Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

The Problem of Evil in Nature: Evolutionary Bases of the Prevalence of Disvalue

Oscar Horta


This paper examines the problem of evil in nature, that is, the issue of the disvalue present in nature, and the question of whether or not it prevails over happiness. The paper claims that disvalue actually outweighs happiness in nature. This is an unavoidable consequence of the existence of an evolutionary process in a context where resources are scarce. Because of this, suffering and early death are the norm in nature. The number of individuals who come into existence just to die in pain shortly after, vastly outweighs the number of those who survive. The paper also claims that the idea that the interests of nonhuman animals need not be considered in the same way as those of humans is speciesist and unacceptable, and that animals not only have an interest in not suffering, but also in not dying. In light of this, the paper concludes that the good things present in nature are vastly outweighed by the huge amount of disvalue that exists there, and that we should try to reduce such disvalue.


anthropocentrism; disvalue; population dynamics; speciesism; egalitarianism; harm of death; interventionism; natural evil; problem of evil; suffering

Full Text:



Becker, Lawrence. 1983. “The Priority of Human Interests.” In Ethics and Animals, edited by Harlan Miller and William Williams, 225-42. Clifton: Humana Press.

Bonnardel, Yves. 1996. “Contre l’apartheid des espèces: À propos de la prédation et de l’opposition entre écologie et libération animale.” Les Cahiers Antispécistes 14. Last modified December 1996. http://www.cahiers-antispecistes.org/article.php3?id_article=103.

Bradley, Ben. 2009. Well-being and Death. New York: Oxford University Press.

Broome, John. 2004. Weighing Lives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Callicott, John Baird. 1989. In Defense of the Land Ethic: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. Albany: SUNY Press.

Cigman, Ruth. 1981. “Death, Misfortune and Species Inequality.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1): 47-54.

Cowen, Tyler. 2003. “Policing Nature.” Environmental Ethics 25 (2): 169-82.

Crisp, Roger. 2003. “Equality, Priority, and Compassion.” Ethics 113 (4): 745-63.

Darwin, Charles. (1901) 2004. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 2. Edited by Francis Darwin. Reprint, Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing.

Darwin, Charles. (1908) 2005. More Letters of Charles Darwin: A Record of His Work in a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Letters, vol. 1. Edited by Francis Darwin. Reprint, Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing.

Diamond, Cora. 1995. The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy and the Mind. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Dombrowski, Daniel A. 1997. Babies and Beasts: The Argument from Marginal Cases. Chicago: University of Illinois.

Donaldson, Sue, and Will Kymlicka. 2011. Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Epicurus. (ca. 300 BC) 1964. Letter to Menoeceus. In Letters, Principal Doctrines and Vatican Sayings, translated and edited by Russell Geer, 53-59. Reprint, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Everett, Jennifer. 2001. “Environmental Ethics, Animal Welfarism, and the Problem of Predation: A Bambi Lover’s Respect for Nature.” Ethics and the Environment 6 (1): 42-67.

Faria, Catia. 2014. “Equality, Priority and Nonhuman Animals.” Dilemata 14: 225-36, http://www.dilemata.net/revista/index.php/dilemata/article/viewFile/272/296.

Ferry, Luc. 1992. Le nouvel ordre écologique: l’arbre, l’animal et l’homme. Paris: Grasset.

Fink, Charles K. 2005. “The Predation Argument.” Between the Species 13 (5): 1-15.

Froese, Rainer, and Susan Luna. 2004. “No Relationship between Fecundity and Annual Reproductive Rate in Bony Fish.” Acta Ichthyologica Piscatoria 34 (1): 11-20.

Gaita, Raymond. 2003. The Philosopher’s Dog: Friendships with Animals. London: Routledge.

Goldman, Michael. 2001. “A Trascendental Defense of Speciesim.” Journal of Value Inquiry 35 (1): 59-69.

Gould, Stephen J. 1994. “Nonmoral Nature.” In Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History, edited by Stephen Jay Gould, 32-44. New York: W. W. Norton.

Hettinger, Ned. 1994. “Valuing Predation in Rolston’s Environmental Ethics: Bambi Lovers Versus Tree Huggers.” Environmental Ethics 16 (1): 3-20.

Holtug, Nils. 2007. “Equality for Animals.” In New Waves in Applied Ethics. Edited by Jesper Ryberg, Thomas S. Petersen, and Clark Wolf, 1-24. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Horta, Oscar. 2010. “The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature”, Between the Species, 13 (10): 163-87.

—. 2013. “Zoopolis, Intervention, and the State or Nature.”, Law, Ethics and Philosophy 1: 113-25.

—. 2014. “The Scope of the Argument from Species Overlap.” Journal of Applied Philosophy 31 (2): 142-54.

Jamieson, Dale. 1998. “Animal Liberation Is an Environmental Ethic.” Environmental Values 7 (1): 41-57.

MacArthur, Robert H., and Edward O. Wilson. 1967. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mayerfeld, Jamie. 1999. Suffering and Moral Responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McMahan, Jeff. 2002. The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

—. 2010a. “The Meat Eaters.” The New York Times. Last modified 19 September 2010. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/the-meat-eaters/.

—. 2010b. “A Response”, The New York Times. Last modified 26 September 2010. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/predtors-a-response/.

Mill, John Stuart. (1874) 1969. Nature. In Collected Works, edited by John M. Robson, vol. X, 373-402. Reprint, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Nagel, Thomas. 1970. “Death.” Noûs 4 (1): 73-80.

Narveson, Jan. 1987. “On a Case for Animal Rights”, The Monist, 70 (1): 31-49.

Ng, Yew-Kwang. 1995. “Towards Welfare Biology: Evolutionary Economics of Animal Consciousness and Suffering.” Biology and Philosophy 10 (3): 255-85.

Nussbaum, Martha C. 2006. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Paton, William. 1984. Man and Mouse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pianka, Eric R. 1970. “On r- and K- Selection.” American Naturalist 104 (940): 592-97.

Pluhar, Evelyn B. 1995. Beyond Prejudice: The Moral Significance of Human and Nonhuman Animals. Durham: Duke University Press.

Posner, Richard A. 2004. “Animal Rights: Legal, Philosophical and Pragmatical Perspectives.” In Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, edited by Cass R. Sunstein and Martha C. Nussbaum, 51-77. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Raterman, Ty. 2008. “An Environmentalist’s Lament on Predation.” Environmental Ethics 30 (4): 417-34.

Reichmann, James B. 2000. Evolution, Animal ‘Rights’ and the Environment. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press.

Rolston III, Holmes. 1992. “Disvalues in Nature”. The Monist 75 (2): 250-78.

—. 1999. “Respect for Life: Counting what Singer Finds of No Account.” In Singer and His Critics. Edited by Dale Jamieson, 247-68. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sagoff, Mark. 1993. “Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce.” In Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology. Edited by Michael E. Zimmerman, John Baird Callicott, George Sessions, Karen J. Warren, and John Clark, 84-94. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Sapontzis, Steve F. 1984. “Predation.” Ethics and Animals 5 (2): 27-38.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. (1851) 2000 Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays, translated by Eric F.J. Payne. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scruton, Roger. 1996. Animal Rights and Wrongs. London: Metro.

Sözmen, Beril I. 2013. “Harm in the Wild: Facing Non-Human Suffering in Nature.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5): 1075-88.

Temkin, Larry. 1993. Inequality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomasik, Brian. [Forthcoming 2015]. “The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism 3 (2).

Whewell, William. 1852. Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England. London: John Parker.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2015-001-hort

Copyright (©) 2018 Oscar Horta – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo

Referee List

© 2001 LED Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto