Monday, September 30, 2013

Necessary Evil and the Problem of Evil

From guest blogger, Andrea.

For my first paper, I want to write about a response to the problem of evil. So the problem of evil says that if there is a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, why then is there evil in the world. Wouldn't a perfectly omnibenevolent god not want evil and suffering in the world?

A possible theist response is one that explains the presence of evil. Suffering is a necessary evil that results from evil events happening around us and to us. Evil can be anything “bad” and can be measured on a large scale. Why does god allow us to suffer? He uses it as a learning experience for his creations. Suffering is a stress in our lives and we need stress to survive. For example, on a biological level, we need stress and resistance for our hearts to keep beating. Muscles need stress and resistance so they do not experience atrophy or deterioration. Are these necessary struggles “exercises” to keep us strong mentally and/or emotionally or to keep our faith strong? For believers, this may be the case, to keep faith strong, but what about the nonbelievers? Why do nonbelievers experience suffering and stresses? Does god just want the best for his creations whether they believe in him/her or not? Keeping the presence of suffering and evil to create suffering is necessary to “build” the person; if not in faith then….character?

Our society has looked well on the individual who is always positive and happy all the time, but more adoration goes to the hero. The individual that has seen adversity/sufferings, experienced them, and has overcome them.

I think this is just a positive spin on suffering and presence of evil for the theist. I saw similarities in the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer. In his writings on the idea of happiness, he explains that individuals do not like to be happy. The idea of complete, perfect happiness scares us because once we reach that level, there is nothing after that can make us that happy. So in order to make sure we haven’t reached that level yet, we create stresses in our life, like we do in biology, to keep us going. The stresses create a distance from happiness and makes us appreciate good or happiness that much more. He plays on Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest. Only the strongest will be able to overcome the stresses in front of us.

What did you guys think of the theist response to the problem of evil I provided? My paper wants to focus on the validity of the explanation the theist has provided, so if you have criticisms for the argument, or some kind of connection with the response and the survival idea, please let me know. 


Stoehr said...

Andrea, I think you pose a really interesting point on which to base your paper. It sounds similar to Isaac's paper in that we need bad to appreciate/understand good. The point you brought up about muscles requiring stress in order to grow stronger is an especially good connection to the necessity of evil in the world. Though this makes sense for smaller stresses that one might encounter, I think it might be helpful to flesh out the plus side of terrible tragedies, for these seem more difficult to justify. Otherwise, I think you've got some really great ideas!

Anonymous said...

I think your paper just might win an award. The distinction I would draw is Chateaubriand's notion of a propensity for entering into sorrow as ennui. Schopenhauer I think might argue that courage is a suspension of will, or a disposition of mind called resignation, which "alone leads to true holiness and salvation from the world."

Aviva said...

It seems that the argument won't stand up to larger evils, like Stoehr suggested. I think that the argument that we have evil in order to create a world in which things can always be improved is sound, but I don't think it answers the question we posed in class: if G-d is totally powerful and benevolent, couldn't we live in w world where we didn't need constant stresses to improve ourselves, but rather we did so on our own? Or a world where we could live at maximum happiness and not desire more? It's possible that Schopenhauer's idea would fall flat in a good world, that we really could be happy and stay happy our whole lives. Did you address this problem in your paper?