Philosophical View of Evil





PHI101





April 30, 2004


Table of Contents
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………………………………2


Introduction and Thesis Statement ……………………………………………………………3


Position ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………3


Argument Statement ……………………………………………………………………………………………………4


Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………5


References …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………6


St. Augustine, a Latin religious philosopher of the Third Century, argued that evil can be divided into two types, Natural and Man-Made/Intentional. Evil is defined as that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune. Man-Made/Intentional Evil - This covers the willful acts of human beings such as murder, rape, etc. Natural Evil - This refers to naturally occurring events or acts such as animal defense mechanisms, survival of the fittest and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados and the like. I agree with St. Augustine’s belief that there is a difference between the two types. The difference between the Man-Made/Intentional and Natural evils is human free will and its defined parameters.


Humans are defined by standards that are more defined than any other living species. While it may be argued that Man-Made/Intentional evil is a result of free human choice or will, it seems that natural evil is not. Whereas a human may kill or injure another living being, animals are less likely or prone to kill or injure for pleasure rather than survival. One alternative might be to accredit it to heavenly payback for bad actions, like karma – but natural evil does not seem to be distributed according to moral misbehavior. Perhaps the problem of natural evil can be formulated in such a way as to preclude supernatural intervention in natural events.


One of the most common theodicies, or an attempt to reconcile the co-existence of evil and God, is the so-called “free-will argument” which is very similar to Augustine\'s argument. Augustine believed that Man-Made/Intentional Evil is the result of human error. Since human error results from free will (the ability to do wrong), Man-Made/Intentional Evil is therefore an unfortunate, although not unavoidable outcome, of free will. If God were to intervene, his intervention would essentially remove all semblance of free will.


Augustine used the argument of the Manichaeans against them when attempting to prove his hypothesis on evil. The Manichaeans dared him to allow a scorpion to rest on his hand to prove that Natural evil was the same. Augustine pointed out that the poison is evil to the man and will make him die, but it is not evil to the scorpion – in fact, the scorpion needs it to survive (Woods). This shows how, although the scorpion could have injured Augustine, it would have been out of self-defense, not to intentionally harm or injure him.


Many can argue that evil is evil as its intentions are never inherently good. Others, such as Augustine have argued that there are two sides or facets of evil. One, Man-Made/Intentional evil shows how people, although born “good”, can be swayed or influenced to become evil, in any sense of the word. It can also be an inherent trait within the person to be or act “evil”. The other, Natural evil suggests that living beings are not swayed by their surroundings but by their survival instincts. For instance, a hunter searching for prey to feed his family would not be seen the same as a hunter that does so for sport or enjoyment. A lion hunting a baby antelope for food is not the same as Serial Killer stalking a teenage boy or girl. Although this person may be mentally unfit and feels a need to fulfill this urge, his mental state should not have an impact on his decision-making, as it is inherently evil. Hence, Man-Made/Intentional evil is different than Natural evil.


References
Woods, Constance (4/3/1999) Augustine against the Manicheans – Catholic Faith


Special Issue, electronic version} Retrieved April 13, 2004 from http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Faith/MARAPR99/augustine.html


Author Unknown (n.d.). The Philosophy of St. Augustine


Retrieved 4/20/2004 from http://radicalacademy.com/philaugustine1.htm