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Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universeto the desires and needs of individuals ; whence arises, among human beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds.
Thus evil, from the point of view of human welfare, is what ought not to exist. Nevertheless, there is no department of human life in which its presence is not felt; and the discrepancy between what is and what ought to be has always called for explanation in the account which mankind has sought to give of itself and its surroundings.
For this purpose it is necessary 1 to define the precise nature of the principle that imparts the character of evil to so great a variety of circumstances, and 2 to ascertain, as far Problem of evil essay on man may be possible, the source from which it arises.
Physical evil includes all that causes harm to man, whether by bodily injury, by thwarting his natural desires, or by preventing the full development of his powers, either in the order of nature directly, or through the various social conditions under which mankind naturally exists.
Physical evils directly due to nature are sickness, accident, death, etc. Poverty, oppression, and some forms of disease are instances of evil arising from imperfect social organization. Mental suffering, such as anxiety, disappointment, and remorse, and the limitation of intelligence which prevents human beings from attaining to the full comprehension of their environment, are congenital forms of evil; each vary in character and degree according to natural disposition and social circumstances.
By moral evil are understood the deviation of human volition from the prescriptions of the moral order and the action which results from that deviation. Such action, when it proceeds solely from ignoranceis not to be classed as moral evil, which is properly restricted to the motions of will towards ends of which the conscience disapproves.
The extent of moral evil is not limited to the circumstances of life in the natural order, but includes also the sphere of religion, by which man's welfare is affected in the supernatural orderand the precepts of which, as depending ultimately upon the will of Godare of the strictest possible obligation see SIN.
The obligation to moral action in the natural order is, moreover, generally believed to depend on the motives supplied by religion; and it is at least doubtful whether it is possible for moral obligation to exist at all apart from a supernatural sanction.
Metaphysical evil is the limitation by one another of various component parts of the natural world. Through this mutual limitation natural objects are for the most part prevented from attaining to their full or ideal perfection, whether by the constant pressure of physical condition, or by sudden catastrophes.
Thus, animal and vegetable organisms are variously influenced by climate and other natural causes; predatory animals depend for their existence on the destruction of life; nature is subject to storms and convulsions, and its order depends on a system of perpetual decay and renewal due to the interaction of its constituent parts.
If animals suffering is excluded, no pain of any kind is caused by the inevitable limitations of nature; and they can only be called evil by analogy, and in a sense quite different from that in which the term is applied to human experience.
Clarke, moreover, has aptly remarked Correspondence with Leibniz, letter ii that the apparent disorder of nature is really no disorder, since it is part of a definite scheme, and precisely fulfills the intention of the Creator; it may therefore be counted as a relative perfection rather than an imperfection.
It is, in fact, only by a transference to irrational objects of the subjective ideals and aspirations of human intelligence, that the "evil of nature" can be called evil in any sense but a merely analogous one.
The nature and degree of pain in lower animals is very obscure, and in the necessary absence of data it is difficult to say whether it should rightly be classed with the merely formal evil which belongs to inanimate objects, or with the suffering of human beings. The latter view was generally held in ancient times, and may perhaps be referred to the anthropomorphic tendency of primitive minds which appears in the doctrine of metempsychosis.
Thus it has often been supposed that animal suffering, together with many of the imperfections of inanimate nature, was due to the fall of man, with whose welfare, as the chief part of creation, were bound up the fortunes of the rest see Theoph.
Genesis 3 and 1 Corinthians 9. The opposite view is taken by St.
Descartes supposed that animals were merely machines, without sensation or consciousness; he was closely followed by Malebranche and Cartesians generally. Leibniz grants sensation to animals, but considers that mere sense-perception, unaccompanied by reflexion, cannot cause either pain or pleasure; in any case he holds the pain and pleasure of animals to be parable in degree to those resulting from reflex action in man see also Maher, PsychologySupp't.
It is evident again that all evil is essentially negative and not positive; i. Pain, which is the test or criterion of physical evil, has indeed a positive, though purely subjective existence as a sensation or emotion; but its evil quality lies in its disturbing effect on the sufferer.
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In like manner, the perverse action of the will, upon which moral evil depends, is more than a mere negation of right action, implying as it does the positive element of choice; but the morally evil character of wrong action is constituted not by the element of choice, but by its rejection of what right reason requires.
Thus Origen In Joh. Augustine's phrase attributes evil to "aliqua causa deficiens" Summa Theol. Thus it will be seen that evil is not a real entity; it is relative.
What is evil in some relations may be good in others; and probably there is no form of existence which is exclusively evil in all relations, Hence it has been thought that evil cannot truly be said to exist at all, and is really nothing but a "lesser good. Though the same cause may give pain to one, and pleasure to another, pain and pleasure, as sensations or ideascannot but be mutually exclusive.
No one, however, has attempted to deny this very obvious fact; and the opinion in question may perhaps be understood as merely a paradoxical way of stating the relativity of evil. There is practically a general agreement of authorities as the nature of evil, some allowance being made for varying modes of expression depending on a corresponding variety of philosophical presuppositions.
But on the question of the origin of evil there has been, and is a considerable diversity of opinion. The problem is strictly a metaphysical one; i. The question, which Schopenhauer has called "the punctum pruriens of metaphysics", is concerned not so much with the various detailed manifestations of evil in nature, as with the hidden and underlying cause which has made these manifestations possible or necessary ; and it is at once evident that enquiry in a region so obscure must be attended with great difficulty, and that the conclusions reached must, for the most part be of a provisional and tentative character.
No system of philosophy has ever succeeded in escaping from the obscurity in which the subject is involved; but it is not too much to say that the Christian solution offers, on the whole, fewer difficulties, and approaches more nearly to completeness than any other.
The question may be stated thus. Admitting that evil consists in a certain relation of man to his environment, or that it arises in the relation of the component parts of the totality of existence to one another, how comes it that though all are alike the results of a universal cosmic process, this universal agency is perpetually at war with itself, contradicting and thwarting its own efforts in the mutual hostility of its progeny?Table of Contents.
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Wouldn't He want to eliminate it and be able to eliminate it? "The Structure of Evil", surveys the field of literature, science, philosophy, and psychology across the ages in a manner that is exhausting to read and, yet, breadth taking, at the same time.
EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE By J. L. Mackie University of Sydney. The traditional arguments for the existence of God have been fairly thoroughly criticised by philosophers.
“I feel like I’m an above-average driver.” I feel like I’m a below-average driver. Likewise, I increasingly find driving stressful and dangerous, plus there are more and more good alternatives to driving that are often cheaper and faster and kinder to the environment.
A Socratic perspective on the relationship between ignorance, human evil, and the examined life.