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I have noticed a pattern in philosophies where the successful ones I find all believe that everything, when viewed as one whole, is "good." This may be reached by assuming everything in the universe is good. It may be reached by assuming there is something outside of our world (like a deity) which is more good than all the evil in the world. It may be reached by assuming you have one dollop of good in you which can overcome the world. But they all seem to view the world as "good."

I'm playing with the idea that "Everything, as a whole, is good (or at least not bad)" is a requirement for a successful philosophy that defines "good," and haven't come up with any counter examples. Nihilism gets close, by arguing that the world is not good, but not evil either.

Are there any philosophies which view the whole of everything as evil (or bad, if that's an easier word)?

The wording here has given me trouble, and from the comments I can see that I did not convey what I sought very well. In the first paragraph, I used "universe" and "world" differently, though I don't believe I was clear enough that I sought a distinction. The intended distinction was that "universe" would include some deity which is outside of our physical "world." To use Christianity as an example, its followers overwhelmingly believe that God's good is so great that it outshines all the evil in the world (and in hell), such that the sum total of everything is "good."

  • 1) I consider myself agnostic (the knowing) atheist (the believing); I am quite consequential differing knowing and belief; not necessarily in daily life parlance, tho ("Darling, I believe my brain wants me to think I like your hair style today" -> not really:D) I accept that I don't know whether it's all good or all evil. But I think that agnosticism is not an "unsuccesful" philosophy, so I am not sure whether your premise is correct. Sometimes I also tend to nihilistic thinking, which to the best of my knowledge does not assume inherent "good" or "evil". 2) What is a "successful philosophy"? – phresnel Sep 25 '17 at 7:18
  • Here the question of redemption comes into play. Why would we need to redeem a good world? Aquinas separated faith and reason, so did Kant. And reason-science offers redemption (instead of prayers for healing we invent a medicine). Science has basically taken over the redemption of the world, but the results are a mixed bag. We have to say the jury is still out. Man is the problem, and I think what should be the first problem of philosophy is self-deception. It is absolutely central imo. – Gordon Sep 25 '17 at 11:36
  • So up through Hegel at least Western philosophy generally had to pay at least lip service to Christianity (a fallen world). Judaism is more complicated. Technically man and the world are not fallen. On the other hand, Messiah is yearned for but "not yet". There is either waiting for redemption (Messiah), or the attempt to mend the broken vessels right now. So it seems that de facto the Jews may see the world as fallen too. Jewish philosophy would then assume fallenness as Christian philosophy does. – Gordon Sep 25 '17 at 12:05
  • Btw, Hegel really did pay the bare minimum of lip service to Christianity. In fact, Hegel really developed a secular form of redemption "or raising up". "Secret" Hegel is the the fact that, for one, he found Jacob Bohme interesting, but of more importance was Kabbalah. – Gordon Sep 25 '17 at 12:21
  • @Gordon. That sounds familiar: "Science has basically taken over the redemption of the world..." Compare: "Who changed the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped the and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen" – user3017 Sep 25 '17 at 13:36
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Xunzi is a confucianist that sees nature as evil. Since humans come from nature their inborn tendencies are evil. Xunzi states that humans without ethical norms or rituals will only attempt to satisfy their desires. A human that is cold, will attempt to warm himself, one that is hungry will eat. He believes that human nature is only egoism. In order to become good, humans must create ethical norms and rituals. They must remove their natural evil by education and being trained by masters. For him, good comes from what is artificial.

  • Interesting. That pretty much sums up my view, except, as a wildlife biologist, I don't view newborns as evil. I view them as neutral - animals that must do what they need to survive. When they get old enough to understand ethics and learn the rules, then I begin pegging them good or evil. I'll do some more research on Xunzi. – David Blomstrom Sep 24 '17 at 22:51
  • Just to clarify things, are you saying all Confucianists regard nature as evil, or is it just a particular Confucianist sect (Xunzi) that holds this view? – David Blomstrom Sep 24 '17 at 22:52
  • @DavidBlomstrom No, Xunzi is one interpretation of Confucius and is the only one, as far as I know, that holds this view. An even more popular interpretation of Confucius is Mengzi, which holds the opposite view of Xunzi (Nature is good and needs to be maintained). – Cedric Martens Sep 24 '17 at 22:55
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It seems that once you have a notion of dualism and any other-worldly leaning, you automatically get theologies like this within any religion. The subtlety necessary to make sense of these two things together is not available to a lot of people. So to the extent that theologies are philosophies, there are clear answers.

In early Christianity, we had Gnosticism, which painted our reality as the construct of a lesser God in defiance of the genuine Divine order. Some forms of neo-Platonism sometimes saw 'participation' in material reality as something that introduces only error and therefore sin, and so is ultimately entirely evil. Gnostic Christianity and Hermetic Neo-Platonism remain in extant forms of Satanism.

But this notion is easier to find in older traditions with more thoroughgoing unifying philosophical roots.

The most severe forms of Buddhism can go this far: life is suffering, and the best parts of reality are the parts that render it possible to escape from existence. This is arguably harsher than the original intent, but there are certainly real sects of Buddhism that take that form.

Likewise, the harsher versions of Hindu notions of maya sometimes paint it as a form of deception which is basically bad and must be conquered.

I think that non-theological philosophers who might lean in this direction would not use the concept of evil, because it comes with too much religious baggage. But many tend toward seeing pointlessness or baselessness instead, and clearly mean much the same thing. In that case, despairing nihilists like Schopenhauer or Adorno qualify.

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One place to look for a philosophy that may come close to viewing the whole of everything as evil is antinatalism. Wikipedia describes it as follows:

Antinatalism, or anti-natalism, is a philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth. Antinatalists argue that people should abstain from procreation because it is morally bad (some also recognize the procreation of other sentient beings as morally bad). In scholarly and in literary writings, various ethical foundations have been adduced for antinatalism.1 Some of the earliest surviving formulations of the idea that it would be better not to have been born come from ancient Greece.

If procreation is "morally bad" the world one is born into is not likely viewed as "good".


Wikipedia contributors. (2019, June 27). Antinatalism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:18, July 2, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Antinatalism&oldid=903661270

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