Friday, May 20, 2016

Oakeshott on the Problem of Evil

Gustav Doré. "Dudley Street, Seven Dials." 1872.

"A human condition is but rarely recognized as one of totally unrelieved agony, a 'city of dreadful night'; but its commonly felt dissonances are disease, urgent wants unsatisfied, the pain of disappointed expectations, the suffering of frustrated purposes, the impositions of hostile circumstances, the sorrows of unwanted partings, burdens, ills, disasters, calamities of all sorts, and death itself, the emblem here of all such sufferings. These miseries are hardly less keenly felt or less deeply resented when they are recognized to be, in part, the consequences of the prudential folly of the sufferer than when they are taken to be totally unmerited misfortunes. They are not ills merely to those who suffer them; indeed, they are often more difficult to countenance in the fortunes of others than in one's own. Their incidence has no plausible relation to good or ill-doing, although they may be believed to represent the displeasure of gods of uncertain temper, to be warded off by appropriate observances in which a precarious pax deorum is preserved. And whatever immediate remedy may be found for particular occasions of suffering, or for whole classes of these ills, the dissonance remains: a suffering relieved is not a cancellation of its occurrence."

[On Human Conduct, Michael Oakeshott, 1975]

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