The problem of evil is one of the most discussed topics in the philosophy of religion. For some time, however, there has been a need for a collection of readings that adequately represents recent and ongoing writing on the topic. This volume fills that need, offering the most up-to-date collection of recent scholarship on the problem of evil. The distinguished contributors include J.L. Mackie, Nelson Pike, Roderick M. Chisholm, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Stephen (...) J. Wykstra, John Hick, and Diogenes Allen. Including an introductory essay and a selected bibliography, this comprehensive and completely up-to-date collection is an invaluable guide to current scholarship in this highly debated area of the philosophy of religion. Oxford Readings in Philosophy aims to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available. (shrink)
Chapter 1 addresses some preliminary issues that it is important to think about in formulating arguments from evil. Chapter 2 is then concerned with the question of how an incompatibility argument from evil is best formulated, and with possible responses to such arguments. Chapter 3 then focuses on skeptical theism, and on the work that skeptical theists need to do if they are to defend their claim of having defeated incompatibility versions of the argument from evil. Finally, (...) Chapter 4 discusses evidential arguments from evil, and four different kinds of evidential argument are set out and critically examined. (shrink)
The argument that(1) God exists, and is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly goodand(2) Evil existsare logically incompatible, can be construed aporetically (as generating a puzzle and posing the constructive challenge of finding a solution that displays their compatibility) or atheologically (as a positive proof of the non-existence of God). I note that analytic philosophers of religion over the last thirty years or so have focused on the atheological deployment of the argument from evil, and have met its onslaughts from (...) the posture of defense. I take Nelson Pike (in his article “Hume on Evil”) and Alvin Plantinga (in The Nature of Necessity, “Self-Profile,” and other pieces) as paradigm defenders, analyse their approaches, and try to make explicit parameters and assumptions within which these defenses have been conducted. In particular, both writers seem to attempt a reply within the parameters of a religion-neutral value theory and on the assumption that God has obligations to do one thing rather than another in creation-both of which conspire to defend God as a producer of global goods and shift attention off the more pressing question of His agent-centered goodness. I then argue that value-theory pluralism explodes the myth of shared values, and so complicates the structure of fair-minded debate about the problem of evil as to significantly limit the utility of defense. I invite Christian philosophers to approach the problem aporetically, and to exhibit the compossibility of (1) and (2) by formulating their own beliefs about how God is solving the problem of evil using the valuables within a Christian value theory to defeat evils. After sketching a strategy for doing this, I answer the objection that my recommendation conflates Christian philosophy and theology, and try to show how it affords a continuity between the so-called philosophical and existential problems of evil. (shrink)
"This book is D.Z. Phillips' systematic attempt to discuss the problem of evil. He argues that the problem is inextricably linked to our conception of God. In an effort to distinguish between logical and existential problems of evil, that inheritance offers us distorted accounts of God's omnipotence and will. In his interlude, Phillips argues that, as a result, God is ridiculed out of existence, and found unfit to plead before the bar of decency. However, Phillips elucidates (...) a neglected tradition in which we reach a different understanding of God's presence amidst suffering, and addresses the ultimate question of how God can be said to be with those who are crushed by life's afflictions." "An ideal text for students of philosophy, religious studies and theology, but also for anyone who reflects seriously on the danger of adding to human evils by the way in which we write and think about them."--Jacket. (shrink)
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
This paper considers briefly the approach to the problem of evil by Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and John Hick and argues that none of these approaches is entirely satisfactory. The paper then develops a different strategy for dealing with the problem of evil by expounding and taking seriously three Christian claims relevant to the problem: Adam fell; natural evil entered the world as a result of Adam's fall; and after death human beings go either (...) to heaven or hell. Properly interpreted, these claims form the basis for a consistent and coherent Christian solution to the problem of evil. (shrink)
Natural disasters would seem to constitute evidence against the existence of God, for, on the face of things, it is mysterious why a completely good and all-powerful God would allow the sort of suffering we see from earthquakes, diseases, and the like. The skeptical theist replies that we should not expect to be able to understand God's ways, and thus we should not regard it as surprising or mysterious that God would allow natural evil. I argue that skeptical theism (...) leads to moral paralysis: accepting skeptical theism would undermine our ability to make any moral judgments whatsoever. Second, and more briefly, I argue that skeptical theism would undercut our ability to accept any form of the argument from design, including recent approaches based on fine-tuning. (shrink)
The argument that God exists, and is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly goodand Evil existsare logically incompatible, can be construed aporetically or atheologically. I note that analytic philosophers of religion over the last thirty years or so have focused on the atheological deployment of the argument from evil, and have met its onslaughts from the posture of defense. I take Nelson Pike and Alvin Plantinga as paradigm defenders, analyse their approaches, and try to make explicit parameters and assumptions within (...) which these defenses have been conducted. In particular, both writers seem to attempt a reply within the parameters of a religion-neutral value theory and on the assumption that God has obligations to do one thing rather than another in creation-both of which conspire to defend God as a producer of global goods and shift attention off the more pressing question of His agent-centered goodness. I then argue that value-theory pluralism explodes the myth of shared values, and so complicates the structure of fair-minded debate about the problem of evil as to significantly limit the utility of defense. I invite Christian philosophers to approach the problem aporetically, and to exhibit the compossibility of and by formulating their own beliefs about how God is solving the problem of evil using the valuables within a Christian value theory to defeat evils. After sketching a strategy for doing this, I answer the objection that my recommendation conflates Christian philosophy and theology, and try to show how it affords a continuity between the so-called philosophical and existential problems of evil. (shrink)
In its original form, Nozick’s experience machine serves as a potent counterexample to a simplistic form of hedonism. The pleasurable life offered by the experience machine, its seems safe to say, lacks the requisite depth that many of us find necessary to lead a genuinely worthwhile life. Among other things, the experience machine offers no opportunities to establish meaningful relationships, or to engage in long-term artistic, intellectual, or political projects that survive one’s death. This intuitive objection finds some support in (...) recent research regarding the psychological effects of phenomena such as video games or social media use. After a brief discussion of these problems, I will consider a variation of the experience machine in which many of these deficits are remedied. In particular, I’ll explore the consequences of a creating a virtual world populated with strongly intelligent AIs with whom users could interact, and that could be engineered to survive the user’s death. The presence of these agents would allow for the cultivation of morally significant relationships, and the world’s long-term persistence would help ground possibilities for a meaningful, purposeful life in a way that Nozick’s original experience machine could not. While the creation of such a world is obviously beyond the scope of current technology, it represents a natural extension of the existing virtual worlds provided by current video games, and it provides a plausible “ideal case” toward which future virtual worlds will move. While this improved experience machine would seem to represent progress over Nozick’s original, I will argue that it raises a number of new problems stemming from the fact that that the world was created to provide a maximally satisfying and meaningful life for the intended user. This, in turn, raises problems analogous in some ways to the problem(s) of evil faced by theists. In particular, I will suggest that it is precisely those features that would make a world most attractive to potential users—the fact that the AIs are genuinely moral agents whose well-being the user can significantly impact—that render its creation morally problematic, since they require that the AIs inhabiting the world be subject to unnecessary suffering. I will survey the main lines of response to the traditional problem of evil, and will argue that they are irrelevant to this modified case. I will close by considering by consider what constraints on the future creation of virtual worlds, if any, might serve to allay the concerns identified in the previous discussion. I will argue that, insofar as the creation of such worlds would allow us to meet morally valuable purposes that could not be easily met otherwise, we would be unwise to prohibit it altogether. However, if our processes of creation are to be justified, they must take account of the interests of the moral agents that would come to exist as the result of our world creation. (shrink)
Theism can be defended against the Philosophical Problem of Evil, provided one rejects the Principle of Perfectionism, without relying on the Greater Good Defence or, unless one is a libertarian, the Free-Will Defence.A corollary of the All Good Possible Worlds Defence and the No Best Possible World Defence, is that God’s goodness need not determine God’s choice to create. The reasons, if any, which God has are relevant to the Theological Problem of Evil but not to (...) the Philosophical Problem of Evil. (shrink)
The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. (...) And yet we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering. These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenged posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil. (shrink)
Even philosophers of religion working on the problem of non-human animal suffering have ignored the suffering of creatures like insects. Sensible as this seems, it’s mistaken. I am not sure whether creatures like these can suffer, but it is plausible, on both commonsensical and scientific and philosophical grounds, that many of them can. If they do, their suffering makes the problem of evil much worse: their vast numbers mean the amount of evil in the world will (...) almost certainly be increased by many, many orders of magnitude, the fact that disproportionately many of them live lives which are nasty, brutish, and short means that the proportion of good to evil in the world will be drastically worsened, and their relative lack of cognitive sophistication means that many theodicies, including many specifically designed to address animal suffering, would apply to their suffering only with much greater difficulty, if at all. Philosophers of religion should therefore more seriously investigate whether these beings can suffer and what, if anything, could justify God in allowing as much. (shrink)
The existence of evil is often held to pose philosophical problems only for theists. I argue that the existence of evil gives rise to a philosophical problem which confronts theist and atheist alike. The problem is constituted by the following claims: (1) Successful human beings (i.e., those meeting their basic prudential interests) are committed to a good-enough world; (2) the actual world is not a good-enough world (i.e., sufficient evil exists). It follows that human beings (...) must either (3a) maintain a state of epistemic ignorance regarding the nature of the actual world or (3b) abandon their basic prudential interests. Theists resolve this problem by rejecting (2), only to confront the problem of evil as it is traditionally understood. Successful atheists also reject (2), but without adequate grounds for doing so. (shrink)
One paradigmatic argument from evil against theism claims that, (1) if God exists, then there is no gratuitous evil. But (2) there is gratuitous evil, so (3) God does not exist. I consider three deontological strategies for resisting this argument. Each strategy restructures existing theodicies which deny (2) so that they instead deny (1). The first two strategies are problematic on their own, but their primary weaknesses vanish when they are combined to form the third strategy, resulting (...) in a promising new approach to the problem of evil. (shrink)
J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every (...) essence suffers from transworld depravity. (shrink)
The Problem of Evil: New Philosophical Directions brings together a diversity of philosophical views, methods, and approaches to the much-discussed topic of evil and its bearing on religious belief. Through both general and specific examinations of the problem of evil, this book proposes new directions for philosophical thought.
Richard Swinburne offers an answer to one of the most difficult problems of religious belief: why does a loving God allow humans to suffer so much? It is the final instalment of Swinburne's acclaimed four-volume philosophical examination of Christian doctrine.
From pre-Christian times until the present day, philosophers have discussed whether, given evil, belief in God can logically be maintained. Theists and non-theists remain unconvinced by one another's arguments. This study re-examines the question of God and evil from a neutral standpoint and claims that neither side has come to adequate grips either with the question itself or with the other side's case, chiefly because of failure to distinguish the kinds of problem raised by evil.
This article focuses on questions about evil which are both theological and doxastic, and more specifically alethic – i.e., questions about whether what we know about evil can be used to establish the falsity or probable falsity of the belief or proposition that God exists. Such a focus is natural for agnostics. More generally, it is natural for anyone who is engaged in genuine inquiry about whether or not God exists. A specific concept of God is employed – (...) it is assumed that to assert that God exists, or that ‘theism’ is true, is to assert that there exists a supernatural person who created the natural world and who is perfect in power, perfect in knowledge, and perfect in moral goodness. This is obviously a narrow sense of the words ‘God’ and ‘theism’, but it is common in the philosophical literature. The article also uses a common strategy to investigate alethic problems of evil: it constructs and evaluates a variety of ‘arguments from evil’ for the conclusion that God does not exist or that His existence is improbable. (shrink)
The Problem of Evil, the idea that inexplicable human and non-human suffering is inconsistent with the existence of a benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God, stands as one of the greatest challenges to classical theism. Many philosophers and theologians have offered theodicies, defense of God, in an attempt to blunt the force this problem. Others, however, believing that those theodicies have been effective have abandoned the classical definition of God and have embraced more liberal theologies, including deism, pantheism, (...) process theology, and alterity theism. Theists of this sort argue that their theologies are immune from the POE. This is so because the POE derives its force from the supposed attributes of God. If God is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the problem disappears. So rather than seek to resolve the POE, theists who hold one or the other of these non-classical positions seek to walk around it altogether. The problem simply dissolves, it is claimed, when these alternative theologies are embraced. This article critiques the most prominent liberal responses to the POE and demonstrates how they fail. (shrink)
Contrary to what many philosophers believe, Calvinism neither makes the problem of evil worse nor is it obviously refuted by the presence of evil and suffering in our world. Or so most of the authors in this book claim. While Calvinism has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years amongst theologians and laypersons, many philosophers have yet to follow suit. The reason seems fairly clear: Calvinism, many think, cannot handle the problem of evil with the same (...) kind of plausibility as other more popular views of the nature of God and the nature of God's relationship with His creation. This book seeks to challenge that untested assumption. With clarity and rigor, this collection of essays seeks to fill a significant hole in the literature on the problem of evil. (shrink)
The focus of this paper is the virtual certainty that much of what we must prize in loving any human person would not have existed in a world that did not contain much of the evil that has occurred in the history of the actual world. It is argued that the appropriate response to this fact must be some form of ambivalence, but that lovers have reason to prefer an ambivalence that contextualizes regretted evils in the framework of what (...) we welcome in human life. (shrink)
The Holocaust is one of the most intractable and challenging tragedies of moral evil to understand, assuming the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and all-loving God, and it has important implications for all theists. This paper critically examines the problem of evil in the philosophical theologies of two prominent Jewish philosophers: Emil Fackenheim and Richard Rubenstein. The article defends their view that the six million deaths are existentially meaningless because no justifiable reason exists why God permitted this. (...) Thus, a Jewish theodicy is not possible for them. Fackenheim attempts to salvage traditional Judaism, and urges Jews not to lose their faith, lest Hitler be given a posthumous victory. Rubenstein rejects Fackenheim’s position and encourages Jews to accept the death of God and his mystical radical theology, and still continue traditional religious practices. I question both these responses, and hold that it is more plausible that God is not perfectly loving. (shrink)
Theism, according to David O'Connor, has in recent centuries been on trial for its life, the charge being that the existence of so much evil in the world is incompatible with belief in a benevolent creator. But this trial, he claims is incapable of producing a reasoned verdict.
I begin by distinguishing four different versions of the argument from evil that start from four different moral premises that in various ways link the existence of God to the absence of suffering. The version of the argument from evil that I defend starts from the premise that if God exists, he would not allow excessive, unnecessary suffering. The argument continues by denying the consequent of this conditional to conclude that God does not exist. I defend the argument (...) against Skeptical Theists who say we are in no position to judge that there is excessive, unnecessary suffering by arguing that this defense has absurd consequences. It allows Young Earthers to construct a parallel argument that concludes that we are in no position to judge that God did not create the earth recently. In the last section I consider whether theists can turn the argument from evil on its head by arguing that God exists. I first criticize Alvin Plantinga’s theory of warrant that one might try to use to argue for God’s existence. I then criticize Richard Swinburne’s Bayesian argument to the same conclusion. I conclude that my version of the argument from evil is a strong argument against the existence of God and that several important responses to it do not defeat it. (shrink)
Here I consider the two most venerated arguments about the existence of God: the Ontological Argument and the Argument from Evil. The Ontological Argument purports to show that God’s nature guarantees that God exists. The Argument from Evil purports to show that God’s nature, combined with some plausible facts about the way the world is, guarantees (or is very compelling grounds for thinking) that God does not exist. Obviously, both arguments cannot be sound. But I argue here that (...) they are both unsound for the very same reason. (shrink)
The primary aim of this paper is to highlight, at least in short, how the resources of experimental philosophy could be fruitfully applied to the evidential problem of evil. To do this, we will consider two of the most influential and archetypal formulations of the problem: William L. Rowe’s article, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” (1979). and Paul Draper’s article, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” (1989). We will (...) consider the relevance of experimental philosophy to Rowe’s 1979 argument in §1 and to Draper’s 1989 argument in §2. But in addition to exploring how the resources of experimental philosophy might apply to the problem of evil, it is also worth exploring what broader empirical factors might contribute to people having the intuitions that have—from someone’s affective state to someone’s need for closure. In §3, we want to very briefly elucidate a few areas where the psychology of philosophy might be productively explored in future empirical research. (shrink)
This paper argues that the logical coherence of classical theism can be defended through the traditional free-will defense and argument from divine omniscience and human finitude, but only at the cost of moral scepticism. The above two-pronged defense entails moral scepticism because it demands that we construe clear and undeniable cases of morally unjustifiable evil as merely apparently unjustifiable evils which can be morally justified from some moral point of view. The paper argues that justification is impossible because such (...) basic evils can never be justified from any "moral" perspective. The very conditions necessary for having a moral perspective demand that one recognize certain evils as unjustifiable from any moral point of view. This is the case because moral theories are designed to give us insight into such evils. Moreover, I argue that even if one rejects the above argument, moral scepticism still follows because any intelligible account of moral knowledge requires that its proponents be able at least to point to certain cases of unjustifiable evil if their theory is to have any purchase in the real world and avoid the charge of moral irrelevance and moral scepticism. But this is precisely what the classical theist cannot do. If, however, the classical theist rejects this moral scepticism, then real cases of morally unjustifiable evil must be admitted to exist and a single one of these is sufficient to undermine the logical coherence of classical theism. (shrink)
The inductive argument from evil to the non-existence of God contains the premise that, probably, there is gratuitous evil. Some skeptical theists object: one's justification for the premise that, probably, there is gratuitous evil involves an inference from the proposition that we don't see a good reason for some evil to the proposition that it appears that there is no good reason for that evil, and they use a principle, "CORNEA," to block that inference. The (...) common sense problem of evil threatens the CORNEA move, because the common sense problem of evil does not involve any inference to justify the belief that there is gratuitous evil. In this paper, I argue that the common sense problem of evil doesn't avoid CORNEA. CORNEA, or a reformulated version of it, can still prevent one from having justification for the belief that there is gratuitous evil. (shrink)
The most interesting thing about sceptical theism is its sceptical component. When sceptical theists use that component in responding to arguments from evil, they think it is reasonable for their non-theistic interlocutors to accept it, even if they don't expect them to accept their theism. This article focuses on that sceptical component. The first section explains more precisely what the sceptical theist's scepticism amounts to and how it is used in response to various sorts of arguments from evil. (...) The next section considers and responds to objections to sceptical theism. It is shown that just as there are non-theists who accept the sceptical theist's scepticism, so also are there theists who reject it. (shrink)
The Problem of Evil, as it is typically called, is the strongest argument against the existence of a Deity who is at once all-powerful, all-knowing, kind and loving, and whose reach extends everywhere. Simply stated, the existence of such a being is incompatible with the existence of evil and suffering in the world. We know that evil and suffering exist; thus a Deity such as that described above cannot exist.
The problem of evil can be captured by the following four statements which taken together are inconsistent: 1) God made the world 2) God is a perfect being 3) A perfect being would not create a world containing evil 4) The world contains evil Traditional attempts to grapple with this problem typically center on rejecting (3). Thus Descartes, following Augustine, rejects (3), arguing that evil is the result of man’s exercise of his free will. (...) However, given Descartes plausible claim that God could have created man in such a way that through exercising his free will man comes to only virtuous actions, it is not clear how the problem is solved. Descartes also repeats the Augustinian orthodoxy that though the world contains evil it does not contain it as a positive existence; evil has no real being but is simply the reflection of the inherent lack of full-being in merely finite individuals. Again, that this is a solution is open to serious doubt. (shrink)
Julian of Norwich emphasizes God’s eternal and unchanging love for humankind. Her visions show how God is not angry with our sins and so has no need to forgive us. God does not shame or blame us but excuses us and plans how to reward and compensate us for sin. In relation to Mother Jesus, we remain dear lovely children who need help, correction, and education. Although these remarks suggest to some that Julian must be soft on sin, that she (...) has no adequate appreciation of the worthiness of God or the dignity of human nature, I argue that this is far from the case. On the contrary, she makes Divine worthiness axiomatic and urges readers to live into it. She relocates human dignity not in its intrinsic value but in our centrality to God’s plan. She measures the seriousness of sin in terms of the real hard work it takes to rear us up out of it: crucifixion for Christ, the hell of being a sinner and the crucifixion of life-long penance for us. Nevertheless, the brightness of her visions dominates with her assurance that despite the sin-produced sufferings of this present life, all will be well. (shrink)