Antitheodicy and the Grading of Theodicies by Moral Offensiveness

Sophia 59 (3):563-576 (2020)
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Antitheodicy objects to all attempts to solve the problem of evil. Its objections are almost all on moral grounds—it argues that the whole project of theodicy is morally offensive. Trying to excuse God’s permission of evil is said to deny the reality of evil, to exhibit gross insensitivity to suffering, and to insult the victims of grave evils. Since antitheodicists urge the avoidance of theodicies for moral reasons, it is desirable to evaluate the moral reasons against theodicies in abstraction from the intellectual reasons for and against them. It is argued that the best known theodicies such as those based on soul-making and free will are guilty of moral faults as alleged. But Leibniz’s best of all possible worlds theory, often thought to be the most morally offensive ‘Panglossian’ theodicy, is morally blameless because it excuses God by the absolute impossibility of his choosing any world better than the present one. Theodicy should not be conceived of as a search for greater goods which may excuse God’s permitting evils. From the divine point of view, creation is an upfront choice between scenarios—in modern parlance, a Trolley problem rather than a Transplant problem. In cases of forced choice among scenarios, it is morally improper to criticize one who chooses the best.

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James Franklin
University of New South Wales

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