Master of Arts (MA)


Fred Smith

Primary Subject Area

Philosophy; Religion, General


Augustine, evil kami, Motoori Norinaga, Problem of Evil, Shinto


Despite great advances within the last few decades of Western scholarship concerning the indigenous Japanese religion, little has been written on the Shinto concept of evil. Given the overall optimistic Shinto attitude toward life, the purpose of this thesis was to analyze its view of evil with reference to Motoori Norinaga's thought in order to find out whether Shinto understands it in a realistic manner. Another aim was to compare Norinaga's position to a Christian Augustinian view to determine which one offers a more coherent and comprehensive answer to the challenge of evil. The thesis examined Norinaga's available writings and recent scholarly works of Shinto studies as well as Augustine and Christian scholars' works regarding the philosophical problem of evil. It was discovered that Norinaga's system, built on logical inconsistencies, failed to understand the depth of the challenge of evil in contrast to the Christian response that demonstrated a greater comprehension of the problem. The principal conclusion was that the overall image emerging from Norinaga and the Shinto writings concerning the concept of evil and the solution for its removal was rather grim: failing to offer a satisfactory explanation for either the origin of evil or the nature of good, Norinaga's Shinto portrayed the world in a deterministic way, under the influence of ambivalent kami while believing, at the same time, in the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The unfounded Shinto assurance was contrasted to the biblical perspective in which an all-knowing, all-powerful, and good God offers genuine hope.