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Notes on Rowe's Philosophy of Religion, Ch. 7: "The Problem of Evil", Part One

Notes on Rowe’s Ch. 7 – The Problem of Evil, Part One

0. Preliminaries:
0.1 The basic idea: There is a massive amount of evil in the world. But, at least on the face of it, this can’t be if the God of classical theism exists. For such a being would want to prevent evil (since he’s supposed to be perfectly good), and would be capable of preventing evil (since he’s supposed to be all-knowing and all-powerful). Therefore, the existence of evil is powerful evidence that the God of theism does not exist.
0.2 Kinds of evil
0.2.1 moral evil: “person against person” evil: murder, theft, dishonesty, etc.
0.2.2 natural evil: suffering caused by nature: people killed by hurricanes, animals killed by a forest fire, diseases, etc.
0.3 Versions of the problem of evil
0.3.1 the logical problem of evil
0.3.1.1 this version is a deductive argument
0.3.1.2 it attempts to show that the existence of God is logically incompatible the existence of evil – the existence of either one entails that the other one doesn’t exist
0.3.1.3 it implies that such a God wouldn’t allow even a single instance of evil, no matter how insignificant
0.3.2 the evidential problem of evil
0.3.2.1 this version is an inductive argument
0.3.2.2 it attempts to show that the existence of evil makes it improbable that God exists
0.3.2.3 it allows that some evil – perhaps a good deal of evil – is compatible with the existence of God

1. The logical problem of evil
1.1 statement of the argument:

1. If an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good God exists, then evil does not exist.
2. It’s not the case that evil does not exist.
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3. Therefore, it’s not the case that an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God exists.

1.2 key criticism of the argument: Premise (1) looks to be false:
1.2.1 at least some evil is compatible with God’s existence, viz., evil that is logically necessary to achieve a greater good
1.2.1.1 for example, perhaps free will is a great good -- so good that it’s worth creating free creatures even if they cause a good deal of evil
1.2.1.2 now suppose it turns out that no matter which people God could have created, they each would have performed at least one morally wrong action
1.2.1.3 if so, then if God creates free creatures, his hands are tied – he can’t prevent evil while at the same time preserving their free will
1.2.1.4 now suppose that a world with free creatures is better than any world without them
1.2.1.5 suppose further that God is obligated to create the best world he can
1.2.1.6 then God should create that world, even if it contains evil
1.2.1.7 given this story, it follows that God’s existence is compatible with the existence of evil
1.2.2 therefore, the logical problem of evil is a failure

2. The evidential problem of evil
2.1 pointless evil: evil that could’ve been prevented without thereby preventing an outweighing good or causing another evil just as bad or worse
2.1.1 example #1: a fawn dying a slow, agonizing death due to a forest fire
2.1.2 example #2: a young, innocent child being kidnapped and horribly tortured to death
2.2 statement of the argument

1. Probably, there are pointless evils.
2. If God exists, then there are no pointless evils.
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3. Probably, God does not exist.

2.3 one response to the evidential problem of evil: Wykstra’s “skeptical theism”
2.3.1 the basis of premise (1) of the evidential problem of evil is that no good that we can think of would justify God in allowing certain evils (cf. the “dog/fleas” illustration)
2.3.2 but if God is as knowledgeable and intelligent as theists claim he is – viz., he has unlimited knowledge and maximal intelligence -- then we would expect that many of God’s reasons for his actions are wise and good, yet forever beyond our comprehension.
2.3.3 if so, then the mere fact that we can’t think of a good reason for why God allows horrendous evils is a weak reason for thinking that there is no good reason
2.3.4 thus, the basis for accepting premise (1) is bad, in which case the evidential problem of evil is unconvincing
2.3.5 Wykstra’s “parent” analogy
2.4 Rowe’s criticism of the skeptical theist’s response:
2.4.1 Wykstra’s skeptical theism goes a decent way toward explaining why we shouldn’t be surprised to be baffled by horrendous evil if God exists.
2.4.2 however, his “parent” analogy has serious problems
2.4.2.1 the main problem is that if we take the analogy seriously, then like normal parents, a good God would assure us of his presence and goodness when we are suffering horribly
2.4.2.2 but lots of theists attest that God remains “hidden” from them during their darkest hour, even during torture and death
2.4.2.3 both theists and non-theists alike admit that the hiddenness of God during times of intense suffering is a real challenge to their faith

Comments

M said…
Damn Exapologist,

This blog is so much more rich and interesting than the soft-minded, Christianist tripe over at "Fides Querens Intellectum" or the "Prosblogion" blogs.
exapologist said…
Thanks for the kind words, M!

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