Is evil really the absence of good?

I can see the logic to this, but at the same time I’m not fully convinced of it.

I don’t understand how someone could have the attitude of “I’m going to rape this woman and absolutely humiliate her simply because I hate everybody and want to be evil.”…and simply being a lack of good instead of a created being?

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Well hell is the absense of God. Keep in mind people have free will to do evil but that doesn’t mean the person is evil. You know what they say, hate the sin, not the sinner

You experience evil. This means that evil exists.

Of course they’re a created being. But there is a lack of moral conscience that is natural to being human in such a choice, and failing to instantiate in themselves their humanity. By doing violence against another human being in such a way, they are also doing violence against their own nature.

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I experience darkness. Does darkness exist positively or is it the absence of light?

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Hell is not the absolute absence of God. God is omnipresent, so he cannot be absent anywhere, even Hell. But God has withdrawn his grace and favor from those in Hell, such that an absence is felt. There’s also the absence of many other goods they are familiar with.

What are your thoughts on the proposed refutations to this argument?

The argument relies on a fallacy known as mistaking the map for the territory. The principal error is that even though cold does not exist as a physical quantity, the sensation of cold, as perceived by humans, clearly does exist. Similarly, regardless of the dubious definition offered in the argument, the perception of evil and suffering does exist. Moreover, there is no fundamental physical quantity one could identify with good - both good and evil are human perceptions, and so the analogy does not apply at all

Yes, we perceive evil in a way similar to the way we perceive cold and darkness as if theh are things in themselves. That doesn’t mean they aren’t actually absences.

I disagree with the notion that all qualitative aspects must have a physical component, but the quote from the rationalwiki argument seems to be missing a key part of the equation in the convertibility of being with goodness, that goodness is not simply a moral thing or a value judgment. And it’s probably approaching everything from a materialist perspective, anyway.


I think we can agree that good exists. The situation that it is not good is neutral and not evil. Therefore we have a spectrum which starts from good to neutral to evil.

Yes, evil is the absence of good which is the same thing as saying that evil is the absence of being or lacks being, i.e., evil is a kind of non-being for good is convertible with being. Accordingly, evil can only exist in good or being because evil in itself is not a nature or a being. Evil considered in itself as evil doesn’t exist. Good is the cause of evil because evil as a non-being cannot cause anything. Consequently, in your example “I’m going to rape this woman and absolutely humiliate her simply because I hate everybody and want to be evil” we have both being, good, and evil. We have being and good in the person doing the raping, i.e, the person exists and is a being and so does his action of raping which action as an action is a being and exists. And whatever exists or is, is good insofar as it is, i.e., a being of some kind. But, the action here of raping is evil so its lacks being and goodness which is the definition of sin. A good action produces being and an evil action is the production of being but it lacks being and goodness, i.e., it lacks the goodness and being that ought to be there in a human action.

I’m not convinced either. Philosophically, we would not say that good is the absence of evil. This idea of privation is not in accord with Judaism’s perspective on evil, which, together with good, was created, and by no one other than Gd Himself. However, there is no contest between the two forces since they are both under the control of Gd, and Gd, in partnership with mankind, ensures that good will ultimately triumph over evil.

How do you know that God is good then? An evil God doesn’t tell the truth pretending that He is good.

On the contrary it is written “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Evil as evil or considered in itself is a non-being and therefore it cannot be created, it’s a contradiction in terms. For creation is the production of being.

Because God is Being itself, the fullness of being, and good is convertible with being. Consequently, God is Goodness itself without any admixture of evil which would amount to lack of being. God doesn’t lack being, He is Being.

That was true if evil was the absence of good. You can also think of good as absence of evil.

Actually Gd called His Creation “very good” only after He created mankind. Before that, the Creation was merely “good.” This is interpreted in Judaism with reference to the free will bestowed upon human beings alone, and no other beings, including Gd’s angels. Regarding “evil” and its creation, this can be found in Isaiah 45:7.

Well, evil in itself is not a thing or being so evil is not absent of anything.

Evil in itself is something, you experience it. It is a quality.

(1) Being is good, (2) Absence of good is evil, (3) Evil therefore does not exist, (4) Nothing cannot affect us, (5) Evil is nothing, (6) Therefore evil cannot affect us, (6) is not true, therefore (1) or (2) or both are wrong. Pick it up.

It is not necessary to have that explanation to act evil. It is enough “when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered”. (VS 70)

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