“The Problem of Evil”
Many people dispute the true intentions of God, himself, since the beginning of mankind. Opposing and concurring arguments can be just as primitive. Regardless of personal perspective on any indefinite theory, it is undeniable that the controversy between good and evil will inevitably exist. Two dominant philosophers discussed in “The Problem of Evil” are Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and David Hume. Both of these authors discuss interesting motives from both sides of the issue: why and why not God should allow evil. What makes Leibniz’ perspective credible is his prestigious accomplishments. Leibniz is the son of a professor of law, and has countless achievements in a wide variety of subjects. These subjects include: law, science, theology, calculus, etc. He takes his work and philosophies seriously. In the topic of “God Can Allow Evil”, Leibniz defends God and his decision to allow evil. He justifies God in response to many common questions. Leibniz denies the fact that God didn’t choose the best world he could because even though there is evil, there is also an ulterior motive. With out a world with bad, an evaluation of good could not be determined. “I have wished to justify this denial by showing that the best plan is not always that which seeks to avoid evil, since it may happen that the evil is accompanied by a greater good” (Leibniz 74). Another quotation to make his point more clear is “That an imperfection in the part may be required for a greater perfection in the whole” (Leibniz 74). Leibniz disputes that there is more good than evil in humans because the quantity of evil does not surpass the quality of good. “God is infinite, and the devil is limited; the good may and does go to infinity, while evil has its bounds.” (Leibniz 75) Also, he illustrates that in a comparison toward the blessed and the damned, and the happy and unhappy; the proportion of degree is more than the number of people. In relation to intelligent and non-intelligent, you can not base them off the same structure because the number of good (ignorant or not) over powers the worth of evil. Leibniz condones human freedom despite predetermination and necessity. He does this by stating that although there is determination, it is not followed by a necessary consequence. “These voluntary actions and their consequences will not take place no matter what we do or whether we wish them or not; but, through that which we shall do and through that which we shall wish to do.” (Leibniz 76) He feels that if there is a such thing as an absolute necessity, it serves no purposes for praise or blame. Leibniz advocates voluntary actions are needed to make another action exist. It is necessary for Leibniz to claim that God could prevent evil but chooses not to because God, himself, would then commit sin or an unreasonable act. God would commit sin because it is believed that everything he does has purpose. He permits man to sin in an expectation of a greater good resulting from it. “But that the divine consequent or final or total will tends toward the production of as many good s as may be put together, the combination of which becomes in this way determined, and includes also the permission of some evils and the exclusion of some goods, as the best possible plan for the universe demands.” (Leibniz 78) God is not responsible for cause of evil; however does produce all that’s real says Leibniz. He elaborates his theory by saying that imperfection comes from limitations. He explains that God made the soul obdurate, how you perceive God’s impression is based upon the amount of your soul’s resistance not by supplying man with evil.
If God was not free, or absent of sin, he would therefore be imperfect, as Leibniz puts it. And if god was determined to be imperfect the world would either tend to evil or be indifferent. This is impossible to Leibniz (as stated in an earlier rebuttal), because good always exceeds evil. Although Leibniz theories are undeniably respectable, they are also debatable. David Hume displays in “A Good God Would Exclude Evil”. He is a profound writer, specifically regarding philosophy, and also was a historian. “A Good God Would Exclude Evil” is a direct counter response to Leibniz’s “God Can Allow Some Evil”. Hume explains that a person not previously exposed to the acknowledgement of God, or his powers, would question God’s true intention in regards to evil. He believes that this man would be left to gather information, he himself, through observation and experience to make a conclusion. “He may be fully convinced of the narrow limits of his understanding, but this will not help him in forming an interference concerning the goodness of superior powers, since he must form that inference from what he knows, not from what he is ignorant of.” (Hume 84). He defends this by stating that even though man would be skeptical; such a great being such as God would disappoint him through the evidence obtained. Hume describes four circumstances that evoke evil in sensible creatures. Hume describes the first circumstance by questioning the reason of pain. He states that pleasure is understandable, but doesn’t understand the necessity of pain. “If animals can be free from it an hour, they might enjoy a perpetual exemption from it, and it required as particular a contrivance of their organs to produce that feeling as to endow them with sight, hearing, or any other senses.” (Hume 85) This means if creatures can live without pain, and misery a like, why can’t they be bared with a gift of immunization? He references senses to make it clearer that a superior being gave us these gifts, so why wouldn’t the absence of pain be plausible.
The next circumstance is in what occurs as a result of these evils. Hume believes that God should eliminate the laws of nature. If man had perpetual free will, the course of nature would not exist. “A being, therefore, who knows the secret springs of the universe might easily, by particular volitions, turn all these accidents to the good of mankind and render the whole world happy...?” (Hume 86) Hume is questioning why an absolute God would let accidents happen; why couldn’t God just create a happy world. He also questions why bad things happen to good people.
The third circumstance is directed towards what, specifically, influences misery in all creatures. Hume answers that it is all species inadequacies, and the realization of extinguishment. He is irritated that all species are not formed perfectly. “Every course of life would not have been so surrounded with precipices that the leas departure from the true path, by mistake or necessity, must involve us in misery and ruin.” (Hume 87). He challenges why God is so perfect, yet we, his creations, are so defective. The last and final circumstance has to do with earth’s nature. He wonders why nature has such natural disasters: droughts, floods, etc. Hume refers to the world as a machine in this last explanation. “But at the same time, it must be observed that none of these parts or principles, however useful, are accurately adjusted as to keep precisely in those bounds in which their utility consists...” (Hume 88). What this means is why can’t nature be perfect? Why is it necessary to make the worlds entities defective as well?
David Hume closes with over view and reassurance that in a world without these four circumstances our world would be ideal. “The whole presents nothing but the idea of blind nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children.” (Hume 89) The term “whole” is referring to the world, humans and creatures a like, and how it’s filled with unnecessary inadequacies preventing us all from ultimate happiness. “Blind nature” is in regards to the susceptibility or creatures. How we all go along with nature, and never question why, we just settle.
Two excerpts I found interesting in Leibniz’s explanation “God Can Allow Some Evil” are: Why God did not choose the “best” world, and why there is more good than bad in the human race.
I find myself to agree completely with Leibniz’s explanation on why God can allow evil. By reading this specific excerpt I discovered that you can’t determine good without evil, the same way you can’t distinguish beauty if there was nothing ugly. The duality of it all intrigues me, because this concept does not just apply to bad and good, but many things in life. More specifically significant things like joy/pain, love/hate, light/darkness, wet/dry etc. Without one you can not acknowledge the other. I was enlightened by such a simple, yet complex concept. I also agree that evil is necessary in extreme efforts to create a greater good. I say that solely because we recognize bad things, we seem to dwell on them. A million bad things can occur, but it takes only one good thing to alter that foundation. The second except I found appealing was how immeasurable amounts of evils could occur, but the only entity significant is that of which is good. I found this interesting because I applied it to my everyday life, and it holds true. It only takes one thing, one person to make your day. Then the fact that you’re overwhelmed with joy can be contagious to others. Just because you had bad luck all week, all it takes is one day to make it all seem worth it. The last topic I found alluring was in David Humes “A Good God would Exclude Evil” When in the first circumstance, he brings up a very captivating point: Why is pain necessary? This intrigued me because I, along with Humes, don’t understand the reason for pain. If God granted us with such grant things as seeing, why would he condemn us with something as unfavorable as pain? I know this contradicts what I said to believe with Leibniz. However, I am baffled in his choices. I am confused because there is no duality to senses. I found this literature to be very enlightening in both spectrums... However I don’t feel inclined to choose either side, but much rather feel entertained by impressed by the knowledge and competence each author exudes.