This suggests the twofold nature of the problem of evil. Evil in the broadest sense merely means disharmony, since any kind of disharmony is a source of pain to somebody. But that form of disharmony which arises between man and nature has, in itself, no moral qualities. It is an evil to be cold or hungry, to have a tree fall upon one, to be devoured by a wild beast, or wasted by microbes. But to evils of this kind, unless they are in some way the fault of other men, we never ascribe any moral significance whatever. It is also an evil for one man to rob another, or to cheat him, or in any way to injure him through carelessness or malice; and we do ascribe a moral significance to evils of this kind—to any evil, in fact, which grows out of the relations of man with man. But, as already pointed out, this latter form of evil—moral evil—grows out of, or results from, the former, which may be called non-moral evil. Any true account of the origin of moral evil must therefore begin with the disharmony between man and nature.

Let us imagine a limited number of individuals living in a very favorable environment, where all their wants could be freely and fully gratified, where there was no scarcity nor any need for economy. Under a harmony with nature so nearly perfect as this, there could arise none of those conflicts of interests within the individual, since the gratification of one desire would never be at the expense of some other; nor could there arise any conflict of interests among individuals, since the gratification of one individual’s desire would never prevent the gratification of another’s. There being no conflict of interests either within the individual or among different individuals, there could never arise a moral problem. That would be paradise. But suppose that wants should expand, or new wants develop; or suppose that, through the gratification of an elemental impulse, numbers should increase beyond any provision which nature had made. Paradise would be lost. Not only would labor and fatigue be necessary, but an antagonism of interests and a moral problem would arise. Human ingenuity would have to be directed, not only toward the problem of increasing the productivity of the earth, but toward the problem of adjusting conflicting interests. Questions of justice and equity would begin to puzzle men’s brains.

It would be difficult to find in this illustration any suggestion of original sin or hereditary taint of any kind. The act which made for increase of numbers, instead of being a sinful one, for which punishment was meted out as a matter of justice, would, on the contrary, be as innocent of moral guilt as any other. But the inevitable consequence of it would be the destruction of the preexisting harmony, giving rise, in turn, to a conflict of human interests. Nor does the illustration suggest or imply any “fall” or change in human nature, but rather a change of conditions under which the same human qualities would produce different social results. Moreover, the illustration does not depend for its validity upon its historical character. That it to say, it is not necessary to show that there ever was a harmony between man and nature so nearly complete as the illustration assumes to begin with. The fundamental basis of conflict is clearly enough revealed by the illustration when it is shown to be inherent in the nature of man and of the material world about him.

This theory of the origin of evil is already embodied in a well-known story, which need not be interpreted as having a historical basis in order to have a profound meaning—more profound, probably, than its most reverent students have seen in it. Once upon a time there was a garden in which lived a man and a woman, all of whose wants were supplied by the spontaneous fruits of the earth. There was no struggle for existence, no antagonism of interests; in short, that was paradise. But the gratification of a certain desire brought increase of numbers, and increase of numbers brought scarcity, and paradise was lost. Thenceforward man was to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow. The struggle for existence had set in. Man had to contend against either natural or human rivals for the means of satisfying his wants, and every form of greed and rapacity had a potential existence. When his eyes were opened to these inherent antagonisms, that is, when he became a discerner of good and evil, of advantages and disadvantages, both near and remote, he became an economic being, an adapter of means to ends; a chooser between pleasures and pains. In short, the process of industrial civilization, of social evolution, had made its first faint beginning. The human race was caught in a network of forces from which it was never to extricate itself. It was adrift upon a current which set irresistibly outward—no man knew whither.

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