“Nature in her indifference makes no distinction between good and evil.” – Anatole France



We don’t usually think about causes of good, they simply seem to be good fortune or derive from personal effort. On the other hand for some reason, it is characteristic of human understanding to wonder why there is evil. We are unlikely to ask why a day is beautiful, but inclined to ask rhetorically at least why a hurricane with its resultant damage or injuries should occur.

Traditionally philosophers attribute evil to two main causes: nature and free agency. Natural evil is that which occurs through the forces of nature: calamity (earthquakes, droughts, and the like), disease, and imperfections in natural function (e.g. genetic mutations or congenital conditions). Science can explain the basis for most natural evils, but not in any satisfying way why the universe has them. This ‘why’ is the crux of thinking about natural evil. Psychologically, it tends to make humans see the universe as hostile or indifferent to us while undermining belief in an all-powerful or beneficent divinity. These interpretations will be examined in more detail in later blogs.

The other main cause of evil is that committed by free agents, which for most of us means human free will (we will discuss the possibility of evil non-humans such as Satan in later blogs). While the number of evils due to free agency is large, the reasons fall into six main groups (in rough order of increasing severity): immaturity, accident, error, weakness, selfishness, and malice.

The first two of these are largely unavoidable and on the whole minor. The evils of youth are generally unintentional whereas accidental evil appears to be almost a variety of natural evil. Both lead to feelings of guilt or remorse and thus serve a place in human maturation and socialization and may drive individual and human progress .

(continued next post)

2 Replies to “CAUSES OF EVIL”

    1. S.C.

      Pardon the delay, but responding to your request required more time than I could commit during the week.

      I am assuming your interest is genuine rather than facetious though a wiser person might refrain from responding.

      I would like to consider three lines of discussion.

      The first is apocryphal – I heard this anecdote in my freshman college philosophy seminar on God. As the story goes a professor had for the final exam in his philosophy course the one word question: “Why?” While most students wrote extended theses, the top score of 95% went to a student with the two word answer: “Why not?” and supposedly he lost 5 % for forgetting to dot his question mark. While the story is almost certainly fictional, it symbolizes the dubious nature of seemingly rhetorical questions in philosophy. Nonetheless I do think there is a sense in which the ‘the why of it all’ can be addressed.

      The second sense of your question is reformulated as the classic question “Why is there anything at all?” – often proposed as a justification for belief in a necessarily existent Creator of the universe or perhaps more accurately ‘reality’. I have addressed this at length in the section on this site: ‘The Question of God’ (posts dated 2/18/19 -3/27/19; especially the synopsis 3/25/19 and 3/27/19), but also at the end of the section, ‘Teleology’ in two posts called ‘Teleology – Post Script – God Again?’ (1/29/20 and 1/31/20). I also address it is several Current Reading segments including: ‘God and Physics’ (7/8/19 and 7/10/19), ‘Does God Exist?’ (10/28/19 and 10/30/19), and just recently ‘Where Did The Universe Come From?’ (9/30/22-10/5/22). The meta-summary of these many posts is that God as the answer to the question of why there is anything at all is speculative and unprovable although scientific explanations are incomplete if not outright inconsistent. The concept ‘God’ is most secure by definition as the origin of the universe or multiverse or as the universe itself or multiverse itself (see Table 3 in the Appendix). However, this offers little to your possible hope that there is a ‘why to it all.’

      The third dimension of your question comes down to teleology which we might reformulate as “Is reality designed and meaningful?” I address this in the section ‘Teleology’ (11/11/10-1/31/20), where the synopsis (1/22/20) and synthesis (1/24/20 and 1/27/20) offer a very complete review of my conclusions. A few key ones are (1) the universe is not absurd, but meaningful based on meeting 6 of 7 criteria, (2) the absence of a Creator does not adversely impact the meaningfulness of the universe and humanity, (3) the universe is developing on a trajectory described by complexity and chaos theory, which amount to self-organization and ‘self-design’, and (4) we should synchronize or harmonize our purpose with the apparent purpose of the universe, which would likely be the preference of a Creator should one exist.

      Please let me know if this brings you some understanding of my developing view as to the ‘why of it all’ and thank you for your interest in


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