the problem of evil john hick essay

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The problem of evil john hick essay georgetown cct thesis

The problem of evil john hick essay

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Could the inductive step in the evidential argument from evil perhaps be of that form? Let us consider, then, whether that view can be sustained. When this is done, the above inference can be compactly represented as follows:. For the reason given, it is not a cogent criticism. But a criticism of type B is entirely proper to advance against any inductive inference of the sort we are considering. Let us consider, then, the relevance of this distinction.

But, by contrast, it is not true that this is so if one rejects, instead, the inference to 1. Compare the situation with a very long conjunction: given any particular conjunct, it may be likely that that conjunct is true, while being very unlikely that every conjunct, and hence the conjunction as a whole, is true.

This is important, moreover, because it is 1 that Rowe needs, since the conclusion that he is drawing does not concern simply the next morally relevant property that someone might consider: conclusion Q asserts, rather, that all further morally relevant properties will lack property J. Such a conclusion about all further cases is much stronger than a conclusion about the next case, and one might well think that in some circumstances a conclusion of the latter sort is justified, but that a conclusion of the former sort is not.

One way of supporting the latter claim is by introducing the idea of logical probability, where logical probability is a measure of the extent to which one proposition supports another Carnap, , 19—51, esp. Is it impossible, then, to justify universal generalizations? The answer is that if laws are more than mere regularities—and, in particular, if they are second-order relations between universals—then the obtaining of a law, and thus of the corresponding regularity, may have a very high probability upon even quite a small body of evidence.

So universal generalizations can be justified, if they obtain in virtue of underlying, governing laws of nature. The question then becomes whether Q expresses a law—or a consequence of a law. If—as seems plausible—it does not, then, although it is true that one in justified in holding, of any given, not yet observed morally relevant property, that it is unlikely to have property J, it may not be the case that it is probable that no goodmaking or rightmaking property has property J.

It may , on the contrary, be probable that there is some morally relevant property that does have property J. This objection could be overcome if one could argue that it is unlikely that there are many unknown goodmaking properties. For if the number is small, then the probability of Q may still be high even if Q does not express a law, or a consequence of a law.

Moreover, I am inclined to think that it may well be possible to argue that it is unlikely that there are many unknown, morally relevant properties. But I also think that it is very likely that any attempt to establish this conclusion would involve some very controversial metaethical claims.

As a consequence, I think that one is justified in concluding that such a line of argument is not especially promising. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , Hume contended that it was not possible to arrive at the conclusion that the world had a perfectly good cause—or a perfectly evil one—starting out simply from a world that consists of a mixture of good and bad states of affairs:. But if this is right, and the hypothesis that the first cause or causes of the universe is neither good nor evil is more probable than the hypothesis that the first cause is perfectly good, then the probability of the latter must be less than one half.

Hume advanced, then, an evidential argument from evil that has a distinctly different logical form from that involved in direct inductive arguments, for the idea is to point to some proposition that is logically incompatible with theism, and then to argue that, given facts about undesirable states of affairs to be found in the world, that hypothesis is more probable than theism, and, therefore, that theism is more likely to be false than to be true. More than two centuries later, Paul Draper, inspired by Hume, set out and defended this type of indirect inductive argument in a very detailed way.

It then follows, provided that the initial probability of T is no greater than that of HI, that T is more likely to be false than to be true. By substitution in 1 , we have:. So far, this is simply a matter of probability theory. But now Draper introduces two substantive claims. The first is that the a priori probability of the hypothesis of indifference is not less than the a priori probability of theism, so that we have. So we have. Finally, Draper assumes as a substantive premise that the hypothesis of indifference is logically incompatible with theism:.

There are various points at which one might respond to this argument. First, it might be argued that the assumption that the hypothesis of indifference is logically incompatible with theism is not obviously true. For might it not be logically possible that there was an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being who created a neutral environment in which evolution could take place in a chancy way, and who afterwards did not intervene in any way?

Draper supports it by arguing that whereas the hypothesis of theism involves some ontological commitment, the Hypothesis of Indifference does not. But, on the other hand, the latter involves a completely universal generalization about the absence of any action upon the earth by any nonhuman persons, of either a benevolent or malevolent sort, and it is far from clear why the prior probability of this being so should be greater than the prior probability of theism.

Nevertheless, the objection does bring out an important point, namely, that the argument as it stands says nothing at all about how much below 0. Fourthly, objections can be directed at the arguments that Draper offers in support of a third substantive premise—namely, that introduced at 6. Some of the objections directed against this premise are less than impressive—and some seem very implausible indeed, as in the case, for example, of Peter van Inwagen, who has to appeal to quite an extraordinary claim about the conditions that one must satisfy in order to claim that a world is logically possible:.

Nevertheless, given that the argument that Draper offers in support of the premise at 6 involves a number of detailed considerations, very careful scrutiny of those arguments would be needed before one could conclude that the premise is justified. Finally, rather than attacking the argument itself, one might instead argue that, while it is sound, the conclusion is not really a significant one.

For what matters is not whether there is some evidence relative to which it is unlikely that theism is true. What matters is whether theism is improbable relative to our total evidence. The question then is whether the appropriate revision of the first substantive premise is plausible.

That is, do we have good reason for thinking that the following statement is true:. A Draper-style argument is one type of indirect inductive argument from evil. It is important to notice, however, that in formulating an indirect inductive argument from evil, one need not proceed along the route that Draper chooses. If one explains the fact that the world contains an impressive mixture of desirable and undesirable states of affairs by the hypothesis that the creator of the world was an omnipotent, omniscient, and indifferent deity, then nothing more needs to be added.

By contrast, if one wants to explain the mixed state of the world by the hypothesis that the creator of the world was an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect deity, one needs to postulate the existence of additional, morally significant properties that lie beyond our ken, and ones, moreover, that are so distributed that the mixed appearance does not correspond to what is really the case.

A theistic explanation is, accordingly, less simple than an indifferent deity explanation, and therefore, provided that one can argue that the a priori probability of the latter hypothesis is not less than that of the former, one can appeal to the greater simplicity of the latter in order to conclude that it has a higher posterior probability than the theistic hypothesis.

It then follows, given that the two hypotheses are logically incompatible, that the probability of the theistic hypothesis must be less than one half. We have just considered the Bayesian-style argument offered by Paul Draper. Let us now turn to another. The latter argument has been vigorously criticized by Plantinga , but Rowe has remained confident that the new argument is sound. Secondly, the object of the argument as a whole is to start out from some probabilistic assumptions, and then to move deductively, using only axioms of probability theory, to the following two conclusions:.

Thirdly, in order to establish the first conclusion, Rowe needs only the following three assumptions:. Fourthly, all three assumptions, interpreted as Rowe does, are surely eminently reasonable. As regards 2 , it certainly seems plausible, assuming that the existence of God is not logically necessary, that there is at least some non-zero probability that God does not exist, given our background knowledge. But one can derive 2 , provided that one is willing to accept the not uncontroversial principle that only necessarily false propositions have a probability equal to zero.

This principle is very plausible if one accepts the idea of infinitesimals. If one does not, one may hold that some contingent propositions have a probability equal to zero. Similarly, 3 also seems plausible, and here too one can derive 3 provided that one is willing to accept the principle that only necessarily false propositions have a probability equal to zero. Given assumptions 1 , 2 , and 3 , how does the argument for the first conclusion go? In outline, one first uses 1 , 2 , and 3 to prove that.

The key starting point is with the following theorem of probability theory Compare Draper, , :. This objection, however, is open to the following reply. The reason that I am justified in believing the proposition that either God does not exist or there is a pen in my pocket is that I am justified in believing that there is a pen in my pocket.

The proposition that either God does not exist or there is a pen in my pocket therefore does not represent the total evidence that I have. In section 3. All of the steps in that argument were deductive, except for the following crucial inference:. Essentially, there are three ways in which one might attempt to defend this inference. One is by treating it as a case of instantial generalization. But as we saw in effect in section 3. A second approach is to view that inductive step as a matter of inference to the best explanation, and this is a more promising possibility.

That approach would lead to an argument of the general form advanced by David Hume and Paul Draper, considered in section. There is, however, a third possibility, which is the focus of the present section. Underlying this approach are two general ideas: the first is that both induction via instantial generalization and inference to the best explanation abduction, the method of hypothesis, hypothetico-deductive method stand in need of justification; the second idea is that at the heart of such a justification will be the defense of an account of logical probability.

The fundamental idea, accordingly, is that the way to determine whether the inductive step that lies at the heart of the evidential argument from evil is sound is by bringing serious inductive logic—understood as a theory of logical probability—to bear upon the question.

What is the appropriate theory of logical probability? But if one holds, as Tooley and does, that governing laws are logically possible, then it is clear that the fundamental equiprobability assumption needs to be formulated in terms of governing laws of nature.

At present, however, no detailed formulation of such an approach to logical probability is available. To establish that the inductive step in the version of the evidential argument from evil set out above is sound requires a rather technical argument in inductive logic. But one can gain an intuitive understanding of the underlying idea in the following way.

Suppose that there is a rightmaking property of which we have no knowledge. If an action of allowing a child to be brutally killed possessed that property, then it might not be wrong to allow that action, depending upon the weightiness of that unknown rightmaking property.

But the existence of unknown rightmaking properties is no more likely, a priori, than of unknown wrongmaking properties. Let us suppose, further, that these two properties are equally weighty, since, a priori, there is no reason for supposing that one is more significant than the other. One can then see that there are the following four possibilities:. The intuitive idea, then, is that if one has an action that, given only its known rightmaking and wrongmaking properties, is an action that it would be morally wrong to perform, then it is more likely than not it is also an action that it would be morally wrong to perform, given the totality of its morally significant properties, both known and unknown.

But what underlies this intuitive idea? The upshot is that given an action that would be morally wrong if judged only by its known morally significant properties, every possibility of a combination of unknown rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that would make that action morally right all things considered would be precisely counterbalanced by a combination of unknown rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that would make that action morally even more wrong, all things considered.

But, in addition, there can be combinations of unknown rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that would move an action in the direction of being morally right all things considered, but not sufficiently far to make it morally right all things considered. Finally, there is the possibility that the action has no unknown morally significant properties. Consequently, if an action is one that it would be morally wrong to perform, if judged only by its known morally significant properties, then it is more likely than not that it is one that it is morally wrong to perform given the totality of its morally significant properties, both known and unknown.

The upshot is that the probabilistic inference that is involved in the move from statement 1 to statement 2 in the argument set out above in section 3. How is the formal calculation carried out? The answer is somewhat complicated, and there are slightly different ways of doing it, as in Tooley and b , with the method used in the latter case being perhaps slightly more perspicuous, but with both methods generating the same result.

The key in both cases, moreover, is to make assumptions that increase the probability that an action that is morally wrong as judged only by its known rightmaking and wrongmaking properties is morally right relative to the totality of its morally significant properties, both known and unknown. In the case where one focuses only upon a single action whose known wrongmaking properties outweigh its known rightmaking properties, the result is as one would expect, namely, that the probability that the action in question is not morally wrong relative to the totality of its morally significant properties, both known and unknown, must be less than one half.

But what is the general result? This approach arguably has two advantages over alternative accounts of the inductive step that lies at the heart of the argument from evil. One is that in bringing in an equiprobability principle, one is approaching the issue at a more fundamental level than any approach that appeals either to instantial generalization or inference to the best explanation.

The other is that this approach generates a result that enables one not just to conclude that it is more likely than not that God does not exist, but also to assign an upper bound to the probability that God exists. The upper bound, moreover, is surely very low indeed, for of the billions of people and sentient non-persons who have existed, the proportion who have had the good fortune never to have suffered in ways such that the known wrongmaking properties of allowing such suffering outweighed the known rightmaking properties must be small.

Given an evidential formulation of the evidential argument from evil, what sorts of responses are possible? A natural way of dividing up possible responses is into what may be referred to as total refutations, theodicies, and defenses. So let us begin by considering what is involved in these three different, general types of responses.

This threefold classification can be arrived at by the following line of thought. An advocate of the argument from evil is claiming, in the first place, that there are facts about the evils in the world that make it prima facie unreasonable to believe in the existence of God, and, in the second place, that the situation is not altered when those facts are conjoined with all the other things that one is justified in believing, both inferentially and non-inferentially, so that belief in the existence of God is also unreasonable relative to the total evidence available, together with all relevant basis states.

In responding to the argument from evil, then, one might challenge either of these claims. Alternatively, one might defend the more radical thesis that there are no facts about evil in the world that make it even prima facie unreasonable to believe in the existence of God. If the latter thesis is correct, the argument from evil does not even get started.

Such responses to the argument from evil are naturally classified, therefore, as attempted, total refutations of the argument. The proposition that relevant facts about evil do not make it even prima facie unreasonable to believe in the existence of God probably strikes most philosophers, of course, as rather implausible. We shall see, however, that a number of philosophical theists have attempted to defend this type of response to the argument from evil. The alternative course is to grant that there are facts about intrinsically undesirable states of the world that make it prima facie unreasonable to believe that God exists, but then to argue that belief in the existence of God is not unreasonable, all things considered.

This response may take, however, two slightly different forms. One possibility is the offering of a complete theodicy. As I shall use that term, this involves the thesis that, for every actual evil found in the world, one can describe some state of affairs that it is reasonable to believe exists, and which is such that, if it exists, will provide an omnipotent and omniscient being with a morally sufficient reason for allowing the evil in question.

Alvin Plantinga a, 10; a, 35 and Robert Adams , use the term in that way, but, as has been pointed out by a number of writers, including Richard Swinburne , , and William Hasker , 5 , that is to saddle the theodicist with an unnecessarily ambitious program. The other possibility is that of offering a defense.

But what is a defense? In the context of abstract, incompatibility versions of the argument from evil, this term is generally used to refer to attempts to show that there is no logical incompatibility between the existence of evil and the existence of God. Such attempts involve setting out a story that entails the existence of both God and evil, and that is logically consistent.

But as soon as one focuses upon evidential formulations of the argument from evil, a different interpretation is needed if the term is to remain a useful one, since the production of a logically consistent story that involves the existence of both God and evil will do nothing to show that evil does not render the existence of God unlikely, or even very unlikely. So what more is required beyond a logically consistent story of a certain sort?

One answer that is suggested by some discussions is that the story needs to be one that is true for all we know. It seems very unlikely, however, that its merely being the case that one does not know that the story is false can suffice, since it may very well be the case that, though one does not know that p is false, one does have very strong evidence that it is.

But if one has strong evidence that a story is false, it is hard to see how the story on its own could possibly counter an evidential argument from evil. It is also hard to see, however, how this can be sufficient either. Suppose, for example, that one tells a story about God and the Holocaust, which is such that if it were true, an omnipotent being would have been morally justified in not preventing the Holocaust.

Suppose, further, that one claims that there is a twenty percent chance that the story is true. A twenty percent chance is certainly a real possibility, but how would that twenty percent chance undermine a version of the argument from evil whose conclusion was that the probability that an omnipotent being would be justified in allowing the Holocaust was very low?

Given the apparent failure of the previous two suggestions, a natural conclusion is that the story that is involved in a defense must be one that is likely to be true. But if this is right, how does a defense differ from a theodicy? The answer is that while a theodicy must specify reasons that would suffice to justify an omnipotent and omniscient being in allowing all of the evils found in the world, a defense need merely show that it is likely that there are reasons which would justify an omnipotent and omniscient being in not preventing the evils that one finds in the world, even if one does not know what those reasons are.

A defense differs from a theodicy, then, in that a defense attempts to show only that some God-justifying reasons probably exist; it does not attempt to specify what they are. There is, however, one final possibility that needs to be considered. This is the idea that what is needed in a defense is not a story that can be shown to be likely to be true, but, rather, a story that, for all we know, is not unlikely.

The thought here is that, even if there is some probability that the story has relative to our evidential base, we may not be able to determine what that probability is, or even any reasonably delimited range in which that probability falls. If so, it cannot be shown that the story is likely to be true, but neither can it be shown that the story is unlikely to be true.

One thought might be that if one can assign no probability to a proposition, one should treat it as equally likely to be true as to be false. But propositions vary dramatically in logical form: some are such as might naturally be viewed as atomic, others are sweeping generalizations, others are complex conjunctions, and so on. If one treated any proposition to which one could not assign a probability as equally likely to be true as to be false, the result would be an incoherent assignment of probabilities.

On the other hand, if one adopts this idea only in the case of atomic propositions, then given that stories that are advanced in defenses and theodicies are typically quite complex, those stories will wind up getting assigned low probabilities, and it is then unclear how they could undercut an inductive argument from evil.

There are at least three main ways in which one might attempt to show that the argument from evil does not succeed in establishing that evil is even prima facie evidence against the existence of God, let alone that the existence of God is improbable relative to our total evidence. The first appeals to human epistemological limitations; the second, to the claim that there is no best of all possible worlds; and the third, to the ontological argument. The most popular attempt at a total refutation of the argument from evil claims that, because of human cognitive limitations, there is no sound inductive argument that can enable one to move from the premise that there are states of affairs that, taking into account only what we know, it would be morally very wrong for an omnipotent and omniscient person to allow to exist, to the conclusion that there are states of affairs such that it is likely that, all things considered, it would be morally very wrong for an omnipotent and omniscient person to allow those states of affairs to exist.

The appeal to human cognitive limitations does raise a very important issue, and we have seen that one very natural account of the logical form of the inductive step in the case of a direct inductive argument is not satisfactory. But, as we have seen in sections 3. Secondly, the appeal to human cognitive limitations provides no reason at all for rejecting the version of the argument from evil that appeals to fundamental equiprobability principles of inductive logic, principles that arguably must obtain if any sort of induction is ever justified.

Short of embracing compete inductive skepticism, then, it would seem that an appeal to human cognitive limitations cannot provide an answer to evidential versions of the argument from evil. A second way of attempting to show that the argument from evil does not even get started is by appealing to the proposition that there is no best of all possible worlds.

Here the basic idea is that if for every possible world, however good, there is a better one, then the fact that this world could be improved upon does not give one any reason for concluding that, if there is an omnipotent and omniscient being, that being cannot be morally perfect. This response to the argument from evil has been around for quite a while.

The natural response to this attempt to refute the argument from evil was set out very clearly some years ago by Nicholas La Para and Haig Khatchadourian among others, and it has been developed in an especially forceful and detailed way in an article by Keith Chrzan The basic thrust of this response is that the argument from evil, when properly formulated in a deontological fashion, does not turn upon the claim that this world could be improved upon, or upon the claim that it is not the best of all possible worlds: it turns instead upon the claim that there are good reasons for holding that the world contains evils, including instances of suffering, that it would be morally wrong, all things considered, for an omnipotent and omniscient being to allow.

As a consequence, the proposition that there might be better and better worlds without limit is simply irrelevant to the argument from evil, properly formulated. If one accepts a deontological approach to ethics, this response seems decisive. For assume that the following things are true:.

Then it follows that it is impossible for an omnipotent and omniscient being to perform a morally wrong action, and therefore that the failure of such a being to prevent various evils in this world cannot be morally wrong. Consider an omnipotent and omniscient being that creates a world with zillions of innocent persons, all of whom endure extraordinarily intense suffering forever. If 1 , 2 , and 3 are right, then such a being does not do anything morally wrong.

But this conclusion, surely, is unacceptable, and so if a given version of consequentialism entails this conclusion, then that form of consequentialism must be rejected. Can consequentialism avoid this conclusion? Can it be formulated in such a way that it entails the conclusion that allowing very great, undeserved suffering is morally very different, and much more serious, than merely refraining from creating as many happy individuals as possible, or merely refraining from creating individuals who are not as ecstatically happy as they might be?

If it cannot, then it would seem that the correct conclusion to draw is that consequentialism is unsound. A final way in which one could attempt to show that facts about evil cannot constitute even prima facie evidence against the existence of God is by appealing to the ontological argument. Relatively few philosophers have held, of course, that the ontological argument is sound.

But there have certainly been notable exceptions—such as Anselm and Descartes, and, in the last century, Charles Hartshorne , Norman Malcolm , and Alvin Plantinga a, b. If the ontological argument were sound, it would provide a rather decisive refutation of the argument from evil. For in showing not merely that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being, but also that it is necessary that such a being exists, it would entail that the proposition that God does not exist must have probability zero on any body of evidence whatever.

The only question, accordingly, is whether the ontological argument is sound. The vast majority of present-day philosophers believe that it is not, and one way of arguing for that view is by appealing to strengthened Gaunilo-type objections—where the idea behind a strengthened Gaunilo-type objection is that, rather than merely paralleling the ontological argument, as Gaunilo did in responding to Anselm, in order to show that there is an overpopulation problem for reality in the form of perfect islands, perfect unicorns, and so on, one can instead construct versions that lead to mutually incompatible conclusions, such as the conclusion that there is a perfect solvent, together with the conclusion that there is a perfectly insoluble substance Tooley, But if the logical form of the ontological argument is such that arguments of precisely the same form generate contradictions, then the ontological argument must be unsound.

A more satisfying response to the ontological argument would, of course, show not merely that the ontological argument is unsound, but also precisely why it is unsound. Such a response, however, requires a satisfactory account of the truth conditions of modal statements—something that lies outside the scope of this article. In this section, we shall consider three attempts to show that it is reasonable to believe that every evil is such that an omnipotent and omniscient person would have a morally sufficient reason for not preventing its existence, even if one is not able to say, in every case, what that morally sufficient reason might be.

Theists, however, have often contended that there are a variety of arguments that, even if they do not prove that God exists, provide positive evidence. May not this positive evidence outweigh, then, the negative evidence of apparently unjustified evils? Starting out from this line of thought, a number of philosophers have gone on to claim that in order to be justified in asserting that there are evils in the world that establish that it is unlikely that God exists, one would first have to examine all of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, and show that none of them is sound.

Now it is certainly true that if one is defending a version of the argument from evil that supports only a probabilistic conclusion, one needs to consider what sorts of positive reasons might be offered in support of the existence of God. But Plantinga and Reichenbach are advancing a rather stronger claim here, for they are saying that one needs to look at all of the traditional theistic arguments, such as the cosmological and the teleological.

They are claiming, in short, that if one of those arguments turned out to be defensible, then it might well serve to undercut the argument from evil. But this view seems mistaken. Consider the cosmological argument. In some versions, the conclusion is that there is an unmoved mover. In others, that there is a first cause.

In others, that there is a necessary being, having its necessity of itself. None of these conclusions involves any claims about the moral character of the entity in question, let alone the claim that it is a morally perfect person. But in the absence of such a claim, how could such arguments, even if they turned out to be sound, serve to undercut the argument from evil?

The situation is not essentially different in the case of the argument from order, or in the case of the fine-tuning argument. For while those arguments, if they were sound, would provide grounds for drawing some tentative conclusion concerning the moral character of the designer or creator of the universe, the conclusion in question would not be one that could be used to overthrow the argument from evil.

For given the mixture of good and evil that one finds in the world, the argument from order can hardly provide support even for the existence of a designer or creator who is very good, let alone one who is morally perfect.

So it is very hard to see how any teleological argument, any more than any cosmological, could overturn the argument from evil. A similar conclusion can be defended with respect to other arguments, such as those that appeal to purported miracles, or religious experiences.

So, contrary to the claim advanced by Robert Adams , , even if there were veridical religious experiences, they would not provide one with a satisfactory defense against the argument from evil. A good way of underlining the basic point here is by setting out an alternative formulation of the argument from evil in which it is granted, for the sake of argument, that there is an omnipotent and omniscient person.

The result of doing this is that the conclusion at which one initially arrives is not that there is no omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person, but rather that, although there is an omnipotent and omniscient person, that person is not morally perfect, from which it then follows that that there is no omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person. When the argument from evil is reformulated in that way, it becomes clear that the vast majority of considerations that have been offered as reasons for believing in God can be of little assistance to the person who is trying to resist the argument from evil.

For most of them provide, at best, very tenuous grounds for any conclusion concerning the moral character of any omnipotent and omniscient being who may happen to exist, and almost none of them provides any support for the hypothesis that there is an omnipotent and omniscient being who is also morally perfect. The ontological argument is, of course, a notable exception, and, consequently, the advocate of the argument from evil certainly needs to be able to show that it is unsound.

But almost all of the other standard arguments are simply not to the point. What if, rather than holding that there is positive evidence that lends support to the existence of God, one holds instead that the belief that God exists is non-inferentially justified? The claim in question is an interesting one, and a thorough evaluation of it would involve consideration of some deep issues in epistemology.

Fortunately, it does not seem to make any real difference in the present context whether or not the claim is true. The reason emerges if one considers the epistemology of perception. But direct realists as much as indirect realists admit that there can be cases where a person would be justified in believing that a certain physical state of affairs obtained were it not for the fact that he has good evidence that he is hallucinating, or else subject to perceptual illusion.

Moreover, given evidence of the relevant sort, it makes no difference whether direct realism is true, or indirect realism: the belief in question is undermined to precisely the same extent in either case. The situation is the same in the case of religious experience. Swinburne , —8 argued in support of the conclusion that theism does need a theodicy.

In doing so, however, he noted one minor qualification—namely, that if one could show, for a sufficiently impressive range of evils that initially seemed problematic, that it was likely that an omnipotent and omniscient person would be morally justified in not having prevented them, then one might very well be justified in believing that the same would be true of other evils, even if one could not specify, in those other cases, what the morally sufficient reason for allowing them might be.

What Swinburne says here is surely very reasonable, and I can see no objection in principle to a defense of this sort. The problem with it is that no theodicy that has ever been proposed has been successful in the relevant way—that is, there is no impressive range of undesirable states of affairs where people initially think that the wrongmaking properties of allowing such states of affairs to exist greatly outweigh any rightmaking properties associated with doing so, but where, confronted with some proposed theodicy, people come to believe that it would be morally permissible to allow such states of affairs to exist.

Indeed, it is hard to find any such cases, let alone an impressive range. What are the prospects for a complete, or nearly complete theodicy? Others, including many theists, are much less hopeful. Plantinga, for example remarks:. What types of theodicies that have been proposed? An exhaustive survey is not possible here, but among the most important are theodicies that appeal, first, to the value of acquiring desirable traits of character in the face of suffering; secondly, to the value of libertarian free will; thirdly, to the value of the freedom to inflict horrendous evils upon others; and fourthly, to the value of a world that is governed by natural laws.

One very important type of theodicy, championed especially by John Hick, involves the idea that the evils that the world contains can be seen to be justified if one views the world as designed by God to be an environment in which people, through their free choices, can undergo spiritual growth that will ultimately fit them for communion with God:. Is this theodicy satisfactory? There are a number of reasons for holding that it is not. First, what about the horrendous suffering that people undergo, either at the hands of others—as in the Holocaust—or because of terminal illnesses such as cancer?

One writer—Eleonore Stump—has suggested that the terrible suffering that many people undergo at the ends of their lives, in cases where it cannot be alleviated, is to be viewed as suffering that has been ordained by God for the spiritual health of the individual in question b, More generally, there seems to be no reason at all why a world must contain horrendous suffering if it is to provide a good environment for the development of character in response to challenges and temptations.

The world could perfectly well have contained only human persons, or only human persons plus herbivores. Thirdly, the soul-making theodicy also provides no account of the suffering that young, innocent children endure, either because of terrible diseases, or at the hands of adults. For here, as in the case of animals, there is no soul-making purpose that is served.

It is very hard to see that it would. Some people die young, before they have had any chance at all to master temptations, to respond to challenges, and to develop morally. Others endure suffering so great that it is virtually impossible for them to develop those moral traits that involve relationships with others.

Still others enjoy lives of ease and luxury where there is virtually nothing that challenges them to undergo moral growth. A second important approach to theodicy involves the following ideas: first, that libertarian free will is of great value; secondly, that because it is part of the definition of libertarian free will that an action that is free in that sense cannot be caused by anything outside of the agent, not even God can cause a person to freely do what is right; and thirdly, that because of the great value of libertarian free will, it is better that God create a world in which agents possess libertarian free will, even though they may misuse it, and do what is wrong, than that God create a world where agents lack libertarian free will.

One problem with an appeal to libertarian free will is that no satisfactory account of the concept of libertarian free will is yet available. Thus, while the requirement that, in order to be free in the libertarian sense, an action not have any cause that lies outside the agent is unproblematic, this is obviously not a sufficient condition, since this condition would be satisfied if the behavior in question were caused by random events within the agent. So one needs to add that the agent is, in some sense, the cause of the action.

But how is the causation in question to be understood? Present accounts of the metaphysics of causation typically treat causes as states of affairs. If, however, one adopts such an approach, then it seems that all that one has when an action is freely done, in the libertarian sense, is that there is some uncaused mental state of the agent that causally gives rise to the relevant behavior, and why freedom, thus understood, should be thought valuable, is far from clear.

But then the question is whether there is any satisfactory account of causation where causation is not a relation between states of affairs. But even if the difficulty concerning the nature of libertarian free will is set aside, there are still very strong objections to the free-will approach. First, and most important, the fact that libertarian free will is valuable does not entail that one should never intervene in the exercise of libertarian free will.

Indeed, very few people think that one should not intervene to prevent someone from committing rape or murder. On the contrary, almost everyone would hold that a failure to prevent heinously evil actions when one can do so would be seriously wrong.

Secondly, the proposition that libertarian free will is valuable does not entail that it is a good thing for people to have the power to inflict great harm upon others. So individuals could, for example, have libertarian free will, but not have the power to torture and murder others.

Thirdly, many evils are caused by natural processes, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and other weather conditions, and by a wide variety of diseases. Such evils certainly do not appear to result from morally wrong actions. If that is right, then an appeal to free will provides no answer to an argument from evil that focuses upon such evils. Some writers, such as C. Lewis and Alvin Plantinga, have suggested that such evils may ultimately be due to the immoral actions of supernatural beings Lewis, , —3; Plantinga, a, If that were so, then the first two objections mentioned above would apply: one would have many more cases where individuals were being given the power—much greater than the power that any human has—to inflict great harm on others, and then were being allowed by God to use that power to perform horrendously evil actions leading to enormous suffering and many deaths.

In addition, however, it can plausibly be argued that, though it is possible that earthquakes, hurricanes, cancer, and the predation of animals are all caused by malevolent supernatural beings, the probability that this is so is extremely low. The fact that agents could be free in a libertarian sense even if they did not have the power to inflict great harm upon others has led at least one philosopher—namely, Richard Swinburne—to argue that, while free will is valuable, precisely how valuable it is depends upon the range of actions open to one.

This variant on the appeal to libertarian free will is also open to a number of objections. First, as with free will theodicies in general, this line of thought provides no justification for the existence of occurrences that not only appear, upon cursory inspection, to be natural evils, uncaused by any agents, but where, in addition, the very closest scientific examination supports the conclusion that there are no grounds for postulating anything beyond purely physical events as the causes of the occurrences in question.

Secondly, if what matters is simply the existence of alternative actions that differ greatly in moral value, this can be the case even in a world where one lacks the power to inflict great harm on others, since there can be actions that, rather than inflicting great suffering on others, would instead benefit others enormously, and which one could either perform or intentionally refrain from performing. Thirdly, what exactly is the underlying line of thought here?

In the case of human actions, Swinburne surely holds that one should prevent someone from doing something that would be morally horrendous, if one can do so. But why should this be so? One answer might be that if one intervened too frequently, people would come to believe that they did not have the ability to perform such actions.

But, in the first place, it is not clear why that would be undesirable. People could still, for example, be thoroughly evil, for they could still very much wish that they had the power to perform such terrible actions, and be disposed to perform such actions if they ever came to have the power.

In the second place, prevention of deeply evil actions could take quite different forms. People could, for example, be given a conscience that led them, when they had decided to cause great injury to others, and were about to do so, to feel that what they were about to do was too terrible a thing, so that they would not carry through on the action.

In such a world, people could surely still feel that they themselves were capable of performing heinously evil actions, and they would contemplate performing such actions, but in the end their sense of the great wrongness of the actions would triumph over their selfish reasons for wanting to perform the actions in question. This type of theodicy is also exposed to serious objections.

First of all, the occasional occurrence of miraculous intervention, including events that clearly appeared contrary to natural laws, would not render effective human action impossible, since humans would see that such miraculous occurrences were extremely rare. Secondly, and relatedly, consider a world where the laws of physics, rather than being laws that admit of no exceptions, are instead probabilistic laws. Effective human action would still be possible in such a world, provided that the relevant probabilities were sufficiently high.

But if so, then effective human action would be no less possible in a world with non-statistical laws where there were occasional miraculous interventions. Thirdly, many of the greatest evils could have been prevented by miraculous interventions that would not have been detected. Consider, for example, interventions to prevent natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, or earthquakes, including the earthquake in China in that killed around , people, or tsunamis, such as the one in that hit 12 Asian countries, and killed over , people.

Or consider the interventions that would be needed to prevent pandemics, such as the Black Death in the Middle Ages, which is estimated to have killed between 75 million and million people, or the flu pandemic, which killed between 50 million and million people.

Similarly, consider great moral evils, such as the Holocaust. Fourthly, what natural evils a world contains depends not just on the laws, but also on the initial, or boundary conditions. Thus, for example, an omnipotent being could create ex nihilo a world which had the same laws of nature as our world, and which contained human beings, but which was devoid of non-human carnivores. Or the world could be such that there was unlimited room for populations to expand, and ample natural resources to support such populations.

Fifthly, many evils depend upon precisely what laws the world contains. An omnipotent being could, for example, easily create a world with the same laws of physics as our world, but with slightly different laws linking neurophysiological states with qualities of experiences, so that extremely intense pains either did not arise, or could be turned off by the sufferer when they served no purpose.

Or additional physical laws of a rather specialized sort could be introduced that would either cause very harmful viruses to self-destruct, or prevent a virus such as the avian flu virus from evolving into an air-born form that has the capacity to kill hundreds of million people.

Finally, this theodicy provides no account of moral evil. But, as we have seen, no satisfactory justification appears to be available. The four types of theodicies considered so far all appeal to beliefs and evaluative claims that the theodicist thinks should be acceptable, upon careful reflection, to anyone, including those who are not religious.

Of course, if the religious beliefs to which one appeals, taken together, entail the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person, such a theodicy would be question-begging. But one can choose a subset that, even if it entails the existence of a very powerful and knowledgeable creator—or even an omnipotent and omniscient one—does not entail the existence of God.

There are many religions, and even within a given religion, very significant differences in the religious beliefs of people, and very different beliefs to which one might appeal, so there are many different religious theodicies that can be constructed. Here I shall focus only on one general type.

I think, however, that it will illustrate the kinds of objections that arise. For process theism,. In process theism God is primarily persuasive, creating more indirectly by providing the lure for each occasion whereby it can create itself. Ford, The lure of God , It is not that freedom is something that God allows, but rather that freedom just is. Contrary to this, Omnipotence allows God to be all-powerful, but God chooses to limit his power for free will to emerge.

This is deeply problematic as has already been discussed. Omnipotence in the soul-making sense, although at first blush appearing superior to the free will defense, seems to make the universe into a giant torture chamber to achieve a specific goal. Again, as noted earlier, this raises deeply troubling issues. Process theodicies are able to sidestep this by doing away with omnipotence all together. Cobb and Griffin note that:. This absolves God to some extent from direct responsibility for certain evil events, as even God is surprised by events that unfold.

This refashioning of omniscience and omnipotence from a process perspective deals with the problem of evil in a way that neither the free will, or soul-making response to the problem of evil, can. The free will and soul-making responses to the problem of evil provide different, yet in some manner not too dissimilar ways, of dealing with the problem of evil. The free will response prizes free will as of such significance that evil is allowed and permitted by God regardless of the potential cost.

In his proposal of a people-making response, God creates a world where people are potentially formed towards the likeness with God. Camus and Dostoyevsky raise the specter of this kind of God as deeply troubling. A process theodicy deals with the problems of both the free will and soul-making response by its rejection of omnipotence and omniscience. God would never allow or willingly condone suffering to achieve any given outcome, whether in this world or a world to come. God works with what God has, and does so in a persuasive and non-coercive manner.

This approach requires us to get off the Omnibus that colors so much of traditional theodicies, such as the free will and soul-making responses. This essay started in affirming the importance that discussions regarding theodicy do not remain abstractions, but address the concrete reality of suffering and evil. Those who are from the Christian tradition, and for whom belief in God is important, we should not accept the easy answers that the free will response seeks to offer up.

In requires us to get off the omnibus and embrace a God whose power is persuasive and not coercive. It requires us to get off the omnibus and embrace a God for whom the future is open, who moves with us through each moment and its attended risks. Augustine, Aurelius. The City of God. New York: Doubleday, Search in Google Scholar. Camus, Albert, The Rebel. Penguin: Middlesex, Dostoyevsky, Foydor. The Brothers Karamazov. London: Penguin, Dombrowski, Daniel. Dunne, Carl.

Evans, C. Stephen and R. Zachary Manis. Philosophy of Religion: thinking about faith. Downers Grove: IVP, Lewis, C. The problem of Pain. London: Centenary Press, A Grief observed. New York: Harper One, Griffin, David. Evil Revisited: responses and considerations. Panentheism and Scientific Naturalism.

Claremont: Process Century Press, Hartshorne, Charles. Omnipotence and other theological mistakes. Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. Norfolk: Collins, Tessin eds , Religion without transcendence? New York: Palgrave, Hume, David. Dialogues concerning natural religion. United States: Hackett, Jonas, Hans. Jung, Carl. Answer to Job. New York: Bollingen, Kaufman, Whitley. Keller, Catherine. On the mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process.

Minneapolis: Fortress, Mackie, John. Matilal, Bimal. Journal of Indian Philosophy 20 , — McCord Adams, Marilyn. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Rowe, William. In Philosophy of Religion: an introduction edited by William Rowe, 98—, Swinburne, Richard.

In Philosophy of religion: an anthology , edited by C Taliaferro, P. J Griffiths, Malden: Blackwell publishing, 51—57, Trakakis, Nick. Sophia 47 , — Van Inwagen, Peter. Weisel, Ellie. Your documents are now available to view. Confirm Cancel.

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