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The Problem of Evil
in Philosophy

By McSlothMcSloth 35 Pts edited December 2018
The problem of evil has troubled philosophers for centuries and the debate continues to this very day. For those not familiar with this idea I suggest reading either René Descartes or Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, both fantastic writers who attempted to solve the issue from rather different perspectives. However, for those who are not interested in reading 17th and 18th-century philosophy (which I can't blame you for not wanting to attempt) let me explain the problem as best I can. The problem of evil arises when it is believed that God is omnipotent, omniscience and omnibenevolent (all powerful, all knowing, and all good). For why would such a being create a world where evil was allowed to exist? What purpose would evil serve gods creation? These are just some of the questions that philosophers have been wrestling with for centuries. I would love to hear other peoples opinion on the manner.

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  • Well, what's your definition of "evil"?
    Both good and evil are subjective concepts. We utilize those concepts for value judgments that we assess on human activity.
  • Well considering that I suggested Descartes and Leibniz, who are both western philosophers, let's stick with their definition of evil. Which more or less followed the Judeo Christian view of what constituted evil, such as murder, violence, causing suffering, lying etc. Also natural evil is also fair play, this includes natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, for they also cause suffering.
  • @McSloth
    Thank you, for your definition.

    Evil was created for one reason - to prove that nothing can exist without its opposite. Let’s suppose that the world only contained “good” people. No one would acknowledge each other as “good.” That has to do with the fact that the hypothetical world hasn’t been exposed to evil, therefore how would you know what is “good”? Without “evil,” you would not appreciate “good.” The world we live in has conflicting perspectives on what is “right or wrong,” or what is “good or evil,” and it will remain that way. Evil is in this world to create balance - one cannot exist without the other.
  • "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." - Friedrich Nietzsche.

    There are many quotes, as well as immediate observables, confirming the general principle: for something to grow, something else has to oppose it, to challenge it. That which is challenged grows stronger; that which is not weakens and loses to future competitors. Just a few examples:
    1. To become physically fit, you have to exercise, which is hard and painful - but overcoming these hardships teaches your body how to perform to the optimal capacity.
    2. The strongest and dominant animals - such as wolves or lions - learn to chase their prey in excrutiatingly long and tiring run sessions. Many die, but those that do not become almost invincible.
    3. Our political system - democratic republic - was a result of the traditional systems being challenged by incompetent authoritarian monarchs. It is this threat of being slaves to a tyranny, and countless examples of societies becoming such, that eventually led a group of very intelligent people into laying down the foundations of the system of checks and balances that nowadays is used, to one extent or another, virtually in every society.
    4. The most fundamental danger - death - is what has propelled almost all of the technological progress in the history of humanity. Nearly everything we develop allows us, in some way, to postpone death, or to make the most out of what we have before death. If our mortality was not challenged by anyone, would we have developed computers eventually? I seriously doubt that: we would be happy spending our days under palms and enjoying our ignorantly blissful lazy state.
    5. The most effective and innovative businesses, such as Amazon or Microsoft, were a result of basic necessity to maintain consistent positive profit for the company to survive. Since the competition in large business is extremely harsh, one has to develop truly spectacular products to stay in businesses.
    I can go on and on, but let us not waste any more time on this.

    From this perspective, imagine a perfectly good god. That god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent - but not necessarily an omnibabysitter-like. The god might want to create the initial conditions which will naturally lead to perfectly good humans - he does not want to hand them everything over on a silver plate, but he wants them to come there by their own volition. Such a god would be wise to introduce evil, something that constantly challenges the good and makes the good grow stronger and stronger.
    Of course, evil in this case must be overall weaker than good, otherwise it is evil that wins the battle in the end, and the god's plan crumbles. Assuming the god is omniscient and omnipotent, he would definitely have foreseen that and designed the world respectively.
  • If god is omnipotent, omniscience and omnibenevolent, no excuse can be made as to why there is "bad" in our universe. "Nothing can exist without it's opposite." it can, if an omnipotent being wishes so. If god cannot create good without it's opposite, he is not omnipotent. If he chooses not to create good without it's opposite he is not omnibenevolent. This is literally the same contradiction and somehow people still miss it.

     There is no counter-argument to this other than saying there is actually no "bad" in our universe but we think there is, because our definition of "good" and "bad" are false. But then "good" becomes meaningless. Let me show you what I mean: "God is all-good and all-powerful so there can not be any 'bad' in our universe. Therefore, everything that happens is good."
  • McSlothMcSloth 35 Pts
    edited December 2018

    Let me play devils advocate to your argument, why would an all-powerful God create a world where this was necessary? An all-powerful God would, in theory, be able to create a universe where evil was not necessary to prove what "good" is.
  • @MayCaesar

    I'll be playing devil's advocate, so how do you explain natural disasters? They cause mass suffering so they would be considered evil based on that idea alone. No matter how strong humanity becomes or how "good" we become natural disasters can always come in and kill innocent people, does the baby who gets swept away in a hurricane really deserve that? How does God justify that? Not to mention that at any moment, an asteroid could slam into Earth killing all life, as they have done in the past. Why would God create a universe where his creation could be destroyed in such a manner? 
  • McSlothMcSloth 35 Pts
    edited December 2018

    Again, playing devil's advocate here, aren't you assuming quite a bit about God's intent? Humanity still knows very little about the universe and has many questions that have yet to be answered. Is it not possible that God knows something that we don't and the existence of evil plays some kind of important function in his creation? 
  • @McSloth

    Perhaps natural disasters serve a dual purpose: they let those who deserve it ascend to Heaven immediately through death, and they test and hone the resolve of those who have survived. Both benefit from such an arrangement, from God's point of view.

    Maybe the God did not set out to create a Universe without suffering - but, rather, he set out to create a Universe which *eventually* will be rid of suffering, but it will require a lot of work from intelligent creatures, that ultimately will be rewarded.

    I am not religious, so I do not know how Christians, Muslims or others explain this - but this is how I would explain it if I were to guess.
  • @McSloth

    People think God is evil, because he created evil, right? Well, maybe that's not the case. It could be that evil transpired as a result of sin, and sin is something God didn't want in the universe. That would mean that God's not responsible for evil, but the origin of evil lies within humanity.

    God created human beings with a choice to obey or disobey. Therefore, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, that was when evil was created. Evil is an action, not a created substance. It was merely the choice of humanity for evil to exist within the universe.

    As for natural disasters, they may be a consequence of a fallen world. Although we know that humans are not responsible for the occurrence of natural disasters, it may be a consequence of our sins. The moment sin was generated in the universe, everything was affected. This would demonstrate that suffering and evil coexist within each other.
  • Two possibilities: 1. God is not those three things: he could be all powerful and all-knowing but not all good, so he allows evil; he could be all powerful and all good, but is not aware of what's happening; or he could be all knowing and all good but is not powerful enough to stop it. 2. What we think is evil might actually be good: maybe heaven exists, and it's the place everyone wants to be at.

  • Evil is:

    An individual going home, and domestic violence and abuse ensue after the domestic abuser arrives at their residence.
    Each day and, each year.

    The various amounts of gun violence that goes on in the US each day, each year.

    The continued practice of the drunk driver, illegally driving while drunk and endangering the innocent people that they hurt because of their drunk driving choices, each day, and each year.

    The drugged drivers who are starting to mirror the drunk drivers with their own drugged driving acts and choices, and hurting innocent people with their drugged driving actions.

    The robberies, the muggings, the abductions, carjackings, the murder/ suicides, the hate crimes, the crimes committed over money or drugs, the hit and runs, the youth being hurt or worse, by stray weapons fire that goes through the walls of their own homes, and so on.

    Those individuals who illegally enable the youth around them with either drugs or alcohol. 

  • @TTKDB

    Yes those are all evil acts, but that isn't what we're discussing here. We are attempting to solve for why those evil acts are allowed to take place in a universe which is supposed to be created by an all powerful and benevolent God. 
  • @funperson

    There are more possibilities then just those. Take John Hicks, the famous contemporary theologian, and his solution to the problem of evil for example. Hicks still assumes that God is all powerful, all knowing and benevolent, however Hick argues that God is so powerful that he was capable of creating a universe where he did not know what was going to happen. God therefore evolves with humanity as time passes experiencing the universe as we do. This would explain why evil is allowed to exist because God never saw evil coming and didn't plan for it in his creation. Take in mind however that I am no expert in John Hicks, and that I am most likely butchering his argument and doing it little justice, however it should serve to prove the existence of more possibilities. 
  • @McSloth
    I see what you're saying. It's like when someone asks "can God create a rock so heavy that even he can't lift it." So maybe God created a universe more powerful than him
  • @funperson

    With an all powerful and all knowing God in the mix, practically anything is possible. 
  • @McSloth

    Then why isn't your forum in the Religion section then?

    Yes those are all evil acts, but that isn't what we're discussing here. We are attempting to solve for why those evil acts are allowed to take place in a universe which is supposed to be created by an all powerful and benevolent God. 

    Do you know what some of man is good at?

    Bashing God, Jesus, and the Bible.

    Some want photographic evidence of Jesus, just so some of the anti religious can prove an empty point of view with an empty question?

    Do you have a philosophy question that might cover that individual topic point all by itself? 

    Then you have kids who verbally bash other kids with bullying.

    Is there a philosophy question that can be gleened from the parents of a bully that they are raising, from bullying another kid?

    "be·nev·o·lent: well meaning and kindly. '"a benevolent smile"

    Do you view humanity as possibly being benevolent?

    Why hold God to such a standard?

    If you maybe go about viewing humanity in the same context as you apparently view God in the same benevolent context, might you view one as better than the other? 

    Is it fair or unfair to view God and humanity in the same context of each other.

    "We are attempting to solve for why those evil acts are allowed to take place in a universe which is supposed to be created by an all powerful and benevolent God."

    Man can be evil can't he, and man in the same degree can be benevolent like as well can't he? 

    So why does God get the question, and not humanity in general? 

    Why does humanity in general do the evil acts that he does? 

    Why can't man in refrain from catering to evil, and maybe rediscover some of the lost respect that he could have for himself?

    Rediscover some of the previous intergrity that he used to have for himself.

    Rediscover some of the previous courteousy and being neighborly towards one another like he used to have for himself?

  • @McSloth No. I don't think you understand my argument here. If god wants to create a universe that is good, and he has infinite power, there is no excuse for him to not create that kind of universe. 

     You can say: "God is actually good, we just cannot understand it." but this is not an explanation. This is basically saying that everything must be actually good because god is good. Defying all common sense and morality just so you can accept god. But there is a contradiction here, you used your common sense to accept god in the first place. So, if you are just going to throw it out the window why accept god in the first place? You might as well say that the universe just popped into existance. It doesn't need to make sense because god, as you admitted, doesn't make sense either.

     Oh by the way, according to this explanation; if I go out, kidnap a child and torture her until the day she dies, this is somehow "good" because god must be good.

     I repeat, the argument is this: "If an all-powerful being wishes to create a good universe, they can do it because they are all-powerful." this is not refutable. This is just a logical consequence of making god all-powerful and all-good. 
  • @AlexOland

    Ahhh yes, the issue with divine command theory, I was hoping someone would bring it up. Even if most contemporary philosophers, including theologians, have abandoned the theory, it was rather prevalent all the way up to the beginnings of the 20th century so its still a topic worthy of discussion. If the of goodness is connected with God, then everything God does or allows to happen must be good on some level. So yes if God tells you to kidnap or kill, then you must do it and it would be considered good.
  • ;Question: "What is the biblical solution to the problem of evil?" Answer: Broadly stated, the “problem of evil” is the seeming contradiction between an all-powerful, all-loving God and the human experience of suffering and evil in the world. Critics claim that the existence of evil is proof that the omnipotentomnibenevolent God of the Bible cannot exist. Since “bad things happen to good people,” critics say, God is either nonexistent or less good or less powerful than Scripture suggests. Despite what some critics think, the so-called “problem of evil” is not something the Bible leaves unaddressed. Scripture not only refers to the problem of evil, but it offers several solutions to it. By looking at the Bible’s honest questioning of evil, God’s response to evil, and the scriptural solution to evil, one can address this problem using almost nothing other than God’s Word. Of course, this question ties into theology and philosophy as well. There are multiple ways of coming to possible solutions, and none is entirely complete all by itself. According to the Bible, the experience of evil is something God understands and acknowledges. God’s willingness to grant us the freedom of making our own choices also allows for the possibility of moral evil. Moral evil leads to physical evil. Even so, God has always acted to soften the blows that evil and suffering land on humanity. He also provided the one and only means to make all wrongs right. One day, God’s plan to defeat and destroy evil will be fully complete.Scripture acknowledges the “problem of evil” Many of the Bible’s 66 individual books openly express what we would now term the “problem of evil.” In some cases, these expressions are all but a direct accusation against God, in response to the suffering the writers had seen or experienced. The entire book of Job, for example, is a discussion of the reasons why mankind experiences suffering even when we don’t seem to deserve it. In addition, Scripture offers many other notable passages that clearly reflect the problem of evil: Habakkuk 1:2–4, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” Ecclesiastes 4:1–3, “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” Psalm 10:1, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 22:1–2, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 83:1–2, “O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads.” John 16:2–4, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.” Romans 8:36, “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’“ Revelation 6:9–10, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’“ These passages show a personal, deep awareness of the reality of evil. Scripture does not present evil as an abstraction or a remote idea. The real human beings who recorded the words of the Bible were painfully aware of the existence of evil and suffering. And they were willing to express their feelings to God, especially when they felt He wasn’t acting according to their expectations. Notably, however, these same authors also recognize and trust the goodness of God to make these wrongs right, someday. Scripture frames the “problem of evil” The Bible makes it clear that evil is neither something God intended nor created. Rather, moral evil is a necessary possibility. If we are truly free, then we are free to choose something other than God’s will—that is, we can choose moral evil. Scripture points out that there are consequences for defying the will of God—personal, communal, physical, and spiritual. Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 2:16–17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’“ Genesis 3:17–19, “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” Proverbs 19:3, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” Matthew 5:3–11, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” John 9:1–3, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” Romans 1:18–28, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . . Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Hebrews 2:2–3, “For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” Taken together, Scripture shows us that physical evils—sickness, famine, war, and death—are the result of moral evil. And moral evil is something human beings are all responsible for, on a personal and a communal level. We suffer because of our own sins at times. Other times, we suffer because of the sins of others. In some situations, we suffer from simple cause-and-effect. And we sometimes suffer for a special purpose, in order to bring hope or help—or a warning—to others (see 2 Corinthians 1:4). Taken together, Scripture shows us that physical evils—sickness, famine, war, and death—are the result of moral evil. And moral evil is something human beings are all responsible for, on a personal and a communal level. We suffer because of our own sins at times. Other times, we suffer because of the sins of others. In some situations, we suffer from simple cause-and-effect. And we sometimes suffer for a special purpose, in order to bring hope or help—or a warning—to others (see 2 Corinthians 1:4). The Bible “frames” the problem of evil by keeping it in the proper context. “Evil” is meaningless without something to compare it to. For comparison, we have the original creation of God, called “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We have the standard of goodness in God Himself. And we have an explanation for the various causes of evil and suffering. Likewise, we see that this physical world is not all there is. Nor is this mortal life all we have been made for. We can experience physical struggles such as “mourning” and “persecution” (Matthew 5:411) while looking to a greater, more permanent state of being “blessed.” Of course, clearly framing what evil is and why we experience it is not the same as resolving the problem of evil. However, even the framing of evil in the context of Christian theology shows that our experience of evil and suffering is not incompatible with God’s existence. Amplifying this proof is how the Bible goes beyond accurately describing evil to revealing God’s action to remedy it. Scripture opposes the “problem of evil” Scripture shows that God did not create evil and does not promote it; rather, it describes God’s actions in combatting it. God limits the impact of evil, warns us of the dangers of evil, acts to stop the spread of evil, gives us an escape from evil, and will eventually defeat evil forever. Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” 
     Genesis 4:10–15, “The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’ Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.’“Genesis 6:5–8, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 7:1–4, “The Lord then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. . . . Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.’“ 
  • I think personally that evil may be some sort of divine punishment/lesson. During the time of Adam and Eve ,when they disobeyed God and created sin, God cast them out from paradise. Evil in humanity can be considered a punish, as in a way for humanity as a whole to pay for Adam and Eve's creation. And punishments/lessons in a way can't really be considered evil(in general) because they are made for teaching discipline(for the most part) . Using this logic, God uses evil as an eternal punishment for humanity as a reminder+warning not to disobey and since punishment isn't inherently evil, it could (possibly) stand to reason that God could let evil continue as a punishment and the act of letting evil exist wouldn't be 'evil'. That way good can exist because God is good and evil can exist because God wants it to because it was our fault it is here to begin with, so we just have to deal it.  
    I don't know. Maybe I'm super wrong and have a lot of logic problems in my argument. Just wanted to give my two cents.      
  • >If god is omnipotent, omniscience and omnibenevolent, no excuse can be made as to why there is "bad" in our universe.

    Why is an "excuse" needed at all?

    When the "problem of evil" comes up, no one ever questions the assumptions in the question. What makes it's assumptions true?

    Why would a moral God be one who saves us from the consequences of our evil choices? The POE assumes that only a genie God serving us would be "good". That is ludicrous.

    Is what we call "bad", evil to God? Why would it be? Who says God is "omnibenevolent"? From where is that assumption?

    Universes are neither morally good or bad. People are. If God made all people good, how would they have free will?

    The POE assumes a universe of  unthinking robots would be morally superior to one with people who are free to love. That is a ridiculous assumption.

    The "problem of evil" is philosophical sleight of hand, mental smoke and mirrors. There is no real problem, but a fake one manufactured out of juvenile word play and poor thinking.

    Watch, no one will address the silly assumptions inherent in the question.
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