THESIS STATEMENT: Whether Evil Exists
- Good vs. Evil
- Different positions for the same argument
- Three conflicting positions
- God is omnipotent
- God is wholly good
- Evil exists
- The quasi- logical assumptions
- The dilemma posed by good omnipotence
- The first solution to the dilemma
- A limit to omnipotence
- Changing the definition of omnipotence
- The second solution to the dilemma
- The two supreme goods
- Free will
- Evil as a subject
- Endless possibilities
- Evil as an object
- A categorization of human experiences
- A result of human action
- Solution to evil
- As a subject
- As an object
- Leibniz’s propositions
- Evil as universal good
- Pre-determined harmony
- Relevance of proposed solutions to evil
- Evil Exists
- God is wholly good
- Limits of omnipresence
- Objections to solutions
- The power of God to stop Evil
- The question of omnipotence.
- Dismissive use of evil to explain cruelty.
“There is no good and evil; there is only power and those too weak to seek it”(Rowling 211). The argument for or against the existence of evil is one that is as old as time, finding its roots in the concurrent belief in religious propositions that contradict. The religious person is faced with the repulsive choice of giving up their faith for the sake of logic while the atheist is confronted with the choice of giving up logical consistency for the interests of belief. While both these people may be on the same side of this argument, i.e., against evil, their approach draws a divide that polarizes humanity.
To further illustrate the conflict innate to this age old argument, J.L Mackie aptly states in his essay titled “Evil and Omnipotence” that the problem lies in the description of God as ‘omnipotent,’ and ‘wholly good,’ yet there is the existence of evil. This provides a precarious position where if any two of the three facts were true, the third one would be false. Further, there is a need for some basic assumptions regarding the three propositions, to make some sense of the obvious paradox. These “quasi-logical” assumptions are that; right contradicts evil and that there are no limits to omnipotence (Mackie, 34).
The first assumption implies that good will always eliminate evil as much as it can, together with the second assumption we get the message that a good omnipotent thing cannot allow the existence of evil (Dahl & Pares, 12). This now defines the set problem, and while it may be impossible for one to settle for one of the three propositions entirely, it may be an achievable task to eliminate the existing contradiction, as this paper will attempt to do.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The first approach to solving this contradiction would involve a conclusion that God cannot create a different world. While this now goes against his omnipotent nature (why would an omnipotent be unable to create contradiction? Is there a limit to omnipotence?) It is safe to argue that if God indeed could create such a world, then evil would be his creation as well and therefore have no possible solution. Going back to the first argument; if God is truly good and truly omnipotent, then he cannot allow the existence of evil. This now implies that there could be a different definition of omnipotence (Genesis, Cp. 2). It would be defined as having no limits only within the existing boundaries of logical possibility. In this way, one can safely conclude that God can do all else apart from creating a contradiction.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
The second possible solution is the existence of two goods. Creation and free will are two supreme goods whose absence would mean the world devoid of any good and significantly depleted. Creation entails change and being made anew that is inherent to life. The blossoming of flowers, sprouting of buds, and the rivers and other wonders of nature are all instances of creation. The goodness of this principle is reaffirmed in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. After each act of creation, God “saw that it was good”(Genesis ch.1) Creation, of course, did not cease with the first day but continues daily. Free will is also portrayed in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve are forbidden from eating the fruit of the tree but proceed to eat it and hence committing the first act of evil. Free will is thus the manifestation of one’s ability to choose a given course of action that is available to them at a particular time.
How then is evil manifested? From the conclusion on the subject of evil this far, it is obvious that evil is not only a phenomenon that finds its basis in humanity but is also dependent on the nature of the human being as having free will. In this way, evil can be analyzed either as a subject or an object. As a matter, evil thrives on human knowledge of the world as one big possibility. The knowledge of the many opportunities available to one brings with it an awareness of the freedom to commit various actions. Martin Buber, a writer on the matters of good and evil, explains this as the conversion of happenings around man into the desire to act (Buber, 26). While there are a myriad of possibilities, the chaos they cause translates into a chaos of action. Faced with endless possibilities, one may just open themselves up to any random possibility available to them, or decide to carry out self-unification, finding a specific direction that aligns itself with a particular goal. Both paths are different, with the former on being indecisive and almost always evil while the latter is decisive and almost always good (Buber, 24). While indecision might lead to evil, the decision may not always eliminate the possibility of evil. Through the process of self-unification, one decides to focus on a particular potential out of the millions accorded to him. Once this choice is made, certain values are accepted as being right for the individual making this conscious choice. From the acceptance of these values comes the second type of evil (Buber, 26).
Evil as an object arises from the various hindrances one may encounter upon choosing to follow a particular path. These obstacles oppose the previously mentioned values that one accepts as good upon self-unification. These hindrances may be negative experiences with one’s environment that deny the human being the affirmation they so desire. Evil here is portrayed as something out there that opposes the free will inherent in man. What is common between these two forms of evil? There is evil as a subject that presents itself in the shape of indecision and evil as an object which, despite decisiveness stands in the way of one taking the path towards their desired goal. Both these forms of evil depend on human recognition and particular human experience that is then branded as evil (Lemke & Campos, 19). Evil does not exist as an independent force but as a way of categorizing the experiences people face. Evil is also a direct result of the implications of free will. (Evil as a subject is the random choice of some possibilities while evil as an object is the consequence of a choice in pursuit of a goal)[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Now that we have determined the existence of evil; it is necessary to propose potential solutions to this problem. First, addressing evil as a subject, with the knowledge that God gave man the ability of free choice, man must be able to see his situation as one encumbered with chaotic possibilities. Man is faced with a myriad of options, and the easiest option would be to pick the nearest available one simply. This random option chosen, referred to by Buber as “undirected reality” comes naturally with the human freedom (it is the nature of humanity to experience indecision or undirected reality at some point in life) (Lemke & Campos, 41). Thus, it is a huge contradiction for God to make the world that has freedom of choice but not evil as a subject because evil as a subject is the consequence of freedom of choice.
Addressing evil as an object one is faced with natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. In as far as these phenomena occur; they become deterrents to achieving one’s goals. The irony in this is that such events are what is described as good in the ideal of creation. An example is the flood in Noah’s ark which was destructive, but at the same time creative because from it came to the ‘new world.’ When God allowed the good of creation, he also allowed for the world to become a hindrance to objective evil. Creation and free will are supreme goods, and this only emphasizes the fact that the absence of these two would mean the world with much less good. By giving these two goods to a creative world, God ultimately created the best world he possibly could, as the option of a world without evil was not open to him and God cannot create a different world.
Leibniz argues that the world as is the best possible world disclosed to God in his wisdom. However, two aspects of his argument seem contrary to the argument fronted in this paper thus far; that the evil is seen in this world, I good, once the larger picture of the whole universe is put in view. This means that what we see and the term as evil, when fitted into the larger puzzle is good (Leibniz, 280). A smaller revealed portion of the painting that is an individual life looks confused but gets whole meaning once fitted into the bigger picture that is life. Leibniz takes the position that one’s small and chaotic corner of the universe becomes useful when looked at from the whole world as a point of view. The position contemplated in this paper does not accommodate such an argument. Evil from man’s perspective or God’s perspective is still evil, and it cannot be said that what seems evil to man is good to God. Evil cannot be avoided due to the inclusion of creation and free will as the central supreme goods in the world. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Leibniz introduces the concept of pre-established harmony. This concept implies that each component of life only has the power to affect itself; however, the causal interaction that is witnessed in daily living is only as a result of God’s intentional programming for them to “harmonize”. An interpretation of this theory as put forward by Leibniz would be made clear using an example of an apple falling on a person’s head, causing some pain, in this argument the pain is not caused by the Apple but by some state of this person’s mind. Any reaction to the fall of this Apple would not be as a result of the fall but some already pre-established mental state (Leibniz, 281). This paper, however, does not ascribe to Leibniz’s argument and takes the position of human freedom of action and thought, which is the opposite of the concept of pre-determined harmonious society.
The relevance of this proposed solution lies in the problem initially highlighted at the beginning of the paper; that God is all good and omnipotent but at the same time, evil does exist. The proposed solution first admits to the existence of evil that cannot possibly be translated into good. The admission of the existence of evil is the basis for solving the question, as one cannot find a solution to something that does not exist. The solution also proposes that God is wholly good as he has created the best possible world in his ability (Kiraz, 45). While it was necessary to put limits on his omnipotence as God cannot create a world characterized with contradictions, this problem was justified by the argument that the problem brought about by evil would have no solution without God’s qualification. By redefining omnipotence, we have introduced the meaning that God can do all that is logically possible.
Despite these seeming fool proof solutions, two objections can be raised against them. The strongest one would be why God does not interrupt actions of human beings which are headed in a direction that I evil or likely to cause evil. The best rebuttal for this would be that God’s intervention would be a contravention of free will inherent to human life. The very definition of freedom can select any course of action that is humanly possible and available to one at a given time. For God to interrupt, he would have suspended the supreme good of free will. This seems to be an accepted explanation, as even the writers of the Old Testament felt that God would not interrupt Adam and Eve’s free will when they chose to eat the forbidden fruit as this would mean God had opted to suspend a supreme good (free will). By referring to the choice towards a particular direction, “the path, for there is only one” Buber implies that if one is to choose from many ways, there is only on which is good and the rest are random and evil. Buber’s essay also implies that the path selected as opposed to randomness only would be spoiled by God’s interruption as instead of choosing between randomness and self-unification, the human being would have only one path to follow and only one destiny (Buber, 23). This would amount to determinism. God, in his endeavors to eradicate evil, would deny the world of supreme good of free will.
Another possible objection would be that if God’s limitation of human being’s freedom of choice would deny the world of good, then God is not omnipotent. First, the question here would not be about evil as it brings into question God’s consistency and omnipotence. The best rebuttal would be that simply because God choose to interfere and prevent evil actions consistently does not mean that this is his only choice. It does not speak to the extent of his powers, only his preference for action. While God can choose to render himself as less good by depleting the world of supreme good, rather unnecessarily, the mere reason that he has this possibility does not have any effect on hi all good nature, and if anything, serves to illustrate his omnipotence better.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Despite the in-depth analysis contained in this paper of evil and its depiction of humanity, and extensive debate on the role God has to play in the existence of evil. As said at the beginning of the essay; it is impossible to find a single answer to the age-old question of the existence of evil. Many questions still remain unanswered. The major one among them is whether creation and free will are good and whether the world without the two principles would be any less good. These two propositions form the basis for the argument of the above paper, but the fact that they work so well in providing a solution does not imply their plain truth. The answer to this question thus lies in a broader analysis.
It is not uncommon to witness the struggle between Good and Evil every day. Society has grouped people into two distinct group; good people and bad/evil people. These judgments are usually based on the outer appearances or actions of people, leaving one to wonder about the inner self. Do people not battle within themselves, faced with both good and evil? An affirmative answer to this question would mean that each has both sides to them. This would then divide people into two; the mentally, psychologically and spiritually able individuals who have the will to control their bad sides and give more life to the good in their person. And the mentally disabled, psychologically challenged or spiritually weak individuals who gravitate, intentionally or unintentionally towards feeding their more selfish pleasures and end up giving the world more of their bad side, to the extent that they have no more good left in them. This way of thinking leaves society hungry for someone to blame. Who do people blame when they lose loved ones to acts of human cruelty? Do they sit down and analyze the innate human qualities that come with being part of an equally cruel world? Do their anger and grief allow them the rationality of having to contemplate this age old question in the hope of finding some solace?
Blaming a higher being for the cruel ways of human beings always seems like the most convenient explanation that assuages the emotional devastation brought about by these cruelties. The acts of dictators such as Adolf Hitler who mercilessly gassed innocent children and killed adults simply on the basis of religion, Osama Bin Laden whose terror group cruelty was unfounded all over the world, and Pol Pot; leaders responsible for the unwarranted death of millions of innocents, are all easily dismissed as evil (Lemke & Campos, 25). One does not realize that by doing so, one ignores the motivation and beliefs that lie behind the commission of these inhumane acts. Also, such crimes against humanity cannot be blamed on a single person as they required the collaboration of many people in the forms of army generals and the common citizen who turns against their neighbor, all people who are termed as “normal” and not having characteristics normally dismissed an evil. It is for these reasons that the debate on the existence of evil is not only a necessary but also a relevant discussion.
Buber, Martin. Images of Good and Evil.Routledge & Paul, 1952.
Dahl, M., & Pares, R. (2012). Good vs. evil. Mankato, Minn: Stone Arch Books.
Genesis.Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.
Kiraz, Tabetha. (2011). Good Vs. Evil. Gorgias Pr Llc.
Lemke, D. B., & Campos, C. (2012). Good vs. evil: The awakening. Mankato, Minn: Stone Arch Books.
Leibniz, G. W. “Monadology and Other Philosophical Essays. By G. W. Leibniz.Translated by Paul Schrecker and Anne Martin Schrecker. “Library of Liberal Arts,” Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1965. Pp. 163.Paperback Dialogue, vol. 5, no. 02, 1966, pp. 278-280.
Mackie, J L. The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God. Clarendon P, 1982.
Rowling, J K. “The man with the two faces.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1998, p. 211.