0

Some people have argued that, though the presence of evil in the world is clearly not a good thing in itself, it is justified because it can lead to greater moral goodness. Without poverty and disease, for instance, Mother Teresa’s great moral goodness in helping the needy would not have been possible. Without war, torture, and cruelty, no saints or heroes could exist. Evil allows the supposedly greater good of this kind of triumph over human suffering.

Philosophy: The basics

The construction of the bolded sentence is complex for me to understand. Could you explain it to me?

1
  • Evil allows for the existence of the supposedly greater good of this kind of triumph over human suffering. Where the abstract noun [a] good refers to something of benefit to humanity. It's being claimed that the mere existence of evil causes "goodness" (in the form of efforts made to overcome it) to arise. In fact, it's being implied that we should welcome the existence of evil, on the grounds that the "good" that it causes more than counterbalances the evil, so there's always a "net gain". But it's a dubious philosophy, I feel. – FumbleFingers Feb 2 at 14:38
1

Evil allows the supposedly greater good of this kind of triumph over human suffering.

The word "supposedly" indicates that the writer does not agree with "Some people". The writer is sceptical of this idea.

Paraphrase

It is supposed by some people that this kind of 'greater good' (i.e. the existence of saints etc.) is a justification for (God?) allowing suffering.

If there were no suffering, then that would be good but, suffering allows some people to be extra good. So suffering is supposed to be okay according to this argument.

Does this explain it?

5
  • I am still confused about the structure of "of this kind of triumph over human suffering". I tried to understand the bolded sentence like this: "Evil allows the supposedly greater good to triumph over human suffering." – XVI Feb 2 at 14:37
  • I suggest rephrasing that reference to (God?) allowing suffering, since it's a completely different sense of the word allow (which I suspect may be the specific word in the original text that's confusing the OP). – FumbleFingers Feb 2 at 14:40
  • 1
    @XVI: The fact that evil exists permits / allows counterbalancing acts of extreme goodness to exist (Mother Theresa couldn't be such a saint if there was no evil for her to have heroically battled against). – FumbleFingers Feb 2 at 14:44
  • @XVI - I understand it differently. It is not that good people overcome the suffering of others (although they may in some cases). It is that there is a comparison of two possibilities (1) No suffering and no saints (2) Suffering and saints. Both of these have good and bad aspects according to the "some people" mentioned at the beginning. Those people believe that (2) is better than (1). The author appears to think that (1) is better than (2). – chasly - supports Monica Feb 2 at 14:50
  • @ FumbleFingers - If you can express it better, please go ahead and give an answer. I shall be interested to see a different point of view ;-) – chasly - supports Monica Feb 2 at 14:50
1

Evil allows the supposedly greater good of this kind of triumph over human suffering.

I suspect you are getting hung up on the second of. It's not a very clear sentence, which does the readers of this philosophy textbook no favors.

The writer is saying that according to this idea, that the existence of evil allows for the greater good to triumph over it.

The idea is that for good to exist, evil must exist.

The greater good of this kind of triumph over human suffering is the actions of those who are exceptionally moral in reducing poverty, disease, and so on.

This is made clear(er) by referencing St. Theresa's work in Calcutta slums -- it was her virtuous actions that the existence of evil makes possible -- according to the idea.

The writer disagrees with this idea, which is made clear by the use of the word supposedly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.