A Mite of Metaphysics: Separateness, Togetherness and Evil

One of the Big Bad Scary Questions of philosophy is the so-called "problem of evil."

That is: why does bad stuff exist? Why is there pain? Why is there torture?

This was rather mystifying to those medievals who believed in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-merciful God. After all: if God is so great and sees everything, and if he cares about us humans, why does he let us get eaten by sharks, or let us peel each others' skin off, etc.? What about starvation, natural disasters?

The classical answer is that it has something to do with free will: God (or the Devil, or someone) gave us free will, and with that came suffering, because God couldn't eliminate our suffering without eliminating our freedom also. Because in some way, our suffering is self-caused, caused by our own chosen actions.

If you've read the previous parts of this Manifesto, you know I don't place much stock in free will nor devils ... but even so, I do think there is something to the "trade-off" aspect of this classical answer.

But I tend to think about it more in terms of the trade-off between separateness and togetherness.

Going way out on a metaphysical limb, my suggestion is that: If one wants to have a universe with a bunch of separate entities, rather than just one blurred-together lump of indivisible being ... then one is going to have bad stuff, one is going to have pain and woe and all that in some form or another.

Have you ever said Yes to a single joy? O my friends, then you said Yes too to all woe. All things are entangled, ensnared, enamored -- Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra

All pain, I suggest, is ultimately rooted in pain of separation. The emotional experience of pain arises from signals informing an organism of potential dangers to its ongoing existence as a separate, autonomous entity. All pain and "evil" is ultimately a result of the existence of separately bounded entities.

But -- stepping even further out on the precarious metaphysical limb -- this raises the question of why separately bounded entities should exist at all? Why isn't there just one big happy, fuzzy, cosmic moment?

(Yes, way back in the introduction to this text, I vaguely promised to avoid this kind of excess philosophical abstraction. But it's a brief digression so I hope you'll forgive me!)

My intuition on this is a simple one....

Earlier, following the old-time psychologist Paulhan, I suggested that a core aspect of Joy is "unity gain" -- the feeling of separate things coming together ... the increase of unity and patternment.

And unity gain between minds with selves is nothing more or less than -- our old friend love ...

Which brings us to an interesting conclusion: separateness, the cause of pain, is necessary so that joy, the feeling of increasing togetherness, can exist.

No separateness, no feeling of increasing togetherness.

Separation exists to enable love.

The crux of joy and love, then, is: obsoleting the dilemma of separation.

Too much abstract metaphysics, perhaps ... yet I can often feel the raw truth of this perspective in events in my everyday life. Maybe you can as well.

I'll close with a comment Chase Binnie made on the above text:

I'm with you on this Ben. Much of my own suffering is caused by alienation or feeling disconnected. Connection to other people is the reconnection of us to ourself.


  1. I'm with you on this Ben. Much of my own suffering is caused by alienation or feeling disconnected. Connection to other people is the reconnection of us to ourself.

  2. Will separation and pain always have to exist in order to feel a coming to unity and joy? If we all came together with advanced cosmist knowledge and technology allowing immortality, would everything then seem grey?
    Maybe joy would come from other areas not involving beings coming together.