Idolatry is vehemently rejected by the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and closely connected with idolatry are certain varieties of anthropomorphism, which involve the attribution of a human form or personality to God. The question investigated in this paper is whether a highly anthropomorphic conception of God, one that commits the sin of idolatry, is entailed by a particular theory of religious language. This theory is the 'univocity thesis', the view that, for some substitutions for 'F', the sense of (...) '___ is F' as applied to God and its sense as applied to human creatures is exactly or substantially the same. My claim is that the univocity thesis entails a strong form of anthropomorphism that in effect reduces God to creaturely status and thus succumbs to idolatry (albeit a conceptual form of idolatry). In the course of my argument, a comparison is made between, on the one hand, the methods of Duns Scotus and modern proponents of perfect-being theology in arriving at a concept of God as maximally perfect, and on the other hand the work of Thomistic philosophers (especially Barry Miller) in showing how a more adequate conception of divinity can be reached by dispensing with some of the methods and assumptions of perfect-being theology, particularly the assumption of univocity. (shrink)
In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.
v. 1. Ancient philosophy of religion -- v. 2. Medieval philosophy of religion -- v. 3. Early modern philosophy of religion -- v. 4. Nineteenth-century philosophy of religion -- v. 5. Twentieth-century philosophy of religion.
Theodicy, the enterprise of searching for greater goods that might plausibly justify God’s permission of evil, is often criticized on the grounds that the project has systematically failed to unearth any such goods. But theodicists also face a deeper challenge, one that places under question the very attempt to look for any morally sufficient reasons God might have for creating a world littered with evil. This ‘anti-theodical’ view argues that theists (and non-theists) ought to reject, primarily for moral reasons, the (...) project of ‘justifying the ways of God to men’. Unfortunately, this view has not received the serious attention it deserves, particularly in analytic philosophy of religion. Taking my cues from such anti-theodicists as Kenneth Surin, D.Z. Phillips and Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, I defend several reasons for holding that the way of thinking about God and evil enshrined in theodical discourse can only add to the world’s evils, not remove or illuminate them. (shrink)
In this exchange, Peter Coghlan and Nick Trakakis discuss the problem of natural evil in the light of the recent Asian tsunami disaster. The exchange begins with an extract from a newspaper article written by Coghlan on the tsunami, followed by three rounds of replies and counter-replies, and ending with some final comments from Trakakis. While critical of any attempt to show that human life is good overall despite its natural evils, Coghlan argues that instances of natural evil, even horrific (...) ones, can be justified as the unavoidable by-product of a natural system on which human life and culture depends. Trakakis, however, rejects this view, counselling instead a degree of skepticism about our ability to construct a plausible theodicy for horrific evil. (shrink)
I begin my third reply by answering some of the criticisms raised by Tierno against theodical attempts to account for the pervasiveness of moral evil. I then take the discussion to a meta-philosophical level, where I question the very way of thinking about God and evil implicit in Tierno’s critique and in much contemporary philosophy of religion.
Nietzsche’s perspectivism has aroused the perplexity of many a recent commentator, not least because of the doctrine’s apparent self-refuting character. If, as Nietzsche holds, there are no facts but only interpretations, then how are we to understand this claim itself? Nietzsche’s perspectivism must be construed either as a fact or as one further interpretation—but in the former case the doctrine is clearly self-refuting, while in the latter case any reasons or arguments one may have in support of one’s perspective are (...) rendered bothimpotent and superfluous. The unpalatable consequences of Nietzsche’s perspectivism are further highlighted by considering its effects on Nietzsche’s treatment of the fundamental laws of logic, such as the principle of non-contradiction. Finally, Nietzsche’s perspectivism, if not self-refuting, at least seems to be refuted by his own writings, where he confidently puts forward various doctrines and critiques, thus indicating that he does not think of his own beliefs as being true merely in a perspectival sense. There is every reason, I conclude, to be perplexed about Nietzsche’s perspectivism. (shrink)
This paper examines an evidential argument from evil recently defended by William Rowe, one that differs significantly from the kind of evidential argument Rowe has become renowned for defending. After providing a brief outline of Rowe’s new argument, I contest its seemingly uncontestable premise that our world is not the best world God could have created. I then engage in a lengthier discussion of the other key premise in Rowe’s argument, viz., the Leibnizian premise that any world created by God (...) must be the best world God can create. In particular, I discuss the criticisms raised against this premise by William Wainwright as well as Rowe’s attempt to meet these criticisms. The Wainwright-Rowe exchange, I argue, highlights some insuperable difficulties in Rowe’s challenge to theism. (shrink)
In this reply I argue that Durston's defence of his argument from the complexity of history ought to be unacceptable to the theist as it undermines not only common theistic attitudes towards God, such as gratitude and praise, but also the rationality of our ordinary moral practices.
Received wisdom has it that a plausible explanation or theodicy for Gods permission of at least some instances of natural evil is not beyond the reach of the theist. In this paper I challenge this assumption, arguing instead that theism fails to account for any instance, kind, quantity, or distribution of natural evil found in the world. My case will be structured around a specific but not idiosyncratic conception of natural evil as well as an examination of three prominent theodicies (...) for natural evil. In contrast, however, to much contemporary discussion, my assessment of these theodicies will be grounded in the prior conviction that a successful theodicy for moral evil is available. (shrink)
In this paper I further the discussion on the adequacy of free will theodicies initiated by Joel Tierno. Tierno’s principal claim is that free will theodicies fail to account for the wide distribution of moral evil. I attempt to show that, even if Tierno need not rely on a compatibilist conception of free will in order to substantiate the aforementioned claim, there remains good reason to think that free will theodicies are not explanatorily inadequate in the way suggested by Tierno.
Skeptical theists purport to undermine evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the fact that our knowledge of goods, evils, and their interconnections is signi cantly limited. Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy have recently argued that skeptical theism is unacceptable because it results in a form of moral skepticism which rejects inferences that play an important role in our ordinary moral reasoning. In this reply to Almeida and Oppy's argument we offer some reasons for thinking that skeptical theism need (...) not lead to any such objectionable form of moral skepticism. (shrink)
Kirk Durston recently presented an argument aimed against evidential arguments from evil predicated on instances of suffering that appear to be gratuitous; ‘The consequential complexity of history and gratuitous evil’, Religious Studies, 36 (2000), 65–80. He begins with the notion that history consists of an intricate web of causal chains, so that a single event in one such chain may have countless unforeseen consequences. According to Durston, this consequential complexity exhibited by history negatively impacts on our grasp of the data (...) necessary to determine whether or not an evil is gratuitous. He therefore concludes that our epistemic condition poses an insurmountable barrier towards the inference from inscrutability to pointlessness. By way of reply, I contend that Durston's argument is flawed in two significant respects, and thus the evidential argument emerges unscathed from his critique. (shrink)
In a recent issue ofSophia Joel Tierno contends that free will theodicies are fundamentally flawed insofar as they claim to provide an adequate explanation for God’s permission of moral evil. Free will, according to Tierno, only accounts for our ability to make certain choices that issue in evil, but fails to account for the fact that we often do make such choices. However, the argument developed by Tierno, despite its initial appeal, embodies an important misunderstanding of the nature of free (...) will theodicies and in particular the libertarian conception of human freedom customarily employed by these theodicies. (shrink)
This paper examines the evidential argument from evil put forward by William Rowe during his early and middle periods (1978-1995). Having delineated some of the important features of Rowe’s argument, it is then assessed in the light of “the skeptical theist critique.” According to skeptical theists, Rowe’s crucial (“noseeum”) inference from inscrutable evil to pointless evil can be exposed as unwarranted, particularly by appealing to the disparity between our cognitive abilities and the infinite wisdom of God. However, by relating the (...) problem of evil to that of divine hiddenness, the adverse consequences and hence the highly dubious nature of this skeptical theist position are brought to light. (shrink)