[I]t will certainly never come to pass that men will think only what they are bidden to think. It would thus inevitably follow that in their daily lives men would be thinking one thing and saying another, with the result that good faith, of first importance in the state, would be undermined and the disgusting arts of sychophancy and treachery would be encouraged.
Spinoza in the Tractatus Theologicus-Politicus (taken from vol. 3, p. 226 of Carl Gephardt (ed.). Spinoza Opera. 4 vols. Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1925)
The implications of stoicism, so understood, are troubling specifically for a theory of evil. [Martha] Nussbaum seems right, especially in addressing academics, to focus on what we lose if we opt for stoicism. Much philosophy, as she notes, is an exercise in intellectual self-control and discipline. Combining that observation with what she says about mercy and compassion might explain the cruelty of many philosophers and other intellectuals, which can otherwise be astonishing. The costs of stoicism that worry me most are its failures to perceive and appreciate the evils of cruelty and oppression. My fear is not that stoics would initiate such evils but that they would be unmoved to prevent or alleviate them. As has often been noted, all that is required for evil to prevail is that good people do nothing. (Card, Claudia. The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. 69. Print.)
For illustrations of what might be considered intellectual cruelty, one need not look far beyond philosophy of religion, specifically, theodicy and responses to the problem(s) of evil. Consider the implications when your theodicy, your defense of evil in a world created by an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good, infinitely just God, is to say that evils, atrocities on the order of genocide, are allowed to happen by the Creator simply to allow us the opportunity to develop our characters, an opportunity to make the moral choice.
You are forgiven for wondering how an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good, infinitely just God could possibly hang their hat on such a weak hook—and one would be certainly justified in thinking that a philosopher or theologian who offered such a perverse theodicy has a strikingly undeveloped moral capacity, a powerful disconnect from the lived experiences of his fellow humans, and/or a serious inability to take evil and suffering in anything remotely resembling a morally serious manner.
D.Z Phillips, on those philosophers of religion crafting certain theodicies:
One wonders what has happened to philosophy, if it can lead one to say that, horrendous though it was, the Holocaust is justified as the result of the greater good of the free will of those who perpetrated it.
~Phillips, D. Z. The Problem of Evil & the Problem of God. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005. 177. Print.
But this god in the Book of Job, does he concern us? Is the whole of it any more than a poetic game with an alien and outdated concept of the divine? Do we know this god? […] Yes, we know him from the history of religion; he is the god of the Old Testament, ‘the Lord of Hosts’ or, as we might put it, the Lord of Armies: the jealous Jehovah. […] But does he live only in the history of religion? No, he also lords it over our experience, today as many millenniae ago. He represents a familiar biological and social milieu: the blind forces of nature, completely indifferent to the human need for order and meaning and justice . . . the unpredictable visitations by disease and death, the transitoriness of fame, the treason by friends and kin. He is the god of machines and power, of despotism and conquest, of pieces of brass and armoured plates. There are other men than Job who counter him with weapons of the spirit. Some of them are being trampled down in heroic martyrdom. Others recognize the limits of martyrdom, then yield on the surface, but hid the despair in their hearts.
Tennessen, Herman, ‘A Masterpiece of Existential Blasphemy: the Book of Job’, The Human World, No. 13, November 1973, p. 10
Pandora brought the box of ills and opened it. It was the gift of the gods to men, outwardly a beautiful and seductive gift, and called the Casket of Happiness. Out of it flew all the evils, living winged creatures, thence they now circulate and do men injury day and night. One single evil had not yet escaped from the box, and by the will of Zeus Pandora closed the lid and it remained within. Now for ever man has the casket of happiness in his house and thinks he holds a great treasure; it is at his disposal, he stretches out his hand for it whenever he desires; for he does not know the box which Pandora brought was the casket of evil, and he believes the ill which remains within to be the greatest blessing, it is hope. Zeus did not wish man, however much he might be tormented by the other evils, to fling away his life, but to go on letting himself be tormented again and again. Therefore he gives Man hope,- in reality it is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of Man.
Nietzsche, section 71 of Human, All-Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, titled ‘Hope’.
Here is Walter Kaufmann again, quoting from Freud:
The war, according to Freud, disturbed
our previous relation to death. This relation was not sincere. If one listened to us, we were, of course, ready to declare that death is the necessary end of all life, that every one of us owed nature his own death and must be prepared to pay this debt—in short, that death is natural, undeniable, and unavoidable. In reality, however, we used to behave as if it were different. We have shown the unmistakable tendency to push death aside, to eliminate it from life. We have tried to keep a deadly silence about death: after all, we even have a proverb to the effect that one thinks about something as one thinks about death. One’s own, of course. After all, one’s own death is beyond imagining, and whenever we try to imagine it we can see that we really survive as spectators. Thus the dictum could be dared in the psychoanalytic school: at bottom, nobody believes in his own death. Or, and this is the same: in his unconscious, every one of us is convinced of his immorality. As for the death of others, a cultured man will carefully avoid speaking of this possibility if the person fated to die can hear him. Only children ignore this rule. . . . We regularly emphasize the accidental cause of death, the mishap, the disease, the infection, the advanced age, and thus betray our eagerness to demote death from a necessity to a mere accident. Toward the deceased himself we behave in a special way, almost as if we were full of admiration for someone who has accomplished something very difficult. We suspend criticism of him, forgive him any injustice, pronounce the motto, de mortuis nil nisi bene, and consider it justified that in the funeral sermon and on the gravestone the most advantageous things are said about him. Consideration for the dead, who no longer needs it, we place higher than truth—and most of us certainly higher than considering for the living.
(via Kaufmann, Walter Arnold. The Faith of a Heretic. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2015. Print.
The Freud passage that Kaufmann quotes comes from the part II of an essay called “Timely Thoughts on War and Death”; part II is titled ‘Our Relation to Death’.)
You have been told: Love your neighbor as yourself. I add: Judge yourself as you judge your neighbor, and demand more of yourself than of him. Dissatisfied with your neighbor, tell him—and try to excel him. (309)
Taken from the section of Walter Kaufmann’s book where he offers his views on ethics:
My own ethic is not absolute but a morality of openness. It is not a morality of rules but an ethic of virtues. It offers no security but goals. (306)
(via Kaufmann, Walter A. The Faith of a Heretic. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2015. Print.)