The problem of evil C/B grade summary notes


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The logical problem of evil as a version of the problem of evil (Mackie)

  • Mackie argues that an all-powerful God would be able to stop evil and an all-loving God would be motivated to stop evil.
  • Logically, something can’t exist if there’s a being with the power and motivation to eliminate it.
  • So, if evil exists, then God cannot exist.
  • Evil, omnipotence & omnibenevolence form an inconsistent triad – meaning they cannot all exist.

The evidential problem of evil as a version of the problem of evil (Hume or Rowe)

  • Hume puts forward an evidential problem of evil.
  • Hume thinks it is actually logically possible for God and evil to exist.
  • However, evil is evidence against God’s existence.
  • The evidence of evil that we see in the world means belief in God is not justified.
  • There could be a God technically, but the evidence is against it.

Augustine’s theodicy (response to the problem of evil)

  • Augustine says that God allows evil because we deserve it.
  • He says “evil is either sin or punishment for sin”.
  • The ‘fall’ of humanity due to Adam & Eve disobeying God caused original sin – a corruption in human nature giving us an irresistible temptation to sin. This explains moral evil – the evil humans do to each other.
  • As punishment, God banished us from the garden of eden into this fallen world, which explains natural evil – evil resulting from the workings of the natural world e.g. disease and natural disasters.

Augustine vs the logical problem 

  • Original sin violates moral responsibility & incompatibility with omnibenevolence.
  • Criticism of Augustine: how can it be fair for us to be punished for the actions of Adam and Eve? 
  • Their disobedience was not our fault, so it cannot be loving for God to punish us for that.

Evaluation of Augustine vs the logical problem

  • Augustine responds: we aren’t punished for their actions, we are punished because we are sinful beings – because we are born with original sin!

Augustine vs the evidential problem 

  • Criticism of Augustine: there is lots of scientific evidence against the fall – evolution suggests we evolved.
  • The idea that sin is inherited is unscientific nonsense.

Evaluation of Augustine vs the evidential problem

  • Maybe the fall story didn’t happen – but there is still good evidence for original sin – look at how terrible humans are e.g. Nazis.

Irenaeus & Hick’s theodicy (response to the problem of evil)

  • God allows evil because it serves the good purpose of soul-making – character development. 
  • To become good people and deserve heaven, we must choose good over evil.
  • In that case, we need evil in order to become good.
  • E.g. if you see someone suffering from disease, you might become a better person through being more compassionate.
  • So, evil is required for us to be able to develop into good people who deserve to go to heaven.

Irenaeus & Hick vs the logical problem 

  • Criticism of Irenaeus/Hick: Why didn’t God just create us good to begin with..? 
  • This whole process of soul-making is unnecessary and evil.

Evaluation of Irenaeus & Hick vs the logical problem

  • However – Irenaeus/Hick argue God can’t make us good. 
  • A good person is one who has freely chosen good over evil. If God makes us good – then we aren’t really choosing good ourselves, and then we wouldn’t really be good.
  • So, Soul-making is necessary.

Irenaeus & Hick vs the evidential problem

  • Criticism of Irenaeus/Hick: there is lots of evil that does not help soul-making.
  • E.g. a child who dies of cancer – they were too young to understand what was happening, there’s no way that evil helped them become a better person – in fact it prevented that.
  • Some evil is soul-breaking, causing people to become depressed etc – it’s not soul-making.

Evaluation of Irenaeus & Hick vs the evidential problem

  • Maybe other people could have learned lessons from the child dying.
  • E.g. their parents.