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There is practically a general agreement of authorities as the nature of evil, some allowance being made for varying modes of expression depending on a corresponding variety of philosophical presuppositions.But on the question of the origin of evil there has been, and is a considerable diversity of opinion. it cannot be solved by a mere experimental analysis of the actual conditions from which evil results.
If animals suffering is excluded, no pain of any kind is caused by the inevitable limitations of nature ; and they can only be called evil by analogy, and in a sense quite different from that in which the term is applied to human experience. Descartes supposed that animals were merely machines, without sensation or consciousness ; he was closely followed by Malebranche and Cartesians generally.
Metaphysical evil is the limitation by one another of various component parts of the natural world.
Through this mutual limitation natural objects are for the most part prevented from attaining to their full or ideal perfection, whether by the constant pressure of physical condition, or by sudden catastrophes.
Thus evil, from the point of view of human welfare, is what ought not to exist.
Nevertheless, there is no department of human life in which its presence is not felt; and the discrepancy between what is and what ought to be has always called for explanation in the account which mankind has sought to give of itself and its surroundings.