Teodycea – naturodycea – historiodycea


The article is mainly concerned with theodicy and presents its most representative versions. The problem of evil – formulated in different ways and solved in different manners – was already known to the ancient Greeks constituting one of the central topics in a number of their philosophical systems. Typically, the answers to the question of the origin and function of evil, were embedded in an over-whole picture of the world. But in course of time the notion of theodicy underwent historical transformations, evolving from naturodicy to historidicy. These transformations marked consecutive steps of making a religious topic a question to be studied by laymen.

The principal problems of theodicy were discussed by Plato and the Stoics. Their views, in turn, were commented upon and developed, directly or indirectly, by Plotinus und other philosophers. The pivotal problem of theodicy was justification of God’s decision to create evil. But no matter what conceptions had been adopted to explain the origin of evil it was believed that evil was only a contingent manifestation within a world ruled by a supernatural divinity. Further attempts to justify evil consisted in showing that it had some positive functions in the world conceived as a good, beautiful, and harmonious entity. In the ontological arguments to this effect some inferences were repeatedly offered, apparently under assumption that they were particularly successful explanation. It was shown and offered as an unchallenged proof that all parts of the world congruently fit into one whole. This reasoning was occasionally strengthened by such additional arguments as the completeness of the world, realization of perfection, liberty, harmony or aesthetic values.

The leading topics of the theodicy created by Plato, the Stoics and Plotinus could later be found in the Christian theodicy. But, by adopting the contention of “creatio ex nihilo” it was impossible for the Christian philosophy to make matter responsible for the existence of evil, as Plato and Plotinus used to argue. For St. Augustine matter was created by God along with the rest of the world and was just as good as all other parts of the Universe. All that existed had been given its form, measure, and order by God. Evil was nothing but a lack of goodness and did not have substantial existence. Though its existence was merely negative, evil could be felt to be part of the world. But it was always created by man, and besides, contributed to the value of the whole. The theodicy of Leibniz remained in the sphere of Christian influence, even though his reasoning was offered not only to excuse God for the existence of evil, but to excuse all being for whatever evil it contained. In this way theodicy became ontodicy.

Different forms of naturodicy developing in the period of Enlightenment remained under the influence of Leibniz’s philosophy. The general pattern of reasoning was not chanced save for the central place of the philosophical system now occupied by nature and not God as the case was before. This theory of good nature had different forms. A common part of all versions was a protest against interpretation of the human nature as a soul which had committed the original sin and against all other attempts to evaluate human activities according to the degree in which they carried out supernatural ends. The concept of nature was by no means limited to the notion of human nature, but usually extended to the total universe. Nature conceived in this manner was identical with wisdom, benevolence and harmony, so by learning the laws of nature, and by abiding to their enjoyments man could not only find a way to avoid ever making a wrong deed in this life but could also count on living his life in happiness. But naturally this conception of nature as a harmonious, rational and perfect entity had to be supplied with a justification of evil that was observed in the otherwise perfect physical and moral order.

In the 19th C. a completely new point of view offered. The problems to be explained were specific historical facts. Evil was now discussed as a historiosophic question. The solutions aimed to explain why historically observed evil came to exist, what its function was and what were the perspectives of having it abrogated in the future. The trends observed in writings of Vico and Herder can be summarized as putting evil in the framework of historical development. Their views gained prominence throughout the 19th C. New historidicy was based on a new ontology. It was supported by a changeable historical reality in the place of the static and logical ontology. Consequently, the widespread argument of earlier theodicy explaining the existence of evil by showing that it was a necessary part of the whole was now no longer pertinent. The starting point had to be different and it was usually found in an indeterminate moment in the past somewhere beyond the physical elapse of time. The 19th C. dynamic version of historidicy was a conception of an absolute which explained the existence of the world and the sense of the history. These explanations supplied an answer to the query about the meaning and function of evil. The historiosophic theodicy, although supported by an ontology of a new type, retained some of the topics of the earlier versions of theodicy. The history of mankind was seen in the perspective of a harmonious, complete and perfect development which as a whole explained the fragmentary evil and pains. But the acceptance of the necessary existence of evil was identical with a moral approval of history. The new problem of the 19th C. versions of historiodicy was therefore finding the reasons for the historical development, observed and explained by historiosophy and finding a moral justification for whatever was happening in the world.