Problem of Evil, What About the Problem of Good?

Boethius, Consolation 1.90-95

“For what advantage is there of speaking about those falsely attributed works in which I am said to have agitated for Roman freedom? Their fakeness would have been obvious if it had been allowed for me to use the confession of those informers of mine, since this has the most potent influence in all of this business.

What freedom remains to be hoped for? If only some remained! I would have then responded in that phrase of Canius. When Caligula accused him of being aware of a conspiracy underway against him, Canius is reported to have said, “If I had known of it, you would not.”

Sorrow has so thoroughly weakened my senses in this matter that I complain that evil men have attempted to do evil, but I am in fact surprised that they have accomplished what they hoped to. For, while it is perhaps our special weakness as humans to desire to do the worse thing, it is nearly monstrous that whatever a criminal mind can conceive of he can do while God looks on.

This is why it is not surprising that one of your friends asked “If there is really a God, where does evil come from? Ah, but where is good from if there is not?”

Nam de compositis falso litteris quibus libertatem arguor sperasse Romanam quid attinet dicere? Quarum fraus aperta patuisset, si nobis ipsorum confessione delatorum, quod in omnibus negotiis maximas vires habet, uti licuisset. Nam quae sperari reliqua libertas potest? Atque utinam posset ulla! Respondissem  Canii verbo, qui cum a Gaio Caesare Germanici filio conscius contra se factae coniurationis fuisse diceretur: ‘Si ego,’ inquit, ‘scissem, tu nescisses.’ Qua in re non ita sensus nostros maeror hebetavit ut impios scelerata contra virtutem querar molitos, sed quae speraverint effecisse vehementer admiror. Nam deteriora velle nostri fuerit fortasse defectus, posse contra innocentiam, quae sceleratus quisque conceperit inspectante deo, monstri simile est. Unde haud iniuria tuorum quidam familiarium quaesivit: ‘Si quidem deus,’ inquit, ‘est, unde mala? Bona vero unde, si non est?’

Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae, f.24 (289 x 218 mm), 15th century, Alexander Turnbull Library, MSR-19 (5986125942).jpg
Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae, f.24 Alexander Turnbull Library, By National Library NZ on The Commons – 

A Person’s God

From the Suda:

“A person is a person’s god.” This proverb is for when people are unexpectedly saved by human being and become famous because of this. There are also the proverbs “A person [like] Euripos”; “Chance [like] Euripos”, “An opinion [like the] Euripos”—these proverbs are for people who change easily and are not stable.”

Ἄνθρωπος ἀνθρώπου δαιμόνιον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπροσδοκήτως ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπου σῳζομένων καὶ δι’ αὐτῶν εὐδοκιμούντων. καὶ Ἄνθρωπος Εὔριπος, Τύχη Εὔριπος, Διάνοια Εὔριπος. ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾷστα μεταβαλλομένων καὶ ἀσταθμήτων ἀνθρώπων.

Explained elsewhere:

“Euripos: A sea strait, or a water body between two [bodies] of land. This one is between Boiôtia and Attica. The water there changes direction seven times a day.”

Εὔριπος: πέλαγος στενόν, ἢ τόπος ὑδατώδης μεταξὺ δύο γαιῶν. τουτέστι Βοιωτίας καὶ ᾿Αττικῆς. ἑπτάκις δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας τὸ ἐκεῖσε ὕδωρ τρέπεται.

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A krater from the MET

Your Gods Hate You: Clement’s Critique of the Greek Pantheon

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks III

“Seriously, then, let us add this too: your gods are inhuman and people-hating demons who do not only delight in the madness of humanity but even revel in the slaughter of humans. They gather their incitements for pleasure first in the armed conflicts in stadia and then in the countless arguments in war so that they might be especially able to sate their thirst for human gore. Already they have demanded human sacrifices in cities and nations, falling upon them like plagues. This is why Aristomenes the Messenian killed three hundred men for Zeus of Ithôme, because he believed that these types and numbers of hekatombs bring good outcomes.”

Φέρε δὴ οὖν καὶ τοῦτο προσθῶμεν, ὡς ἀπάνθρωποι καὶ μισάνθρωποι δαίμονες εἶεν ὑμῶν οἱ θεοὶ καὶ οὐχὶ μόνον ἐπιχαίροντες τῇ φρενοβλαβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, πρὸς δὲ καὶ ἀνθρωποκτονίας ἀπολαύοντες· νυνὶ μὲν τὰς ἐν σταδίοις ἐνόπλους φιλονεικίας, νυνὶ δὲ τὰς ἐν πολέμοις ἀναρίθμους φιλοτιμίας ἀφορμὰς σφίσιν ἡδονῆς ποριζόμενοι, ὅπως ὅτι μάλιστα ἔχοιεν ἀνθρωπείων ἀνέδην ἐμφορεῖσθαι φόνων· ἤδη δὲ κατὰ πόλεις καὶ ἔθνη, οἱονεὶ λοιμοὶ ἐπισκήψαντες, σπονδὰς ἀπῄτησαν ἀνημέρους. Ἀριστομένης γοῦν ὁ Μεσσήνιος τῷ Ἰθωμήτῃ Διὶ τριακοσίους ἀπέσφαξεν, τοσαύτας ὁμοῦ καὶ τοιαύτας καλλιερεῖν οἰόμενος ἑκατόμβας·

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Pindar, Olympian 12.7-9



“No mortal has ever discovered a faithful sign of things to come from the gods: we are blind to the future.”



σύμβολον δ’ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθονίων

πιστὸν ἀμφὶ πράξιος ἐσσομένας εὗρεν θεόθεν,

τῶν δὲ μελλόντων τετύφλωνται φραδαί·