The Problem of Evil

There is a boding question about the “evils” of the world, and many people need to justify the necessity of evil through faith. I define faith as deduction, induction, or hope. With this definition, it only makes sense to me that so many people in the world, and throughout history, have faith in a supreme being and a just and rewarding afterlife. Solomon and Higgins (2010) present the discussion of evil in contrast to the goodness and how it relates to God. Chafee (2009), like Solomon and Higgins (2010), examines only the religious concepts of evil, but he does state one important truth, “the existence of evil in the world poses a serious threat to religion in general, and the concept of an all-loving, all-powerful God in particular” (p. 391). The argument that if evil exists then there can be no omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God acknowledges the existence of evil and denies the existence of God. To me, the word evil seems to have too many religious connotations for academic consideration, as for those that do not believe in God, this contrast between good and bad loses meaning and application. For this same reason, it is difficult for me, I admit, to discuss evil in the context of God and religion. To do so would mean that I have suspended my faith and beliefs.

To discuss evil, I must remove the religious connotations and define it in acceptable terms. The word evil embodies all that is harmful, but what is harmful for one might be curative for another. For there to be good in the world, there must be equal bad to contrast, essentially giving the good its value in comparison to the bad. One might argue that good gives value to bad, also. This is commonly referred to as “the Contrast View” and is in direct disagreement with Martin Buber’s (1981) view of evil as inattention to moral ways. Things that have no morals (e.g. nature) can be perceived as evil, thereby providing an argument to Buber, though I believe that Buber’s views are that of some of the humanistic causes of evil.

Evil, or the bad in the world, is simply a lack of good, just as black is a lack of white, and cold, a lack of heat. Consider, though, that an unfortunate event can be viewed as evil to one person and can prove fortunate to another. Therefore, I consider evil to only be a perception of an individual grading fortune and misfortune on a scale of good and bad.


Buber, M. (1981). Good and evil. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Chafee, J. (2009). The philosopher’s way: Thinking critically about profound ideas (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Solomon, R. C., & Higgins, K. M. (2010). The big questions: A short introduction to philosophy (8th ed.). Belmont, C.A.: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.