Explain the meaning of "Whatever is, is right," from epistle 1 of Pope's An Essay on Man. I need general clarification of the big picture of Pope's meaning. Pope declares, "Whatever is, is right." Does he believe that even horrible things that happen all around are part of a larger plan, compelled by God, that is "right" in ways that we can't fully appreciate? Does he mean that wars or outbreaks are "right" in a larger sense? Would he explain to a dying individual that what he is suffering is "right"? Would he explain that an individual who loses someone in car accident due to a drunk driver is "right"? What is Pope really declaring here regarding what is right?

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Alexander Pope's line (in fact, half a line) "Whatever is, is right" is just as facile as it first appears, a point noted by no less a critic than Samuel Johnson. It is no accident that the line recalls Candide's contention that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, since Voltaire was satirizing the view of Leibniz, whose optimistic philosophy was a response to the same problem that Pope addresses here.

The problem in question was most famously expressed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus in the form of a trilemma:

  1. If God cannot prevent evil, then he is not omnipotent.
  2. If God does not care to prevent evil, then he is not omnibenevolent.
  3. If God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, how can there be evil?

The answer of both Leibniz and Pope is essentially: "There is no evil. You merely think there is because your perspective is imperfect. God, being perfect, sees the entire picture and knows that what you regard as evil is, in fact, a necessary part of his divine plan." This...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 890 words.)

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