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Problem of Evil AS Evil
The Problem of Evil is not a problem at all unless "Good" and "Evil" are properly defined and meaningfully understood; or else, the problem cannot be raised.

Given that meaning is usage, let's look at what we usually do not absolutely consider to be the meaning of Good.
  • Good is not painlessness. For, in our daily usage, it is commonly accepted that Good usually involves pain (e.g. in exercise, study, work).   
  • Good is not absence of grief or sorrow. For, if that was the case, the sense of a loss of Good would not exist; which would in turn imply that the sense of Good itself doesn't exist. It is possible for Good to exist along with grief (for instance, when someone in a world X which is free of a particular Evil, say starvation, is sad about people in a world Y, where people are starving). In this sense, sympathy, grief, and compassion are virtues; i.e. they are good.  
  • So if Good is not the absence of pain or sorrow, then what is Good? Before we answer that question, let's submit that Evil and Good are perfect opposites of each other; thus, we can define Evil as anything that is opposite to Good (one definition looks at Evil as just the absence or privation of Good in the same manner that darkness is the absence of light).  

1. The Relativity of Good in A Contingent World: Good is always recognized as relative to the instance of an essence (e.g. vision is a quality which is good in humans; however, one doesn't say that it is evil for a pen to not have vision and to be blind). Thus, what is good in a particular world is to be understood in relation to it and not in comparison with other kinds of worlds, where the essential properties are different (for instance, we cannot compare what is good in an ant and say that the same should be with humans; for in that case, Good would become Infinite, if not contradictory (one could be as tiny as an ant and as large as a whale at the same time)). But, if Good could become Infinite in the instance of this universe, then the universe would become God (which is not the case at all). Consequently, one cannot call anything evil unless one is able to identify what is actually good with respect to that particular entity with respect to which evil is being predicated.

Further, in an economy or eco-arrangement of multiple contingent beings, dependence would become inter-related (implying that the profit of one would mean the loss of something or someone else; the profit of tigers would mean the loss of deer and the profit of deer would mean the loss of grass, for instance). A non-dependent world would be loss-free, or Infinite (which, in the case of our universe, is negated by experience of contingency – the core concern of the Problem of Evil).

Another possibility would be for a contingent world to become not inter-dependent but trans-dependent; that is to become absorbed into the Infinite in such a way that the contingent is supplied by the Infinite (as in the new creation of biblical eschatology). But, that possibility will require a non-free universe (which is super-governed by the Infinite) in a way that the Good also exists as freedom (i.e., is also recognized as good, thus being free). This is contradictory.

But, the contradiction is only conditional; given the non-free absorption of free-creatures into the Infinite. However, given that the free-creatures within a temporally and spatially finite and contingent world choose (by exercise of freedom- for freedom to exist for the recognition of Good) to be absorbed into the Infinite world (Kingdom of God) and there is a bridge (ontological and moral) between the Infinite and the finite, then such a world free of contingent evil, will become possible. In Christian doctrine, that bridge is the person of Christ, the Mediator.

2. Good as Absolute and Necessary. Good as absolute and necessary (i.e. devoid of any instance of or possibility of Evil) can only be predicated of a being that is Infinite and in which Good can be Infinitely instantiated (with no room for Evil). In contingent beings or entities, Good can be absolute only with respect to what can be defined as Good relatively to them. For instance, an apple tree that produces sweet apples is experiencing the Good (there is an ideal "absolute" image or standard of Good when one talks about good apples and bad apples); however, one cannot consider an apple tree not producing apples but producing mangoes to be a good apple tree in any sense (in fact, that image is contradictory). But, it is conceptually possible to imagine a perfect apple tree whose fruit is 100% perfect--i.e. the good apple tree conforms to the ideal of an absolutely good apple tree. But, contingency and inter-dependence would mean that such perfection itself is also contingent and therefore not necessary (if a card loses balance somewhere, all other cards are affected – contingency is necessary, but perfection is not).

But, such relativity doesn't apply to the Infinite. An Infinite does not submit to gradation of degrees of Good, since the Infinite is trans-temporal (the Infinite cannot be a little good at times and better at other times). Also, there cannot be more than one instance of the Infinite (e.g. many Infinite oceans cannot co-exist). Therefore, the Infinitely good is absolutely and necessarily good.

3. The Problem of Evil as Evil. The very moral condemnation of the Infinite on grounds that Evil (physical and moral) exists is Evil, for it is an attempt of the contingent to deny its necessary contingency and assume equivalence with the Infinite without submission to the Infinite (which by virtue of the very rule it uses to raise the Problem of Evil condemns itself).

1. If God (as Necessary) is All-powerful, All-loving, and All-good, then Evil (as Contingent) cannot exist.
2. Evil (as Contingent) exists.
3. Therefore, God (as Necessary) is not All-powerful, All-loving, and All-good doesn't exist.
4. That is to say, God is a Contingent Being.

The syllogism is invalid. The valid form should be
1. If God (as Necessary) exists, then Evil (as Necessary) cannot exist.
2. Evil exists as Contingent, not as Necessary.
3. Therefore, God (as Necessary) exists.


1. God (as Necessary) or Evil (as a Necessary).
2. Evil as Contingent, not-Necessary.
3. Therefore, God (as Necessary)

To assert that Evil exists as Necessary is to assert the absoluteness, inevitability, infinity, and immutability of Evil; which makes Evil co-Infinite with Good. But, this is both a contradiction and a denial of the Problem of Evil. It is a contradiction because Good and Evil cannot infinitely co-exist (Good would infinitely negate Evil as light negates darkness – and in Infinite Good, there are no degrees of goodness (dim light, brighter light) because of its infinitude). Also, to assert that Evil exists as Necessary is to deny the Problem of Evil, for then one can neither desire the annihilation of Evil nor would have need to argue for the non-existence of Necessary Good (since the concept of Good would become negative in face of Absolute Evil, with no contingent existent remaining). Therefore, to posit the Syllogism of Evil in order to negate the existence of Absolute Good is to engage in prejudiced judgment; that judgment is Evil since it doesn't just concern the issue of validity or invalidity but also the choice (in freedom) to call evil good and good evil -- it features as Evil when it condemns Infinite Good as either non-existent or being the opposite of Good; thus, affirming Evil as Ultimate Reality. But, if Evil is Ultimate Reality, then the problem would no longer be the Problem of Evil, but the Problem of Good. Then, the cry would not be for the Christ, but for the Anti-Christ (See Nietszche, The Antichrist). Such approach is nothing but the approach of Evil against Good.

Also, to claim that Necessary Good be unconditionally attributed to Contingent Being is to claim unconditional right to Infinitude (which implies the overthrow of the Infinite; for, there cannot be more than one Infinite). But, the overthrow of Infinite Good (though logically impossible) is Evil. Therefore, also, the Syllogism of Evil is Evil.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
I like to offer a simple way to define good and bad. When we measure things, we knowingly or not judge things in comparison to ourselves, and by assumption we would think that as we all are made the same way, the others would share our feeling. So good can be defined to be anything that is beneficial to us and bad is the opposite. For composite events like exercise is good despite involving a little pain, in this case the good is qualified by duration and intensity. So if the benefit to our health is 10 say, and the product of (pain x intensity x time of action)=5 assuming such quantifier can be devised, then we say that exercise is good as a whole.. but we never deny that the pain that goes with it is bad. 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
   In search for a philosophical account of good and evil one may start, very down to the earth, from common sense and tacit knowledge that can be inferred from human cognitive activity including language behavior, subjective good-bad impressions formed across various situations, and so forth. An example of that approach can be found in the paper referenced below. For instance,it has been found that people seem more inclined to handle "good" and "bad" in an asymmetric way, "bad" being handled more as the opposite of "good" than that "good" is handled as the opposite of "bad." This asymmetry could be traced in particular theological concepts regarding the ultimate divine good. 
   Another observation is that spontaneous good-bad judgments seem underlain by a relativistic concept of good, although it is not immediately clear how this naive relativistic concept may relate to the relativity of good advanced by Domenic Marbaniang. The relativity underlying naive good-bad judgments is a matter of perspective taking. In this way "good" weather for fishing may be "bad" weather for swimming. This example shows that some perspectives may be situation-bound. However other perspectives may be universal. Presumably Riadh Hashim Al Rabeh has touched on a universal perspective when defining good as what's beneficial to the author of the good-bad judgement

   For more information, see:  'Peeters, G. (1986). Good and evil as softwares of the brain: On psychological 'immediates' underlying the metaphysical 'ultimates'. A contribution from cognitive social psychology and semantic differential research. Ultimate Reality and Meaning. Interdisciplinary Studies in the Philosophy of Understanding, 9, 210-231.'

Problem of Evil AS Evil
<<The Problem of Evil is not a problem at all unless "Good" and "Evil" are properly defined and meaningfully understood; or else, the problem cannot be raised.>><<Given that meaning is usage, let's look at what we usually do not absolutely consider to be the meaning of Good.>>

It is not possible to define Good and Evil for it is subjective. Moreove, it depends on time, place, and the context in general. 

From the point of view of usage: Oxford Dictionaries (OD) define the noun good thus: That which is morally right; righteousness. OD also says that it is a mass noun; i.e., uncountable noun. That is the word can be uses in an infinite number or ways.
Evil is defined thus:Profound immorality and wickedness; it is also a mass noun.

The only solution to the problem: Assume a god who is 'the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being'. (OD)

A human proxy for god is the legal system of a country. However, it has quite a few limitations. It is subject to interpretation; it changes from country to country. This also true of scriptures of all religions subject to interpretation. 

I think the above is where we are today.

Problem of Evil AS Evil

If GOD is infinite “goodness” then there is no space for EVIL as part of the one and the same infinity. EVIL is a negation of GOD, nothing can be GOD and EVIL in the same time.  Just a funny observation, the reverse spelling of EVIL is LIVE, DOG for GOD. That is quite remarkable, is that only a random and a disjunctive coincidence?  As your assertion of “Evil co-Infinite with Good”, it can’t be in the “set” of “goodness” equivalence, it is the meaning of GOD that it is no EVIL. Regardless, EVIL must be present; otherwise the infinite GOD characterization is difficult or even impossible. Not EVIL is not necessarily GOD, it could be neutral to goodness and finite. Interesting post.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Kia ora Domenic
First, I think you are mixing concepts of Good with those in which the pairing is 'Good' and 'Bad'  with the relgious pairing of 'Good' and 'Evil'.  our example - e.g. vision is a quality which is good in humans; however, one doesn't say that it is evil for a pen to not have vision and to be blind) is one of "Good and Bad" pairing rather than the religious pairing "Good and Evil". 

Second, the problem you state arises only when Good and Evil are considered to exist independent of human value judgments.   This is particularly evident in the belief systems arising from the Middle Eastern Monotheistic traditions, where a God (Allah/Jehovah/YWHW) states what is good and and what is evil. It seems to be in that context that you raise these issues.

In those contexts it is also linked to the question: Does the God tell us to do things because they are good or are they good because the God tells us to do them?  If the God tells us to do them because they are good, then Good and therefore Evil exist independent of the God.  If they are good because God tells us to do them (and the converse for Evil) then Good and Evil are defined by the God and do not exist independent of the God (briefly and roughly).  

But back to my original point.  In my Māori world, there are no words that translate as Good and Evil as they are understood in the English language.   There are Māori words that are used to mean Good and Evil, but the meaning of these words within our culture is closer to Correct and Incorrect  (behaviors)  or Right and Wrong (behaviors) with no connotation of keeping or breaking the rules dispensed by some metaphysical being - i.e. no connotations of sin. And I would suggest, no concept that truly matches the English "evil" and therefore no "good".   There are many belief systems like this in which the concepts of Good and Evil do not exist as they do in the traditions arising from Middle eastern Monotheism.   You do reference this kind of human-relatrivist thinking in your statement Good is always recognized as relative to the instance of an essence  and the expansion of that concept.  However within the Christian Tradition Good and Evil are not not seen in this way. 

Not holding a weltanschauung that includes any kind of God figure, I would argue that Good and Evil are human value judgments and have no external existence outside the human-constructed social world. Therefore, as you state it, " the problem cannot be raised". 

But to return to the way you state this. I have some difficulty with this because I don't accept any kind of God - Good, All powerful, omniscient - no kind of God at all, and I accept that the concepts of good and evil are human value judgments so I am trying to engage with the rationality of your statements within their own cultural/religious logic, if I can state it that way.)  You say: 

1. If God (as Necessary) is All-powerful, All-loving, and All-good, then Evil (as Contingent) cannot exist.
2. Evil (as Contingent) exists.
3. Therefore, God (as Necessary) is not All-powerful, All-loving, and All-good doesn't exist.
4. That is to say, God is a Contingent Being.

The conception that God is all-powerful, All-loving and All-good is a particularly Christian conception of a metaphysical being labelled a God, but yes, this would seem to follow from the position that Good and Evil exist independent of God, and therefore God is a Contingent being. 

If, however, Good and Evil are defined by the God, then there are not sufficient conditions in this alone to say that the God is contingent, or not contingent or even necessary. Contingency, necessity or their reverses, cannot be construed here. 

Therefore it is important to know whether Good and Evil exist independent of the God or are defined by the God. I suggest that the Christian tradition in particular (but all the Middle Eastern Monotheistic traditions) seem to lean towards the latter position - Good and Evil are defined by the God, however this is not explicit in the belief system. 

The syllogism is invalid. The valid form should be
1. If God (as Necessary) exists, then Evil (as Necessary) cannot exist.
2. Evil exists as Contingent, not as Necessary.
3. Therefore, God (as Necessary) exists.

This formulation, to my eyes, creates a different kind of problem.  If God (as necessary) exists and evil exists but is contingent, then evil is contingent on God (God creates evil and defines what is evil - assuming that we are talking about a God as a Prime Mover).  

There would therefore be the contradiction between the All-powerful and All-Loving God who creates evil.  To resolve this contradiction there would have to exist some higher form of Good which was not contingent or defined by the God, but exist independently, which would justify, against those higher standards, the creation of a world in which some sort of good and evil existed.  But to postulate the existence of this higher and independent concept of good would also be to postulate the existence of a higher and independent form of evil.  This would then mean an ultimately contingent God.   Your reformulation will not resolve the issues. 

I simply do not follow your third option.  (Sorry, that's my issue, not yours)  It does mean I can't comment.  

I'm sure I will think of more to add, but that will do to begin with. 
My question back to you then is;  Does God define Good and Evil or do Good and Evil exist independent of God? 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
Ian Stuart,
Thank you for the response!

In the statement, "Evil exists as Contingent, not as Necessary", "contingent" doesn't connote "dependence" in the sense of a positive creation; but, it is relationally implied; that is to say, its identity is dependent on its being the negation of Good. Thus, God did not create motor-car-accidents (evil), for instance, but the accidents are contingent upon the contingent conditions ("laws of nature", good) that God has created, and their contingency derives from being a violation/negation of the contingent good conditions.

That raises the issue of whether Good is contingent upon God or is independent of God. I contend that the good predicated of the universe is contingent upon God, who is the Infinitely Good; in other words, He is the definition of Infinite Good. That might appear problematic from the Platonic question of whether the deity defines good and evil or the deity is identified as good or evil based on a rational apprehension of "Good". There are a number of angles from which one can begin to answer this question:
1. If God exists and has created this universe, then the human mind will recognize Good as Good and not as Evil, unless God has deceived man to misunderstand Good. But, if a deception were really in play, then man wouldn't be able to know it (for to know it would mean to affirm Good as Good, that the deception is evil). It would also mean that the created has received capability to outsmart the Creator, which is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, the identity of Good is contingent upon God, the Source, Prime Mover, Infinite Good.
2. If God does not exist and has not created this universe, then Good and Evil would be human constructs (since they lack a Transcendent Source), that is in relation to man (who becomes the new reference point) or to his feelings. But, that would only affirm the non-absoluteness of Good; what is "good" to man might not be "good" to mosquitoes, and so on. In such case, Good is neither absolute nor necessary. Good and evil would receive pluralistic reference points; but, they would still be contingent upon those points of reference. Thus, in the case of humans, humans would define what is Good and Evil on the basis of feelings or arguments, and the disagreements would not be few, as is the case. Yet, all such disagreements would still look for a transcendent reference point (objective and absolute) to resolve the problem, which rationally anticipates the existence of the Transcendent, Infinite Good, God.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Domenic, kia ora ano
OK.  I get your further expansion.   Thank you.  I'm not sure I accept that a God did not create motor car accidents.  Any such creator in the way you define that God, created the conditions under which these accidents happen.  There may have been no intent (but omniscience at least implies knowledge of outcomes), and there is no direct action involved in a direct causal way, but the outcome is that car accidents exist.  We generally assign ethical responsibility in three areas, intent, action and outcome.  A God may say there was no intent, and there was no direct causal action in any car accident, but certainly we are entitled to place some responsibility because car accidents are the outcome of the creation. As evil is also an outcome of creation we can therefore place some responsibility for the creation of evil with any creator who may exist.

Point 1, yes, I basically agree that your construction is correct, as long as it is accepted that the God, as you describe him, exists. However, I do not accept the existence of any God, so Point 2 comes into play for me.

Yes, Humans do tend to look for an external,objective (I do not accept that such exists in reality) and transcendental reference point for Good and Evil.  This does not necessarily anticipate the existence of a God who is Good.  It shows the irrational foibles of human beings.   Nor does it show that any God exists in actuality.  

It can also be seen as a power-play - an appeal to a higher authority -  to enforce the will of either the higher levels of a power hierachy, or to enforce the will of the dominant majority. 

I definitely accept the position that good and evil are human constructs.   

Problem of Evil AS Evil


Oxford Dictionaries define transcendent as: Beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience. Objective has no meaning if it is beyond human experience. 

Encyclopedia Britanninca defines karma thus:  Karma,  in Indian religion and philosophy, the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence. Here God is replaced by a 'universal causal law'. Thus there are alternatives to God.

Most probably, the resolution to the problem mentioned above may be the replacement of God by a Causal Law.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Most probably, the resolution to the problem mentioned above may be the replacement of God by a Causal Law

Absolutely.   Except that does not solve the problem for a person who believes in the existence of a creator god as contemporary monotheism does. 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
To: Ian Stuart
Absolutely.   Except that does not solve the problem for a person who believes in the existence of a creator god as contemporary monotheism does. 

Thank you for your reply. This is an attempt to clarify my original statement.

I wish to clarify my comment. I should have written 'replacement of a belief system' by a 'Causal Law' with regard to actions. One's ctions do not necessarily depend on one's belief system. For example, one is subject to the legal system whether one believes it or not. This is true for physical systems as well. Whether one believes in Newton's Laws or not he will be subject to them. Therefore it is possible to keep one's belief system and still behave according to a Causal Law. 

D.C. Wijeratna

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Yes, that may be so.  But I am not sure that I want to call science "a belief system" (putting aside any espistemological issues and all that) in quite the same way I would apply belief to a religion, which seems to be what you are suggesting.  
A belief in a legal  system is closer to support for the system rather than belief in its existence or not. 

However, you raise an interesting point.  Would you regard the need for some people to participate in the Christian Communion Service a "causal law"?   In the philosophy of knowledge I am currently working on I would certainly take that position, as people are reacting to the world as they perceive it to be, so causal laws can be psychological as well as causes. 

In such a case this would not be replacing a belief system with a causal law, as the causal law is dependent on the belief system for its operation. The belif system causes people to act in certain ways .. 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart

Yes, that may be so, but I am not sure that I want to call science "a belief system"

Neither do I want to call science ‘a belief’ system. Science is what I call knowledge. However, some philosophers call science a belief system, notably Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I do not agree with him.

One’s behaviour is subject to (regulated by) a legal system whether one knows the legal system or not. One’s belief system is not relevant.   

Would you regard the need for some people to participate in the Christian Communion Service a "causal law”?

I would say no, a need is not a ‘causal law’. A ‘causal law’ is independent of time and space and applicable to all.

as people are reacting to the world as they perceive it to be, so causal laws can be psychological as well as causes

I look at the problem in a slightly different way.

1. It is difficult to generalise about how people react to the world. Perception and 'reaction' are not causally related. Therefore it is necessary to separate perception from reaction. 

The dictionary meaning of psychological is: of, affecting, or arising in the mind; related to the mental and emotional state of a person:

Perception affects the mind. Actions arise in the mind; this is the difference. Since mind is not observable it cannot be defined. Causal laws of the mind cannot be formulated. 

There is a causal Law in Theravada Buddhist texts. It is called 'four noble truths'.  Nobody understands them. It is something worth looking at if your are currently working of 'philosophy of knowledge'. 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Kia ora Dayawansa
Thank you for your reply.

I will start by saying my own belief system lies in the Mahayana School of Zen Buddhism, so I am familiar with the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold path.

This is short.  rather than write a thesis, I thought you would get the point, even though this is short.

My understanding of the Four Noble Truths is based around the concept of Dukkha.  I specifically want to talk about Sankhara-dukkha (the dukkha of conditioned experience). Sankhara includes the unsatisfactoriness of all existence because these are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. 

The reason why many western philosophers speak of science as "a belief system" is because western skeptical approaches (starting from Pyrrho - a contemporary of Aristotle - and probably most recent in Paul Feyerabend) show that it is not possible to make a link between our experiences and whatever may exist in the world around us. (Simplistic, but let that stand for now.) This is similar to having no inner core or substance.

There is also a concept of dukkha as the "squeaky wheel"  - the unsatisfactory explanation.

Similarly, the dharma teaches us  that we do not directly experience the world around us.  rather we see the world through the filters we have learnt as we grew up in part of a society, part of a culture.  The view we have of whatever world may exist around us is accepted/learnt as we grow. These explanations are dukkha.

The key to gaining satori/awakening/enlightenment is to remove the filters and see , really see, what we are confronted with.  Zen teaches "the direct experiencing of reality" - getting to "unconditioned reality".

We could also talk about the concept of illusion, where all our beliefs about the world are just that - beliefs and illusions.

How can you take the idea of "Sankhara-dukkha" - where nothing has an inner core or substance, where our explanations are as unsatisfactory as a squeaky wheel, and say some things, such as science, are knowledge, and other things are a belief system. These are all illusions.

Isn't  it is all dukkha?

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
By accepting that "good" and "evil" are human constructs, and stating that our "belief-systems" are filtered and therefore not absolute (are illusory), aren't you disqualifying Zen Buddhism as well? For, then, is "dukkha" good or evil -- absolutely or relatively? Is Zen Buddhism as a belief-system illusory or non-illusory; if not illusory, on what grounds? In fact, as I understand, Zen would not even consider a rational argument as "real"; therefore, they use riddles and puzzles and talk of transcending logic; in which case Zen is not open to philosophical discourse. But, how does Zen know that what it claims to be reaching is the absolute and the real-- on the basis of experience, reason, or intuition? If Zen claims to be the truth, it is asserting at least one absolute, that Zen is the truth, which is self-contradictory if it claims that all polemic attempts are illusory. 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
Ian,To create a cosmic-system (that follows certain laws) doesn't necessarily imply to create evil. For instance, by manufacturing the computer, something essentially evil was not manufactured; however, evil relates to how one uses the system. That applies to both physical and moral evil. For instance, if one plugs in the computer to a higher voltage circuit (into something it is not made for), there will be an accident, which is evil (but, not caused by the manufacturer). However, if the manufacturer intended something about the laptop (say, it is water-proof) and the laptop gets destroyed when put into water, then the manufacturer manufactured a faulty laptop. With regard to moral evil, a person can use a computer for good ends or evil ends, the manufacturer has no control over the free-choices of people. Similarly, one cannot talk of God as creator of either a physically evil universe or of the presence of moral evil in the world.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Yes, it implies all that.  "Zen" as a belief system is dukkha ... as a "belief system" it is illusory 
Zen attempts a direct experience of reality - removing the "belief system" trying to get rid of all the mental constructs we have about the world - and just experiencing. 

Hence the use of koans as a teaching/experiential tool.  There are no "essay" answers to the koans ... 

Zen claims to come directly from Gautama, who one day was preparing to give a talk.  As he sat before the monk and others, he turned a flower in  his hand.  The monk Kasyapa smiled, because he understood what Gautama meant.  Gautama handed him his begging bowl - a sign that the transmission of the dharma to Kasyapa was complete. 

Now, I know that story is quite likely to be mythical.  The truth of it is not important - the story says that the direct transmission of knowledge can occur in ways other than in spoken or written word, which is ALL dukkha ... . 

So Zen does not claim to know the truth (Zen teachers laugh at claims of "truth") -  Zen claims that if you follow the Eight-fold Path and meditate, then you will reach your own awakening ... 

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Basically, if the creator God did not create evil, then who or what did?  

And I think there are some belief systems that may label computers (and a host of other contemporary goods) as evil - such as the Amish and possibly Mennonite traditions for example. (I'm not too fixed on that one as, when I think about it, I'm not a theologian and I don't know enough about the Amish or Mennonite beliefs to make that a definite claim ... )  

You say that a manufacturer has no control over the free choices of the purchaser.  I'm not sure I entirely agree - let me see if I can build the basic argument.

We judge morals in three areas - intentions, actions and outcomes.  For instance in proving murder (extremes are easy examples to demonstrate a point)  in this country the jury is asked to consider the intentions of the person (they must intend to kill) the actions (they took actions to kill) and the outcome ( a person died).   A person who does not intend to kill, but performs illegal actions in which someone dies is guilty of manslaughter not murder. They may not have intention to kill - but are still responsible for the outcome (their actions and outcomes are morally wrong). 

So - an armament manufacturer knows that the company's products will be used to kill people.  Is the armament manufacturer in any way responsible for the outcome of their actions?  They intended to manufacture products which kill people, and they manufacturer those products - people die.  How much responsibility for deaths does the manufacturer of cheap machine guns have when they are used to gun down people in drive-by gang shootings? 

Drug dealers sell products which kill people - how much responsibility do they have? Drug dealers, in your argument, have no responsibility for the actions of the purchaser  What about cigarette companies?  The US courts seem happy to hold them responsible. 

(I think I've posted this argument above?)

So - you say:

Similarly, one cannot talk of God as creator of either a physically evil universe or of the presence of moral evil in the world.

A God who created the universe clearly had intent and action - and under most definitions of "God" would know the outcome of those actions. 

How much responsibility does such a being carry ?

Secondly, isn't it necessarily true that a God who created the whole universe created the whole universe - with everything in it - including evil?

If it is the case that, in such a cosmogony - one in which the creator god did not create evil - then where did evil come from?  If the god created the beings who created evil, did not the god create those beings in such a way that they would create evil?  Or is there another ultimate creative force in such a universe - one that rivals the god figure?  

It's obvious then that I would argue that a god who creates a cosmos necessarily creates (or has a responsibility for what exists) evil.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
Among the following two analogies, which do you think is closer to the model of a Creator-creation relationship?1. The universe is comparable to a computer which free-agents can use for either good or evil purposes. God created the universe with free-agents (neither good nor evil) who choose to be evil or good and are responsible for what they do. The universe is not inherently evil. It is a system of laws that can either be adhered to or be violated; the violation leads to suffering.
2. The universe is comparable to drugs, whose intended use is evil, therefore making it inherently evil. In this case, God becomes the creator of evil. However, the problem in this second model is that if the universe is inherently evil, anyone who is part of the universe cannot raise the question of evil, since the questioner himself would be inherently ruled by the law of evil--evil being the only logically consistent experience in a world that is inherently evil.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
I would have to say that neither of them are very close to the model of Creator-Created relationship as I understand the Creator-Created concept from Middle Eastern monotheistic traditions.
From those traditions, Christianity in particular, postulates a Creator-God who does not simply create the world, then lets it run, but is active within that world on a daily basis, and provides the basis for rewarding the ethical people (who go to heaven) and punishing the unethical people (who go to hell, or eternal death). 

I find it difficult to reconcile the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent creator who creates free agents, knowing full well that in the future, they will be punished for "failing to obey the rules". 

I find it difficult to reconcile such a Creator with the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge.  Surely the creator God knew that they would transgress.  

Personally, I think that concepts of good and evil, right and wrong are human creations.  There are no absolutes, no rules from a creator god, and every "rule" that we would wish to be a universal (Kant recognized the problematic nature of declaring universals) has not been a rule recognized by all, and the practice has been carried out, by groups of human beings at some point in history.  Rape, murder, cannibalism, genital mutilation, genocide - a host of things we would now like to say a bad/evil -  they have all been authorized in some culture or other. 

From an Indigenous perspective, the world is an ethical place.  All things needed for humanity and the rest of the world to survive and flourish (Aristotle's Eudaemonia) exist in the world, and therefore the world is ethical. Human meaning and ethics are not pre-existent.  They develop from actions.  Actions and Life are meaning-making and ethic-making activities.  (See, for example, Burkhart, B. (2004). What Thales and Coyote Can Teach Us: An outline of American Indian Epistemology. In A. Waters (Ed.), Modern American Indian Thought (pp. 15-26). Malden, Ma: Blackwell.)

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart
Denial of the existence of a Moral God would certainly imply the negation of "Divine Commands"; thus, negating the divine-command theory in deontological ethics. However, that doesn't immediately invalidate the possibility of absolutes. Kant's position was deontological. You may remember his quote, "Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me." He did argue for the absolute nature of the moral law though trying to find a method to discover it. If your position is maintained, it would mean that we cannot speak of a Law above human laws; that practical reasoning cannot be applied to assess whether any law is good or bad. But, doesn't that disarm you of the objection that you cannot reconcile the "concept of an omniscient, omnipotent creator who creates free agents, knowing full well that in the future, they will be punished for "falling o obey the rules"? Aren't you applying a moral argument to rule out such a concept of God?

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Reply to Ian Stuart

Thank you for your kind reply.

I must confess that I don’t have a belief system. For me all traditions of Buddhism are belief systems. However, the teaching of Lord Buddha is not a belief system. Lord Buddha (Bhagavā Buddho) is a Teacher who lived in India about 2500 years ago in NE India.

Lord Buddha’s Teaching was lost to the world shortly after his ‘death’. According to literary records of his teaching, the way to happiness is to live a righteous life. He advised ‘avoid all evil; and always do things that benefit all (skilful)’. This is quite easy to start but virtually impossible for a human being to accomplish. Lord Buddha had accomplished that.

The word Buddha means experiential knowledge. Lord Buddha is therefore Lord of Knowledge. Buddha and the Buddha are names for pictures and statues. Buddhism (Buddha + ism) is therefore the worship of these pictures or statues.

I am familiar with the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and ‘Eightfold Path’ in Buddhism. Eightfold Path is one of the Four Noble Truths. To discuss them in accordance with Lord Buddha’s teaching, I shall define the name Four Noble Truths as the four Laws of Lord Buddha. Law of Dukkha is the first Law. It is not a concept. There is no satisfactory English equivalent for Dukkha. However, if the Law is applied to life or existence it means ‘All are mortal’.

There is no English equivalent for the ‘Sankhara-dukkha’. In the Lord’s teaching, Sankharas are of three types: mental, verbal and bodily. The first is beyond our understanding; Verbal and Bodily Sankharas mean one’s actions by words (speech) and by the body.

According to Lord’s teaching all belief systems are not true; the truth value of a belief cannot be established.

In the statement, ‘similarly, the dharma teaches us  that we do not directly experience the world around us’, the word Dharma is a Sanskrit word and does not belong to the four Laws of the Lord. However, if the statement is correct we cannot know anything about the world.

The answer to your question ‘Isn't it all dukkha?’ is yes. Dukkha is: all are mortal. Therefore I am mortal. I think therefore I am. Advice of the Lord Buddha is summed up in famous saying ‘Know thyself’.

What is outlined above is a completely new approach to the study of the teaching of the Lord Buddha. What is your opinion?

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Kia ora Dominic
Indigenous, or more specifically, Māori ethics are very similar to Aristotelian Ethics in that they are virtue/value-based, and aim at achieving human flourishing (Eudaemonia). (See  Patterson, J. (1992). Exploring Māori Values. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press). Ethical behavior, therefore, is behavior and actions that lead to human flourishing.   Such an ethical system does not need any divine source, or any external source.  It is purely a human-based system. Humans decide what actions they believe will lead to their flourishing.  "Flourishing" can also be for a group or for an individual. 

So yes, we cannot speak of ethical laws above human laws within such a system. It does deny the possibility of absolute moral laws. Clearly there will be some disagreement about what leads to human flourishing and there are no absolutes within Māori belief systems to appeal to. It is our kaumatua (people of practical wisdom as Aristotle describes) who make the final decision if arbitration is required. 

Practical reasoning can be applied to decide what will lead to human flourishing - which can be considered "good" within such an ethical system.  But clearly, there can be no absolutes to appeal to in making the judgement as to whether that is good or bad - that value judgement is completely up to human beings. And there is a slightly different approach to what we might call environmental ethics - how we treat the world around us.  That is based n the ontology of the Ira Tangata (human beings) as part of a world that came into being through an evolutionary process (not Darwin's, but the process from the start with a prime mover followed by a number of stages until we reach today). 

. " But, doesn't that disarm you of the objection that you cannot reconcile the "concept of an omniscient, omnipotent creator who creates free agents, knowing full well that in the future, they will be punished for "falling to obey the rules"? Aren't you applying a moral argument to rule out such a concept of God?"

Within a Christian-based system (as I understand it) I find it difficult to reconcile the concept of a creator-god who creates beings which he knows will be punished later in their life ... that seems unnecessarily punitive ... but then, as is apparent, I'm not Christian. I'm not sure if I am making a moral judgement here.  I think I am judging the actions of such as god as inconsistent.  If I am making a moral judgement then it is one that says the actions of such a god do not lead to human flourishing. 

I do not believe there are any moral laws over and above human beings. Nor do I believe that human beings have a moral law within them - while I agree that we might experience what we call a sense of morality, that is a learnt behavior. Our internal thoughts have been shaped by the prevailing morals of the society we grow up in.   We learn to be moral by the standards of our society - and our thoughts reflect that.  And some people never learn the sense of morality of their community - we put such people in prisons and mental hospitals. 

As indigenous people we do not have "moral laws" so there is no need to decide what laws are good or bad.  We do have a concept of tikanga - which has man y translations, but fundamentally means our over-arching cultural values.  A literal translation in the context of this discussion would be "correctness'.  So we have a concept of "correct" behavior and "incorrect" behavior - but that does not carry the moral judgement of "good and bad" or "right and wrong".

There are no external reference points for "good and bad" for us. There are external reference points for correct behavior - which derive from our creation stories - which give us our ontologies and axiologies - just as the Christian stories give Christianity its ontologies and axiologies.  

I'm not sure if that answers your points.  I hope so.  Let's continue the discussion.

Problem of Evil AS Evil
Kia ora ano
I would add that I am making no judgement on the actions of such a god.  I can conceive of no motivation for creating beings knowing they are going to be punished in the future - but that does not mean that such a god does not have a motivation.  

Until I know that motivation I am unable to judge the actions which follow.


Problem of Evil AS Evil
Kia ora Dayawansa
I think you have a problem with this statement:

 Lord Buddha’s Teaching was lost to the world shortly after his ‘death’.  

If that is true then everything we think we know about his teachings may well be false.

But we have a very different view of Buddhism. For instance, Gautama was a man who became awakened.  There is a Zen saying "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!"   This keeps in our minds that he was a man and not a being to be deified. 

We have such a different view I wonder of what I might say will offend you. 

I'm not sure that what you say is new, in that I am familiar with your concepts.

And Buddhism is not something to be studies - the dharma is to be lived. The Eight-fold Path is a template to be lived.