Melville’s Billy and the Secular Problem of Evil: The Worm in the Bud

The Monist 63 (4):480-493 (1980)
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What is Billy Budd “about”; or, if you prefer, what is its “theme”? I think it is about more than one thing, has more than one theme ; and I think that some of the things Billy Budd is about are well-known, the themes long since revealed. But all of the hares have by no means been started, or run to ground. And one in particular seems to me to be barely noticed, if noticed at all. That is the theme I am calling the “secular problem of evil.” I propose in what follows to try to start this hare from Melville’s metaphysical thicket, and put it through its paces.



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