A justification of the existence of evil in 120 words

  1. Good and evil are contraries.
  2. Contraries are beings presupposing each other in sense, i.e. beings whose meaningfulness is conditional upon that of their opposites.
  3. Meaningfulness is to understanding as possibility to existence: i.e. meaningfulness to an understanding is nothing other than real possibility, described with respect to an understanding rather than reality as such. Those who think otherwise ground meaning and possibility alike in their own ignorance.
  4. Hence, contraries are beings whose possibility is conditional upon that of their opposites; as Aristotle says, potencies are directed at contraries.
  5. So for goodness to be possible is for evil to be as well.
  6. A world where goodness is possible is better than one where it isn’t.

2 thoughts on “A justification of the existence of evil in 120 words

  1. Regarding prem. 1, is the idea that they are only contraries, and not contradictories, because of the presence of neutrality?


    1. Contraries always belong, on some level, to a common type. The argument is formulated so as to be neutral about whether there is a special kind of goodness we can isolate as belonging to a uniquely important type (e.g. moral goodness) or realm (e.g. the realm of value), or whether all uses of ‘good’ attach to more specific types (e.g. good coffee, good person). In either case, contraries are properties that must belong to the same type. Contradictories, by contrast are propositions such that denying the presence of the property predicated in the assertion need not commit one to the assertion of any other property in that type. Syllogisms are not hot, but neither are they cold (or lukewarm, etc.). If this is what you mean by ‘neutrality’, then yes. If, by contrast, you mean that there can be properties (or states, or actions, etc.) that are moral without being either good or evil, then I’ll stay ‘neutral’ on that one as well, since I think providing an answer to this question is immaterial to the argument.


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