent that freely chooses a course of action incompatible with the attainment of its end and ultimate fulfillment. While no agent can will such a loss under the aspect of loss, particular agents can will such a loss for the sake of something else. Hence the paradox of the evil will that freely turns away from its true end, neither because of ignorance nor because of weakness, but because it “loves more the lesser good.” Evil election is always preceded by a moment of “free non-consideration of the rule,” in which the agent ceases to apply the norm of virtue as the measure of its prospective action. In deliberate evil, an agent not only ceases to apply the rule, it contemns it. The question is how a rational agent can prefer to endure what amounts to ultimate loss for the sake of a non-ultimate gain. A partial answer lies in the dominative indifference of the will that is able to suspend its act in respect of any practical judgment; but an equally important factor is the fictive capacity of the intellect. In the present life, the substance of happiness lies hidden from our direct apprehension. We do not see what we long for most, nor do we seem contented by self-understood goods that are merely given or latent in nature as existing independently of our minds. We desire to create, to be the originators of that which can issue only from our freedom. This is a desire that can outstrip natural possibilities, as seen in certain forms of literary art. The same desire also outstrips moral possibilities in becoming attached to a mystical daydream: a vision of imagined fulfillment centered upon the self alone and its creations. Regardless of the specific character of this vision (idyllic, misanthropic, grandiose, banal,…), from the viewpoint of the mystical daydream the demands of virtue as a path to happiness acquire the aspect of futility and evil, eliciting first sadness, and then finally detestation of the moral good and its Principle.

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Recommended Citation

Kanzelberger, Kirk George, "The mystical daydream: Fictive being and the motive of evil" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3474137.