In the world of philosophy, one of the biggest arguments is the problem of evil. When it comes to proving or denying the existence of God, the question continues to be that if our God is truly an all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect God, a PKM God, then why would He create such a world with so much evil? The Bible states that our God is also an unconditionally loving God and that is what brings forth the contradiction in one’s mind. The contradiction seems to be that a world with an unconditionally loving God cannot possibly exist with such evils that we have in our world. The answer is simple and is brought to surface by Gottfried Leibniz, a modern philosopher who states that the world in which we live in is the best of all possible worlds. How can this be the best of all possible worlds? Surely, we could live in a world where nothing bad happens; a world with only goods and lesser goods. Surely, we could live in a world with no knowledge of bad whatsoever. The idea of a world without any bad, any evil, or any negative connotations, constitutes a utopia. Even suggesting that we might be able to live in a world with only goods and lesser goods is unreasonable. It’s unperceivable. A utopia just cannot exist. Without any negativity of any sort, our ability to think, to create, to learn, to imagine, to love, and to choose a path in life, would cease. We would become mindless drones walking the Earth with no goals, no ideas, no destinations, and no life. Simply put, our world needs balance. Leibniz is correct when he says that this is the best of all possible worlds. With this, there is no problem of evil. In fact, evil is inevitable. To further explain, I will use supporting and opposing arguments brought up by other modern philosophers, fiction stories, and personal points of my own.
When referring to the idea of evil, I don’t mean a paper cut on the finger or stubbing my toe on the sidewalk. In God’s Utility Function by Richard Dawkins, one subject he writes about is of the female digger wasp. In it, the female digger wasp will brutally kill an innocent caterpillar by injecting poison into their bodies in order to make them immobile. She then uses the caterpillar’s warm body to give her eggs a place to stay warm and stay protected. The idea of it sounds evil and some would question the wasp’s methods. If God cared about all of his creatures then he wouldn’t let one of his creations kill another just to house her eggs. If we lived in a world without evil, then the caterpillar would be able to keep his life and the wasp could just bury her eggs in the ground like other species do. Imagine, though, if it was true, and the caterpillar was able to keep his life, if they were all able to hold on to their lives. They would reproduce more and eventually become overpopulated. They would need more food and begin to eat through the plants of their choice. At first unnoticed, said plants would become less and less populous and the cycle would continue to go on and on. Wouldn’t that be bad for the rest of the creatures affected in the cycle? That’s okay; at least the caterpillars are okay.
Female digger wasps aren’t evil. They are just a part of life. Their nature and instinct to use the caterpillar’s bodies as shelter for their offspring is one way to maintain the balance of life. The kinds of evil that most bring up in opposition to the problem of evil are not usually those found in nature, but in our everyday lives. Real evil, the type of evil in which one not only cringes, but feels a sense of depression, is the type of evil that is truly concerning. Why would God create a world with the kind of evil that causes such suffering and grief to families and friends? For example, when an innocent boy is attacked and torn apart by a pack of dogs sent at the command of an over reactive general. Not only that, but in front of the boy’s own mother, for the sole purpose of proving the point that he can do whatever he wishes, and however so. Dostoevsky writes about this scenario in his book, Rebellion. Though Dostoevsky writes fiction, events such as those he writes of happen in real life in one form or another.
It is this kind of evil that one questions against the existence of God. If what Leibniz said is correct, then how is it possible that this world is the best, if events such as a child being torn apart for the sake of pleasure is necessary for our world to exist? Showing that things like this occur doesn’t prove its necessity but only creates more frustration. For this, Leibniz brings up the idea of metaphysical evil or imperfection. He states that the best of all possible worlds is a world with finite beings, such as humans, and finite beings are imperfect. Therefore, the best of all possible worlds must have metaphysical evil. Leibniz then proceeds to question his own statement in Real-Life Dialogue on Human Freedom and the Origin of Evil, last amended by Jonathon Bennett in 2006. In the dialogue, he questions why God could not have created humans in the least perfect enough to not fall into committing sin, or evil, in the first place. He then came back by stating that in our minds, we only look at a select amount of small bits of the world we live in at a time. We don’t see the big picture. We don’t see the perfect image that God created in His mind. There are pieces to the puzzle that in it of itself are imperfect or evil in our eyes but we have to think that God would not have allowed room for the evil that we observe in our daily lives if he didn’t know how to create a good that would be even greater than the resulting evil.
In the story of Candide by Voltaire, the author takes you through the life of a man named Candide who just has the worst luck and nothing goes right for him until the end of the story. At the very end of the story, Candide isn’t feeling too great about his recent adventures. While Candide is sulking about his life and how unwell it turned out to be, a companion mentions to him that if he had not been through everything he had, he would not be married to his dream girl and eating “…preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.” Since Candide wanted to marry Cunégonde, he had to go through a few hoops in order to get to that point. If those things hadn’t happened then he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy his garden as he does. In a more relevant case, one of the most evil events that have occurred in the last century was the Holocaust. If such an event would never have happened, then Anne Frank would never have written such inspiration for future people in her diary. After Hitler’s cruel rule as a dictator, Germany, along with the rest of Europe, cleaned up their government system and citizens learned, and are still learning, from their past. Yes, genocide’s do still occur in other countries. One event will not change the world, but it did open up the minds and hearts of other countries and has added to our history books. Maybe it did not have to happen to Germany and the Jewish, but it would have happened in one form or another. This is because God has a plan, and evil must be a part of that plan in order to result in a greater good. Remember, God is all-knowing. He knows the negative consequences of human action before we do. Not only that, but He knows the positive consequences to action as well. This, thus, brings us back to the main idea of life’s need for balance.
The world that we live in, Earth, needs balance in order to support life. It would not have been able to support the life that it holds if it consisted of only land or only ocean. We need both land and ocean for survival; land for shelter and ocean for water. The two balance each other out. Just as anything in life, balance is necessary. To every negative, there’s a positive. To every male, there’s a female. Even something small such as a chemical equation needs to be able to balance out less it become radioactive or implode in on itself. Therefore, there must be an evil in order for there to be any good. The question still remains to be, what if there was not any bad at all? It could be that this is not the best of all possible worlds and there could in fact be a world with only goods and lesser goods. As previously stated, that constitutes a utopia. Take a second to imagine a world with only goodness; with no notion of bad or evil whatsoever. The reality of such is unimaginable, unfathomable, and altogether impossible. How would the human race ever learn without any form of negative consequence? Take for instance competition. Without competition, there would be no athletics, no job market, and no award ceremonies of any sort. Who’s to say that competition would not exist in a utopia? Well, in order to compete for something, wouldn’t there in turn be a winner and a loser? The likeliness to be able to be an individual, and reap the benefits of self-satisfaction for a job well-done would cease. With that in mind, in reference to the job market, there would be no way for promotion in-house. In fact, there really wouldn’t be a way to apply for a position anywhere. How would it work without some form of competition? Would one simply be able to ask for a job and then receive it automatically? The world would run out of resources; supply and demand would be off the charts and end up never making any sense. People would just be free to do as they please. The consequences are seemingly endless, and just as in the caterpillar example, it would work out for some, and others would lose any benefits. How could there be a world of only good if there’s no way around a negative consequence? Someone would have to not be able to receive the job they applied for because not everyone can have all the skills necessary to do the work required.
Bringing it back to Voltaire’s Candide, Martin, a character whose beliefs follow along the ideas of Leibniz’s philosophy, counters Candide’s illogical eye for optimism by stating, “Even in those cities which seem to enjoy peace, and where the arts flourish, the inhabitants are devoured by more envy, care, and uneasiness than are experienced by a besieged town. Secret griefs are more cruel than public calamities.” Even on the outside of things, when the world seems to be peaceful and bountiful, on the inside, it is rotting. Even the man who has everything; money, a loving wife, property, nice clothes, job security, etc, can be filled with grief, greed, jealousy, or even loneliness. The same goes for the opposite side. A woman under the line of poverty, working 3 jobs, with two kids, no husband and fear of losing her home can be living the most fulfilling and rewarding life to her. If that man was not filled with greed, he may never experience the rewarding feeling of being philanthropic. If said woman were never to succumb to hard times, she would never care to find her true potential and strive to reach it. Humans would never learn how to be strong or even have the need to do so if they didn’t at first experience pain, heartache, or even torture. In relation to true evil, even some of the most gruesome serial killers have the persona of innocence and some of the calmest seeming demeanors.
Why would our unconditionally loving God create such monstrous people and events just so that we could learn? Optimistic people suggest a possibility of there being a way for God to have created a way for us to learn, to grow, and to become inspirational beings through other means rather than through evil. Even Candide, our wide-eyed optimist says, “It is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong.” We simply cannot hope for an alternate world, question God’s reasoning for his creation or to even suggest that there are possibilities. To say that this world really isn’t the best of all possible worlds is rejecting God’s plan for us. To reject His plan is to reject Him. So why would He create us with the inevitability of sin; of evil? Being a PKM God, He obviously had the knowledge that in creating our world, he would need to create it with good and evil, just as he made our Earth with land and ocean, night and day, and man and woman. His physical creations are just as necessary and important as the minds He created for us to use. He knew, and still knows, that the point of it all is for balance. There is no problem of evil. Evil truly is inevitable. All-in-all, Leibniz could not have summed it up any better. This most definitely is the best of all possible worlds.