Question 29 - High School English II: Reading Practice Test for the STAAR test

The first sentence of paragraph 8 of the attached passage (“While the problem of evil is usually considered to be a theistic one, Peter Kivy says there is a secular problem of evil that exists even if one gives up belief in a deity; that is, the problem of how it is possible to reconcile ‘the pain and suffering human beings inflict upon one another’ with humanistic views of the nature of humankind.”) most nearly means what?


The following poem is called “The Tyger” by the English poet William Blake and was first published in 1794.

THE TYGER Tyger, tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? (5) In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder and what art (10) Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And, when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? (15) What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? (20) Did he who made the lamb make thee? Tyger, tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


The following passage is excerpted from an article titled “The Problem of Evil.”

[1] The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. The best known presentation of the problem is attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus which was popularized by David Hume.

[2] Besides the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is also important to the fields of theology and ethics. There are also many discussions of evil and associated problems in other philosophical fields, such as secular ethics, and evolutionary ethics. But as usually understood, the problem of evil is posed in a theological context.

[3] Responses to the problem of evil have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy. These responses to the problem in three forms: refutations, defenses, and theodicies. A wide range of responses have been made against these arguments.

[4] The problem of evil is often formulated in two forms: the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil. The logical form of the argument tries to show a logical impossibility in the coexistence of God and evil, while the evidential form tries to show that given the evil in the world, it is improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God. The problem of evil has been extended to non-human life forms, to include animal suffering from natural evils and human cruelty against them.

[5] A broad concept of evil defines it as any and all pain and suffering, yet according to John Kemp, evil cannot be correctly understood on “a simple hedonic scale on which pleasure appears as a plus, and pain as a minus”. According to the National Institute of Medicine, pain is essential for survival: “Without pain, the world would be an impossibly dangerous place”. Marcus Singer says that a usable definition of evil must be based on the knowledge that: “If something is really evil, it can’t be necessary, and if it is really necessary, it can’t be evil”.

[6] The narrow concept of evil involves moral condemnation, and is applicable only to moral agents capable of making independent decisions, and their actions. Philosopher Eve Garrard suggests that evil does not describe ordinary wrongdoing, and that “there is a qualitative and not merely a quantitative difference between evil acts and other wrongful ones; evil acts are not just very bad or wrongful acts, but rather ones possessing some specially horrific quality”. Calder argues that evil must involve the attempt or desire to inflict significant harm on the victim without moral justification.

[7] Evil takes on different meanings when seen from the perspective of different belief systems, and while evil can be viewed in religious terms, it can also be understood in natural or secular terms, such as social vice, egoism, criminality, and sociopathology. John Kekes writes that an action is evil if “(1) it causes grievous harm to (2) innocent victims, and it is (3) deliberate, (4) malevolently motivated, and (5) morally unjustifiable”.

[8] While the problem of evil is usually considered to be a theistic one, Peter Kivy says there is a secular problem of evil that exists even if one gives up belief in a deity; that is, the problem of how it is possible to reconcile “the pain and suffering human beings inflict upon one another” with humanistic views of the nature of humankind. Kivy writes that all but the most extreme moral skeptics agree that humans have a duty to not knowingly harm others. This leads to the secular problem of evil when one person injures another through “unmotivated malice” with no apparent rational explanation or justifiable self-interest.

[9] There are two main reasons used to explain evil, but according to Kivy, neither are fully satisfactory. The first explanation is psychological egoism – that everything humans do is from self-interest. Bishop Butler has countered this asserting pluralism: human beings are motivated by self-interest, but they are also motivated by particulars – that is particular objects, goals or desires – that may or may not involve self-interest but are motives in and of themselves and may, occasionally, include genuine benevolence. For the egoist, “man’s inhumanity to man” is “not explainable in rational terms”, for if humans can be ruthless for ruthlessness sake, then egoism is not the only human motive. Pluralists do not fare better simply by recognizing three motives: injuring another for one of those motives could be interpreted as rational, but hurting for the sake of hurting, is as irrational to the pluralist as the egoist.

[10] The problem of evil is acute for monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that believe in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent; but the question of “why does evil exist?” has also been studied in religions that are non-theistic or polytheistic, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. According to John Hick, theism has traditionally responded to the problem within three main categories: the classic and most common freewill theodicy, the soul making theodicy, and process theology.

[11] The problem of evil is sometimes explained as a consequence of free will. Free will is a source of both good and of evil, since with free will comes the potential for abuse. People with free will make their own decisions to do wrong, states Gregory Boyd, and it is they who make that choice, not God. Further, the free will argument asserts that it would be logically inconsistent for God to prevent evil by coercion because then human will would no longer be free. The key assumption underlying the free-will defense is that a world containing creatures who are significantly free is an innately more valuable world than one containing no free creatures at all. The sort of virtues and values that freedom makes possible – such as trust, love, charity, sympathy, tolerance, loyalty, kindness, forgiveness and friendship – are virtues that cannot exist as they are currently known and experienced without the freedom to choose them or not choose them.

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