Nathan Hanna on the Logical Problem of Evil

Nathan Hanna (Lawrence University) is currently working on a version of the logical problem of evil that is immune to Plantinga's Free Will Defense. Here is the link to the current draft ("Resurrecting the Logical Problem of Evil").


stevec said...

I'd be curious to know what you think of the notion of free will. By my estimation, best I can tell, the entire concept of free will is simply incoherent. it makes no sense whether you grant a purely materialistic universe or whether you grant a universe with supernatural elements. Free will, if it exists, has to work *some how*, and any means of explaining it seems to at the same time, destroy it. I come to think free will cannot exist. It is a fundamentally incoherent concept. Any defense relying on it is fundamentally incoherent, or redefines free will to limit it in some way that essentially destroys the properties most people associate with the words "free will."

exapologist said...

Hi Stevec:

I've co-authored a paper defending Frankfurt-counterexamples to PAP that's forthcoming in PPR, so think some form of compatibilism is plausible. I'm inclined to accept something like John Martin Fischer's version of semi-compatibilism, although I have no settled view on the matter.

AIGBusted said...

I agree with SteveC.

Also, I have to say that I did not find Hanna's paper all that convincing. Seems very weak to me.

exapologist said...

Hi AIGBusted,

You two certainly have interesting views on free will (or the lack thereof)! Hard determinists are growing in numbers among philosophers, though (e.g., Smilanski, Double, Pereboom, etc.), and do I flirt with it on occasion. Pereboom makes a decent case that not much would be lost, should hard determinism turn out to be true (he holds to a version he calls "hard incompatiblism").

About Hanna's paper: I'm still thinking about his paper, but I'd be happy to hear your concerns about his argument.


Chad said...

It seems to me that Hanna’s argument stands or falls on the notion of “control.” Unfortunately Hanna doesn’t say much about this. A free will defender might be a molinist, in which case there is a relevant sense in which the actions of free agents are within God’s complete control: God chose to create a world in which agents act freely in the circumstances God knew they would. Moreover, the actual world could be a world, perhaps the only world, where the securing of G would have optimal consequences: say, a world in which God’s divinely inspired message is freely dispersed and, as a result, as most as possible are saved and as few as possible are lost. Therefore, if molinism is true, it is false that God is not as morally praiseworthy as he would have been had he not eliminated E while securing G.

Mysterium Tremendum said...


What about this. The existence of evil and suffering is not incoherent with a good God of grace. Grace is unmerrited favor. Sinners don't deserve it. In fact nothing in creation has done anything to earn it so nothing in creation deserves it. God is therefore under no obligation to be merciful to His creation. If He witholds grace and allows evil and suffering He does nothing wrong. This is the Divine Prerogative. God reserves the right to have mercy on whomever and whatever He pleases. Whether it's common grace that falls on all creation or saving grace that brings us into a relationship with Him God cannot be said to be unjust for allowing evil and suffering.

Let me put it to you this way:

Before evil entered the world animals, along with humans, experienced God's grace not as a response to their demerit but still without deserving it. You cannot deserve as a non-being, to be created and put on this earth to have all your needs met by God. So, before evil entered the world the animals as well as humans lived on grace. Grace is something that not even the animals deserve. Grace is unmerited favor and therefore, God is never obligated to treat animals or humans with any kind of grace, whether it's common grace or saving grace. If He was it wouldn't be grace. So, God does nothing wrong by withholding grace. The charge of injustice on God's part can't even arise for allowing evil and suffering because we are talking about grace. Again, God is never obligated to show grace. For grace to be grace it must be freely given. So, when God allows humans and animals to suffer He does nothing wrong.

The existence of evil and suffering cannot be said to be incoherent with a God of grace.

I realize this is rather simple but what do you think?

Have I went wrong somewhere?

TKD said...


IMHO, it looks like the main trouble with your account is that it seems consistent with *both* a supremely good and supremely evil god. That is, it looks like if we define 'grace' as 'unmerited favor', then a supremely evil God is certainly capable of having it. If such is the case, then I don't see how the question of 'grace' even enters into the question of the compatibility of evil with the traditional theistic God.

However, while I'm not (yet) entirely convinced of Hanna's conclusion, I definitely enjoyed the original attempt. Certainly an interesting idea!

Mysterium Tremendum said...


I'm not sure I see what you are saying. Since God does nothing wrong by witholding common grace then He remains good. How is what I said consistent with an evil God? How did you come to this conclusion?

The assumption in the arguments from evil and suffering that I have read is that God is obligated to be gracious to His creation. I think the thing that is being overlooked here is that if grace is obligated it is no longer grace. The very essence of grace is that it is undeserved. It's unmerited favor. The God I'm talking about always reserves the the right to have mercy on whomever and whatever He pleases.

Maybe the traditional theistic God doesn't exist.

TKD said...


It's possible that I may be misunderstanding you, but let me go through my thought process to see if I get what you're getting at and perhaps explain myself a bit clearer.

You have defined 'grace' as 'unmerited favor', then I completely agree that a graceful god does nothing wrong in withholding that which is unmerited. But, it seems to me that favor, unmerited or not, has nothing to do with the goodness of a god. That is, it seems reasonable that an evil god can both show and refuse to show unmerited favor (grace) toward their creations. (And I'll certainly grant this for a good god for the sake of argument). So, I think there's something defective in your definition of grace if you're wanting grace to only be an attribute of a good god and not be a possible attribute of an evil god.

And as far as the problem of evil goes, the premise of the argument isn't that God is somehow obliged to give unmerited favor to his creation. I'm not even sure how that would even make sense. Rather, the premise typically has something to do with the moral conception that preventable evil ought to be prevented by those who are willing and able to prevent it. Thus, the POE isn't saying that god must provide *unmerited favor*. Rather, the POE is only asking that a good god act morally. It seems strange to think that moral obligations are somehow unmerited, and it's a misreading of the POE to take it as assuming such is the case.


Let me know if you find back-and-forth dialog such as this on your posts rude in any way as I don't intend to be.

Mysterium Tremendum said...


When God gives His common grace He does something good. Grace is getting something good that we don't deserve.

Since grace is unmerited favor then God does nothing wrong by witholding it and therefore He remains good. He's not evil at all.

An evil God doesn't have the atribute of being gracious. How could He?

I don't see how an evil God can have the attribute of being gracious.

TKD said...


It wasn't a part of your definition of grace, which was the giving of unmerited favor, that such an action was necessarily good. If you're assuming that such is the case, then it seems that you're in need of an additional premise or a tweak of definition. But this is IMHO and really beside the point.

But in any case, my previous point was supposed to be chiefly related to the POE and was supposed to point out how the given definition of grace doesn't have much to bear on the POE as moral obligation doesn't seem to be unmerited, nor does it seem to be a kind of favor. Rather it is, supposedly, a kind of moral duty which is categorical. So, unless the definition of grace can be made such as to actually bear on the POE, it doesn't seem to really be relevant or useful in the current context, regardless of what kinds of gods can potentially possess it.

Mysterium Tremendum said...


I think I understand what you are saying. If God had evil intentions in giving grace and witholding grace then the action would be evil correct?

How about this. God has good intentions in giving and witholding grace. When He witholds it He does nothing wrong because His intentions are good and He has a morally justifiable reason for doing so.

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