January 6, 2005

Another look at the problem of evil

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 6, 2005 2:44 PM

The problem of evil has been a subject of discussion here before, so this (somewhat technical) Crooked Timber post on the subject may also be of interest. It's prompted by, but not focused on, discussions of the tsunami disaster.

(While I was reading it, the Ladytron song "evil" came up on my iPod playlist. Coincidence, or a message from beyond?)


I suddenly had this odd thought last night- what if there were no evil in the world? Wouldn't it be incredibly boring? I mean, what kind of movies would get made? Books written? Wouldn't we all go around with sick ass smiles on our faces looking like we'd been labotomized? Maybe God allowed for evil so that life would be more interesting and compelling. First time that thought ever occurred to me btw.

Posted by: Dad | January 9, 2005 5:34 PM

I see two problems here:

The first is that, in the arts, only narrative forms, where a conflict is needed to drive the story, suffer from the absence of evil. Plenty of music, painting, photography, sculpture, etc. would still be interesting and compelling (also, other aspects of life like science) in a world without evil.

More importantly, "interesting" and "boring" are not intrinsic properties of things; they're properties of how we react to things--properties of individual minds. Since the problem of evil depends on how God designed the human mind, one could just as well ask why God designed humans to find evil (or stories involving evil) interesting. God could have made a world in which no evil was committed, and in which people are fascinated by books and movies about people cooperating and loving each other.

Of course it's possible that God himself finds evil interesting, and that's why he made the world this way--in which case he's the cosmic equivalent of the boy frying ants on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. There's no problem of evil in this picture, but it requires dropping the omnibenevolence criterion (which was the Tyler Durden Defense).

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 9, 2005 7:33 PM

I was staking the position on the assumption that any such Creator would want US to find life interesting and compelling, not that he was of a fuck-'em-if-they-can't-take-a-joke point of view.

And I for one would regret the loss of Shakespeare, Dante, Hemingway, McCarthy, Faulkner and the list goes on and on.

But not, of course, if I was designed such that I only got my jollies from sweetness and light.

So I may have to concede the point.

And I will have to say it is a high price to pay for me to get a thrill out of Macbeth and THE SOUND AND THE FURY for some thirty year old bond trader to have to decide between burning to death and jumping out of a 100 story window.

Not to mention the fact that it ain't me that's paying the price.

Posted by: Dad | January 12, 2005 8:11 AM
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