Intro to Philosophy Lecture 10 The argument from evil

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Introduction to Philosophy
Lecture 7
The argument from evil
By David Kelsey
J.L. Mackie
•
•
•
He lived from 1917-1981.
An Australian philosopher.
Wrote a paper on the argument from evil titled “Evil and Omnipotence’.
Two forms
of the argument
from evil
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Argument for Atheism: The argument from evil is an argument against the
existence of God.
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The argument from evil comes in two variants.
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–
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The logical argument from evil tries to show that theists’ beliefs are inconsistent and
so must be false.
The evidential argument from evil claims that the existence of evil is evidence that
God doesn’t exist.
Which form of the argument from evil is Mackie’s?
What is evil?
•
Evil: any kind of wrongdoing, injustice, pain or suffering.
– Two different kinds of evil:
– Moral evil is wrong or unjust actions by moral agents.
– Natural evil is suffering and pain not caused by agents.
An inconsistent triad
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Three inconsistent beliefs:
– According to Mackie, these three beliefs are inconsistent:
• A. There is an omnibenevolent (I.e. all good) being.
• B. That being is also omnipotent (I.e. all powerful).
• C. There is evil.
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Atheists, of course, reject A and B.
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But what can Theists reject?
Inconsistency
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Inconsistent Propositions:
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A set of propositions is inconsistent iff they can’t all be true at the same time.
How can we show by argument that some propositions are inconsistent?
– We have to use a reductio…
The argument from evil
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The argument from evil:
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1. God is omnibenevolent. (A)
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2. Any omnibenevolent being prevents evil as far as it is able to.
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3. Thus, God prevents evil as far as he is able to. (from 1 & 2)
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4. God is omnipotent. (B)
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5. Any omnipotent being is able to prevent all evil.
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6. Thus, God is able to prevent all evil. (from 4 & 5)
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7. Thus, God prevents all evil. (from 3 & 6)
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8. Thus, there is no evil. (from 7)
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9. But there is evil! (C)
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10. Thus, either A, B or C is false.
Evaluating Mackie’s argument
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Evaluating Mackie’s Argument:
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Is the argument valid?
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What about the premises? Do any seem false?
• Premises 2 and 5?
– 2. Any omnibenevolent being prevents evil as far as it is able to.
– 5. Any omnipotent being is able to prevent all evil.
– Mackie calls these premises ‘quasi-logical rules’.
» They are supposed to clarify the meaning of ‘omnibenevolent’ and
‘omnipotent’.
Possible replies
•
Possible Theist replies to Mackie’s argument?
– He could deny that God is omnipotent or that he is omnibenevolent.
– Or he could deny that evil exists.
– But the Theist wants to really hold all three of these claims doesn’t he?
– Maybe the Theist should deny the 2nd or 5th premises?
• To do so the Theist needs to explain why:
– An omnibenevolent God might allow evil or why
– An omnipotent God might be unable to prevent evil
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Explanations of God’s reasons for allowing (or not preventing) evil are
called Theodicy’s.
Theodicy’s
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The three types of Theodicy's that we will discuss:
– The Means-end Theodicy
• This reply rejects premise 2 by claiming that God uses evil means to bring about
good ends.
– The Higher good Theodicy
• This reply rejects premise 2 by claiming that evil forms part of a pattern that is
good overall.
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The Free Will Theodicy
• This reply rejects premise 5 by claiming God can’t prevent evil outcomes of free
human actions.
Means-end Theodicy
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Means-Ends Theodicy:
– Sometimes evil means are necessary to obtain a good end.
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•
•
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The end justifies the means.
An end:
Means:
Surgery example:
– Good must outweigh evil: But the good end must be good enough to
outweigh the evil means used to get the end.
•
Theists sometimes think that God uses evil to teach us, or to obtain goods he
couldn’t otherwise.
Problems for
the means-end
theodicy
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Objection: God can create any state of affairs he likes since he’s
omnipotent.
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He can just actualize the good end without the evil means…
Objection: the connection between means and ends is a causal one.
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God could have just set up the laws of causation so that evil isn’t necessary to secure
good.
The Higher good
Theodicy
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The Higher Good theodicy:
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evil is a necessary part of a higher good.
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The whole pattern of pain and pleasure constitutes situations in which goods such as
heroism and compassion occur.
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And yet omnibenevolence consists in promoting higher goods, not merely pleasure.
Problems with the
Higher goods theodicy
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If God is out to promote 2nd order goods why doesn’t he prevent 2nd
order evils?
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1st order good and evil & 2nd order goods and evils…
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2nd order evils: cruelty and cowardice…
The Free Will
Theodicy
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The Free Will Theodicy:
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Rejects premise 5
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says that evil is the result of the actions of free creatures such as humans.
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God would like us to freely do good but he can’t force us to do good, for then we
wouldn’t be free.
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We aren’t saying here that evil is a necessary part of freedom of the will…
Mackie’s reply to the
Free will Theodicy
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Mackie’s reply to the free will theodicy:
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comes in the form of a dilemma.
Mackie’s dilemma:
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The either…or… premise offered is this:
• Either it is possible that every free creature only do good or it is impossible.
From either alternative Mackie leads us to the conclusion that either God isn’t
omnipotent or he isn’t omnibenevolent.
Mackie’s dilemma
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Mackie’s dilemma:
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1. Either it is possible that every free creature only do good, or it is impossible.
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2. If it is possible, and God can’t make free creatures only do good, then there is a
possible state of affairs God can’t bring about and so he isn’t omnipotent.
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3. If it is impossible that every free creature only do good, then by creating free will,
God failed to prevent evil and so he isn’t omnibenevolent.
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4. Thus, either God isn’t omnipotent or he isn’t omnibenevolent.
Replies to the
dilemma
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The Theist’s possible replies to Mackie’s dilemma:
– Give up on Theodicy and reject one of the members of the inconsistent
triad.
– Give up on the free will theodicy…
– Reject premise 3 or premise 4 of Mackie’s dilemma.
Rejecting premise
Three
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Questioning premise 3:
– The theist might reject premise 3 by claiming that it is possible that free
creatures do only the good,
– but God can’t force them, because then they wouldn’t be free.
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Mackie’s reply:
– There is a possible state of affairs that God can’t bring about so God isn’t
omnipotent.
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Question: But what is it for God to be omnipotent anyway?
– Maximally powerful…
Omnipotence
• Omnipotence and states of affairs:
– There are many possible states of affairs.
– Only some of the possible states of affairs are actual though.
• Actual state of affairs:
• Possible and not actual:
– An omnipotent being can do anything:
• Means an omnipotent being can actualize, or make actual, any state of
affairs it wants.
The paradox of omnipotence
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Question: Can God make the impossible possible?
A Paradox: Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift?
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Either way, there is something he cannot do…
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Revising our definition of Omnipotence:
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What about this definition of omnipotence:
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A being is omnipotent iff it can bring about any state of affairs that is logically possible.
If we define omnipotence like this then the free will theodicy will work and premise 3 of
Mackie’s dilemma is false.
• Premise 3 is false because:
– It is logically impossible that a creature be free, and yet also be forced to only do good by
God.
– So God is still omnipotent…
But what is free will
anyway?
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Indeterminism:
– According to the Free Will Theodicy, my having free will is incompatible with
God or anyone else determining what I do.
• This view is called Indeterminism.
– That is why God can’t bring it about that I always freely do good.
– But maybe this is an incorrect definition of free will.
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Here is an argument that purports to show that no one has free
will:
– 1. Either my actions are determined by God, society, my upbringing, the
physical states of my body, etc. or they are random.
– 2. If my actions are determined then I don’t have free will.
– 3. If they are random then I don’t have free will.
– 4. Thus, I don’t have free will.
The argument against free will
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If we want the free will theodicy to work we need to show both:
– The argument against free will is unsound &
– Indeterminism about free will is correct.
Last thoughts: Natural Evil
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Redefining Omnipotence:
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Suppose we redefine omnipotence in a way that allows us to reject Mackie’s argument.
A further Question, Natural Evils:
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What about natural evils such as earthquakes or disease?
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How do you suppose the Theist might explain natural evils?
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