The Problem of Evil in Antiquity 1. 2. 3. Methodological prelude: four dimensions of PE. The message of the Greek tragedy. Select philosophical answers to PE. Four Dimensions How do I cope with evil? Existential Theo-logical Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Existential Unde Malum? Theo-logical Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Existential Theol-logical What is evil? Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Are God and evil compatible? Existential Theo-logical Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Four dimensions How do I cope with evil? Are God and evil compatible? Existential Whence is evil? Theo-logical Solutions What is evil? Epistemological Metaphysical Epicurus: speculative philosophy must be existentially relevant “Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any human suffering. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.” Epicurus (?), frag. 54. Epicurus (341 -270 BC) Existential Dimension 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Why is my suffering so bad? Does my suffering have any meaning or purpose? How do I cope with my problems? Where is God? Does God care? Divine Justice Questioned “I am surprised at you, dear Zeus! You’re lord Everywhere, hold all honour and great power; You know the mind and heart of every man; Your rule’s supreme, my king, in all the world. How then, O son of Kronos, can your mind Bear to see criminals and honest men— Both thoughtful men whose minds are moderate, And sinful weaklings— share the selfsame fate? No divine rules are fixed for men, no road To travel which will surely please the gods.” --Theognis (6th c. BC), Elegies, 373-82. More questions: 1. Why do other good people have to suffer? 2. Why do some righteous people suffer and some wicked ones seem to prosper? 3. Why is the distribution of evils so uneven? 4. Why is there gratuitous misery? 5. Why are there horrendous evils? 6. Why does anybody, including animals, have to suffer at all? A classical expression of Greek pessimism “Suffering for mortals is nature’s iron law.” --Euripides, Hippolytus. “For man the best thing is never to be born, Never to look upon the hot sun’s rays, Next best, to speed at once through Hades’ gates And lie beneath a pile-up heap of earth.” --Theognis, Elegies, 425-8. Euripides (480-406 BC) Compare the following familiar text: “We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” --The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united States of America, July 4, 1776. Epicurus on the real cause of suffering Fear of Death Future misfortune Unknown Inevitable Edward Munch, The Scream (1893) How to cope with the fear of death: “Death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist.” Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus. James Warren, Facing Death: Epicurus and His Critics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Seneca: face life’s adversities stoically You ask, “Why do many adversities come to good men?” No evil can befall a good man; opposites do not mingle. Just as the countless rivers, the vast fall of rain from the sky, and the huge volume of mineral springs do not change the taste of the sea, do not even modify it, so the assaults of adversity do not weaken the spirit of a brave man. It always maintains its poise, and it gives its own color to everything that happens; for it is mightier than all external things… --Seneca (4 BCE- 65 CE), On Providence, I.3. Seneca the Younger (or Hesiod?) (4 BC- 65 AD). Suffering as a Learning Experience “Zeus, whoever he is, made this eternal law: that men must learn by suffering.” --Aeschylus, Agamemnon Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Aristotle on tragedy Plot is central, character is secondary Elements: Pathos (tragic event, accident) Peripeteia (reversal of circumstances) Anagnorisis (recognition) Tragic catharsis: “A tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious and has a wholeness in its extent, in language that is pleasing (though in distinct ways in its different parts), enacted rather than narrated, culminating, by means of pity and fear, in the cleansing (catharsis) of these passions.” Aristotle, Poetics, 6. Wait till the end… “Therefore, while our eyes wait to see the destined final day, we must call no one happy who is of mortal race, until he hath crossed life’s border, free from pain.” --Sophocles, Oedipus the King. Sophocles (495-405 BC) Stoics: “The bigger picture” theodicy Life Event Zeno (333-264 B.C) Plotinus: Aesthetic Analogy We are like people ignorant of painting who complain that the colours are not beautiful everywhere in the picture; but the Artist has laid on the appropriate tint to every spot. Or we are censuring a drama because the persons are not all heroes but include a servant and a rustic and some scurrilous clown; yet take away the low characters and the power of the drama is gone… --Enneads, III. 2. 11. All the world’s a stage… “Murder, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing of scenes in a play; all is but varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament.” - Plotinus, Enneades, III. 2. 15 (trans. Stephen MacKenna) Pleasure and Pain Calculus The total amount of pleasure in the world outweighs the total amount of suffering Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716) Individual life vs. history as a whole The “cunning of reason” Hegel (1770-1831) Tapestry analogy Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) Temporal existence vs. eternity Heaven will make things right The “Bigger Picture” Solutions Eternity World History Event Life Ivan Karamazov’s rebellion: “I absolutely renounce all higher harmony. It is not worth a tear of even one tormented child.” Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-81) Existential Unde Malum? Theo-logical Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Fate IDEAS GOOD Matter Demiurge Plato on the causes of evil Ignorance (Socratic view) Inferior gods Receptacle (hypodoche) Hierarchy of being Plotinus: the Great Chain of Being The Reason is the sovereign, making all: it wills things as they are and, in its reasonable act, it produces even what we know as evil: it cannot desire all to be good: an artist would not make an animal all eyes; and in the same way, the Intellect would not make all divine; it makes gods but also celestial spirits, the intermediate order, then human beings, then the animals; all is graded succession, and this in no spirit of grudging but in the expressing of a reason teeming with intellectual variety. --Enneads, III. 2. 11. Existential Theol-logical What is evil? Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Epistemological dimension 1. 2. 3. 4. What is evil? Moral/ natural evil distinction. Is the distinction between good and evil real or notional? What is genuine evil? Does genuine evil exist at all? Is the domain of valuation coextensive with the domain of being? Heraclitus: the distinction between good and evil is merely notional From the gods’ standpoint everything is good; the distinction between good and evil exists only in human mind. --Heraclitus (535-475 BC). Is value externally attached to being? Being Values: good/ evil Plotinus: being and value are interrelated The Good is the source of all being. Pure evil is me on, non-being. Being Value Do the “Bigger Picture” theodicies deny genuine evil? Eternity World History Event Life Are God and evil compatible? Existential Theo-logical Solutions Epistemological Metaphysical Plato: God does not cause evil “For the good things we must assume no other cause than God, but the cause of evil we must look for in other things and not in God.” Plato, Republic, 379C. Theodicy trilemma attributed to Epicurus Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is weak (imbecillus). Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing? Then he is malevolent (invidus). If God is both able and willing, whence then is evil? And why does he not remove it? --Lactantius, De ira dei, 13. 20-21 (my free translation). Epicurus (341-271 BC) Three horns of the trilemma: 1. 2. 3. God is perfectly good & just. God is all-powerful. Evil exists. The denial of divine providence “If god is able to take care of everything but does not wish to do so, he will be considered malevolent, and if he neither wishes nor is able, he is both malevolent and weak; but to say that about god is impious. Therefore, god does not take care of the things in the cosmos.” Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, III. 3. Ca. 200 CE.