The Epicurean Paradox

The “Epicurean paradox” or “Riddle of Epicurus” is a version of the problem of evil.
Lactantius attributes this trilemma to Epicurus in De Ira Dei:

“God,” he says, “either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able.”

Through the centuries there is no evidence of the intervention of God in human affairs. One might reasonably have expected Him to have intervened during the massive slaughters of two world wars, but no. Again, one might expect evidence of intervention at the present moment, with the planet in peril, with so-called “strong men” taking control over countries throughout the world, with inequality, mass migration, hunger, the breakdown of liberal democracy and the end of American hegemony, which did at least guarantee a measure of order. But no. We have to presume that God is neither willing nor able to help us live together in respect and harmony. Millions have been calling upon Him for centuries, to no avail.

We are left with the hope that more and more people will espouse the decent, humanistic ideas of Epicurus that stand for moderation, consideration for others, toleration, the search for peace of mind, friendship and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. Epicureanism and similar humanistic philosophies are what we have left to us. Common sense, really, but then the “leadership” of the human race seems to has remarkably little of that. It prefers self-interest, dubious dealings, lies, bullying and filling its own pockets at our expense. Plus ca change.

9 Comments

  1. It”s sad to admit to the damnation mankind has to the cruel cycle of: good, to bad, to worse. It almost leaves me to wonder, why bother believing things to stay stable, when it only take a whiff of wind to topple our “peace”. In the ancient Greek story of the first woman,Pandora, we learn she opens all the plagues of the world, including the unbelieving deceitful hope. Hope I find can bring strength and help us to live and believe things to work out, but it could be a mask for our stupidity when the truth is, you can’t fix what is beyond repair. So as if we are in a excruciatingly painful season of evil, like all seasons, it’ll pass eventually, if we hope and continue to live.

    • Accepting our mortality is the beginning of Wisdom. A choice exists for each of us to make sense of all that exists before us. We can choose the endless void and play the victim. Or make sense of a world so in need of our proper order. The source of Gods existence is all around us. The beauty in nature itself. Our growing ability to learn and develop our own existence. Life itself is our gift. Accepting pour need for God is itself Faith to believe and this appetite Ned’s to be fed. We can choose to starve or grow in ways of faith and mercy. Love itself proves Gods existence. Our ability to care for ourselves in a healthy manner and see the good in things. It is not Gods choice to live a dismal existence. What about the things larger than life itself. The love of our children. Our hope for our children to emerge victorious. Our ability to care for them more than even our own lives is Spiritual. This world has good in it. That’s the source of Faith to build on. Faith exists and our gift of life is itself the light to follow. What source allows us to learn and grow. The Principal of Light is the formation of positive value moving in the same direction. Our choice is sure to follow. To deny the existence of God is itself a dark place with little light to follow. Our great challenge isn’t to know who God truly is, it’s to simply know there is a God and we’re not Him. Knowing proof of faith can be as simple as acknowledging gravity. We can choose to believe in a living source within each of us that can grow and prosper even in times of utter desperation or live in the shadows that also draw us
      Just the same…

    • We have an American President who doesn’t ”believe” in global climate change, despite overwhelming evidence and almost daily experience of it. And he is not the owner of an oil well or a coal plant, complete with vested interests. I am courteous and therefore have to take your information as accurate, even if I have never seen such an assertion before. After all, the ability of human beings to be irrational is always amazing.

  2. Any reader of the OT will find that God did intervene often in the affairs of mankind. He rescued his people – The Jews – only to have them turn their backs on him at the earliest sign of trouble. Impatient, they could not even wait for Moses to come off the mountain.

    Any reader of the NT will find that God intervened in the most effective, dramatic and visible way by sending Jesus to earth. God became man and lived with him. The world has never been the same.

    God has proven again and again that he is patient, long suffering and desirous of man’s turning to him. He has shown how this turning can be done. Ask any Christian if you don’t know how to turn away from the evil God abhors.

    Why evil? A clue is given above by the commentator who pointed out God is not a baby sitter nor is he Santa Claus, for that matter. Evil exists to show the delight God and his created man may find in the alternatives to evil. It would be impossible to love what is good unless one knew the difference between good and evil. It would be impossible to love evil unless one knew the difference between evil and good.

    And it often comes down to choices made by man. It is never God’s will that man do evil. But he has given man the will to choose. Choices have consequences, as most of us know from life experiences.

    Evil is a necessary tool. It can be used or rejected by man.

    Evil is almost like a parasite, requiring good to feed upon. In this analogy, it may be said that evil could not exist without good. And therefore exists because of the good.

    Finally, over millennia, it is possible to note that good has triumphed. Nothing lasts forever. Evil is eventually defeated, everywhere.

    • Your cheerful and positive conclusion, that “evil is eventually defeated, everywhere” is most heartening, but regretfully I do not agree with you. Evil has a tendency to pop back up, time and time again. The world was thrown into turmoil by Hitler and the other fascists, and millions died defeating them. We now have the start of a repeat, when moderation is out of the window, along with democracy and truth. If you don’t recognise this then you Re making the same mistake as many did in the 1930s, to their horrific cost.

  3. The Bible mentioned in Psalms that “man’s heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Give him a stick and he will use it for bad or good. Man was also given free will and he can choose right or wrong. Why blame God when things do not go our way? Since creation, the devil has been trying to defeat God by offering mankind choices that are more comfortable. That’s why the Word-Faith movement is a hit, among others, while the real gospel will offend most. Sending Jesus Christ is his ultimate intervention and this provided a lasting solution. You just have to choose.

  4. Please forgive my typos. One last comment: Meditation and Contemplation are tools we can utilize. The Quiet One speaks to all who listen. Quiet to the Sound of Many Waters, Listen to the Wind.. Rejoice in the Wisdom of Gods presence. He who
    Is and was and is to come… Live simply with an attitude of Gratitude and you’ll be half way home before you know it…

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