The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
User avatar
Kowalskil
Banned
Posts: 86
Joined: November 23rd, 2010, 7:31 pm
Location: Fort Lee, NJ, USA

Post by Kowalskil » August 3rd, 2011, 12:49 pm

P.James Flynn wrote:
Dewey wrote:Maybe I'm just echoing James" question (though not, I hope, his criticism).
Thus starting another thread "Why Does criticism Happen to Good People"
Because they usually welcome it.

Alexander17
Posts: 7
Joined: July 25th, 2011, 7:54 pm

Post by Alexander17 » August 3rd, 2011, 1:17 pm

I said this assuming that things of hatred and violence are bad and that things of love and joy are good. And by good people I mean decent people (obviously no one is perfect) who are dealt wicked cards in life. Like when bad things happen to children or things like that. Thinks that make you question the underlying spiritual law of all things. If you believe there is one that is. I suppose this curiousity stems from the commonly accepted belief of many organized religions that if you are good and do good deeds then God will take care of you. Naive? Probably. But we all have to reach for something sometimes.

Eric14
Posts: 45
Joined: August 25th, 2010, 4:09 pm

Post by Eric14 » August 4th, 2011, 6:14 am

Nature knows no justice. Bad things happen to people. Good and bad people are equally vulnerable to earthquakes etc.

The good do bad and the bad do good.

And the good are in denial about much of the bad they do.

I sit here with money in the bank. I could phone the bank and save the life of a child. Am I letting a child die by not phoning the bank? Are all 'good people' doing so?

Your question seems to ask us to deny the complexity of reality. 'Good' , 'bad' ?

Meleagar
Posts: 1874
Joined: November 16th, 2009, 11:03 am
Contact:

Post by Meleagar » August 4th, 2011, 8:17 am

Alexander17 wrote:I said this assuming that things of hatred and violence are bad and that things of love and joy are good. And by good people I mean decent people (obviously no one is perfect) who are dealt wicked cards in life. Like when bad things happen to children or things like that. Thinks that make you question the underlying spiritual law of all things. If you believe there is one that is. I suppose this curiousity stems from the commonly accepted belief of many organized religions that if you are good and do good deeds then God will take care of you. Naive? Probably. But we all have to reach for something sometimes.
The short answer (as short as possible): in order for there to be individuated experience, there must be contrasting context; self & other. In order to have a particular experience, like "love" or "joy", there must be a contrasting experience, like "not love" and "not joy", or else "love" would be ubiquitous and just an "is". For example, to ask a person blind since birth to describe "light" and "not light" would be an unanswerable question, because they have no contrasting, contextual references to draw from to identify light or non-light (dark).

It stems from the principles of identity, non-contradiction and the excluded middle. If you want to experience love, or joy, not-love and not-joy must also be availabe to experience, or else you cannot identify what you are experiencing; you wouldn't even know you are experiencing love or joy.

Good people cannot be good without a context of "not-good" to provide the context that identifies an experience or act of "good". Being good doesn't indemnify one against that which is necessary to experience and enact goodness in relation to; it requires it. Bad things happening to good people provides them with an opportunity for even greater "goodness" potential.

If you believe you are here to do good, and be good, then the intensity of that good and it's effects can only be enhanced when it pierces through and endures even the worst of events.

Windy34
Posts: 278
Joined: July 13th, 2011, 4:20 pm

Post by Windy34 » August 4th, 2011, 4:40 pm

Life is random, and doesn't favor anybody, so bad things happen to bad and good people.

Meleagar
Posts: 1874
Joined: November 16th, 2009, 11:03 am
Contact:

Post by Meleagar » August 4th, 2011, 4:47 pm

Windy34 wrote:Life is random, and doesn't favor anybody, so bad things happen to bad and good people.
Are the things you say random as well?

Thinkingcat
Posts: 50
Joined: June 2nd, 2010, 2:19 pm

Post by Thinkingcat » August 4th, 2011, 4:52 pm

Steve3007 wrote:I propose that the word "why" makes no sense in this context. Or, at least, you haven't defined what you mean by it.

To me, the question "why?" means "what is the underlieing mechanism?"

For example: "why is it raining?", "why does the moon go around the earth?", "why do zebras have stripes?"

These questions are asking for a cause-and-effect mechanism. I don't believe there is any other sensible use of the word "why". But we humans are so used to asking this question that we often tend to extend it into realms where it makes no sense. It is, literally, non-sense.
Thinkingcat wrote:According to the Oxford dictionary the primary meaning of "why" is "for what reason or purpose", so the question "why do horrible things happen to good people?" makes sense without the author having to explain what he meant.
Steve3007 wrote: If dictionary definitions were all that is required to completely understand words then philosophy forums would be unnecessary.

What exactly is a "reason" or a "purpose"? If you keep looking in the dictionary you'll end up going in circles.
I agree that dictionary definitions are not all that is required in order to understand words. We depend more fundamentally on learning from the way we hear words being used in relation to what is going on around us.

I also agree that to attempt to fully understand what a word means it is necessary to enter into a complex philosophical discussion. However, it is not always necessary to fully understand what a word means. For practical purposes when we set out to communicate something we need to consider what level of understanding is necessary in order to achieve our objective.

I referred to the dictionary in order to show that the meaning I was pointing out was generally accepted rather than just my personal opinion, and that therefore there was no requirement for someone to explain it as a matter of course when they used it that way. I also quoted the dictionary definition because it clearly distinguished this meaning from the meaning that you were thinking of. I reasoned that you must be familiar with the meaning I wanted to draw attention to, as it is in everyday use, and therefore my objective was to remind you of it. For this to happen it was not necessary for you to understand in infinite detail what is meant by the words "reason" and "purpose". You only needed to understand well enough to be able to make a more sensible interpretation of the question "why do horrible things happen to good people?".

Tom Kirkham
Posts: 23
Joined: December 24th, 2010, 6:04 pm

good things -- bad things good people -- bad people

Post by Tom Kirkham » August 4th, 2011, 6:12 pm

Another point of view on this subject-----

I think we all have a foundational ability to sense if something is good or bad. It is usually called 'conscience'. So gauging what is good or bad is something we can discern, even though it is somewhat relative.

There are definitions, standards and guidelines for good versus bad. Laws are put in place for such purposes, families normalize towards accepted ways of living. And, ultimately God defines the absolute truth about ehether something is good or bad. But even all of these definitions can be interpreted. So, you either accept God's ultimate truth through faith that it IS, or relegate yourself to living in a world of subjectivity where good and bad always 'depends'.

Even if something is 'bad', it can still be used ultimately for good purposes. A 'good' person recognizes this and rather than complaining about a 'bad' thing happening, such a person can see that it ended up with a good outcome. This is a matter of where you put your trust for life- in the self (subjective and selfish) or in God (objective and universal).

And of course, one must weigh in the causal effect of a 'bad' thing (or a'good' thing). Some things happen randomly- like a lightning bolt killing a person. Other things are willful - a robbery, for instance. Both can happen to 'good' or 'bad' people. But again, the outcome depends on what you (and God) does with the event.

Stanley Huang
Posts: 526
Joined: April 7th, 2011, 9:52 am

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Post by Stanley Huang » August 5th, 2011, 4:16 am

How are you sure that what you think is good is the real good?

How are you sure that what you think is bad is really 'not good?'

The metaphysical question is: Is there a real good?

Sometimes, I feel there is a good or bad.

Sometimes, I feel there are no good and no bad.

But good or bad is no important.

Because it may just be an idea.

And ideas are not relevant to our survial according to Lao Tsu.

Fekarp

Re: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Post by Fekarp » August 6th, 2011, 3:54 pm

Alexander17 wrote:I understand that everyone goes through trouble in their lives no matter how innocent or guilty they are, but why do horrible things happen to good people? To people who never did anything wrong? What are your thoughts?
Because it seems that the laws of the universe are quite physical, and not spiritual. But maybe it's just the surface. Maybe we have to suffer but we are compensated for that.

For example, I think that original Buddhist philosophy teaches that you won't suffer if you follow the Noble Eightfold Path. So bad things won't happen to you in that case. That's my interpretation of the Four Noble Truths. But if it's true or not, who knows?

Nick_A
Posts: 2391
Joined: April 19th, 2009, 11:45 pm

Re: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Post by Nick_A » August 9th, 2011, 10:44 pm

Alexander17 wrote:I understand that everyone goes through trouble in their lives no matter how innocent or guilty they are, but why do horrible things happen to good people? To people who never did anything wrong? What are your thoughts?
We could just as easily ask why bad things happen to good dogs? It would be natural to ask why not? Do we deserve any special consideration beyond that of a dog?

On earth Jesus indicates that bad things can happen to you regardless of how good you think you are:

Luke 13

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Falling temples will hit you on the head regardless of how pure you think you are.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

Fekarp

Re: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Post by Fekarp » August 10th, 2011, 3:19 am

Nick_A wrote: Falling temples will hit you on the head regardless of how pure you think you are.
Wait a minute: Isn't this the same logic:
"Falling temples will hit Jesus on the head regardless of how pure he thinks he is."
"Falling temples will hit John on the head regardless of how pure he thinks he is."
"Falling temples will hit Paul on the head regardless of how pure he thinks he is."

Chasqg
Posts: 15
Joined: July 4th, 2011, 3:37 am

Post by Chasqg » August 17th, 2011, 4:16 am

Hi Alexander...
Have you ever read any yogic philosophy? I'm sure you'll find it of interest. As far as I can see, all Indian relgions/philosophies acknowledge the Law of Karma. This Law explains why 'bad things happen to good people'. It's defintiely worth a look, I would say.
Best wishes Chas
PS Try 'Fourteen Lessons in Yogic Philosophy' by Yogi Ramacharaka. Very readable.

nameless
Posts: 1234
Joined: May 13th, 2008, 9:06 pm
Location: Here/Now

Re: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Post by nameless » August 19th, 2011, 2:08 am

Alexander17 wrote:I understand that everyone goes through trouble in their lives no matter how innocent or guilty they are, but why do horrible things happen to good people? To people who never did anything wrong? What are your thoughts?
Is a sharp sliver of steel, painfully piercing into your skin, deep into the muscle, a 'bad' thing?
How about when it's full of the antivenin that will save your life, is it still 'bad'?
Wouldn't the (subjective) notions of 'good' and 'bad' display one's (the 'beholder's') subjective 'shortsightedness'? One's own prideful judgmentalism? Morality?

"The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." --Richard Bach

"I say that next to God there is no nobler thing than suffering. Right suffering is the mother of all virtues, for right suffering so subdues the heart, it cannot rise to pride but perforce is lowly." - Meister Eckhart

"Harkee, all rational souls! The swiftest steed to bear you to your goal is suffering; none shall ever taste eternal bliss but those who stand with Christ in depths of bitterness. Nothing is more gall-bitter than suffering, nothing so honey-sweet as to have suffered. The most sure foundation for this perfection is humility, for he whose nature here creeps in deepest depths shall soar in spirit to highest height of Deity." - Meister Eckhart

You can also think (until you can 'know') that for as miserable as you are at times, you are also equally in bliss at/as a different moment/Perspective!
You cannot perceive the highs without perceiving the lows!!
No lows = no highs! No bliss!
Now, honestly, would you like some bliss in your life? More bliss? Deep and broad and radiating lightening bolts of pure D prickle excruciating laser-love light bliss?
Now you understand the cost!
The point is to seek the 'blessing' in the pain!

"The well from which springs one's joy, once flowed with tears!"

'Suffering', is the enduring of pain!
We learn and grow the 'finer' features of humanity in suffering pain; humility, compassion, sympathy, empathy, charity...

"There are places in the heart that do not yet exist, pain must be that they might be!"

"A word is not a Word until it is spoken;
a heart is not a Heart, until it is broken!" - nameless

"A heart, like a plaster mold, must be broken, releasing that which hides within!" - anon

Belinda
Contributor
Posts: 13760
Joined: July 10th, 2008, 7:02 pm
Location: UK

Post by Belinda » August 19th, 2011, 4:05 am

Nameless's quotations well describe the benefits of such suffering as may be experienced by those who are
capable of learning. But there are others who suffer who can't learn through suffering: animals, babies, mentally defective people, helpless prisoners, extremely repressed people, very old people, very sick people.
Socialist

Post Reply