February 4, 2006

Theodicy – Part lll (a)

Posted in literature, non-fiction, theodicy at 11:11 pm by Jerry

Justifiying Theodicys…

“We proceed on the assumption that the true and the good, and just possibly the beautiful, coincide. Where they do not, we demand an account. The urge to unite is and ought stands behind every creative endeavor. Those who seek to unite them by force usually do more harm than they set out to prevent. Those who never seek to unite them do nothing at all.” p.322.

“We experience wonder in the moments when we see the world is as it ought to be–an experience so deep that the ought melts away. The disappearance of the ought in such moments leads some thinkers to describe them as the experience of Being freed from human demands and categories. But it is equally the experience that all our demands have been fulfilled.” p.323.

Neiman quotes Schopenhauer from The World as Will and Representation:

“Philosophy, like the overture to Don Giovanni, starts with a minor chord…. The more specific character of the astonishment that urges us to philosophize obviously springs from the sight of the evil and wickedness in the world. If our life were without end and free from pain, it would possibly not occur to anyone to ask why the world exists.” p.203.

Neiman says…

“You may call it reason’s narcissism–the wish to see itself reflected wherever it goes. Yet reason’s attempt to be at home in the world is also a refusal to abandon the world to its own devices. The demand that reason and reality stand together is tenacious because it is no more than a demand. Its basis is not real but rational.” p.323.

“Belief that there may be reason in the world is a condition of the possibility of our being able to go on in it.” p.324.

“Dostoevsky underlined the idea that the problem of evil is not just one more mystery. It is so central to our lives that if reason stumbles there, it must give way to faith. If you cannot understand why children are tortured, nothing else you understand really matters. But the very attempt to understand it requires at least accepting it as part of the world that must be investigated. Some hold even this much acceptance to be unacceptable. Thus the rejection of theodicy becomes the rejection of comprehension itself.

“Just this realization drove contemporary thinkers to take up the question again, in full awareness of all the reasons the twentieth century provided to abandon it forever. The moral impulse expressed in Dostoevsky’s refusal to understand is overridden by the impulse that sees no alternative. To abandon the attempt to comprehend evil is to abandon every basis for confronting it, in thought as in practice. The thinkers who returned to the problem of evil while knowing the limits of any discussion of it were driven by moral demands. For creatures endowed with reason, love of the world cannot be blind. The intellectual struggle is more important than any particular results that emerge from it.” p.325.

Stay tuned for “Theodicy – Part lll (b)”



  1. Tim said,

    I think part of what makes Dostoevsky’s theodicy so compelling is that he takes it all in, the supreme evil with the supreme good. His whole personal life (and written life) was a long struggle to answer this question. The conclusions he comes to are appealing because the margin of victory of good over evil is extremely narrow, yet it is eternal. It is this final quality that gives his novels the hope that is so hard to find in the midst of evil.
    (By the way, it’s cool to finally get to read something from you!)

  2. Jerry said,

    Hey Tim! Nice to hear from you. I like what you had to say here. The little I have read of Dostoevsky is not enough for me to give my own opinion, but I’m beginning to see why he is still read.

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