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necessary for our guidance in the affairs of life, and for letting us into the secret of nature;
so much so that without such laws all breadth of thought, all human sagacity and design,
would be useless - indeed there could not be any such faculties or powers in the mind. See
section 31. That single consideration is far more than enough to counterbalance whatever
particular inconveniences may arise from the order of nature.
152. Bear in mind also that the very blemishes and defects of nature are of some use,
because they make an agreeable sort of variety, and augment the beauty of the rest of the
creation, as shadows in a picture serve to set off the brighter and more sunlit parts. You
would also do well to think critically about the tendency to charge the author of nature
with imprudence because of the waste of seeds and embryos and the accidental destruction
of plants and animals before they come to full maturity. Doesn’t this come from a
prejudice that was acquired through familiarity with powerless mortals who have to scrimp
and save? We may indeed think it wise for a man to manage thriftily things that he can’t
acquire without work and trouble. But we mustn’t imagine that the inexplicably fine
system of an animal or vegetable costs the great Creator any more work or trouble in its
production than a pebble does; for nothing is more evident than the fact that an
omnipotent spirit can casually produce anything by a mere fiat or act of his will. This
makes it clear that the splendid profusion of natural things should not be interpreted as
weakness or wastefulness in the agent who produces them, but rather be looked on as
evidence of how richly powerful he is. 55
153. As for the mixture of pain or uneasiness that the world contains, as a result of the
general laws of nature and the actions of finite imperfect spirits: this, in the state we are in
at present, is indispensably necessary to our well-being. But our field of vision is too
narrow: we take, for instance, the idea of some one particular pain into our thoughts, and
count it as evil; whereas if we take a broader view so as to take in Ÿthe various ends,
connections, and dependencies of things, Ÿon what occasions and in what proportions we
are affected with pain and pleasure, Ÿthe nature of human freedom, and Ÿthe design with
which we are put into the world - then we shall be forced to admit that particular things
that appear to be evil when considered by themselves have the nature of good when
considered as linked with the whole system of beings.
154. From what I have said it will be obvious to any thinking person that the only reason
by anyone has sided with atheism or with the Manichean heresy ·according to which reality
is the product of opposing forces of good and evil· is that there has been too little
attention and too little breadth of view. Thoughtless litt...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.
- Spring '13