The problem of evil Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 5 Procedural work Draft exam answers: complete in an hour! Handwritten is fine, but do give references … 1. 2. 3. 4. Does the ‘soul-making’ theodicy provide an satisfactory answer to the problem of evil? Is divine hiddenness essential to human freedom? Is there a logical problem of evil for the theist? If the universe shows evidence of design, does this prove the existence of God? Hand in by 4pm Friday Week 8. Today A forgotten proof? Franklin’s ‘beer proof’ (!) Two problems of evil: The logical problem The evidential problem …the coherence of theism and the existence of God Selected theistic responses Opposition to theodicy Problems of evil: 1 The logical problem: a problem of consistency: If God is good; and omnipotent; and omniscient There shouldn’t be human and animal suffering But there is – inconsistency? Which premise will the theist give up … ? (See Hume DCNR Part X) The logical problem Mackie (‘Evil and omnipotence’): ‘God is omnipotent, God is wholly good, yet evil exists … the theologian it seems at once must adhere, and yet cannot consistently adhere to all three’ Strictly, to produce inconsistency, need added premise(s). E.g.: An omnipotent God can do anything Good must always seek to eliminate evil Pause for clarification Suffering as evil, or as the result of evil … so evils/suffering interchangeable Evils: Moral: resulting from human action/inaction Natural: resulting from other causes God as good or God as loving? These last two may affect the sort of defence the theist can mount The logical problem Possible defences for the theist? The theist may simply deny one of the premises (unattractive) … More likely to point out that: a) These premises need to be understood in a certain way, or b) The hidden premises (omnipotence all powerful, goodness must oppose evil) are wrong Possible defences So: perhaps God is not good in our sense of morally good Evil does not exist … Or: God has reasons for allowing evil (goodness will not always seek to overcome evil) God has created the world in such a way that he cannot intervene … God not good? Does calling God ‘good’ mean morally good … Goodness is not always a moral property It may be a expression of gratitude..? Can God be subject to moral judgment? ‘God can no more be part of a moral community [with his creatures] than he can be part of a political community with them …’ (Kenny, What is Faith?) Does the same apply to ‘loving’ …? Evil doesn’t exist? Aquinas: evil is not a positive quality It is ‘a certain absence of a good’ (Summa Theologiae - cf. discussion of omnipotence) So God cannot cause evil … but does he therefore permit this absence to occur? Augustine: evil as ‘the name for nothing but the want of good’ (City of God Bk XI) And this want arises from the fall, original sin … The free will defence And note, the fall arises from human choice … Allowing choice seems to limit God’s power Challenges the hidden assumptions: An omnipotent God can do anything Good must always seek to eliminate evil ‘Greater good’ defences – goods which cannot be achieved without allowing (possibility of) evil The free will defence It is good to have free agents, and so it is good to allow agents freedom God cannot let us be free and ensure we chose good (incompatibilism) And so God must allow us to do evil … Plantinga: ‘thus is the power of an omnipotent God limited by the freedom he confers upon his creatures’ The free will defence But what relationship between God and freedom? Is God still responsible for the actions of free agents? Since he created them, and sustains them (Aquinas) God is not a worldly cause, so he can bring human actions without limiting freedom (compatibilism) But is this plausible? The free will defence General problem: is the good worth the evil? Maybe if the free creatures do more good than evil? Can our free will account for natural evils? As they affect both us and other creatures… Should they be laid at God’s door? Or the fall/original sin (Augustine, van Inwagen) Free will and natural evils Maybe being able to enjoy free will depends on the existence of natural laws, that will not always work in our interests … We cannot all get what we want: what decides the matter will be certain natural facts (Mawson) But what can this say about other creatures’ suffering – the fawn in the forest fire (Rowe) Do all creatures have free will? Overcoming evils ‘The worst evils demand to be defeated by the best goods. Horrendous evils can be overcome only by the goodness of God’ (Marilyn Adams). We may not fathom the reasons for evil … … but God’s ensures that each person’s life is a good to them, by ‘engulfing’ evils. God is still good, despite evils … Transcendent goods: relations with God; God’s gratitude; identification with Christ … Problems of evil: 2 Or an evidential problem (Mackie MoT, Rowe): If there were an omni – God … There would not be evil/suffering But there is … So there cannot be such a God (modus tollens) Suffering as evidence for atheism - not proof, but supports a ‘strong presumption’ (Mackie) The evidential problem A Bayesian approach (e.g Draper in Copan and Meister) This evidence may increase the balance of probability of God’s non-existence By increasing the ‘antecedent probability’ of atheism, prior to our considering any further arguments Some responses We know that God exists for some other reason … so while this presents a problem, it cannot count as evidence against His existence We don’t see the whole picture Not having God’s omniscience, all the evidence is not available to us Relies on first point? Otherwise we can judge only on evidence we have … Combines with ‘greater good’ theodicies? Defences and theodicies Defences: challenging one of the premises of the argument Theodicy (after Leibniz): explaining why God might act in a certain way Not always an easy distinction to draw … And defences may work against both forms of argument, or only against one: careful! Greater good arguments Is the existence of evil necessary to bring about a greater good (cf free-will)? No ‘gratuitous evil? Hick: soul-making/Iranean theodicy: God intends to bring us to moral/spiritual maturity This must be a free choice: epistemic distance ‘A world without problems … would be morally static’ So to grow, we must live in a world with evil But … could we not learn virtues in a good world? Greater good arguments Swinburne: if we are to become morally mature … we must act freely, and have knowledge of the consequences of actions, both good and evil Again, we cannot be force-fed this: we must work it out inductively … and this means both bringing about moral evil and having experience of natural evils Against theodicy Are greater good arguments too anthropocentric Or not respectful of suffering humans, animals? Responses: Acknowledge our lack of understanding: ‘if [God] is there, he is surely something bigger and more mysterious than a corrupt or stupid official’ (Midgley; see also DZ Phillips) God as human love and effort (Soelle) Are theodicies besides the point …? References/additional reading Seminar readings Davies Introduction Ch3 (2nd edn) or 10 (3rd edn) Davies Guide Part V Mackie: ‘Evil and omnipotence’ (Mind 64, Peterson) Mackie: Miracle of Theism Ch.9 Rowe: ‘The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism’ (Taliaferro & Griffiths) Augustine: City of God Bk XI (or passages in Peterson, Davies, Hick Ch.2) References/additional reading Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Part X Swinburne: Existence of God Ch.11, or Stump & Murray Ch.25 Hick: ‘An Iranean theodicy’ (in Hick, Peterson) Adams: ‘Horrendous evils and the goodness of God’ (in Stump & Murray, Taliaferro & Griffiths) Midgley: Wickedness (extracts in Taliaferro & Griffiths) Against theodicy: see Clack and Clack Chapter 3. Questions Can you distinguish the various defences and theodicies? Which do you think are the strongest? Can we combine approaches to give a complete defence of God’s existence in the face of both moral and natural evils?