The inspiration for this post came while I was rereading the essay I published in 2013 and came upon the claim in paragraph 3 of the Decalog (section 5) that "There is nothing wrong with the world." Although I believe that this point is argued sufficiently therein, I nevertheless experienced a reaction to this effect: "What about all of the evil in the world, is not that something wrong with it?"
Then, after pondering this question for the better part of a day I came to the conclusion that the price of freedom is the possibility of evil. In other words, 'evil' is nothing wrong with the world, it is simply that which we must accept as a possibility along with 'good' if we admit that individuals are truly capable of free action.
Now obviously the above concepts (freedom, evil, good) are in no way philosophically settled or universally defined. And even though the general sense in which I have used them above signifies my understanding them in a certain way, I am not claiming thereby to know their exact meanings.
Anyway, you have probably heard the argument against God's existence which simply cites as evidence the existence of evil in the world.
On the surface it seems like a viable argument against God's existence that all of the tragedies caused by human malevolence and/or carelessness are allowed to occur. After all, if anyone has the ability to prevent such things from happening it would have to be someone omniscient (in order to know the things were happening) and omnipotent (in order to have the power to stop them).
But what if, when creating the universe, God was forced to choose between two basic types of universe: the first being all-good with no free will since allowing anyone the freedom to be evil would negate the all-goodness, and the second being one in which freedom existed.
Since it is obviously possible that God exists and chose the second type of universe to create, the mere fact of a universe with evil in it does not disprove God's existence. Moreover, if you believe that your existence implies you have the freedom to do as you please (excepting impossible actions of course) and you value that freedom, then you may even perceive it as good that evil is allowed to exist.
Now, regardless of my only believing in the possibility of God (as I am an agnostic), the trade-off that God is forced to make in the above scenario illustrates the previous point perfectly:
the price of freedom is the possibility of evil.
Relatedly, it is this possibility of evil that lends significance to the choice of not being evil, which unveils another price of freedom: responsibility. Put otherwise, if there were no possibility of my being evil then I could never be responsible for my not being evil.
To illustrate: imagine a universe in which no freedom existed, insofar as every action and path I take is predetermined beforehand. Evil or not, my actions and paths in this case are not my responsibility at all, but rather are the responsibility of whatever / whoever predetermined those actions and paths.
It seems then that evil (assuming its existence to be indubitable), rather than disproving God's existence, actually only proves the existence of free will (or freedom). Furthermore, if we take this 'freedom' to be something 'good', then apparently evil can be used to prove (or at least recognize) the good.
Is it just me or does that seem kind of strange?
Regardless, ethics is without a doubt an endlessly fascinating labyrinth; and I will be writing more about it in the future.