• Agustino
    11.3k
    I think that some of the modern, and perhaps not so modern, theological efforts to define evil in terms of goodness (as if evil was nothing but not good) are one of the most profound theological mistakes ever made. This definition of evil is a subversive reification - attempting to attribute existence to an abstraction, thereby denying the independent reality of evil.

    Likewise, when we treat darkness as the absence of light we are reifying our concept of darkness. For clearly the experience of darkness isn't simply the experience of not-light, but a different experience, which must be defined in-itself, and not by reference to another. Spinoza makes this point quite well.

    But what is the problem with this error, and why is it so serious? Because it leads to incoherence, and quite possibly blasphemy. If evil is the absence of good and evil exists, then God cannot be omnipresent, because God is good. So where evil exists, God is not, ie He's not omnipresent. We could surely deny that evil really exists, but that would be equally problematic. Another solution would be to say that in-so-far as something exists, it is good, whereas evil is only in-so-far as the thing doesn't exist. But that is self-contradictory not to mention that it is yet another reification.

    The other issue is that it becomes incoherent who created evil. For clearly Satan could not have brought forth evil unless evil already existed, and was, as it were, dormant, awaiting to be actualised. But, if evil is the absence of good, neither could God have created evil. In fact, it gets worse! Evil would be uncreated, which would lead to a position of ditheism, totally antithetical to Christian theology.

    The other major problem is that it becomes possible to put into question God's goodness, but that is incoherent for reasons I will illustrate later.

    So it must be that when we think of evil as the opposite of good, we certainly don't mean they are opposites in a logical sense. But rather opposite as in two alternatives.

    Both evil and good seem to be defined with reference to God's Law. But God is the Creator of the Law - therefore the real God must be beyond good and evil - truly a transcendent God! So when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the question of whether it was good or evil to do so didn't come up - it was a suspension of the ethical, for God is higher than the Law.

    Once this is affirmed, then God becomes the Creator of the good and of the evil, and Lord over both. It is finally possible to affirm God's omnipresence - for God is Lord over both good and evil. There is also no question of ditheism anymore. And finally, the debates regarding whether God is good or evil are rendered incoherent. God cannot be judged, because all judgements (with regards to good and evil) are made by the Law, but God is higher than the Law!

    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things — Isaiah 45:7
  • Beebert
    569
    "thereby denying the independent reality of evil."

    Denying an independent reality of evil is quite a Christian thing; Augustine denied it, and many others. But I understand what you are trying to say though . But hasn't many Christians tried to define it thus: Good=being, evil=non-being?

    You do know that Spinoza denied the reality of evil?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But hasn't many Christians tried to define it thus: Good=being, evil=non-being?Beebert
    If we do that, then we end up in the conundrum of whether evil exists. If evil is non-being, then evil doesn't exist. So all your experience of evil must be illusory. Furthermore, hell must not exist, since hell is full of evil, and evil is just non-being.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    You do know that Spinoza denied the reality of evil?Beebert
    I don't think so. Regardless, I was referring to his methodological proceeding of defining everything in-itself rather than through another.
  • Beebert
    569
    Well, werent you the one who claimed that hell is just a different perception of God, where one suffers instead of feeling bliss? Despite the fact that the damned and the saved encounters the same thing? That ls, they encounter the same thing buy experiences it differently because of their inner condition?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    You do know that Spinoza denied the reality of evil?Beebert
    As far as good and evil are concerned, they also indicate nothing positive in things, considered in themselves, nor are they anything other than modes of thinking, or notions we form because we compare things to one another. For one and the same thing can be good, and [evil], and also indifferent. For example, Music is good for one who is melancholy, [evil to] one who is mourning, and neither good nor [evil] to one who is deaf. — Preface Part IV Ethica
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Well, werent you the one who claimed that hell is just a different perception of God, where one suffers instead of feeling bliss? Despite the fact that the damned and the saved encounters the same thing? That ls, they encounter the same thing buy experiences it differently because of their inner condition?Beebert
    Yes, exactly! And that fits perfectly with my conception of evil and good being defined in-themselves, and ultimately in relation to the Law (thus, as Spinoza says, having no ultimate reality in and of themselves).
  • Beebert
    569
    Yes exactly, so according to Spinoza Good and evil are not intrinsically real.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Yes exactly, so according to Spinoza Good and evil are not intrinsically real.Beebert
    No, he didn't say that, he just said they have no independent existence, not that they have no existence whatsoever. Christians know that good and evil are defined in relationship to God's Law, and thus also have no independent existence apart from the Law.
  • Beebert
    569
    Well then you and I possibly agree here I think. If I have understood you correctly that is...
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Well then you and I possibly agree here I think. If I have understood you correctly that is...Beebert
    The fact that the damned and the saved encounter the same thing is a necessity, for God is omnipresent isn't He? How could the damned escape God?! Is God not stronger than any attempt to escape Him? Isn't that what his omnipresence means?

    I think the problem with a lot of modern (and not so modern) theology is that it doesn't take the transcendence of God seriously enough.
  • Beebert
    569
    What it seems to me like Spinoza says, is that neither good nor evil are real, intrinsic properties. Instead, goodness or evil are concepts we employ when we compare things.
  • Beebert
    569
    The question is, does God perceive all in the same way? That is, does he embrace the damned and the saved with the same love, as Isaac of Nineveh thought? The difference between the damned and the sinner being that love torments the guilty but not the blessed.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    What it seems to me like Spinoza says, is that neither good nor evil are real, intrinsic properties. Instead, goodness or evil are concepts we employ when we compare things.Beebert
    That's basically saying that they can't be defined in-themselves. They need to be defined in relation to, for example, the Law - or at any rate, something other than themselves. His point is that a thing is not evil in-itself, but rather in its relationship with other things. So it really is an existential fact that:
    Music is good for one who is melancholy — Preface Part IV Ethica
    But that goodness isn't an in-itself of music but comes from the interrelationship of melancholy and music.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    For example, Spinoza would say that beating someone is definitely evil. But the evil isn't "in-itself" but rather must be defined in terms of you and the other person. It has no independent existence.
  • Beebert
    569
    And to be honest with you, dont you think that this definition of evil(Spinoza's) is a bit similar to Nietzsche's, just that Nietzsche took it even further? That is my understanding from especially Works like Daybreak and Beyond Good and Evil.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    And to be honest with you, dont you think that this definition of evil(Spinoza's) is a bit similar to Nietzsche's, just that Nietzsche took it even further? That is my understanding from especially Works like Daybreak and Beyond Good and Evil.Beebert
    Nietzsche was a failed Spinozist, since he takes the fact that evil and good have no independent existence as meaning that they have no existence whatsoever, which Spinoza would vehemently deny.
  • Beebert
    569
    Okay I see, Perhaps you are right here about Spinoza. I only know that Nietzsche found Spinoza to have basically understood what "evil" is... And I have not read his Ethics so I shouldnt comment too much on this
  • Beebert
    569
    Anyway, would you agree with Isaac of Nineveh's view? Or why not Buddha's view?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Okay I see, Perhaps you are right here about Spinoza. I only know that Nietzsche found Spinoza to have basicslly understood what "evil" is... And I have not read his Ethics so I shouldnt comment too much on thisBeebert
    Nietzsche felt Spinoza was a kindred spirit at times, but I think that's merely an impression. If you look at their characters and what they wrote, it becomes clear. Spinoza was a virtue ethicist, Nietzsche an immoralist :P
  • Waya
    830
    Can we have light and dark at the same time in the same place? If evil was a completely separate substance, then it should be possible for a deed to be evil, and full of goodness too.
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