The Problem Of Evil -- By: E. C. Gordon
BSac 78:310 (April 1921) p. 149
The Problem Of Evil
Both physical and moral evil are obtrusive facts in human experience. The presence of “evil,” mingled together with what we call “good,” constitutes the problem which we are to consider. Attempts at the solution of this problem may be reduced to five, and we may call them Pessimism, Optimism, Materialism, Dualism, and Christian Monotheism.
The first of these solutions consists in the denial of the reality of any good. Apparent good, that which promotes the production and evolution of life in sentient forms, is admitted to be abundant; sufficiently abundant, indeed, to secure the object contemplated. But the final end of the entire system is that its author, whoever he may be, may observe and enjoy the sufferings of these sentient creatures. This is Pessimism or Diabolism, as men may prefer to call it.
Those who accept this solution smile sardonically at the learning and ability of the biologists who set forth with painstaking care the innumerable and admirable devices by means of which Nature secures the development of life and its capacity to suffer. John Stuart Mill, one of the ablest and fairest of England’s nineteenth-century non-Christian philosophers, thus sums up his arraignment of Nature and her processes: though he does not explicitly accept this solution. He was rather an Agnostic than a Pessimist.
“The word Nature has two principal meanings: it either denotes the entire system of things, with the aggregate of all their properties, or it denotes things as they would be, apart from human intervention. In the first of these senses, the doctrine that man ought to follow nature is unmeaning: since man has no power to do any thing else than follow nature: In the other sense of the term, the doctrine that man ought to follow nature is
BSac 78:310 (April 1921) p. 150
equally irrational and immoral. Irrational, because all human action whatever, consists in altering, and all useful action in improving, the spontaneous course of nature: immoral, because the course of natural phenomena being replete with every thing which when committed by human beings is most worthy of abhorrence, any one who endeavoured in his actions to imitate the natural course of things would-be universally seen and acknowledged to be the wickedest of men. The scheme of Nature regarded in its whole extent cannot have had, for its sole or even principal object, the good of human or other sentient beings.”1
This pessimistic solution is manifestly a doctrine of despair, and most men reject it as such.
The second solution consists in the denial of evil. What we call evil is to be ...
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