A: …And so freedom is being able to do good or evil.
B: And so we exercise the same power in doing either?
B: Maybe, but only in the same way that, as Socrates said, the doctor uses the same skill to mix up medicine or poison.
A: Is that the same thing?
B: Or the way a mechanic might use the same knowledge to fix a car or to make it run in a way guaranteed to destroy it.
A: Or the way that someone who knows the argument can either clarify it or make it really obscure to someone.
A: So is this what you’re driving at: freedom is open to good and evil only in the way that a pharmacist is open to making medicine or poison?
B: Right. The same knowledge might do both, but no one becomes a better pharmacist by making poisons, or, by analogy, becomes free by doing evils.
A: So you’d deny that the choice between good and evil is really fundamental.
B: How is the choice to avoid cleverly sabotaging people’s cars fundamental to a car mechanic? Is this really what he takes as his basic professional problem?
A: It seems like good and evil are different.
B: How so?
A: Well, by the reality of temptation, first of all. There doesn’t seem to be anything analogous to temptation in the pharmacist’s decision to not make poisons.
B: So good and evil in general are…what? More unstable than the good and evil of doctors or mechanics?
A: What do you mean?
B: Only what we’ve just said: there doesn’t seem to be much of a crisis in mechanics over whether to be saboteurs, but there seems to be a real crisis in the human heart between how to act on our knowledge of good and evil. In the first case, our knowledge gives us a much greater stability in the good which we lack in the second.
A: Unstable, okay. But doesn’t this mean that, as our knowledge becomes more stable, evil drifts further and further from our consciousness, in the way that mechanics don’t seem ever to be caught in the dilemma of acting like a mechanic or a saboteur?
B: I think so.
A: That seems to leave something out. Don’t the good become more and more horrified by evil? They don’t become less cognizant, but more cognizant of the horror of evil.
B: I don’t know. Is that what happens to people as they grow in virtue? Left to themselves, aren’t they just content with the good? Doesn’t evil have to intrude on their consciousness, and they hate when it does? For a perfectly blessed mind, the evil is perfectly known as to-be-avoided, but exists entirely outside of consciousness. The blessed know the damned perfectly without caring about them one way or another.
A: That seems wrong. It’s as though you want the blessed to be both aware and unaware of the same thing.