Sep 4, 2020 in Philosophy

The Philosophical Analysis of the Concept of Evil


One of the main traditional philosophical and religious concepts discussed in the main types of religions and philosophic movements are good and evil. They often are viewed as an opposition of the spiritual or other forces, which either guide people, manifest or characterize their actions. Similarly, they are connected with the issue of morale being the core of moral judgments. However, unlike the followers of religious dogmas, philosophers practice different approaches towards the phenomena of good and evil attempting to understand its nature and functions in the society. This paper focuses on the investigation of the phenomena of evil from the premises of philosophy attempting to characterize its problem. Moreover, it seeks the options of freewill solutions to this problem as well as different issues associated with them. The analyzed facts allow stating that evil is a category, which requires reconceptualization because some evil aspects of life such as death are only natural processes. The presented paper would be useful both for the researchers of theology and philosophy giving them an opportunity to focus on the core concepts of any religion.

The Problem of Evil

The majority of people tend to see evil as something undesirable and inhuman, which often emerges as a cause of religious associations with evil. For instance, scholars claim that evil is predominantly associated with destruction and nothingness. Typically, such characteristics are the opposition to the phenomenon of “good”, which is associated with creation, compassion, support and similar features. At the same time, the philosophers and theologists of the civilized societies have always been reviewing the problem of evil attempting to understand its universal role and justify its presence. For example, Augustine characterized the relation of good and evil as “Where there is no privation of the good, there is no evil. Where there is evil, there is a corresponding diminution of the good”. Moreover, the philosopher and theologist discussed the problem of corruption, which he classified as a process degrading good to evil. Despite the long history of the discussion of this issue, the answers and concepts discussing the nature of evil still vary depending on the philosophic movement and type of religion.

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The Analysis of a Freewill Solution to the Problem of Evil

Furthermore, one of the issues associated with the problem of evil is the presence of a freewill solution, which is connected with God’s existence. Being one of the most famous claims, it states that evil is the result of a free will of people. This presupposition is mostly based on the fact that unlike God people are sinful and morally imperfect, which negatively impacts on free will of human actions. At the same time, God is unable to make people’s free will good resulting in only good acts. Consequently, this concept may be characterized as the presence of the benefit of people in the form of a free will, which has a drawback of their evil actions. One of the examples of this issue are present in Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, where the author states that evil resembles to a weapon in one’s hand, which can be put aside in the case of the will of its bearer. Nevertheless, as has been indicated above, the humanity’s will is sinful, which restricts this option in the cases of great evil as war or any other minor evil such as lies. Thus, the approach of a free will states that it is good that people have free will to act instead of no will at all. However, their imperfect nature does not allow them conducting only good actions.

One of the philosophers, who studied the problem of evil, was and Australian John Leslie Makie. His investigation of this issue led to the conclusion that the main philosophers’ ideas regarding the realism of God were not substantial. In his works, the philosopher stated that “not only that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another”. In the process of rebuttal of the concepts of the free will Makie analyzes several postulates presented in the religious concepts. Among them are the ones, which state that God is an omnipotent, wholly good creature, whose existence is simultaneous with the existence of evil. Furthermore, the author states that if there is anything absolutely good, it removes evil an any case, and in the case of anything omnipotent, it capable of doing anything. These ideas demonstrate a specific contradiction between the omnipotence and goodness and the reality of evil being the outcome of a free will. At the same time, an important step done by the philosopher is not only demonstration of the problem, but the description of possible solutions.

One may divide the solutions proposed by Mackie into adequate and fallacious with each of them proposing different approaches towards the revealed issue. Adequate solutions include the denial of the omnipotence of God and the existence of evil. Analyzing them, one may say that God might be omnipotent but his will does not rely to the problems of humanity. For instance, God might be busy with other things after the creation of a human giving people the will to act on their own. At the same time, in the case one states that there is no evil the world should be regarded as totally ignorant to human problems with all events happening as “natural” ones. Furthermore, fallacious solutions discuss the impossibility of the reality of God without evil as a part of good, the necessity of evil as a part of free will, and the benefit of the existence of evil instead of its absence. Nevertheless, one supposes that the possible solution to the problem of free will and evil is the acceptance of the fact that evil is a natural part of all things bringing everything in balance. For instance, characterizing the natural world as an enclosed system, it should be stated that death, which is mostly viewed as evil, is an important part for life. The reason for this is that the overpopulated world would lead to mass starvation, diseases, deteriorated living conditions and even more deaths. Similarly, viruses and diseases may be used for good in the case they are genetically programmed for creation or treatment instead of destruction. Therefore, the philosophic problem of evil should be viewed more broadly because the predominant part of natural events including human behavior just demonstrate the characteristics of the world without any concrete reference to good or evil.


Summarizing the presented information, the paper comes to a conclusion that the concept of evil is tightly intertwined with the discussions about God and the possibility of free will. For centuries, various theologists and philosophers attempted to explain the connection of good and evil as well as describe their nature and origin. The problem of evil turned out to be more difficult to explain because its existence contradicted to the fact of all goodness and omnipotence of God. The concept of free will where people are free to act but are not sinless seemed to be the one, which investigated the nature of evil. However, it has been criticized by modern philosophers as Mackie, who thinks that God may be either not omnipotent or there is no evil. His works criticized the approach of good will and proposed other solutions where evil was not viewed as evil, but a natural part of the world. Therefore, this approach explains the reason for evil in the most affordable way indicating that the nature is ignorant to the problems of people and bears not evil in its mutual sense.

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