Nature Is Not Evil, It Just "Is"

Nature Is Not Evil, It Just "Is"


Chapter 27 / 53: In this lesson by Epictetus, reminds us of a common Stoic theme. We see that nature itself, as a whole, is neither good nor bad—we have the freedom to choose the meaning of reality in our response.

Do you ever label things as "good" or "bad"? Do you think that evil is something that exists as part of the world's design? 

From a Stoic perspective, the external world is neither good nor bad it just is what it is.

It's fair enough to say that an event catalyzed feelings in you such as misery/anger/frustration/loneliness, etc. Those are all rational assessments of the unfolding of experience.

But it is not rational to then take the extra step and say, "Because I felt upset after this event, that means reality itself is 'evil' or 'bad'."

If there was an intrinsic "good" or "bad" to the external world, why would people respond differently to events? Some cultures celebrate death, others fight against it at all costs.

The "evil" event that causes some to panic in despair in others unlocks great courage which aids them in fulfilling their potential.

Concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl who was also greatly inspired by the Stoics said:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Many people erroneously believe that reality provides us with both stimulus and response, but it does not. Reality provides the stimulus, our own judgment about that stimulus determines how we feel about it in the end.

This is very important to remember because it can be so easy to get lost in a narrative where we start labeling different parts of reality with words like "good" or "evil" and forget how our own thinking massively shapes our view.

A vital part of the Stoic path is recognizing that we have far less control over the external world than we previously thought, but far more control over our internal one.

Further Reading on This Theme