The Traditional and Modern Theories of Theodicy: An Analysis

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The role of art, when delving into human suffering and matters of good and evil, ought to be that of a delivering agent, designed to extract a form of universal truth from the very consciousness of the observer, and act as mirror for humanity's dual reality. The present paper aims to analyze the traditional and modern theories of theodicy in relation to literature, insofar as literary works such as Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita or Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov owe their widely acknowledged value to controversial yet marvelously insightful glimpses into mankind's complex interpretations of evil.
The first traditional theory of theodicy belongs to Augustine of Hippo. In his Confessions, the Christian theologian supported the view that people are innately good, but that evil exists as absence of good, a privation entirely new and unrelated to God's own exclusively good nature. Thus, God created people, but God did not create evil and its pervasive consequence, suffering. In fact, it is argued that evil could not exist on an independent basis. Furthermore, this theodicy contends that humanity's evil nature has its inception simply in partial deprivation of the original goodness, a punishment following the disobedience which marked the biblical original sin: "it was made clear to me that thou madest all things good . . . whatsoever is, is good. Evil, then, the origin of which I had been seeking, has no substance at all; for if it were a substance, it would be good"

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