Plato and the Aesthetic Solution to the Problem of Evil

In: RePresenting Magic, UnDoing Evil: Of Human Inner Light and Darkness
Author: Viktor Ilievski

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Throughout history, many thinkers have tried to explain the nature of evil and establish a viable defence of God's omnibenevolence. The first philosopher to explicitly embark on such an enterprise was Plato. In his Laws, book X, he offers a series of solutions to the problem of evil, starting with what will become famous as the aesthetic solution. Thus, the origin of that famed answer to the problem of evil is to be found in a short passage of Plato’s Laws X. The first aim of this chapter is to give an analysis of Plato’s approach to the aesthetic solution, as contrasted with the more developed laying out of the same strategy in Plotinus, and to show that Plato’s version of it is philosophically sounder than the one of his renowned follower, who exerted tremendous influence on the subsequent thinkers. The second aim of the chapter would be to answer two objections to Plato’s theodicy that naturally arise in the mind of an attentive reader. In doing that, I will resort to the other strategies meant to provide an answer to the pertinent issue of the existence of evil in a world whose creation was motivated by the Demiurge’s good will, which Plato offers in the wake of his exposition of the aesthetic solution. Although these are subservient to the main one, they are also early formulations of some of the most important latter attempts at solution to the problem of evil. Finally, this chapter seeks to establish that Plato’s strategies in the Laws X are bona fide philosophical solution to the problem of evil. This goes a) contra Cherniss, who asserts that Plato has no intention to provide a solution to the problem of evil, but simply to explain its existence; and b) contra Mohr, who claims that Plato’s purpose is to explain evil away by pronouncing it as factually nonexistent.