The argument from evil: Reply to professor Richman: Douglas Langston

Religious Studies 16 (1):103-113 (1980)
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Abstract

The problem of evil has traditionally been formulated as a claim about the incompatibility of the statements ‘God exists’ and ‘There occur instances of suffering’. Hume, for example, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , part x, claims that the statements ‘God exists’ and ‘There occur instances of suffering’ are incompatible. In his esssy ‘Hume on Evil’, Nelson Pike argues that it has not been shown that the statements ‘God exists’ and ‘There occur instances of suffering’ are incompatible because it has not been shown that God could not have a morally sufficient reason for permitting suffering he could prevent. 1 Moreover, according to Pike, the theist who is convinced that God must have a morally sufficient reason for permitting suffering he can prevent will claim that the statements ‘God exists’ and ‘There occur instances of suffering’ are not incompatible. He will claim this even though he cannot specify the morally sufficient reason why God permits suffering he can prevent. The theist will thus maintain that God exists even given the occurrence of suffering in the world. 2 Robert Richman, in his essay ‘The Argument from Evil’, argues that Pike is too generous to the theist. According to Richman, only if the theist can specify the morally sufficient reason why God permits suffering he can prevent will the theist be rationally justified in maintaining that God exists in the face of suffering in the world. Richman supports his position by reformulating the argument from evil in terms of what he calls ‘the logic of our moral judgmentsr’. 3 Richman thinks that his formulation of the argument from evil is successful against the theist who cannot specify the morally sufficient reason why God permits evil he can prevent. In this paper, I shall argue that Richman's argument is not successful against the typical theist, i.e. the person who accepts the existence of God on the basis of faith or a priori arguments. 4

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