I finally weighed in with my thoughts concerning the evil God challenge set forth by Stephen Law. My original post argued for two primary principles: 1) evil is the negation of good and requires no ontological grounding and 2) that everyone always acts according to what they believe is good. (1) Certainly may appear as a mere assertion and it may be reversed and hence the problem of good. I won’t be defending (1) in this post but I would like to explicate (2) more because I believe it is much stronger and (1) follows from (2) logically later on.
Thomas’ meta-ethic was that being and goodness are the same in reference but differ only in sense. He follows Aristotle in making the connection between goodness and desirability. “The formula of the good consists in this, that something is desirable, and so the Philosopher says that the good is what all desire.” Although all things desire goodness, not all things capable of pursuing goodness with understanding understand what really is good; it is possible for creatures with intellect and will to desire an apparent good as a real one.
Something is desire in two ways, either because it is good or because it appears good. Of these, the first is what is good, for an apparent good does not move by itself but insofar as it has some appearance of good; but the good moves by itself.
Desirability is an essential aspect of goodness. The perfection of anything is goodness and perfection is attained in actuality, “As regards nature the good of anything is its actuality and perfection.” Again, following Aristotle, goodness appears in the notion of that which desire culminates:
The end is that in which the desire of the thing acting or moving rests… But this is part of the formula of the good, that it fulfills desire, for the good is what all desire. And so every action and every motion is for the sake of the good.
Everything acts in accordance with a goal of actualization and perfection. “Since anything desires its own perfection, a thing desires as its ultimate end that which it desires as the good perfecting and completing of itself.” Thus each thing aims above all at being as complete, whole, and free from defect as it can be. The state of its being complete and whole, however, just is that thing’s being fully actual, whether or not the desirer recognizes it as such. Therefore, full actualization is equivalent to final goodness, aimed at or desired by every thing. Speaking of human beings, Aquinas remarks:
Necessarily, everything which a human being desires, he desires for the sake of the ultimate end… whatever a human being desires he desires under the aspect of the good. And if the good is not desired as the perfect good, which is the ultimate end, it must be desired as instrumental to the perfect good.
Every action and every motion is apparently ordered in some way to being, either that being might be conserved in the species or the individual, or that it might be newly acquired. For what being is is the good. And so everything desires to be. Therefore, every action and every motion is for the sake of the good.
Following Augustine, Aquinas says,
Everything is said to be good insofar as it is perfect, for in this way it is desirable… But a thing is said to be perfect if it lacks nothing in accordance with the more of its perfection. New everything is what it is by means of its form; and there are certain things presupposed by the form and other things that necessarily follow from the form. Consequently, for something to be perfect and good, it must have a form, as well as those things that precede and follow from the form… Now the form is what is meant by species because everything is constituted in its species by means of its form… But an inclination to an end, either an action or something of this sort, follow from the form, because everything insofar as it is in actuality acts and aims at that which is appropriate for it in accordance with its form.
So, how does this look with the evil God. Law wants to exclude any ontological arguments, which is to divide essential aspects of what it is to mean “God” but let’s put that aside for the sake of argument (that alone, I believe, is a defeater for the evil God hypothesis). Let’s assume that evil God acts within reality. If Thomas is at all correct it seems that the evil God hypothesis is incoherent. Well, God would have to be pure actuality, which is equivalent to good, and thus ontologically rules or evil God. But, Law doesn’t like that so let’s keep going. If every action is oriented to a final end (goal) then every action must be oriented to accomplishing that end, which is a good thing. (I’m using right and good in the moral sense. I’m not using right as a means of correctness.) If evil God acts then it is good for him to act in accordance with his desired end. Either it is wrong or amoral to act towards an end or he has no end or purpose in his action. Or, evil God must not act in any way (not even potentially, as a deistic concept, for he would still have the ability to act but chooses to refrain). It’s difficult to see how evil God could then be a person.
If it is good for evil God to act towards an end then how is this not incoherent? Evil God cannot have the ability to do good otherwise his ontology is quite incoherent and should be dismissed. If it is wrong for evil God to act towards an end (in sync with evilness and nature) then it’s quite difficult to substantiate why evil God acts in an evil way knowing it is the wrong (bad) thing for him to do. If evil God has any end desire then (say, maximum evil in reality) is it right or wrong for him to attempt to achieve that end?
The evil God challenge, when examined on its ontological aspects, is quite incoherent. A good God is completely coherent for it is good for good God to act towards his end, which is, say, maximum good.
 Summa Theologica 1a.5.1; Summa Contra Gentiles I37; Aristotle, Nichmachean Ethics I 1, 1094a1-3.
 Eleanore Stump, Aquinas (New York: Routledge, 2003), 62.
 SCG 1.37.
 Ibid., Stump, 62-63.
 SCG III.3.
 ST IaIIae.1.5.
 ST 1aIIae.1.6.; Stump, 63.
 SCG III.3.
 ST Ia.5.5.