It is widely agreed that the ‘Logical’ ArgumentfromEvil (LAFE) is bankrupt. We aim to rehabilitate the LAFE, in the form of what we call the Normatively Relativised Logical ArgumentfromEvil (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 appeals to value commitments theists themselves are likely to endorse. The ultimate success of this NRLAFE will rest on developing a theological ethics of right relationship that rejects as morally flawed the exercise of omnipotence first to sustain horrors and then to redeem them. Yet a vindicated NRLAFE of this sort need not require atheism, but only rejection of the standard conception of God as a personal omniGod. (shrink)
There is yet one more proposed solution to the argumentfromevil which merits attention. Though it does have elements in common with other proposed solutions in that it postulates a justifying end to account for the existence of all evil, it is different in that evil is viewed as nothing more than a polluting by-product of the proper functioning of the laws of nature in their industrious manufacture of the summum bonum. The unimpeded functioning (...) of the laws of nature is seen as necessary for the production and creation of a justifying (indiscernible) end and evil or suffering is merely a foreseen but unfortunate by-product of this natural machinery. The place and function of evil in this solution is what is novel: it is not a greatness-making property, nor is it a punishment or warning from on high, nor is its usefulness an aesthetic or contrasting one, nor is it the result of free will. Evil is admitted as just plain evil; it itself plays no role to serve the valuable end, which is precipitated by the unimpeded operation of natural laws upon the universe. Evil here is seen to play the same role that pollution might: it is a foreseen and unfortunate consequence of the means used to produce the coveted final product. -/- Professor Clement Dore, in his book entitled Theism, introduces this solution in which evil itself plays no role to serve an enormously valuable end, yet is necessitated by this end. However, in order for the theist to be in a position to defend Dore's claim, a viable interpretation of the justifying, indiscernible end, must be proposed. To assess the validity of Dore's schema, four apparently exhaustive interpretations of the justifying end will be presented. It will be argued here that each of these possible interpretations is, in one respect or another, inadequate. The result is that the concept of the justifying, indiscernible end and its relation to Dore's overall schema lacks lucidity. In addition, other problems with this solution will be discussed in order to show that severe flaws exist in the solution as a whole. (shrink)
Philosophical naturalism is a cluster of views and impulses typically taken to include atheism, physicalism, radical empiricism or naturalized epistemology, and some sort of relativism, subjectivism or nihilism about morality. I argue that a problem arises when the naturalist offers the argumentfromevil for atheism. Since the argumentfromevil is a moral argument, it cannot be effectively deployed by anyone who holds the denatured ethical theories that the naturalist typically holds. In (...) the context of these naturalistic ethical theories, the argumentfromevil typically fails to provide good reason for either the naturalist or the theist to disbelieve in the God of theism. This does not prove that naturalism is false, or that the argumentfromevil is unsound, but rather that certain naturalists’ use of the argument has been misguided. (shrink)
Is evil evidence against the existence of God? Even if God and evil are compatible, it remains hotly contested whether evil renders belief in God unreasonable. The Evidential ArgumentfromEvil presents five classic statements on this issue by eminent philosophers and theologians and places them in dialogue with eleven original essays reflecting new thinking by these and other scholars. The volume focuses on two versions of the argument. The first affirms that there (...) is no reason for God to permit either certain specific horrors or the variety and profusion of undeserved suffering. The second asserts that pleasure and pain, given their biological role, are better explained by hypotheses other than theism. -/- Contributors include William P. Alston, Paul Draper, Richard M. Gale, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Bruce Russell, Eleonore Stump, Richard G. Swinburne, Peter van Inwagen, and Stephen John Wykstra. (shrink)
Philo's argumentfromevil in a much-discussed passage in Part X of Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) has been interpreted in three main ways: as a logical argumentfromevil, as an evidential argumentfromevil, and as an argument against natural theology's inference of a benevolent and merciful God from the course of the world. I argue that Philo is not offering an argument of any of (...) these sorts, but is arguing that there is a radical disanalogy between the meanings of terms like ‘merciful’ and ‘benevolent’ when applied to God and human beings respectively. Drawing on the new ‘Irreligious Interpretation’ of Hume's philosophy developed by Paul Russell (2002, 2008), I suggest that the underlying aim of Philo's argument appears to be to show, in opposition to Christian teaching, that these terms, when applied to God, are in effect meaningless. (shrink)
Recent work on the evidential argumentfromevil offers us sundry considerations which are intended to weigh against this form of atheological arguments. By far the most provocative is that on a priori grounds alone, evil can be shown to be evidentially impotent. This astonishing thesis has been given a vigorous defense by Keith Yandell. In this paper, we shall measure the prospects for an a priori dismissal of evidential arguments fromevil.
Evil, it is often said, poses a problem for theism, the view that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, "God," for short. This problem is usually called "the problem of evil." But this is a bad name for what philosophers study under that rubric. They study what is better thought of as an argument, or a host of arguments, rather than a problem. Of course, an argumentfromevil against theism can (...) be both an argument and a problem. Some people realize this for the first time when they assert an argumentfromevil in print and someone publishes a .reply in which numerous defects and oversights are laid bare for the public eye. And if it turns out that there is a God and He doesn't take kindly to such arguments, then an argumentfromevil might be a big problem, a very big problem, for one who sincerely propounds it. Typically, however, an argumentfromevil is not thought to be a problem for the atheist. But if not for the atheist, for whom is an argumentfromevil a "problem"? (shrink)
Among the central theses defended in this paper are the following. First, the logical incompatibility version of the argumentfromevil is not one of the crucial versions, and Plantinga, in fostering the illusion that it is, seriously misrepresents claims advanced by other philosophers. Secondly, Plantinga’s arguments against the thesis that the existence of any evil at all is logically incompatible with God’s existence. Thirdly, Plantinga’s attempt to demonstrate that the existence of a certain amount of (...)evil in the world does not render improbable the existence of God involves both a false claim and a fallacious inference. (shrink)
This paper examines an evidential argumentfromevil 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 article I investigate Rowe's recent probabilistic argumentfromevil. By using muddy Venn diagrams to present his argument, we see that although his argument is fallacious, it can be modified in a way that strengthens it considerably. I then discuss the recent exchange between Rowe and Plantinga over this argument. Although Rowe's argument is not an argumentfrom degenerate evidence as Plantinga claimed, it is problematic because it is an (...)argumentfrom partitioned evidence. I conclude by discussing the modified argument and the epistemic framework Rowe is assuming in his argument. (shrink)
The argumentfromevil, 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, indeed, is to misidentify the evils we should fear. But though we should neither conceal the evils of the world nor offer any consequentialist justification of them, we may still reasonably maintain an orthodox theism. Evil is not created so that otherwise unattainable goods may come, but is an unavoidable byproduct of creation which it is – or may be – God's purpose to redeem. (Published Online April 21 2004). (shrink)
In a previous issue of Philo, Michael Almeida claimed to have “defeated” William Rowe’s “New Evidential ArgumentfromEvil” 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.
The first part of this paper exposits William Rowe's latest version of the evidentialargumentfromevil. Integral to this new version is what we can call the 'level-playing field' requirement, which regulates probability values. It is the argument of the second part of this paper that either the two premises of the new version are regulated by the level-playing-field requirement or they're not. If they are both regulated, then no one would be in position (...) to rationally accept one of those premises; if they're not both regulated, then the theist would have good reason to reject the one that is. Either way, Rowe's latest version of the evidentialargument fails. (shrink)
The evidential argument for atheism fromevil may be appealing because it seems both less naïve and more enlightened than theism. However, implicit in the argument that the world contains so much evil that it could not have been created by God is the tacitnihilistic proposition that the world is so bad that it would be better that it not exist at all. Besides entailing an unattractive rejection of the worth of the existence of the (...) world, atheism motivated by the argumentfromevil is also embroiled in moral inconsistencies that make it difficult or impossible for the atheologian to live and act in the world with moral consistency and seriousness. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the some of the most popular and influential formulations of the ArgumentfromEvil (AE) assume a moral perspective that is essentially consequentialist, and would therefore be unacceptable to deontologists. Specifically, I examine formulations of the argument offered by William Rowe and Bruce Russell, both of whom explicitly assert that their formulation of AE is theoretically neutral with respect to consequentialism, and can be read in a way that is unobjectionable (...) to deontologists. I argue that, in fact, this in not the case. Finally, I look at the implications of the consequentialist assumptions of AE for theodicies based on free will. (shrink)
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 fromevil, 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 against objections, thereby supporting my contention that relying on its falsity is a weakness in an argument. (shrink)
A clearer case of a horrible event in nature, a natural evil, has never been presented to me. It seemed to me self evident that the natural law that animals must savagely kill and devour each other in order to survive was an evil natural law and that the obtaining of this law was sufficient evidence that God did not exist. If I held a certain epistemological theory about "basic beliefs", I might conclude from this experience that (...) my intuition that there is no God co existing with th is horror was a "basic belief" and thus that I am epistemically entitled to be an atheist without needing to justify this intuition, But I do not hold such an epistemological theory and believe that intuitive atheological beliefs, such as the one I experienced (and the corresponding intuitive theological beliefs, such as that God is providentially watching over this gruesome event) require justification if they are to be epistemically warranted. The following sections of this article present a justification for the atheological intuition I experienced that dark night. My justification will consist mostly in providing reasons to believe premise (3) in the following probabilistic argument.. (shrink)
William Rowe in his Can God be Free? (2004) argues that God, if there is a God, necessarily chooses the best. Combined with the premise that there is no best act of creation, this provides an a priori argument for atheism. Rowe assumes that necessarily God is a ‘morally unsurpassable’ being, and it is for that reason that God chooses the best. In this article I drop that assumption and I consider a successor to Rowe’s argument, the (...) class='Hi'>Argumentfrom Arbitrariness, based on the premise that God does not act arbitrarily. My chief conclusion will be that this argument fails because, for all we know, there can be non-arbitrary divine choices even if there is no best act of creation. (shrink)
First I employ bayes' theorem to give some precision to the atheologian's thesis that it is improbable that God exists given the amount of evil in the world (e). Two arguments result from this: (1) e disconfirms god's existence, And (2) e tends to disconfirm god's existence. Secondly, I evaluate these inductive arguments, Suggesting against (1) that the atheologian has abstracted from and hence failed to consider the total evidence, And against (2) that the atheologian's evidence adduced (...) to support his thesis regarding the relevant probabilities is inadequate. (shrink)
First I state and develop a probabilistic argument for the conclusion that theistic belief is irrational or somehow noetically improper. Then I consider this argumentfrom the point of view of the major contemporary accounts of probability, Concluding that none of them offers the atheologian aid and comfort.
Where was God? Where was the intelligent designer of the universe when 1.5 million children were turned into smoke by zealous Nazis? Where was the all powerful, all knowing, wholly good being whose very essence is radically opposed to evil, while millions of children were starved to death by Stalin, had their limbs chopped off with machetes in Rwanda, were turned into amputees by the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, and worked to death, even now, by the child slave (...) trade that, by conservative estimates, enslaves 250 million children worldwide?Without divine justice, all of this suffering is gratuitous. How, then, can a wholly good, all-powerful God be believed to exist? The existence of evil is the most fundamental threat to the traditional Western concept of an all-good, all-powerful God. Both natural evil, the suffering that occurs as a result of physical phenomena, and moral evil, the suffering resulting from human action, comprise the problem of evil. If evil cannot be accounted for, then belief in the traditional Western concept of God is absurd. (shrink)
One of the most vexing problems in the philosophy of religion is the existence of moral evil in light of an omnipotent and wholly good deity. A popular mode of diffusing the argumentfromevil lies in the appeal to free will. Traditionally it is argued that there is a strong connection, even a necessary one, between the ability to exercise free will and the occurrence of wrong-doing. Transworld depravity, as characterized by Alvin Plantinga, is a (...) concept which has gone far to explain this relationship. Essentially, the notion of transworld depravity involves the claim that in any world where a person is significantly free that person would, on some occasion, act morally wrongly, or as Plantinga phrases it: ‘If S' were actual, P would go wrong with respect to A’ (where S' is a possible world, P is a person and A is an action). Not only, Plantinga claims, is it possible that there are persons who suffer from transworld depravity, but ‘it is possible that everybody suffers from it’. If transworld depravity obtains, Plantinga notes, God ‘might have been able to create worlds in which moral evil is very considerably outweighed by moral good; but it was not within His power to create worlds containing moral good but no moral evil – and this despite the fact that He is omnipotent’. On this view, God could not instantiate perfect-person essences who would not ever sin. Although Plantinga argues that these instantiated beings are significantly free in that they could have done otherwise (i.e. not sinned), it does seem that his claim about transworld depravity amounts to a claim about transworld depravity amounts to a claim about the existence of a necessary connection obtaining between freedom and evil. For even though it makes sense to claim that an individual may have unactualized dispositions, to claim that everyone, past, present and future, has unactualized dispositions seems to be a significantly different claim. It is therefore difficult to see how this latter claim differs in substance from the claim of a necessary connection obtaining between the capacity for free will and the commission of evil acts. (shrink)
This paper examines Alvin Plantinga's defence of theistic belief in the light of Paul Draper's formulation of the problem of evil. Draper argues (a) that the facts concerning the distribution of pain and pleasure in the world are better explained by a hypothesis which does not include the existence of God than by a hypothesis which does; and (b) that this provides an epistemic challenge to theists. Plantinga counters that a theist could accept (a) yet still rationally maintain a (...) belief in God. His defence of theism depends on the epistemic value of religious experience. I argue, however, that Plantinga's defence of theism is not successful. (shrink)
This paper summarizes a version of the argumentfromevil for atheism and then assesses several theodicies, including those that appeal to punishment, evil as a necessary counterpart for good, free will, natural evil as natural consequence, natural law, higher-order goods, and the conjunctive "Big Reason" including all the above and more beside.
Skeptical theism is the view that God exists but, given our cognitive limitations, the fact that we cannot see a compensating good for some instance of evil is not a reason to think that there is no such good. Hence, we are not justified in concluding that any actual instance of evil is gratuitous, thus undercutting the evidential argumentfromevil for atheism. This paper focuses on the epistemic role of context and contrast classes to (...) advance the debate over skeptical theism in two ways. First, considerations of context and contrast can be invoked to offer a novel defense of skeptical theism. Second, considerations of context and contrast can be invoked to undermine the two most serious objections to skeptical theism: the global skepticism objection and the moral objection. The gist of the paper is to defend a connection between context and contrast-driven views in epistemology with skeptical views in philosophy of religion. (shrink)
The most common charge against sceptical theism is that it is too sceptical, i.e. it committed to some undesirable form of scepticism or another. I contend that Michael Bergmann’s sceptical theism isn’t sceptical enough. I argue that, if true, the sceptical theses secure a genuine victory: they prevent, for some people, a prominent argumentfromevilfrom providing any justification whatsoever to doubt the existence of God. On the other hand, even if true, the sceptical theses (...) fail to prevent even the atheist from justifiably accepting it. (shrink)