By Jon Cogburn
In the spirit of Judith Jarvis Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion"* I want to begin by talking about a couple of adults, who we'll call Sam1 and Sam2. As with most unfortunate fictional actors in philosophical gedankenexperiments the world over, we shall prescribe a horrific end to both. Let Sam1 be murdered in a bizarre road rage incident. His tendency to drive no faster than the legal speed limit enraged another driver who found himself inconvenienced by not being able to speed. Sam2 on the other hand, lives in a parallel possible world where the inconvenienced driver did not happen to be behind him that day. But (remember, this is a philosophical gedankenexperiment after all) when Sam2 drives his Honda Civic into the driveway of his split level he has a massive heart attack. Let's say that it is caused by a congenital weakness in the aortic connective tissue. Sam2 is dead.
In philosophy, we say that Sam1 was a victim of moral evil. His death was brought about by another human being. Sam2, on the other hand, was a victim of natural evil. This distinction usually comes up in debates about whether it makes sense to believe in the existence of God, whose permitting of such things is in tension with the idea that she is both all powerful and all good. The view that it's not God's fault because we have free will (omnipotent, omnibenevolent beings of necessity making a business of going and around creating creatures with the capacity to freely do evil) doesn't cut any water against natural evil, which isn't the result of our free will anyhow.
Tragically, the actual world is in all relevant respects just like the world of our gedankenexperiment. All of us will be victimized both by nature and by one another. Most of us won't be killed by other humans. Many of us will die too soon from natural causes. Those of us who survive mourn and we are right to do so. Let us return to Sam2, felled by a heart attack. If the parallel world is really like ours, and Sam2 is not a hermit, his friends and family will mourn. His death will be an ongoing trauma for those closest to him. Moreover, DSM to the contrary, this is the way it ought to be.
But let's imagine an alternate parallel world, where like ours most people die of natural causes, some die as a result of free will, and many die as children and young adults, again mostly of natural causes. But imagine that in this world nobody every mourns death by natural evil. When Sam2's wife and kids get home they just put his body in the backyard compost heap and get along with their day.