Skip to main content

Notes: Hume's Version of the Problem of Evil in Part X of the Dialogues

-The usual, natural way in which people come to belief in God: they seek refuge from the unrelenting misery and uncertainty in the world in a Being that transcends it, hoping for relief from it in this life and an afterlife.

-The “War of Nature”: the whole realm of biological organisms is at war, competing with each other to survive.

-Humans can escape much of this war by combining to form societies, and thus protect themselves against it.

-However, once they escape it in this way, they immediately create new forms of misery.

-the misery they create with superstitious beliefs

-the misery of interpersonal conflict

-Furthermore, there are other forms of misery that the human race can’t escape:

-psychological misery: remorse, shame, fear, anxiety, etc.

-misery from mental and physical sickness and disease

-These forms of misery are constant and universal

-Furthermore, all of the goods that life has to offer combined barely make life worth living

-And the lack of any one of them makes life unhappy

-Even the best things that the world has to offer aren’t very interesting or enjoyable – at least not for any significant amount of time

-proof that everyone is miserable: when someone is asked if they would live the last twenty years of their life over again, they almost always say “No”.

-Objection: People can’t be that miserable, for if they were, they would commit suicide to escape it.

-Reply: No. They don’t commit suicide because, although they are miserable, they are more afraid of death

-Even a life of retreat from the world is miserable. For then one is confronted with the miseries of boredom, languishing, and regret.

-Thus, the misery of the world is inescapable.

-But if so, then if one were to take an honest look at the world – a world in which there is a war of nature, constant, universal, inescapable misery, and in which the good things in life provide no deep and lasting satisfaction or enjoyment -- they must admit that this isn’t the world that they would expect the God of theism to create.

-But if not, then it is improbable that such a God exists

-A better hypothesis: whoever or whatever is responsible for the world’s existence is indifferent to our welfare.

-Its only goal is the bare propagation and preservation of the species.

-For nature accomplishes no other end, such as human or animal happiness

-Even on the few occasions that it does, it appears so briefly and infrequently that it appears to be either an accidental byproduct of nature, or perhaps a begrudging allowance to ensure that the species are propagated and preserved.

We can use the logical machinery employed in the fine-tuning design argument to characterize Hume's argument here:

Data (D): A world in which there is a war of nature, constant, universal, inescapable misery, and in which the good things in life provide no deep and lasting satisfaction or enjoyment.

H1: D is due to an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God.
H2: D is due to causes that are indifferent to our welfare.

1. We'd expect D if H2 were true.
2. We wouldn't expect D if H1 were true.
3. If we'd expect D if H2 were true, but we wouldn't expect D if H1 were true, then H2 is more probable than H1.
4. Therefore, H2 is more probable than H1.


Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…