Theism, Dualism and Evil
George Mavrodes has commented that Polytheism has been given scant attention by those interested in the philosophy of religion. This is very probably due to the fact that almost all those who are currently interested in defending the rationality of religious belief are Theists. Because of this, those who have been concerned with attacking religious belief have also focused their energies on theistic religions. But another kind of monotheistic belief has also received scant attention in philosophical literature of late, namely, religious Dualism.
By religious Dualism, I mean to refer to the doctrine which holds that all reality (all that is) can be traced back to two primordial and uncreated spirits, one perfectly good, wise and powerful, whom Dualists name God, and the other, perfectly evil, of great but limited power, and not at all wise, whom the Dualists name the devil.
Those Christian thinkers who have given some attention to religious Dualism (e.g. St. Augustine, John of Damascus, and A. Calov) have focused on one form of Dualism, namely, Manicheanism. This is unfortunate because Manicheanism is a perversion of an earlier form of Dualism, Zoroastrianism, which seems to have been the original incarnation of religious Dualism, and because Manicheanism would appear to be a less powerful form of Dualism.
In this paper I wish to explore the philosophical strengths and weaknesses of Zoroastrian Dualism (hereafter, simply Dualism), not in order either to defend or reject it, but simply to give it the hearing it deserves and which it has, for too long, been denied.
Part I: Definition of God and the Devil in Dualism and Theism
Christians who have attacked Dualism have claimed that Dualism derogates from God’s unity and goodness. This would have shocked any believer in Dualism. For Dualism insists, above all, on God’s goodness and uses as its first principle the goodness of God in its defense of Dualism. That Christians (and Theists generally) have taken Dualism to derogate from God’s unity and goodness can be attributed to the fact that Theists hold that any independent Spirit is a God. But the Dualists reject this definition of God . We can contrast the definition the Dualist gives of God with that of other monotheists as follows:
Dualism’s definition of God
God = df. For any X, X is God, iff X is an independent, all good, all powerful and all knowing Spirit, the ultimate source of all good things other than Himself.
Theism’s definition of God
God = df. For any X, X is God iff X is an independent, all good, all powerful, and all knowing Spirit, the ultimate source of all that is other than Himself.
The Dualist thus insists that God is the ultimate cause of every good thing other than Himself, while the Theist insists that God is the ultimate cause of all that exists other than Himself. Since evil exists, the Dualist holds that the Theist makes God the cause of evil. Since Theists insist that God is all good, the Dualist accuses the Theist of being inconsistent. For Theists hold that God is all good, that He is the ultimate cause of all that exists other than Himself, and that evil exists. They thus, according to the Dualist, make God the cause of evil, a contradiction, and a blasphemous one at that. It was in order not to make God the cause of evil in any way, that the Zoroastrians posited the existence of an uncreated spirit of evil, Ahriman, the destructive spirit. This is in contrast to the teaching of Theism which, in those species of it which if recognize the existence of the devil, regards him as a fallen angel.
According to Dualism = df. For any X, X is the devil, iff X is an independent, and perfectly evil spirit, of great but limited power, and no wisdom, the ultimate source of all evil things other than himself.
According to Theism = df. The devil is the angelic spirit who first rebelled against God due to his pride and was cast out of heaven. He is, perhaps, the most wicked being in existence, but is not perfectly wicked (as that is impossible), and is not the source of all evil other than himself.
The Theist insists, of course, that though God is the ultimate cause of all the beings that exist other than himself, He is not the cause of the evil that blights them. The task for the Theist against the Dualist, therefore, is to show that God can be the ultimate cause of all that exists other than Himself, without being the cause of evil (save, perhaps, per accidens). In this regard, the task of answering the Dualist’s argument is similar to the task of answering the Atheistic argument against Theism based on the problem of evil. This fact alone should make the theist interested in Dualism. For it may be that neither Theism nor Atheism is the correct doctrine--perhaps Dualism is.
Part II: Arguments for Dualism
The Denkard is no doubt the greatest work of Dualist theology. Nevertheless, as it is a vast and somewhat chaotic work, and as much of it has been lost, I will take as my source of arguments for Dualism those given by one Mardan-Farrukh, a ninth century Dualist, in his work Shikand Gumani Vazar (Doubt Dispelling Discourse), which is the greatest philosophical defense of Dualism every penned.
Sect. I: The first argument Mardan-Farrukh puts forward on behalf of Dualism is as follows:
Another proof that a contrary principle exists is that good and evil are observable in the world, and more particularly in so far as both good and bad conduct are definable as such, as are darkness and light, right knowledge and wrong knowledge, fragrance and stench, life and death, sickness and health, justice and injustice, slavery and freedom, and all the other contrary activities which indisputably exist and are visible in every country and land at all times; for no country or land exists, has existed, or ever will exist in which the name of good and evil and what that name signifies has not existed or does not exist. Nor can any time or place be mentioned in which good an evil change their nature essentially.
There are also other contraries whose antagonism is not one of essence but one of function, species, or nature. Such is the mutual antagonism of things of like nature as for example male and female, the different scents, tastes and colors; the sun, moon, and stars whose dissimilarity is not one of substance but one of function, nature, and constitution, each being adapted to its own particular work. But the dissimilarity of good and evil, light and darkness, and other contrary substances is not one of function but one of substance. This can be seen from the fact that their natures cannot combine and are mutually destructive. For where there is good, there cannot possibly be evil. Where light is admitted, darkness is driven away. Similarly with other contraries, the fact that they cannot combine and are mutually destructive is caused by their dissimilarity in substance. This substantial dissimilarity and mutual destructiveness is observable in phenomena in the material world.
The material world is the effect of the spiritual, and the spiritual is its cause, for the effect is understood through the cause. That the former gives testimony of the latter is obvious to any expert in these matters. That the material is an effect and the spiritual the cause can be proved by the fact that every visible and tangible thing emerges from an unmanifest to a manifest state. This is perfectly clear. Thus man and all other visible and tangible creatures are known to proceed from the spiritual world which is invisible and intangible....So we must know with a necessary knowledge that this visible and tangible material world was created from and invisible an intangible spiritual world and had its origin there...
Whence we have seen that in the material world contrary substances exist and that they are sometimes mutually co-operative and sometimes mutually destructive, so must it also be in the spiritual world which is the cause of the material, and material things are its effects. That this is so is not open to doubt and follows from the very nature of contrary substances.
To fully understand this argument, we must understand something
of the Dualist doctrine of matter (getig) and spirit (menog), as put forth
in the Denkard. S. Shaked has explained these notions at length in
his article “The notions menog and getig in the Pahlavi Texts and their
Relation to Eschatology”. According to Shaked, the fundamental
definition of matter in the Denkard is that it is visible and tangible,
of spirit that it is invisible and intangible. But “spirit”
not only refers to entities (such as God and his angels) but to eternal
and universal essences, which function as the archetypes of those material
beings which God brings forth in time. The Dualism of the Denkard
and of the Doubt Dispelling Discourse thus apparently taught a kind of
Platonism according to which the forms of material things existed from
all eternity in an unmanifest and spiritual state. But there is evidence
that they held, rather like Leibniz, that these forms themselves
were contained in God (Ohrmazd), or in His mind. Indeed that
souls of men and angels are themselves held to be getig with respect to
God, who is a menog being even with respect to other menog beings,
further suggest that all created good things have their eternal ground,
so to speak, in the essence and mind of God.
But in Mardan-Farrukh the picture is more complicated than in Augustine or Leibniz. For Mardan-Farrukh cannot think that God is the source of any evil. Thus created evil must be traced to an unmanifest (i.e. spiritual) source of evil. And in fact Dualism held that the devil is a spiritual (getig) being who has no true material manifestation as such. His material “creations” are but perversions of God’s creatures, and they become manifest in that parasitical way alone.
These concepts in mind, we can see that Mardan-Farrukh is arguing as follows. All things can be classified, ultimately, as good or evil. No category can be thought of as higher than good and evil, for they are ultimate contrary opposites. But, further, everything manifest (material) has a its root in an unmanifest or spiritual source. Thus good and evil must be traced to the spiritual realm as their root, i.e. we must posit the existence of two uncreated spirits, the root of all else that is, one of which is good and the other of which is evil
Mardan-Farrukh appears to be arguing both in an a posteriori and a priori manner. He is arguing in an a posteriori manner insofar as he asserts that it is a fact that the material world exists, but he is arguing in an a priori manner insofar as he asserts that all things must be either good or evil, and that all particulars must embody invisible archetypes. But one could, based on his argument, construct a purely a priori argument. It is possible that there be good things (good actions, works and deeds, for example), and evil things (bad actions, words, and deeds, for example). But what is possible is necessarily possible. Thus all possibles must have their root in something necessary. Hence all possible good things must have their root in something necessary and all evil things in something necessary. But the roots of each cannot be the same, since they are contrary opposites. Further, only spirits are necessary things, since all necessary things are substances, and only spirits, being without parts, are necessary substances. Hence, we must assume the existence of two eternal and necessary spirits, one which is good and the root and prototype of all good, the other which is evil and the root and prototype of all evil.
Sect. 2: The second argument for Dualism given by Mardan-Farrukh.
Mardan-Farrukh’s second argument for Dualism has as much of an Aristotelian flavor as the first of his arguments had a Platonic flavor. To understand it fully it must be born in mind that in a previous chapter of his work, Marda-Farrukh had given a fairly detailed and powerful version of the teleological argument to support the notion that the material world is the work of a good God. He now turns to the question of why such a good God would have created the world at all, and finds the answer in the theory of dualism.
Since the wise, omniscient, and omnipotent Creator is self-sufficing, his perfection consists in his having no need for any advantage or increase which he might desire from outside. So we must conclude that the reason and the occasion for his actions must all be of one kind, (namely) to repel and ward off whatever damage might accrue to him from an external adversary who could harm him; and this is the whole reason and occasion for the act of creation.
I will not comment on this argument further than to say that it
is based on the Aristotelian notions that 1) all rational things act for
an end and 2) all wise things act either for their own benefit, or to ward
Sect. 3: The third argument of Mardan Farrukh for Dualism.
Mardan-Farrukh’s third argument for Dualism, like his second, assumes that a good creator God exists, and like his first it assumes that evil exists in the world. From these assumptions it moves on to infer that the evil which exists in the world cannot be adequately explained unless we posit the existence of an independent evil spirit:
From this we must infer that what is perfect and complete in its goodness cannot produce evil. If it could, then it would not be perfect, for when a thing is described as perfect, there is no room for anything else in it; and if there is no room for anything else, nothing else can proceed from it. If God is perfect in goodness and knowledge, plainly ignorance and evil cannot proceed from Him; or if it can, then he is not perfect; and if he is not perfect then he should not be worshipped as God or as perfectly good.
This argument, which begins in the chapter explicitly devoted to Dualism, spills over into the following chapters of the work, which aim to critique Theism in general, and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular. I do not wish to comment on the details of this extended discussion here, but will simply note that in this part of the work one finds a startling adumbration of contemporary atheistic arguments based on the problem of evil, as well as an adumbration of the Enlightenment criticism of Christian Orthodoxy.
Part III: Critique
Of Mardan-Farrukh’s three arguments, the second is the weakest. For it neglects the possibility that a good God might have created simply to share goodness with creation. In this it seems to be contrary to Dualism’s own emphasis on the benevolence of God, a benevolence which it especially emphasizes in its doctrine that God will, at the end of time, save all that He has made.
This leaves the first and third arguments. An adequate treatment of the third argument would take us into the vast topic of the problem of evil. Since I have nothing to say on this topic which would add to the veritable mountain of literature on it which has been produced on it in the last thirty years or so, I shall pass over this argument for Dualism. In what follows, therefore, I will examine objections to the first of Mardan-Farrukh’s argument as well as objections which are aimed at Dualism taken simply as a doctrine, irrespective of the arguments which have been marshaled for it.
Sect. 1: Four objections to Mardan-Farrukh’s argument for dualism
The first objection. The first objection to Mardan-Farrukh’s argument for Dualism centers on his insistence that good and evil are ultimate genera. According to him there is nothing actual or possible which is not, or could not be, contained in a species which is not ultimately in the genus of either good or evil, nor is there any genus superior to good or evil, or anything which is neither good nor evil. But it might be objected to this that good and evil are contrary opposites, not contradictory opposites, and if that is true, there could be things which are neither good nor evil in themselves, things which are neutral, so to speak, with respect to those categories.
Response to the first objection. I think the best way to answer this objection, is to divide and conquer. I fill first consider the way a Dualist might answer the objection as it bears on properteis of a person which are in her control, and then attempt to give a Dualist answer to this objection as it bears on a person’s properties which are not in her control . With respect to properties in a person’s control, the Dualist answer to this objection must take its rise from the Dualist doctrine that all of our “thoughts, words, and deeds” ought to be morally upright, at least in the sense of being morally licit. And it seems that, if we define a morally good thought, word, or deed as one that is licit, and a morally bad thought, word, or deed, as one that is morally illicit, then, every thought, word, or deed of a person is either morally good or morally bad, and in that sense, all thoughts words and deeds are either in the category “good” or the category “evil.” This is so because what is licit is related to what is illicit as one contradictory opposite is to another. So, insofar as thoughts, words, and deeds are all either psychological properties, which are in the control of a person, or can be traced to such properties, the Dualist can hold that every such state of a rational being is either morally good or morally bad.
But this response, though it goes some way towards answering the present objection, does not go far enough since there are some properties of a person which are not in the control of that person. Indeed, the very spiritual substance of a person, or her material being, as well as an entire range of accidental properties of a person, both of a physical and a psychological nature, do not seem to be in the control of any created person. What can the Dualist say about these sorts of entities or properties?
The answer to this further development of the present objection must look, first of all, to the spiritual substance of any rational being, showing that if such a substance is capable of both good and evil actions it is, in its essence, good (though not perfectly good, in the way God is). After that, and using insights gained from this part of the response to the present form of the objection, we can go on to develop an answer to the objection taking into account non-rational material substances and their properties. An answer to the objection insofar as the spiritual substance of a created being is concerned is already implicitly contained in a passage from Mardan-Farruckh himself. He wrote:
Should it be objected that a single substance like man is seen to originate both good and evil actions, the reason is that man is not perfect in any single respect; and because he is not perfect in respect of goodness, he gives rise to evil. (So too) because he is not perfect in respect of health, he is subject to sickness, and for the same reason he dies: for the case of death is the conflict of two contrary accidents in one substance, and where there are two contrary accidents in one substance, there are sickness and death to be observed.
From this passage I take it that Mardan-Farrukh would hold that I, for example, am an essentially good being insofar as I am able to do good things, but am imperfectly good insofar as I am also able to do bad things. So far he agrees with Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz, the great Christian Theodicists. But he would turn the tables on the angelic doctor himself by insisting that if “nothing can reduce itself from potency to act”, then the mere possibility that I (or, better yet, Adam) might sin which is entailed by the finitude of my goodness, could never be actualized were there no seducer, no fiend, which is, in his very essence, bad.
So far, so good, but at this point a further objection arises. What about the “creation” of the devil, the demons? They are, apparently, incarnate aspects of his own infinitely evil essence. If that is so, why not think that they have the capacity, in virtue of the finitude of their evil essences, to “fall prey to” good influences, to acquire certain good properties?
This objection if efficacious, would simply render Dualism incoherent. The devil and his demons, according to the Dualist, cannot be saved even by Ohrmazd (thought the latter, in virtue of His perfect goodness, wants to save them ). Further, all humans, even the worst of humans, will be saved by Ohrmazd, because they are not essentially evil, and Ohrmazd, the good Lord, who “wills only goodness”, wants to save them and has the power to do so, at least at the end of time.
But here the Dualist could make use of a distinction made in the Christian Theological Tradition between “mixed” and “unmixed” perfections. A mixed perfection is one which, though it is a good making property in something which possesses it, it not so perfect that it does not entail some lack of perfection. Take vision. The power to see is a good making property in animals ordered to see, but (according to the Christian Tradition, at least) it is not an unmixed perfection insofar as being able to see involved having eyes, and having eyes involves being made of parts, which involves dependency and a liability to being cut into parts. Therefore, the classical Christian Theological tradition denies that God, who is absolutely perfect, has eyes, or any other mixed perfection which entails some sort of limitation in the being possessing that perfection. An unmixed, perfection, on the other hand, is a perfection which, in virtue of what it, as such, is, that it entails no imperfection in its very concept. Thus Aquinas says that wisdom, justice, and power, are unmixed perfections because, they are imperfect (i.e. limited) as they exist in creatures, they do not involve any limitation or imperfection in themselves. Hence they can be attributed to really or formally hold of God in an unlimited or logically maximal way.
Now, I am not sure the Dualist would hold that having a body is an imperfection. In fact, it seems he would not (see below, objection II), but I think he could still adopt the distinction between mixed and unmixed perfections to answer the present objection. For he could say that, human beings, which are rational beings created by Ohrmazd intrinsically have the property being able not to sin. Indeed, the Dualists are extreme libertarians, in that they hold, contra Augustine, that all human being which exist, or did exist, or will exist, intrinsically have the ability not to sin. Such an ability is a perfection since it is good to be able not to sin, and no essentially evil thing could have this ability nor give rise to something which has this ability. But though humans intrinsically have the ability not to sin, they do not intrinsically have the ability to be unable to sin, at least in the sense that they are not so perfect in their goodness that it is impossible for them to give into the lies of the evil one. I realize that it might be strange to say that “being unable to sin” is an ability, but the Christian tradition has recognized it to be an ability, and I think the Dualists would agree. Being unable to sin proceeds from perfect wisdom and so is a sort of power. It is an unmixed perfection. Human beings, however, according to Dualists do not possess this power intrinsically. If they are assailed by the arch-fiend, or by one of his minions, they may either succumb or not to succumb to his guile. Since, however, they have no inner tendency to sin which arises from their nature, for to suppose they did would be to make God Himself the cause of sin, they would be unable to sin in a world which was not assailed by the evil one.
Now, if we allow that being able to not sin is a perfection, though a mixed one, we can argue that no demon could have such a perfection or cause it to exist in anything else. The devil and his creatures are bereft of all perfection, nay, they are the contrary opposite of perfection. They are not zero with respect to it; they are like negative numbers.
So, I think the Dualist can answer the present objection to his Dualism insofar as it bears on the properties of persons which are in their control, and insofar as it bears on the spiritual substance of rational beings (i.e. of beings able to reason and will). But there remain problems concerning material substances. Dualist hold that matter was created by God. In this they disagreed most strongly with Manicheans. Dualism, as R.C. Zaehner has noted, is a life affirming, not a life denying creed. The material world is good according to the Dualist and God wills that human beings should increase in vital perfection ever more. Indeed, Dualism seems to have been the first world religion which taught the doctrine of the “resurrection of the body.” For though the Dualists thought the soul is, relatively, more important that the body, and that it, unlike the body, is by nature immortal, they thought that the body is a necessary part of the being of man, and so they held that eventually God would restore to all of his children the bodies they lost with the death the devil brought into the world.
But all this, though it does represent what the Dualists would say about the essential goodness of the body, does not show that they were entitled to say all of this. The Christian can hold the body is essentially good, since, for the Christian (or, at least, the Augustinian Christian) everything, is essentially good. Evil is only a lack or privation which vitiates one of the creatures of God. But the Dualist cannot claim that the body is essentially good based on the doctrine that everything is essentially good. How then can he answer the Manichean who holds that the body is essentially bad insofar as it is the source of all sorts of dangerous sexual desires, of competition for scarce resources which could be held to lead to all sorts of violence, and, indeed, of every kind of irrational and bestial desire in human beings?
In order to answer this, final, incarnation of the present objection, I will focus first on human beings, hoping that the greater perfection of human beings relative to lower substances will yield greater intelligible insights into the nature of matter and in the way in which matter completes spirit, insights which can then be used to better understand the essential goodness of the material aspects of lesser substances.
We have seen that human beings, since they are able not to sin, are essentially good. But then, if human bodies are not alien attachments of the soul’s of humans, as it were, attachments which hinder the life of the human soul, but are integral parts of the essence of a human beings, then, as essential parts of a being which is essentially good, the bodies of such beings must be essentially good. Why did the Dualist think that the body of the human being is essential to her?
I think that the Dualist’s philosophical theology provide two possible ways to answer this question, one of which is Platonic in nature, and the other of which is Aristotelian. I will begin with the Platonic answer first, and then take up the Aristotelian answer. As we have noted, some Dualist texts imply that menog reality is almost like the reality of Plato’s forms. The spiritual nature of a human being informs him by determining the sort of being he is and by determining his objective purposes or ends, but it needs getig to become manifest. If we push the analogy with Platonism here, we can sat that, whereas the form “being an F” makes it possible, in some sense, for there to be things which are Fs, no form “being an F” is an F. The form “being a human” is not a human and so, in a way, is not as perfect or complete as a human is. The forms are possibilities for being, but need to be completed by being received into individual substances, and this requires that they be received into matter (getig). What is possible has a certain exigency to exist, and is not perfected , not completely made, until it is actualized by being received into an individual thing. In spite of all of Plato’s insistence that the forms are more real than individuals, there is a sense in which good things, for instance, are better that the form of the good, since good things are good, whereas, unless we are to fall prey to the problem of the third man, the form of the good is not good.
That the Dualists may have been thinking along these lines is supported, for instance, by the fact that they held that God himself has a getig reality—He has a body consisting of “infinite light.” But if they thought God is an individual (as they certainly did), and if they held that to be God is to be more perfect than to be the form “being a divine being”, and if they thought that matter is the principle of individuation (as some texts suggest they did), then it makes sense that they should have held that God too has a body. Though medieval Christian theology thought it absurd to suppose God has a body, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Mendellshon, all argued that, if matter is real, if it is not simply a well founded phenomena, then God, as the most real being must be thought to have a body. Of course, Leibniz and Mendellshon drew from this the conclusion that matter is not real, while Spinoza drew the conclusion that God has a body, but, either way, the power of their arguments shows, I think, that the Dualist view that God has a body is not so silly as Thomas Aquinas thought it was.
Further support for this interpretation of Dualism, an interpretation which sees matter as perfecting spirit, and as making the existence of individual beings possible, is to be found in the Dualist doctrine that the devil and his “creatures” (the demons) do not have any getig reality. They are rather shadowy figures according to Dualism . They lack the definition and shape of God’s creatures and can only manifest their own evil essence parasitically by attacking God’s definite and orderly creation. In this way, in their insistence that the devils are kinds of parasites, infesting and marring God’s creatures, we can say that the Dualist doctrine approaches that of St. Augustine—evil is a kind of privation according to the Dualist, and it needs the good to become manifest. But the Dualist, as we will see, will argue that evil is something positive, not in the sense of being “intrinsically desirable”, nor in the sense of having being in the same way as Ohrmazd and his creatures do. Rather is it the case that Ahriman and his demons have positive being only insofar as they positively do corrupt and mar the good creation of God.
But, perhaps it is wrong to take the Platonic interpretation of the Dualist doctrine of menog and getig too far. We have already seen why this is true. For, according to the Dualists, Ohrmazd himself seems to be the archetype of all his creatures. He is both all of Plato’s forms and Himself and individual which perfectly instantiates all forms which do not involve in their very notion any imperfection. So, it might seem that the Dualists are to be interpreted as Aristotelians rather than as Platonists. But their view that matter is good might also be defended on Aristotelian grounds. The Dualists held that human beings are naturally ordered to human bodies. Bodies perfect their souls in various ways. Their ears allow them to their, their eyes to see, their senses to touch. Further, there are goods available to incarnate spirits no available to “pure” spirits—aesthetic and sexual pleasures for example. But, if that is correct, if the body of a human completes her, then it seems one could say matter is good. Further, the human being is good, and matter completes her. So, as completing a human being, matter must be good.
Mardan-Farruckh would develop this argument by noting that the material world, as a whole, is good. He thinks that, viewed objectively, it does envision an admirable order and beauty, that the way that the physical structures of living beings serve the ends of life evinces the goodness of creation and the material world. In this he agrees with St. Augustine, John of Damascus, and Leibniz.
But, and this is an important but, there is also disorder in the world. There is lack of final purpose, there is natural evil. The wolf, the scorpion, the serpent, and all “creatures” which God would not create. The planets themselves, according to Dualists, are bad since they move in a disorderly way and evince the existence of an irrational, evil force, attacking God’s creature.
But these facts about the world do not eradicate the basic goodness and orderliness of the world taken as a whole. Even evil creatures, Mardan—Farruckh would insists, demonstrate an order in the way their bodies are structured and the way their organs serve their vital functions which evince a sagacity and goodness which the evil one could not have produced. The devil is not only wicked but stupid, and it would have been impossible for him to have created something so cunningly contrived to serve the ends of a living being as the organic body of a snake or a scorpion. So, we must suppose that the snake and the scorpion are not essentially evil, but are a race of beings which were once good and have been corrupted by the devil.
Besides all that, if human beings are good, and their bodies are good, then it would seem that matter, as part of a being that is good, must be good. But the same matter exists in humans as in every other creature and obeys the same laws. Therefore, since the matter of human bodies is good, so is all matter, as such, and it is only accidentally bad in those beings which have been corrupted by becoming the temporary home of evil spirits.
In this way, then, it seems to me that Mardan-Farruckh, by developing
certain Dualist notions, can maintain that the states of a person in her
control are either good or bad, that the soul and body of human beings
are essentially good, and that all of material creation is essentially
good. Further, he can consistently maintain that any spirit which is able
to sin or not sin is essentially good, and so the creature the good Spirit.
Hence, the only remaining possible sorts of substances, the evil spirits,
as they can only choose to do evil and cannot choose to do good, are essentially
bad. It seems, then, that the Mardan-Farruckh has an answer of some
power to the first, and perhaps most potent, objection to his argument.
The second objection. The second objection to Mardan-Farrukh’s argument is related to the first. How can Mardan Farrukh rule out the possibility that there exists an eternal mind for every abstract quality (we might take each of these minds to be a sort of house for a Platonic form!)?
Answer. Mardan-Farrukh provides a hint as to what his answer to this objection would be. He writes:
If it should be objected that since there is a multiplicity of contraries, e.g. good an evil, darkness and light, fragrance and stench, life and death, sickness and health, pleasure and pain, etc., then there must also be a multiplicity and a diversity of principles, the reply is that although the contraries may go by many names and be of many kinds, yet they are all subsumed under two names, and these two names which are (like) a seed which comprises all the rest, are good and evil. And various names and species (apart from these) are (only) branches (deriving) from these two seeds; and nothing exists that is not included in these two names. There never has been anything nor will there be anything which is neither good nor evil nor a mixture of the two.
I take it that the point is that all contrary opposites which are not themselves species of good and evil (as fragrance and stench are), are species of genera which themselves are ultimately species of good or evil. For example, the contrary properties “being hot” and “being cold” are either themselves each of them species of good and evil (and the Dualists apparently held this, insofar as they thought heat was good and cold evil), or, if not, they are species of a genus which is itself ultimately a species of the genus good or evil. Good and evil, however, cannot be thought to be species of any higher genus (see the response to the forth objection to Mardan-Farrukh’s argument below). But if can classify all essences as being either good or evil and cannot find any higher genus into which both good and evil can be placed, it seems that we should not posit more than two eternal minds as the root of all that there is. We should posit at least two, because, insofar as good and evil are contrary opposite they cannot proceed from a single mind; we should not posit more than two because all properties other than good and evil as such can be seen to be species of good and evil.
The third objection. The third objection to Mardan-Farruckh’s argument for Dualism is that, if it is true that every effect must be like its cause, it would seem that spirit (menog) could not produce matter (getig). On the other hand, if spirit can produce matter even though the one is unlike the other, it seems that something good could produce something evil.
Answer. The Dualist answer, I think, must be something as follows: God Himself, insofar as He has a body consisting of endless light, does pre-contain in His bodily existence all the perfections of finite material beings, just as He pre-contains in His spiritual essence, all of the spiritual goods of finite spirits. Indeed, the Zoroastrians seemed to conceive of God as creating the world out of His own substance. This is why the devil cannot create material things on the Dualist view, since he has no body.
This might, however, seem to contradict the principle that everything
manifest proceeds from an unmanifest state (i.e. that all material reality
comes from a spiritual reality). But I think this can be solved if
we hold that all limited material substances proceed from an unlimited
and necessary substance which is itself both spiritual and material.
It might be objected to this that such a doctrine would make God contingent as He would be composed of a body and a soul. And so would depend on things other than Himself. But one might hold that God’s essence is simply perfect goodness and that this entails that He has every spiritual and material perfection to the highest degree. In this way, one could say that His essence is not constituted by His soul and His body, but rather that, His essence entails His having a soul and a body. Both God’s soul and His body are attributes, as it were, flowing from God’s essence.
The fourth objection. The final objection to Mardan-Farrukh’s argument for Dualism is that it neglects to consider that there is a higher category than good or evil , i.e. being itself, into which all things may be placed. But this would seem to entail that there is a being greater than Ohrmazd or Ahriman, the being who is being itself, as it were.
Answer. The subtle defender of Dualism can respond to this that being is not an essence and so is not a proper category. The being of anything is just the essence of that thing. If I say “Fido is a dog”, I do not add anything by saying “Fido exists”. Everything has the property of being in virtue of its essence, and there are no non-existent essences. So God is in virtue of his good essence and the devil is in virtue of his essence, and this does not require that they share anything in common. The same is true of other attributes of God and the Devil which they seem to hold in common, e.g. spiritual subsistence. For God is a spiritual substance in virtue of His good spiritual essence, and the devil is a spiritual substance in virtue of his evil spiritual essence. In this way it seems to me that the Dualist must embrace the nominalistic doctrine of Suarez according to which to say of X that it is an F, is just to say that there is, in X, some property in virtue of which one can truly say of X that it is an F. But this does not require that there is any common entity or essence between any two things of which it is true to say of them that they are F. That the Dualists used different words to refer to the mouths, arms, legs, etc. of demonic beings than they did to refer to the mouths, arms, legs, etc. of Godly beings, seems to show that they in fact adopted such a strategy.
Sect. 2: Criticisms of Dualism as a theory
Dualism is open to several criticisms which do not focus on any particular argument for it, but which focus on the theory of Dualism itself. These criticisms try to show either that Dualism is incoherent since it contradicts certain self-evident axioms concerning the very nature of good and evil or concerning the nature of God, or that, even if it is not incoherent, it is no more likely to be true than other theories which also attempt to solve the problem of how a good and all powerful God could have produced a universe with so much evil in it.
The first objection of this sort that could be leveled against dualism was poised by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Lewis says that if you really assert that the good God behaves in a way that is objectively preferable to the way the bad God behaves “you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to. But since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God. In fact, what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to Him.”
The answer to this seems simple to me. Good ought, in virtue of its intrinsic nature, to be preferred to evil. By its nature it is superior to evil, just as it is opposed to evil, and there need be no standard above or beyond good and evil themselves which determines which is to be preferred. The standard, as it were, arises from the nature of good and evil themselves. As one of the great Zoroastrian sages, Adurbadh, said “Do good simply because it is good. Goodness is a real good, since even evil men extol it.”
The second objection of this sort that could be leveled against Dualism takes its rise from the proposition that a perfect being is all powerful. Since the God of the Dualist is powerless to prevent his creation from being afflicted by the evils, He is an imperfect being and so not God
Mardan-Farrukh considers this objection and insists that it neglects to remember that power respects what is intrinsically possible to bring about. God’s inability to prevent the devil from afflicting his creation does not entail that He is not all powerful. For it is not logically possible to simply destroy an eternal and independent evil spirit, nor to change him from being evil in nature to being good. Assuredly, God will render the devil powerless at the end of time and will heal his creation of its wounds. But in order to render the devil powerless God had to created the material world as the plane of existence necessary to defeat the devil, and the battle that is waged on that plane will necessarily produce harm to God’s creation. Since that harm is a necessary concomitant of defeating the devil and since God will heal the creation of the wounds the devil inflicts on it, God’s allowance of such harm does not conflict with His moral, intellectual, or efficient perfection.
The fourth objection of this sort to Dualism is taken from Augustine. Augustine holds that good is what benefits and essence and evil is what is harmful to it. On this view nothing can be essentially bad for it would, so to speak, self-destruct.
Against this, the Dualist could insist that there are positive evils. In the physical realm pain seems to be an example of this. Pain, unlike illness or death, does not seem to be evil simply because it is a privation of the good; it is rather a kind of real entity that is, in itself, bad.
Further in the spiritual realm there seem also to be positive evils, for example hatred, cruelty, and vengeance. And some crimes seem to have been done, not in order to gain any real good (in the way killing someone for money, for example, is done), but simply out of a perverse love of evil itself. The murder of James Byrd, the black man who was killed by being dragged behind a pick up truck, and of Mathew Shepherd, the gay student who was beaten and left to die of exposure from the cold, might be examples of such crimes. The perpetrators were not, apparently, motivated by fear or the desire for money or any other recognizable good; they seemed simply to enjoy inflicting pain for its own sake on someone they irrationally hated for his race or sexual orientation. That is why some people label such murders instances of hate crimes, and why they want to argue for a special law against such crimes.
I am not sure what the defender of Augustine’s doctrine could say about pain--it is as good of an example as one can get, I think, of a positive evil. But with respect to the examples given of moral evils, the defender of Augustine could argue, in the first place, that even acts motivated by extreme cruelty are motivated by a drive for natural goods. One might hold that people who attack innocent members of another race or sexual orientation feel inferior for some reason and are trying to assert, in such an attack, that they are not in fact inferior. This theory is supported by the fact that white attackers of blacks and male attackers of homosexuals are typically members of lower socio-economic classes. In attacking blacks or homosexuals they are trying to assert their own self worth by demonstrating that they are, at least, superior to blacks or homosexuals.
In the second place a defender of the Augustinian tradition could respond to the Dualist by insisting on the fundamental moral principles that no one is responsible for a bad act unless 1) they know what they ought to do, and 2) they have the power to do what they ought to do. These principles seem to entail that no rational being is in its essence evil. For any being which does an evil act must know what he ought to do and must choose not to do it anyway. But if that is the case, he cannot be in his essence evil.
This is powerful counter argument and the Dualists seem to have recognized the force of it. For they held that even the devil recognizes the goodness of God and the superiority of God’s nature over his own, but, as his nature is to smite, he resolves to attack God, none the less.
The Destructive Spirit, ever slow to know, was unaware of the existence of Ohrmazd (lit. “Lord Wisdom”, i.e. God). Then he rose up from the depths and went to the border whence the lights are seen When he saw the light of Ohrmazd intangible, he rushed forward. Because his will is to smite and his substance is envy, he made haste to destroy it. Seeing valor and supremacy superior to his own, he fled back to the darkness and fashioned many demons, a creation destructive and meet for battle. When Ohrmazd beheld the creation of the Destructive Spirit, it seemed not good to him,--a frightful, putrid, bad, and evil creation: and he did not revere it. Then the Destructive Spirit beheld the creation of Ohrmazd and it seemed good to him,--a creation most profound, victorious, informed of all: and he revered the creation of Ohrmazd.
Based on passages like this one, I take it that the Dualists response to the last argument in defense of the Augustinian tradition, must allow that the essentially evil being, the devil, recognizes the superiority of good over evil, but chooses evil anyway. Since the devil is essentially evil, his evil must consist in being necessarily ordered to do what is evil in spite of the fact the he knows it is not objectively preferable to what is good. This further seems to entail that the Dualist must embrace a compatibilist view of freedom. This does not, of course, entail that she must hold that every free act of every moral agent is causally determined, but only that causal determinacy does not, io ipso, rule out moral culpability.
Besides those objections to Dualism which seek to show that it must be false as it entails a contradiction of some self-evident moral or metaphysical truth, there is the objection based on the idea that matter might be the case of evil, not an essentially evil and uncreated spirit. Such an objection, if successful, would not show that Dualism is false, only that it does not have any more going for it than another possible solution to the problem of reconciling the existence of evil with the existence of God, a solution which, like Dualism, posits a source of evil that exists independently of God.
The view that matter is the origin of evil seems to have been defended by Plato in the Phaedo and the Timeaus. In the Phaedo Plato put forward the view that physical desires (desire for food, sex, money, and the like), are the causes of all moral evil. The Church Fathers also often spoke of the desires of the flesh as being the root of sin. In the Timeaeus Plato seems to put forward the idea that physical evil is caused by matter as well. For matter is, by its nature, a limiting principle and thus receives its perfection from form. Insofar, however, as matter is never able to perfectly instantiate the forms impressed on it, physical or natural evil results. Here we find the origin of the ancient theory of the monster. The monster is something misbegotten and its being so stems from defects in its matter.
This notion seems to open a door to a rival form of Dualism which would hold that matter, as an eternally existing entity distinct from God, is the cause of evil in the created universe.
I think that the Dualist would answer this objection in three ways. In the first place she would no doubt insist that moral evil resides in acts of choice and so is spiritual not material in its essence. The Dualist sages repeated over and over again that the body is good in its nature and so are natural desires. What is evil is the failure to follow the mean with respect to bodily desires. The Dualists gladly appropriated Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, but they seem to have taught it long before they encountered the Nichomachean Ethics.
The second thing the Dualist would insist on is that matter is by nature good. We have already seen why he would insist on this is the last section.
Finally, the Dualist would insist that matter of this world, at any rate, cannot be an uncreated essence. The matter of this world emerges from an unmanifest to a manifest state. Hence, it has no being from itself but requires, in some sense, to be created by God. We have seen that for the Dualist God himself has a perfect body made of infinite light, as well as a perfect mind. He is thus the eternal archetype of all good things, whether spiritual or material, and they all exist in dependency on him, both in the sense that he produced them, and in the sense that he is their eternal archetype. They thus manifest him, just as finite evil things manifest Ahriman.
As for physical evils and misbegotten animals, the Zoroastrians would attribute these to the agency of the devil, not to the nature of matter itself which, as created by God, is good.
Part IV: Advantages of Dualism
Before concluding my paper, I wish to say something about the advantages of Dualism. Its chief advantages has been powerfully stated by a contemporary Dualist thinker, K.P. Mistree:
God in Zoroastrianism is deemed to be totally good and perfect. Hence that which is imperfect (evil) cannot emerge from God, for it did, then God would no longer remain totally good and perfect. In Zoroastrianism therefore God cannot be held to be the bringer of imperfections such as misery, pain, suffering, poverty, disease or death. Here lies the intellectual strength of Zarathushtra’s teachings....God is latently omnipotent. A temporarily non-omnipotent God should not be seen to be a weak or powerless Being, for in the Zoroastrian tradition God is recognized to be the strongest, the mightiest, and indeed invincible at the end of time. A distinction should be made, however, between a Being who is all-powerful at all times and a Being who is very powerful..., but yet not all-powerful to prevent the onslaught of evil, eventually culminating in death....Man by recognizing God to be temporarily non-omnipotent in no way implies that evil is equal to, and therefore as powerful as God....The will of Ahura Mazda continues to overwhelm the imperfections and inequalities in this world. The process of ‘creative evolution’ is an ongoing one....Man in Zoroastrianism is the soldier who has been chosen to spearhead this evolution, through the recognition of a strongly contrasted ethical dualism....This ethical dualism in no way lessens the...greatness of God; nor does it preclude a monotheistic belief in one God whose eventual supremacy at the end of time is unquestionable in Zoroastrianism.
The Dualist God, like the God of William Hasker, for example, is powerless to prevent all the evils that happen in time. Since this is so, He is not responsible for those evils. Nevertheless, the Dualist God will, at the end of time, defeat His ancient foe and bring all of His creation into a state of bliss. Further, the Dualist God seems to be more fully justified than Hasker’s God for allowing the evils he did to befall creatures. The only defense Hasker’s God can mount for allowing the evils He does to befall His creatures is that He could not have foreseen the actual evil acts created persons will freely choose to do in time. The Dualist, like many contemporary Atheists who are bothered by the problem of evil, is not impressed with this defense. He is not because 1) it seems to him that an all good and all powerful God who is not confronted with an eternal and powerful arch-fiend could have arranged things so his creatures would always freely do what is right and 2) even supposing this is not the case, He surely could intervene to prevent the harm that some of his creatures perpetrate on other of His creatures (granted, again, that He is not faced with an eternal and independently existing foe). Thus the Dualist Theodicy, his defense of God’s goodness, seems to be much stronger than any which has been put forward by Theists.
Whether one is convinced by Dualism or not, I think that the great devotion of the Dualist to the goodness of God, his zeal to defend that goodness as constituting what is most Godlike in God, should serve as a warning to Theists who have too often been willing to sacrifice God’s goodness at the altar of his sovereignty and power or, if they have not gone that far, have come close to making God into a very bad kind of utilitarian.
In conclusion I wish to quote two passages from Scripture which may show the Christian that she has reasons other than those of a sound Theodicy to consider the possibility that Dualism is true.
“The Light Shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John, 1:5.
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s
desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to
do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.” John, 8: 44.