the problem of evil- a basic classic

Can there be any justification for an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God letting such appalling things as happen daily in our world take place? As Maurice Wiles points out, is such a God

or is there some pattern to our suffering which will all be made clear after death? Is the problem of Evil a great enough grounds for disbelief in God?

hmm…this week’s essay…

am thinking “God is a Bastard. QED.” but maybe I should gain a few more opinions…

heh mabye we do not know the true meaning of omnibelevolence. Mabye pain and death and destruction is a good thing for the universe and we just dont see it that way.

You might be interest in reading the following Topic as it’s on a similar idea.

It’s a good God that’s Evil

one of my main reasons for not believing in a god is that i do not think any all-powerful omnipotent being could be so cold and uncaring toward a world he created.

I believe that you have either give up that concept of God or the reality of evil.
I believe that the best justification of God comes from Thomas of Aquinas. He practically claims, and proves it in a very thick volume, that evil is just a privation of goodness in something created. By saying so he claims that evil is not an ontological entity, i.e. it doesn’t really exist, but an unwanted effect, caused by actions that were initially intended towards somekind of good but were corrupted by an evil will that went against reason and the holy law.

Well yeah it’s practically the catholic’s doctrine of free will.

I have come to accept that the richness of human life requires that it be filled with a good bit of struggle and misery. While one cannot justify particular instances of suffering in most cases, the overall scheme of a hard life seems to basic to imagine humans apart from it.

Nietzsche wondered what it was tragic dramas did for the Greeks. What is so enlightening about seeing Oedipus fall from being lord of all he surveys to the depths of shame and misery? He concluded that the lesson is that this is life, and it is to be loved not in spite of the misery it includes, but even for the sake of that “wastefulness”.

Nietzsche is also fond of calling attention to “the grand economy”-- the way in which causation is so intertwined in human life that to imagine we can separate helpful from harmful causes is an error. See quotes here: … es/q04.htm

I have come to accept that the richness of human life requires that it be filled with a good bit of struggle and misery. While one cannot justify particular instances of suffering in most cases, the overall scheme of a hard life seems to basic to imagine humans apart from it.

I totally agree with what you are saying…

But I believe that at thi point we have to ask this question:

Is evil necessary to our identity as human beings
or do we think that it is necessary because we have been developing in a world in which evil has always been part of our life?

Is it really part of our nature or have we just got so accustomed to it to the point that we think it is necessary to our lives?

Is evil the consequence of our corrupted nature or is it a trascendental(or even cosmic) evil the cause of our corruption?

I think that this distinction it is very important since I belive we have to avoid what Nietzsche himself called in his “Twilight of the Idols” the “Error of confusing the consquence with the cause”, the real ruination of reason.

It seems to me your questions assume there is some force called “evil” which is simply “out there”, such that in a universe that contains this force humans might arise (and might not in a universe without it). That sort of approach just can’t fit with the way I think about humans and evil.

The way I see it, evil is inevitable in the sense that it is basic to human beings that they struggle with varied and opposing drives and desires. We commit to one path rather than another and call this the good, or directly commit to not following some desired path and call it evil. It is essential to being human that we make moral committments, and making moral committments means defining something as evil.

Your questions might make more sense to me if you were similarly discussing “suffering”. We might indeed imagine a world where suffering is eliminated, and wonder how our lives would be different. B.F. Skinner ran up against this problem in his utopian novel, Walden Two. One could manage a child’s environment so carefully as to make suffering at least extremely rare if not non-existent. Skinner concluded that some amount of privation was necessary for healthy human development, and so children suffered through exercises like sitting before their soup bowls for some period before being able to eat. It is an interesting problem. I think we can at least say that if a child were raised without discomfort or inconvenience of any kind to live in this world, we would not bet on him to last five minutes when actually exposed to it.

I think I know what you mean.
I believe that good is any end that is desired and bad is anything that gets in the way of achieving such an end.
For example for a person whose objective is to live a quite and secure life, the laws protecting him would be good and thieves menacing his security would be bad.
On the other hand an outlaw that wants to get rich fast would see laws restricting his actions as bad while they would affirm that killing a person for a large sum of money it is good.

I believe that you see arising evil in the contrast between different agents which are trying to achieve a certain good that gets one on the path of the other.
A wolf in order to continue his path toward survival (his goal) has to cross the path of innumerable lambs. And in this crossings is where we see evil.

Now even if we affirm in this way a total relativity of good and evil I believe that there is still a problem in the structure of the universe that forces us to compete with other beings in order to achieve our goals. Wether it is due to the imperfect nature of the universe or to some force that has shaped it in this way I still see a trascendental/cosmological evil that is rooted in our world and forces us to create conflicts(evil) in order to achieve our golas.

Why does god have to be omnibenevolent? Why does god have to care what happens to us. The christian view on this is that God gave us free will to choses him or evil. Supposedly nothing makes god happier then when we chose him.

Well God does not have to be omnibenevolent. Deists and epicureans and even aristotle see him as a being that is totally disinterested evil.

As for the christians:

well God is not really happy if we choose him in the way you put it. It’s just that he knows for a fact that he is the best choice and since he loves us he hopes that we chose him. That’s all…

According to a lot of monotheistic ideology God is omniscient, omni-benevolent, and omnipotent, therefore he knows that evil exists, doesn’t want evil to occur and is able to stop evil, and yet evil still exists.

What does it mean for an all-powerful deity to be happy? Would it matter if all the ants in the World were to worship me?

To what extent is conflict necessary(I think Krishnamurti has some good points here)? Can humans go beyond good and evil? are they opposites, or just two points on a continuum?

Well, isn’t evil and misery and sorrow and hate kinda necessary sometimes? I mean, without it, how would we know what good and happiness and joy are?

The claim is that ‘god’ or ‘good’ is an object independant of the perceiver or the entity that is the subject.
However I contend that ‘good’ is dependant on there being a subject.
So an individual entity perceives its own good. This could be a biological cell, a person or even a collective species.
As a species, we can have common ‘goods’. As Kant conjectured.
Descartes, spoke of perceiving ‘god’ the object. This could only be true, if our perceptions were universal. Obviously they are local. So crash that theory!
The animal experiences conditions which vary between desirable and undesirable. Man is a sentient being in that he can reflect and ponder on the desirable. In that he abstracts this into principles of good and evil. Another step further and he conceives of god and devil.
That is the sentient man. “My football team is good and the other sides is evil”
The intellectual transcends this simple localised concept of ‘good and evil’.
There could be some omnipresent entity. Those who claim to measure it are impious.
That is why Theist’s are the most appalling egoist’s.

The most historically important answer to to your question is Leibniz’ that “this is the best of all possible worlds” that even God could have created. Why? Because, although God could have created a word with no evil at all in it, that would not be as good a world as the actual world which he did create. And why is that/ Because, a world with no evil in it would: (a) have less good in it than this world along with its evil; and (b) the evil in this world necessary for some of the goods in it, is more than compensated for by the good the evil is necessary for.
So that the total amount of good in this world, with all its evils, is greater than the total amount of good in a world with no evil in it. So, God created a world which maximized good and minimized the evil necessary for that good to exist.

And example of a good which could not exist unless there were an evil and which more than compensates for that evil would be the good of compassion or the good of giving charity. It would be impossible to have compassion for people if there were no suffering, since compassion without suffering would make no sense. And it would be impossible to give charity to poor people who did not need charity. So, suffering and poverty, although evils, are necessary evils, and they are necessary for the goods of compassion and of charity. Furthermore, someone who took Leibniz’ view would argue that it is better to have the goods of compassion and charity, together with the evils that require compassion and charity, than not to have those evils, but also, not to have compassion and charity. (You can see there are other examples of necessary evils.)

What do you think of this reply to the problem of evil: the “best of all possible worlds” reply?

Life is merely a bridge over which we pass and where we should not linger to build our dwelling.

Attach yourself to this world and you thereby attach yourself to illusion.

All so-called ‘evils’ are no such thing, they don’t even exist.

Evil is a concept evolved, elaborated and shaped by the human mind over aeons. It’s roots lie in the individual fight for survival.

The basic war between the autonomous being and it’s environment is the source of morals.

Later, in man’s history, institutions develop, taking over and monopolising concepts, e.g., churches claim good and bad exist in the world and that they have the solution to the ‘problem’ of evil; legal systems claim right and wrong exist and can be solved through law; political systems claim their own to be just and others unjust; philosophical systems claim they can explain truth and falsity via logic; etc…

These institutions, with the consent and approval of what they deem a requisite consensus, then feed illusions to a largely ignorant and unsuspecting mass-market perverting what is essentially pure and simple self-interest into something which serves the interest of the institution itself!

No, I’m not advocating anarchy or revolution. I’m merely pointing out that there is no problem with evil in the world only a problem with the evil I myself create for me myself alone.

Yes, I believe evil exists. I find the cruelty of humanity very disturbing. It is in our face daily, such as the 11 yr old girl just murdered, or what happened in Haiti last night, or someone killing civilians in Iraq, and on an on. One does not need an ego to find offense in such. These things are not a philisophical illusion, these things break my heart. Like Descates 3rd meditation, I believe God exists. There are some very compelling thoughts on this thread. I like to think that in God’s eternal realm, such human tragedy is not so painful and significant.

Ok I have a huge problem with this. Do you realize the implication of this? Your saying you’d rather for millions to suffer because therefore you can become a compassionate person and help them or make yourself feel better about their suffering by giving or doing some chairty. How absurd. I would rather not have compassion at all then to have somthing like wwII and the Holocaust. What good is you shedding tears and feeling bad for someone who suffers? That is what compassion is isn’t it? Women raped, children straved, murdered, tortured, and you justify this by claiming without this their wouldn’t be compassion!? Are you kidding…
And don’t you feel compassionate when a baby crys or another human being is very upset even when you don’t know the cause of the crying or being upset. Haven’t you ever felt bad for someone for some silly thing? And your telling me you would only know compassion because of such monstrasities as the Holocaust and other great evils in this best of all possible worlds.

What do you call taking someones family stripping them of all dignity and gassing them to death? What do you call of taking someones sister brutally raping and tourching her infront of you and then executing her?What would you call brutally raping and then ripping of the limbs of some woman? Are these mere concepts and abstractions!?

This is the world you live in not some matrix or illusion however much you’d like to believe. And if it were a matrix all an illusion are these monstrasities still justified!?

Evil for Leibniz was probable one of the greatest obstacles for him and I don’t think he was really satisfied with the “best of all possible worlds” thesis because this implies that a “better” world could not be conceived or that there are other worlds created which are inferior in order to establish what is “best” and still leaves us stuck with the “underachiever problem.”

Leibniz also has problems with the holiness argument which imposed that evil was not created but just a like hole was without cause through a privation because the creator still holds accountability for such holes.