Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Problem of Evil: West and East (some citations)

The concept of God as an agent amongst other agents is one that is commonly encountered but it does not represent the most sophisticated thinking. For this you have to confer with St. Augustine in his Enchiridon who presents evil as privative:
11. In this universe, even what is called evil, when it is rightly ordered and kept in its place, commends the good more eminently, since good things yield greater pleasure and praise when compared to the bad things. For the Omnipotent God, whom even the heathen acknowledge as the Supreme Power over all, would not allow any evil in his works, unless in his omnipotence and goodness, as the Supreme Good, he is able to bring forth good out of evil. What, after all, is anything we call evil except the privation of good? In animal bodies, for instance, sickness and wounds are nothing but the privation of health. When a cure is effected, the evils which were present (i.e., the sickness and the wounds) do not retreat and go elsewhere. Rather, they simply do not exist any more. For such evil is not a substance; the wound or the disease is a defect of the bodily substance which, as a substance, is good. Evil, then, is an accident, i.e., a privation of that good which is called health. Thus, whatever defects there are in a soul are privations of a natural good. When a cure takes place, they are not transferred elsewhere but, since they are no longer present in the state of health, they no longer exist at all.

Unfortunately of course this concept has traction only with metaphysically minded believers who are rare; for others, believers and unbelievers both, it seems too nebulous for consideration but it is there and those of an ontological cast of mind will appreciate it.

Within the Vedic matrix Shankaracarya in his commentary on the Vedanta Sutras (Brahma Sutra Bhasa II.1.34) says this:

Opponent :God cannot reasonably be the cause of the world.


For that would lead to the possibility of partiality and cruelty. For it can be reasonably concluded that God ((Ishvara)) has passion and hatred like some ignoble persons, for He creates an unjust world by making some, eg. gods and others, experience happiness, some, eg. animals etc., experience extreme misery and some, eg. human beings, experience moderate happiness and sorrow..........
God will be open to the charge of pitilessness and extreme cruelty, abhorred even by a villain. Thus on account of the possibility of partiality and cruelty, God is not an agent...........

((Rebuttal)) for God makes this unequal creation by taking the help of other factors.
Opponent: What factors does He take into consideration?

Reply: We say that these are merit and demerit. No fault attaches to God, since this unequal creation is brought about in conformity with the virtues and vices of the creatures that are about to be born. Rather, God is to be compared to rain. Just as rainfall is a common cause for the growth of paddy, barley, etc., the special reasons for the differences of paddy, barley, etc., being the individual potentiality of the respective seeds, similarly God is the common cause for the birth of gods, men, and others, while the individual fruits of works associated with the individual creatures are the uncommon causes for the creation of the differences among the gods, men and others. Thus God is not open to the defects of partiality and cruelty, since He takes other factors into consideration.

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