Benjamin Jay Yoder
University of North Carolina at Asheville
Subject Listing - Philosophy
Thursday, Oral Session 1, Presentation 5, Karpen Hall 241
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION: AN APPLICATION OF GANDHIAN NONVIOLENCE
Many empiricist philosophers, such as David Hume, have gone to great lengths to disprove the existence of a God due to the problem of evil. Indeed, one of the most perplexing questions a theist must ask him or her self is how an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God could allow evil to exist in the world. But just what is evil? Is evil an objective fact, or a social construct? Is it a phenomenon that pervades the universe, or an unnecessary burden that humans have created for themselves? If it is an objective fact, Hume has every right to question the existence of such a God. However, is it possible that Hume is viewing evil through a socially constructed framework, a framework that tells us we are helpless victims of evil? Is he, and others, mistaking discomfort for evil? By researching the various interpretations of evil, it can not only be shown that evil is a social construct, but that humans are on an odyssey of sorts, a quest to find their true place in the universe, to become shaped in the "likeness" of God. By borrowing from philosophers and activists such as Iranaeus, John Hicks, Hegel, Clifford Geertz, and Gandhi, humanity can be seen as not only evolving biologically and culturally, but spiritually as well. In our adolescence, we struggle with the growing pains that inevitably lead to mature adulthood. Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence can be used as a case study for "spiritual evolution." It can be argued that Gandhi's ideas are the next step in this evolution. An antithesis of nonviolence rising against a thesis of violence can only filter out the immaturity and faulty logic that a model of violence reflects. Not only must we learn to denounce violence, but we must also denounce it of our own accord, without the authority figure of a "God" to tell us so. Gandhi is a great organizer of the next step in a process John Hicks referred to as "soul-making."