experience of mankind testified then as now that, whether we look within us or without us, evil stares us in the face on all sides; that if anything is real, pain and sorrow and wrong are realities.
It would be a new thing in history if a priori philosophers were daunted by the factious opposition of experience, and the Stoics were the last men to allow themselves to be beaten by mere facts. "Give me a doctrine and I will find the reasons for it," said Chrysippus. So they perfected, if they did not invent, that ingenious and plausible form of pleading, the Theodicy, for the purpose of showing, firstly, that there is no such thing as evil; secondly, that if there is, it is the necessary correlate of good; and moreover, that it is either due to our own fault or inflicted for our benefit. Theodicies have been very popular in their time, and I believe that a numerous, though somewhat dwarfed, progeny of them still survives. So far as I know, they are all variations of the theme set forth in those famous six lines of the Essay on Man, in which Pope sums up Bolingbroke's reminiscences of stoical and other speculations of this kind:
"All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear: whatever is is right."
Yet surely, if there are few more important truths than those enunciated in the first triad, the second is open to very grave objections. That there is a "soul of good in things evil" is unquestionable; nor will any wise man deny the disciplinary value of pain and sorrow. But these considerations do not help us to see why the immense multitude of irresponsible sentient beings which can not profit by such discipline should suffer; nor why, among the endless possibilities open to omnipotence—that of sinless, happy existence among the rest—the actuality in which sin and misery abound should be that selected. Surely it is mere cheap rhetoric to call arguments which have never yet been answered
Morell's translation], which again is a Latin version of the old Stoical doctrine, εὶς ἄπαν τοṽ κόδμον μέρος διήκει ὁ νοṽς, καθάπερ ὰΦ ἤμῶν ἤ ψνχή.
So far as testimony for the universality of what ordinary people call "evil" goes, there is nothing better than the writings of the Stoics themselves. They might serve as a storehouse for the epigrams of the ultra-pessimists. Heracleitus (circa 500 b. c.) says just as hard things about ordinary humanity as his disciples centuries later; and there really seems no need to seek for the causes of this dark view of life in the circumstances of the time of Alexander's successors or of the early emperors of Rome. To the man with an ethical ideal, the world, including himself, will always seem full of evil.