The Conundrum of Evil by Walter Sundberg

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This timeline was created using Walter Sundberg's evaluation of Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy

The book discussed how various philosophers perceived evil in the world and how that view changed in the wake of disasters from the third century to the Nazi era. Neiman used Rene Descartes' concept to define evil as something that shatters people's faith in the universe, according to Walter Sundberg. Neiman's belief that humanity is capable of acting in the world and understanding it is threatened by this meaning. Sundberg concludes by asserting that Susan Neiman’s book was meant for mature people who do not expect easy answers but are willing to be disturbed by arguments instead of having their prejudices satisfied.

The main aim of this timeline is to point out and expound on different thinkers and events or catastrophes mentioned in the article.

As per the article, the following thinkers and events have been mentioned:

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo was a recognized North African Christian theologian and philosopher who lived between 13th November 354 – 28th August 430 whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western Philosophy Western Christianity (Galli and Ted 33). He was the bishop of Hippo Regius an ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. He was viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era which means the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers.

Alfonso X

Alfonso X who was occasionally also known as Alphonso, Alphonse or Alfons, lived between 23rd November 1221 to 4th April 1284.He was the King of Castile, León, and Galicia from 30 May 1252 until his death. Alfonso X is known for his blasphemous statement, which he was quoted to have declared that if he had been in Gods counsel of creation things would have been ordered better. The misfortunes that plagued Alfonso’s reign were offered as proof of his guilt. His life story became a morality tale that served as a warning.

Rene Descartes

Rene was a French philosopher and a good mathematician. He was also a scientist well-known as the father of modern western philosophy. Much of subsequent Western philosophy is aligned to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. He lived for the year 31 March 1596 to 11 February 1650. Descartes is known for his statement that he is quoted saying that when men of devil cause suffering t human beings, it is an alien work of God to teach humans to have peace and patience.

Blaise Pascal

Pascal lived from 19th June 1623 – 19th August 1662. He was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian.

Pierre Bayle

Born on 18th November 1647 and died on 28th December 1706, Bayle was a French philosopher, scholar, and writer best recognised for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary published beginning in 1697. In his celebrated dictionary, he is quoted saying that if God is benevolent, He must be weak. Otherwise, the world would have been made better than it is, he went ahead to state that if God is omnipotent, then He cannot be benevolent.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

He was a German polymath and philosopher born on 1st July 1646 and lived until 14th November 1716 when he met his death. Leibniz has known for his thought that the experience of moral and natural evil is the consequence of imperfection of all created things. Evil is thus a part of human's daily lives. That the universe conforms to general natural laws discoverable by science indicates just how well the creation is made: it does require special divine intervention to keep it working, and that God watches on humanity.

Lisbon earthquake

Occurred on Saturday 1st of November 1755 in the kingdom of Portugal, it was a day to celebrate all saints both known and unknown by Christian. The catastrophe came as a shock to the western civilization; no one could justify such a punishment to so many thousands of victims (Bressan Web). In consequence, Rosseau argued that natural evil should be understood as having no inherent meaning.

Immanuel Kant

Kant was a recognized philosopher, born in 1724 and was driven by the quest to bring changes to the world. Upon his death on 12th February 1804, he had achieved a lot in the philosophical field. Kant argued that human responsibility is critical in dealing with evils in life.

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Were a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism, lived from August 27th, 1770 at November 14th, 1831.Hegel states that the historical process is an inevitable dialect of human action in which evil as well good pushes history forward.

Arthur Schopenhauer

22 February 1788 was the date Arthur Schopenhauer was born and died on 21st September 1860, he was a German philosopher. Arthur states that life presents itself as a continual deception, in small matters as in great. If it had promised it does not keep its word. If it had given, it does so in order to take.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was one of the well-known German philosophers, born in 1844 and raised in the country. He was also a poet and a scholar and died in 1900. He states the problem of evil was brought to humankind through creating ideas that put life on the wrong.

Sigmund Freud

Freud was born on 6th May 1856 and died on 23rd September 1939; he was an Austrian neurologist who is accredited for the discovery of psychoanalysis one of the clinical treatment techniques used in the modern day. In the articles, Freud states that the attempt to make sense of human misery is fueled by childhood fantasies and feelings of love. Hence to find the satisfactory solution to the problem of evil in one’s life is impossible.


Occurred in 1933, Auschwitz concentration camp was an area set aside by the Hitler's regime with the aim of exercising mass killings on the Jews during World War II (Arnett Web). The Holocaust was a genocide in which six million European Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Hannah Arendt

She was a German-born American political theorist born in October 1906 and died in December 1975.Arendt rebuked the deportation and murder that was taking place during the Holocaust (Arnett Web). She later states that the attempt to ground Auschwitz in malice a fore thought such as anti-Semitism does not finally satisfy.

Syrian war

Occurred in 2011, and was termed as the modern-day holocaust. This was caused by the unrest in Syria that escalated into an armed conflict after protests calling for the ejection of President Bashar Al-Assad were violently thwarted.

Work Cited

Arnett, George. “Auschwitz: a short history of the largest mass murder site in human history.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 Jan. 2015. Web.

Bressan, David. “November 1, 1755: The Earthquake of Lisbon: Wrath of God or Natural Disaster?” Scientific American Blog Network, 1 Nov. 2011, Web.

Galli, Mark, and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians everyone should know. Broadman & Holman, 2000.

Neiman, Susan. Evil in modern thought: an alternative history of philosophy. Princeton University Press, 2015.

June 26, 2023

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