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Summary The Argument from Evil is a class of arguments which purport that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of God. As Hume put it, "Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?" The argument of evil can be divided into two broad types of arguments: Logical and Evidential. The logical version of the argument argues that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of God. Those who advance evidential arguments often argue for a much weaker claim - that the existence of evil gives us evidence against God's existence.
Key works A concise statement of the logical problem of evil which has directed much of the recent discussion about this version can be found in Mackie's Evil and Omnipotence. The most popular response to the logical argument from evil has been Plantinga's Free Will Defense. The evidential problem of evil can be seen in Draper's Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists, Rowe's The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism, and in the Howard-Snyder's The Evidential Argument from Evil. For responses to the evidential argument, we can look at William Hasker's Suffering, Soul-Building, and Salvation, Van Inwagen's The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence, Wykstra's The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments, among others.
Introductions Beebe 2003 Tooley 2008
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Siblings:See also:History/traditions: The Argument from Evil
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  1. B. A. (1998). R. A. Sharpe. The Moral Case Against Religious Belief. (London: SCM Press, 1997.) Pp. 102. £7.95 Pbk. Religious Studies 34 (2):231-234.
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  2. Robert Ackermann (1982). An Alternative Free Will Defence. Religious Studies 18 (3):365 - 372.
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  3. Marilyn Adams (2011). Julian of Norwich: Problems of Evil and the Seriousness of Sin. Philosophia 39 (3):433-447.
    Julian of Norwich emphasizes God’s eternal and unchanging love for humankind. Her visions show how God is not angry with our sins and so has no need to forgive us. God does not shame or blame us but excuses us and plans how to reward and compensate us for sin. In relation to Mother Jesus, we remain dear lovely children who need help, correction, and education. Although these remarks suggest to some that Julian must be soft on sin, that she (...)
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  4. Marilyn McCord Adams (2008). Plantinga on “Felix Culpa”. Faith and Philosophy 25 (2):123-140.
    In “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa,’” Alvin Plantinga turns from defensive apologetics to the project of Christian explanation and offers a supralapsarian theodicy: the reason God made us in a world like this is that God wanted to create a world including the towering goods of Incarnation and atonement—goods which are appropriate only in worlds containing a sufficient amount of sin, suffering, and evil as well. Plantinga’s approach makes human agents and their sin, suffering and evil, instrumental means to the (...)
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  5. Marilyn McCord Adams (1993). God and Evil: Polarities of a Problem. Philosophical Studies 69 (2-3):167 - 186.
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  6. Marilyn McCord Adams & Stewart Sutherland (1989). Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63 (1):297 - 323.
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  7. Robert Merrihew Adams (2006). Love and the Problem of Evil. Philosophia 34 (3):243-251.
    The focus of this paper is the virtual certainty that much of what we must prize in loving any human person would not have existed in a world that did not contain much of the evil that has occurred in the history of the actual world. It is argued that the appropriate response to this fact must be some form of ambivalence, but that lovers have reason to prefer an ambivalence that contextualizes regretted evils in the framework of what we (...)
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  8. Robert Merrihew Adams (1996). Schleiermacher on Evil. Faith and Philosophy 13 (4):563-583.
    Schleiermacher’s theology of absolute dependence implies that absolutely everything, including evil, including even sin, is grounded in the divine causality. In addition to God’s general, creative causality, however, he thinks that Christian consciousness reveals a special, teleologically ordered divine causality which is at work in redemption but not in evil. He identifies good and evil, respectively, with what furthers and what obstructs the development of the religious consciousness in human beings. Mere pains and natural ills are not truly evil, in (...)
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  9. Robert Merrihew Adams (1979). Existence, Self-Interest, and the Problem of Evil. Noûs 13 (1):53-65.
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  10. Michael Almeida (2004). The New Evidential Argument Defeated. Philo 7 (1):22-35.
    In his most recent version of the evidential argument from evil, William Rowe argues that the observation of no outweighing goods for certain evils constitutes significant evidence against theism. I show that the new evidential argument cannot challenge theism unless it is also reasonable to believe that no good we know of justifies God in permitting any evil at all. Since the new evidential argument provides no reason at all to believe that God is not justified in permitting any existing (...)
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  11. William P. Alston (1991). The Inductive Argument From Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition. Philosophical Perspectives 5:29-67.
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  12. Steven S. Aspenson (1989). Reply to O'Connor. Faith and Philosophy 6 (1):95-98.
    In this reply I consider David O’Connor’s article “A Variation on the Free Will Defense” in which he tries to show that natural evil is necessary for free will by showing that it is required for the possibility of “morally creditable free choice.” I argue that O’Connor’s reply to an anticipated objection was unsuccessful in showing that humans can be moral without the property he calls “p.” that an altered understanding of what “morally creditable free choice” is would not help. (...)
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  13. Lynne Rudder Baker (2009). The Second-Person Account of the Problem of Evil. In Kevin Timpe & Eleonore Stump (eds.), Metaphysics and God: Essays in Honor of Eleonore Stump. Routledge.
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  14. David Basinger (1991). Process Theism Versus Free-Will Theism. Process Studies 20 (4):204-220.
  15. David Basinger (1987). Evil and a Finite God. Philosophy Research Archives 13:285-287.
    P.J. McGrath has recently challenged the standard claim that to escape the problem of evil one need only alter one’s conception of God by limiting his power or his goodness. If we assume that God is infinitely good but not omnipotent, then God can scarcely be a proper object of worship. And if we assume that if God is omnipotent but limited in goodness, he becomes a moral monster. Either way evil remains a problem for theistic belief. I argue that (...)
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  16. David Basinger (1982). Divine Omniscience and the Best of All Possible Worlds. Journal of Value Inquiry 16 (2):143-148.
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  17. David Basinger & Randall Basinger (1982). Divine Determinateness and the Free Will Defense. Philosophy Research Archives 8:531-534.
    Proponents of The Free Will Defense frequently argue that it is necessary for God to create self-directing beings who possess the capacity for producing evil because, in the words of F.R. Tennant, “moral goodness must be the result of a self-directing developmental process.” But if this is true, David Paulsen has recently argued, then the proponent of the Free Will Defense cannot claim that God has an eternally determinate nature. For if God has an eternally determinatenature and moral goodness must (...)
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  18. Nicholas Beale (2009). Freewill, Free Process, and Love. Think 8 (23):115-124.
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  19. James R. Beebe, Logical Problem of Evil. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet (...)
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  20. Philip W. Bennett (1973). Evil, God, and the Free Will Defense. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 51 (1):39 – 50.
    The author critically examines and rejects alvin plantinga's defense of the free will theodicy, As presented in chapter six of plantinga's "god and other minds". If the author's arguments are correct, Then any attempt on the part of the rational apologist to explain evil by reference to man's free will must be considered futile. Since the arguments presented will be seen as supporting natural atheology (which, For plantinga, Is "the attempt...To show that, Given what we know, It is impossible or (...)
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  21. Michael Bergmann (2001). Skeptical Theism and Rowe's New Evidential Argument From Evil. Noûs 35 (2):278–296.
    Skeptical theists endorse the skeptical thesis (which is consistent with the rejection of theism) that we have no good reason for thinking the possible goods we know of are representative of the possible goods there are. In his newest formulation of the evidential arguments from evil, William Rowe tries to avoid assuming the falsity of this skeptical thesis, presumably because it seems so plausible. I argue that his new argument fails to avoid doing this. Then I defend that skeptical thesis (...)
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  22. Michael Bergmann (1999). Might-Counterfactuals, Transworld Untrustworthiness and Plantinga's Free Will Defence. Faith and Philosophy 16 (3):336-351.
    Plantinga’s Free Will Defense (FWD) employs the following proposition as a premise:◊TD. Possibly, every essence is transworld depraved.I argue that he fails to establish his intended conclusion because the denial of ◊TD is epistemically possible. I then consider an improved version of the FWD which relies on◊TU. Possibly, every essence is transworld untrustworthy.(The notion of transworld untrustworthiness is the might-counterfactual counterpart to Plantinga’s would-counterfactual notion of transworld depravity.) I argue that the denial of ◊TU is also epistemically possible and, therefore, (...)
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  23. Alexander Bird (2009). … And Then Again, He Might Not Be. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):517-521.
    In reply to Michael Bertrand, I clarify my view that the problem of physical evil is not an a priori problem but an a posteriori one.
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  24. John Bishop & Ken Perszyk (2011). The Normatively Relativised Logical Argument From Evil. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 70 (2):109-126.
    It is widely agreed that the ‘Logical’ Argument from Evil (LAFE) is bankrupt. We aim to rehabilitate the LAFE, in the form of what we call the Normatively Relativised Logical Argument from Evil (NRLAFE). There are many different versions of a NRLAFE. We aim to show that one version, what we call the ‘right relationship’ NRLAFE, poses a significant threat to personal-omniGod-theism—understood as requiring the belief that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good person who has created our world—because it (...)
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  25. Ralph Blumenau (1998). Free Will & Predestination. Philosophy Now 20:20-22.
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  26. Steven E. Boër (1978). The Irrelevance of the Free Will Defence. Analysis 38 (2):110 - 112.
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  27. George Botterill (1977). Falsification and the Existence of God: A Discussion of Plantinga's Free Will Defence. Philosophical Quarterly 27 (107):114-134.
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  28. Kenneth Boyce (2011). Non-Moral Evil and the Free Will Defense. Faith and Philosophy 28 (4):371-384.
    Paradigmatic examples of logical arguments from evil are attempts to establish that the following claims are inconsistent with one another: (1) God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good. (2) There is evil in the world. Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense resists such arguments by providing a positive case that (1) and (2) are consistent. A weakness in Plantinga’s free will defense, however, is that it does not show that theism is consistent with the proposition that there are non-moral evils in (...)
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  29. Raymond D. Bradley, The Free Will Defense Refuted and God's Existence Disproved. Internet Infidels Modern Library.
    1. The Down Under Logical Disproof of the Theist's God 1.1 Plantinga's Attempted Refutation of the Logical Disproof 1.2 Plantinga Refuted and God Disproved: A Preview 2. Plantinga's Formal Presentation of his Free Will Defense 3. First Formal Flaw: A Non Sequitur Regarding the Consistency of (3) with (1) 4. Further Flaws Regarding the Joint Conditions of Consistency and Entailment 4.1 A Non Sequitur Regarding the Entailment Condition 4.2 Telling the Full Story in Order to Satisfy the Entailment Condition 4.3 (...)
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  30. Mark T. Brown (2008). The Problem of Free Will in Heaven. Southwest Philosophy Review 24 (1):109-116.
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  31. Lara Buchak (2014). Learning Not to Be Naïve: A Comment on the Exchange Between Perrine/Wykstra and Draper. In Trent Dougherty & Justin McBrayer (eds.), Skeptical Theism: New Essays. Oxford University Press.
    Does postulating skeptical theism undermine the claim that evil strongly confirms atheism over theism? According to Perrine and Wykstra, it does undermine the claim, because evil is no more likely on atheism than on skeptical theism. According to Draper, it does not undermine the claim, because evil is much more likely on atheism than on theism in general. I show that the probability facts alone do not resolve their disagreement, which ultimately rests on which updating procedure – conditionalizing or updating (...)
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  32. Andrei A. Buckareff (2000). Divine Freedom and Creaturely Suffering in Process Theology: A Critical Appraisal. Sophia 39 (2):56-69.
    : The suffering of creatures experienced throughout evolutionary history provides some conceptual difficulties for theists who maintain that God is an all-good loving creator who chose to employ the processes associated with evolution to bring about life on this planet. Some theists vexed by this and other problems posed by the interface between religion and science have turned to process theology which provides a picture of a God who is dependent upon creation and unable to unilaterally intervene in the affairs (...)
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  33. James Cain (2005). Fred Berthold, Jr God, Evil, and Human Learning: A Critique and Revision of the Free Will Defense in Theodicy. (Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2004). Pp. VIII+108. $32.00 (Hbk). ISBN 0 7914 6041 X. [REVIEW] Religious Studies 41 (4):480-483.
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  34. James Cain (2004). Free Will and the Problem of Evil. Religious Studies 40 (4):437-456.
    According to the free-will defence, the exercise of free will by creatures is of such value that God is willing to allow the existence of evil which comes from the misuse of free will. A well-known objection holds that the exercise of free will is compatible with determinism and thus, if God exists, God could have predetermined exactly how the will would be exercised; God could even have predetermined that free will would be exercised sinlessly. Thus, it is held, the (...)
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  35. Richard Carrier (2007). Fatal Flaws in Michael Almeida's Alleged 'Defeat' of Rowe's New Evidential Argument From Evil. Philo 10 (1):85-90.
    In a previous issue of Philo, Michael Almeida claimed to have “defeated” William Rowe’s “New Evidential Argument from Evil” againstthe existence of a benevolent god. However, Almeida’s argument suffers from serious logical errors and even logical absurdities, leaving Rowe’s argument intact and quite unthreatened by anything Almeida argues.
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  36. Monima Chadha & Nick Trakakis (2007). Karma and the Problem of Evil: A Response to Kaufman. Philosophy East and West 57 (4):533-556.
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  37. Andrew Chignell (2001). Infant Suffering Revisited. Religious Studies 37 (4):475-484.
    I respond to two sets of objections to my characterization of infant suffering and the problem that it presents to traditional theism. My main theses were that infant suffering to death is not ‘horrendous’ in the technical sense defined, but that a good God still needs to "balance off" rather than "defeat" such suffering. David Basinger, on the other hand, claims that some infant suffering should be considered horrendous, while Nathan Nobis suggests that such suffering must be defeated rather than (...)
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  38. Andrew Chignell (1998). The Problem of Infant Suffering. Religious Studies 34 (2):205-217.
    The problem of infant suffering and death is often regarded as one of the more difficult versions of the problem of evil (see Ivan Karamazov), especially when one considers how God can be thought good to infant victims by the infant victims. In the first section of this paper, I examine two recent theodicies that aim to solve this problem but (I argue) fail. In the second section, I suggest that the only viable approach to the problem rejects the idea (...)
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  39. Keith Chrzan (1987). Debunking CORNEA. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 21 (3):171 - 177.
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  40. Stephen R. L. Clark (2004). Progress and the Argument From Evil. Religious Studies 40 (2):181-192.
    The argument from evil, though it is the most effective rhetorical argument against orthodox theism, fails to demonstrate its conclusion, since we are unavoidably ignorant whether there is more evil than could possibly be justified. That same ignorance infects any claims to discern a divine purpose in nature, as well as recent attempts at a broadly Irenaean theodicy. Evolution is not, on neo-Darwinian theory, intellectually, morally, or spiritually progressive in the way that some religious thinkers have supposed. To suppose so, (...)
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  41. Stephen R. L. Clark (1984). God, Good, and Evil. In J. Houston (ed.), Is It Reasonable to Believe in God? Handsel Press. 247 - 264.
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  42. Christopher Miles Coope (2001). Good-Bye to the Problem of Evil, Hello to the Problem of Veracity. Religious Studies 37 (4):373-396.
    I start from Mill's words about Mansel and the problem of evil. In this dispute Mansel has generally been thought to have come off worst. However, Mansel was clearly right to this extent: that what would make a man a good man would not be the same as what made God good. This is because, quite generally, what makes something good of its kind, where we can talk about goodness at all, varies with the kind. With Aristotle we must say: (...)
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  43. Jesse Couenhoven (2007). Augustine's Rejection of the Free-Will Defence: An Overview of the Late Augustine's Theodicy. Religious Studies 43 (3):279-298.
    Augustine is commonly considered the greatest early proponent of what we call the free-will defence, but this idea is deeply misleading, as Augustine grew increasingly dissatisfied with the view from an early point in his career, and his later explorations of the implications of his doctrines of sin and grace led him to reject free-will theodicies altogether. As a compatibilist, however, he continued to reject the idea that God is responsible for the advent of evil. His alternative was his often (...)
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  44. Michael J. Coughlan (1987). In Defence of Free Will Theodicy. Religious Studies 23 (4):543 - 554.
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  45. Michael J. Coughlan (1986). The Free Will Defence and Natural Evil. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 20 (2/3):93 - 108.
  46. Steven B. Cowan (2011). Compatibilism and the Sinlessness of the Redeemed in Heaven. Faith and Philosophy 28 (4):416-431.
    In a recent issue of Faith and Philosophy, Timothy Pawl and Kevin Timpe seek to respond to the so-called “Problem of Heavenly Freedom,” the problem ofexplaining how the redeemed in heaven can be free yet incapable of sinning. In the course of offering their solution, they argue that compatibilism is inadequateas a solution because it (1) undermines the free will defense against the logical problem of evil, and (2) exacerbates the problem of evil by making God the “author of sin.” (...)
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  47. Chris Daly (2009). Moral Error Theory and the Problem of Evil. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1 (2):89 - 105.
    Moral error theory claims that no moral sentence is (nonvacuously) true. Atheism claims that the existence of evil in the world is incompatible with, or makes improbable, the existence of God. Is moral error theory compatible with atheism? This paper defends the thesis that it is compatible against criticisms by Nicholas Sturgeon.
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  48. John Danaher (2013). Skeptical Theism and Divine Permission - A Reply to Anderson. [REVIEW] International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion DOI 10.1007/S11153-013-9429-Y (2):1-18.
    Skeptical theism (ST) may undercut the key inference in the evidential argument from evil, but it does so at a cost. If ST is true, then we lose our ability to assess the all things considered (ATC) value of natural events and states of affairs. And if we lose that ability, a whole slew of undesirable consequences follow. So goes a common consequential critique of ST. In a recent article, Anderson has argued that this consequential critique is flawed. Anderson claims (...)
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  49. Donald Davidson (1973). Freedom to Act. In Ted Honderich (ed.), Essays on Freedom of Action. Routledge.
  50. Stephen T. Davis (1972). A Defence of the Free Will Defence. Religious Studies 8 (4):335 - 343.
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