J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every essence (...) suffers from transworld depravity. (shrink)
The case is discussed for the doctrine of hell as posing a unique problem of evil for adherents to the Abrahamic religions who endorse traditional theism. The problem is particularly acute for those who accept retributivist formulations of the doctrine of hell according to which hell is everlasting punishment for failing to satisfy some requirement. Alternatives to retributivism are discussed, including the unique difficulties that each one faces.
It has often been noted that evil – by which I mean evil in human motivation and action – is difficult to understand. We find it hard to make sense of what ‘drives’ a person to commit evil. This is not because we cannot recognise or identify with some aspect of the psychology of evil; we all experience feelings of envy, spite, cruelty, and hatred. But somehow this shared experience can seem insufficient, and we are left (...) at a loss as to how such natural, universal human motivations could have resulted in this. The aims of this paper are modest, to do no more than point in a particular direction our attempts to understand the psychology of evil. §2 is a synoptic overview of what I shall call the ‘traditional’ picture of the psychology of evil. In §3, I argue that this picture is explanatorily inadequate. §§4-6 develop the traditional picture by suggesting some resources drawn from psychoanalytic theory that can meet the explanatory challenge. My argument here is schematic, seeking only to motivate a research project. It would take a much longer exploration of these resources, providing far more psychological detail, to work out what can rightfully be called an account of the psychology of evil. §7 situates the psychology of evil in relation to ‘normal’ psychology by noting the positive functions of mental processes involved in the psychology of evil. (shrink)
If there is one lesson that Hannah Arendt drew from her encounter with Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem it was that the moral and political dangers of thoughtlessness had been grossly underestimated. But while thoughtlessness clearly “has its perils”, (LMT 177) as the example of Eichmann illustrates, thoughtfulness has its own problems, as the example of Heidegger illustrates. In the course of her 1964 interview with Günter Gaus, Arendt recalls her distaste for “intellectual business” that arose from witnessing the widespread and (...) “relatively voluntary” Gleichshaltung (co-ordination) of German “intellectuals” with the Nazis in 1933 (EU: 10). This was the year that Heidegger, Arendt’s former teacher and friend, “entered the Nazi Party in a very sensational way” (EU: 187). But Heidegger is for Arendt also a paragon of thoughtfulness who exposes the “incomprehensible triviality” (or banality) of “the they” and their “mere talk” (MDT: ix). This raises the following question: how can thoughtfulness, in the guise of Heidegger, and thoughtlessness, in the guise of Eichmann, both (though to a very different extent) lead to ‘co-ordination’ with the Nazis? What does this tell us about the relation between thinking and evil? (shrink)
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 we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering. These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenged posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil. (shrink)
Typically, philosophers interested in evil have typically been concerned with reconciling (or not) the apparent existence of gratuitous suffering with the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient and supremely loving and caring Deity. Undeniably, ‘evil’ functions as a mass noun: note the intelligibility of asking “Why is there so much evil in the world?” But ‘evil’ sometimes functions as an adjective and is used variously to describe persons, actions, desires, motives, and intentions; Joel Feinberg even speaks (...) of “evil smells.” In what follows, I shall consider the relationship between evil actions, evildoers—that is, persons disposed to perform evil actions—and evil people. Roughly, I defend the simple thesis that being an evil person just is being an evildoer. (shrink)
This is a book primarily for students on the problem of gratuitous evil. It assumes no philosophical background but examines the problem thoroughly. It introduces the problem, presents the five main theistic responses to the problem, offers evaluations of those responses, and makes some tentative conclusions.
Introduction: What is evil and how can we understand it? -- The theology of evil -- Theodicies -- The privation theodicy -- The free will theodicy -- The Iraenean theodicy -- The totality theodicy -- History as secular theodicy -- Job's insight-the theodicy of the hereafter -- Anthropology of evil -- Are people good or evil? -- The typologies of evil -- Demonic evil -- Evil for evil's sake -- Evil's aesthetic (...) seduction -- Sadism -- Schadenfreude -- Subjective and objective evil -- Kant and instrumental evil -- The impossibility of a "devilish" will -- The paradox of evil -- Moral rebirth -- The evil is the other-idealistic evil -- "Us" vs. "them" -- Violent individuals -- Arendt and stupid evil -- The evil and the stupid -- Radical and banal evil -- Eichmann, Hoss, and Stangl -- Normal people and extreme evil -- Thinking as opposition -- Evil people -- The problem of evil -- Theory and praxis -- Ethics of conviction and ethics of responsibility -- Politics and violence -- Evil as a concrete problem. (shrink)
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
Almost everyone allows that conditions can obtain that exempt agents from moral responsibility—that someone is not a morally responsible agent if certain conditions obtain. In his seminal Freedom and Resentment, Peter Strawson denies that the truth of determinism globally exempts agents from moral responsibility. As has been noted elsewhere, Strawson appears committed to the surprising thesis that being an evil person is an exempting condition. Less often noted is the fact that various Strawsonians—philosophers sympathetic with Strawson’s account of moral (...) responsibility—at least appear to have difficulty incorporating evil persons into their accounts of moral responsibility. In what follows, I argue that Strawson is not committed to supposing that being evil is an exempting condition—at least, that he can allow that evil persons are morally responsible agents. (shrink)
The Principle of Credulity: 'It is basic to human knowledge of the world that we believe things are as they seem to be in the absence of positive evidence to the contrary' [Swinburne 1996: 133]. This underlies the Evidential Problem of Evil, which goes roughly like this: ‘There appears to be a lot of suffering, both animal and human, that does not result in an equal or greater utility. So there's probably some pointless suffering. As God's existence precludes pointless (...) suffering, theism is implausible.’ CORNEA is the principle that observation O raises hypothesis H's probability only if O is more probable given H than it is given not-H. Theists sometimes maintain that apparently pointless suffering is just as likely given theism as atheism (I support this claim by appealing to a Lewisian account of the relevant counterfactuals). Given CORNEA, therefore, what we see of suffering does not make theism unlikely. I maintain that a consequence of so deploying CORNEA is that CORNEA and the Principle of Credulity are incompatible. We are left with a skeptical paradox. CORNEA is a consequence of Bayes’s Theorem, I argue; but it is incompatible with a presupposition of empirical science, namely, that appearances create epistemic warrant, ceteris paribus. External-world probability skepticism follows. I treat the paradox as real. First, I offer an account of how we strike a balance in practice between CORNEA, on the one hand, and the Principle of Credulity and the scientific enterprise on the other. Second, I try to resolve the paradox outright by rejecting the Principle of Credulity and maintaining that the scientific project remains well motivated even allowing probability skepticism. On either response to the paradox, the Evidential Problem of Evil continues to have serious, but defeasible, force against theism. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson defends compatibilism by appeal to our natural commitment to the interpersonal community and the reactive attitudes. While Strawson''s compatibilist project has much to recommend it, his account of moral agency appears incomplete. Gary Watson has attempted to fortify Strawson''s theory by appeal to the notion of moral address. Watson then proceeds to argue, however, that Strawson''s theory of moral responsibility (so fortified) would commit Strawson to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. Watson also argues that the (...) reactive attitudes do not lend unequivocal support to Strawsonian compatibilism and that the reactive attitudes are sometimes sensitive to considerations which suggest an incompatibilist or skeptical diagnosis. Watson attempts to provide a Strawsonian defense against these difficulties, but he ultimately concludes that the skeptical threats raised against Strawsonian compatibilism cannot be sufficiently silenced. I believe that Watson has done Strawsonian compatibilism a great service by drawing upon the notion of moral address. In this paper I attempt to defend the Strawsonian compatibilist position, as Watson has cast it, against the problems raised by Watson. I argue against Watson that Strawson''s theory of responsibility, as well as the notion of moral address, does not commit the Strawsonian to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. I also argue that Watson misinterprets the point of certain reactive attitudes and thereby wrongly assumes that these attitudes are evidence against Strawsonian compatibilism. (shrink)
Most arguments against God’s existence aim to show that it is incompatible with various apparent features of the world, such as the existence of evil or of human free will. In response, theists have sought to show that God’s existence is compatible with these features of the world. However, the fact that the proposition that God exists is necessary if possible introduces some underappreciated difficulties for these arguments.
Preprinted in God and the Problem of Evil(Blackwell 2001), ed. William Rowe. Many people deny that evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. After all, they say, the grounds for belief in God are much better than the evidence for atheism, including the evidence provided by evil. We will not join their ranks on this occasion. Rather, we wish to consider the proposition that, setting aside grounds for belief in God and (...) relying only on the background knowledge shared in common by nontheists and theists, evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. Our aim is to argue against this proposition. We recognize that in doing so, we face a formidable challenge. It’s one thing to say that evil presents a reason for atheism that is, ultimately, overridden by arguments for theism. It’s another to say that it doesn’t so much as provide us with a reason for atheism in the first place. In order to make this latter claim seem initially more plausible, consider the apparent design of the mammalian eye or the apparent fine-tuning of the universe to support life. These are often proposed as reasons to believe in theism. Critics commonly argue not merely that these supposed reasons for theism are overridden by arguments for atheism but rather that they aren’t good reasons for theism in the first place. Our parallel proposal with respect to evil and atheism is, initially at least, no less plausible than this proposal with respect to apparent design and theism. (shrink)
It is plausible that being an evil person is a matter of having a particularly morally depraved character. I argue that suffering from extreme moral vices—and not consistently lacking moral vices, for example—suffices for being evil. Alternatively, I defend an extremity account concerning evil personhood against consistency accounts of evil personhood. After clarifying what it is for vices to be extreme, I note that the extremity thesis I defend allows that a person could suffer from both (...) extremely vicious character traits while possessing some modest virtue as well. By contrast, consistency theses rule out this possibility by definition. This result does not suggest that extremity accounts are flawed, however, since, as I argue, the thesis that evil people must lack moral virtue altogether effectively defines evil people out of existence and prematurely privileges skepticism about evil personhood. Ultimately, I contend that an extremity account is most consistent with common intuitions about putative evil persons as well as plausible assumptions about aretaic evaluations of character quite generally. (shrink)
The problem of evil is one of the most discussed topics in the philosophy of religion. For some time, however, there has been a need for a collection of readings that adequately represents recent and ongoing writing on the topic. This volume fills that need, offering the most up-to-date collection of recent scholarship on the problem of evil. The distinguished contributors include J.L. Mackie, Nelson Pike, Roderick M. Chisholm, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Stephen J. Wykstra, (...) John Hick, and Diogenes Allen. Including an introductory essay and a selected bibliography, this comprehensive and completely up-to-date collection is an invaluable guide to current scholarship in this highly debated area of the philosophy of religion. Oxford Readings in Philosophy aims to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available. (shrink)
According to a particular view of political realism, political expediency must always override moral considerations. Perhaps the strongest defense of such a theory is offered by Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political. A close examination of Schmitt’s main presuppositions can therefore help to shed light on the tenuous relation between politics and morality. Schmitt’s theory rests on two keystones. First, the political is seen as independent of and prior to morality. Second, genuine political theory depends on a view (...) of human beings as evil by nature. I will argue that both claims are incomplete. Just as the political sometimes demands that morality be overridden, so morality can demand the overriding of political expediency. Moreover, the view of human beings as evil, which serves as the foundation of political realism, itself depends on affirming that human nature must also be, in some sense, good. Political realism is thus shown to have its theoretical foundation within a normative framework that demands the political pursuit of at least some moral aims. (shrink)
It is common these days for theists to argue that we aren’t justified in believing atheism on the basis of evil. They claim that neither facts about particular horrors nor more holistic considerations pertaining to the magnitude, kinds and distribution of evil can ground atheism since we can't tell whether any evil is gratuitous.1 In this paper we explore a novel strategy for shedding light on these issues: we compare the atheist who claims that there is no (...) morally sufficient reason for certain evils with the physicist who claims that there is no causally sufficient reason for some events. (shrink)
Recent work on the evidential argument from evil 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 from evil.
What distinguishes evils from ordinary wrongs? Is hatred a necessarily evil? Are some evils unforgivable? Are there evils we should tolerate? What can make evils hard to recognize? Are evils inevitable? How can we best respond to and live with evils? Claudia Card offers a secular theory of evil that responds to these questions and more. Evils, according to her theory, have two fundamental components. One component is reasonably foreseeable intolerable harm -- harm that makes a life indecent (...) and impossible or that makes a death indecent. The other component is culpable wrongdoing. Atrocities, such as genocides, slavery, war rape, torture, and severe child abuse, are Card's paradigms because in them these key elements are writ large. Atrocities deserve more attention than secular philosophers have so far paid them. They are distinguished from ordinary wrongs not by the psychological states of evildoers but by the seriousness of the harm that is done. Evildoers need not be sadistic:they may simply be negligent or unscrupulous in pursuing their goals. Card's theory represents a compromise between classic utilitarian and stoic alternatives (including Kant's theory of radical evil). Utilitarians tend to reduce evils to their harms; Stoics tend to reduce evils to the wickedness of perpetrators: Card accepts neither reduction. She also responds to Nietzsche's challenges about the worth of the concept of evil, and she uses her theory to argue that evils are more important than merely unjust inequalities. She applies the theory in explorations of war rape and violence against intimates. She also takes up what Primo Levi called "the gray zone", where victims become complicit in perpetrating on others evils that threaten to engulf themselves. While most past accounts of evil have focused on perpetrators, Card begins instead from the position of the victims, but then considers more generally how to respond to -- and live with -- evils, as victims, as perpetrators, and as those who have become both. (shrink)
Evil has long fascinated psychologists, philosophers, novelists and playwrights but remains an incredibly difficult concept to talk about. On Evil is a compelling and at times disturbing tour of the many faces of evil. What is evil, and what makes people do awful things? If we can explain evil, do we explain it away? Can we imagine the mind of a serial killer, or does such evil defy description? Does evil depend on a (...) contrast with good, as religion tells us, or can there be evil for evil's sake? Adam Morton argues that any account of evil must help us understand three things: why evil occurs; why evil often arises out of banal or everyday situations; and how we can be seen as evil. Drawing on fascinating examples as diverse as Augustine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, psychological studies of deviant behavior and profiles of serial killers, Adam Morton argues that evil occurs when internal, mental barriers against it simply break down. Adam Morton also introduces us to some nightmare people, such as Adolf Eichmann and Hannibal Lecter, reminding us that understanding their actions as humans brings us closer to understanding evil. Exciting and thought-provoking, On Evil is essential reading for anyone interested in a topic that attracts and repels us in equal measure. (shrink)
Terrorism, torture, and the problems of evil -- Diabolical evil, searching for Satan -- Philosophies of evil -- Communities of fear -- The enemy within -- Bad seeds -- The character of evil -- Facing the Holocaust -- Twenty-first-century mythologies.
Peter Hare and Edward Madden's collaborative book Evil and the Concept of God (968) has become a staple in literature about the problem of evil and remains frequently cited by supporters and critics alike. The major concepts of the work arose out of earlier papers in which they first began to formulate their arguments about the problem of evil. Their article "Evil and Unlimited Power" embodies many of their arguments against quasi-theist attempts to resolve the problem (...) of evil.1 Assembled from these and other papers, their compendium frames a thorough synthesis of the long history of debate regarding the problem of evil, and contributes their own exhaustive, point-by-point attack on modern defenders of three main .. (shrink)
The problem of evil -- Aquinas, philosophy, and theology -- What there is -- Goodness and badness -- God the creator -- God's perfection and goodness -- The creator and evil -- Providence and grace -- The trinity and Christ -- Aquinas on god and evil.
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 argument from evil 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 timely manifesto on the idea of evil written by a leading philosopher intervenes positively in the resurgent debate about evil. Surveys the intellectual debate on the nature of evil over the past two hundred years Engages with a broad range of discourses and thinkers, from Kant and the German Idealists, via Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Levinas and Adorno Suggests that the concept of moral evil touches on a neuralgic point in western culture Argues that, despite (...) the widespread abuse and political manipulation of the term ‘evil’, we cannot do without it Concludes that if we use the concept of evil, we must acknowledge its religious dimension. (shrink)
This is the first anthology to present the full range of the many forms evil. Rorty has assembled a collection of readings that include not only the most common forms of evil, such as vice, sin, cruelty and crime, but also some which are less well known, like disobedience and willfulness. The readings are drawn from a rich array of historical, philosophical, theological, literary, dramatic, psychological and legal perspectives.
Introduction -- Ricœr's project of a philosophical approach to evil via symbols -- Kant's radical evil: an ethical approach to evil -- Evil as foundering: Karl Jaspers' tragic view of evil -- Karl Barth's notion of das Nichtige and the problem of knowing evil -- The end of evil.
In ‘Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason’ Kant presents his thesis that human nature is ‘radically evil’. To be radically evil is to have a propensity toward moral frailty, impurity and even perversity. Kant claims that all humans are ‘by nature’ radically evil. By presenting counter-examples of moral saints, I argue that not all humans are morally corrupt, even if most are. Even so, the possibility of moral failure is central to what makes us human.
Violating the human status : the evil of genocide and crimes against humanity -- Superfluous humanity : the evil of global poverty -- Citizens of nowhere : the evil of statelessness -- Effacing the political : the evil of neoliberal globalization.
This concise, well-structured survey examines the problem of evil in the context of the philosophy of religion. One of the core topics in that field, the problem of evil is an enduring challenge that Western philosophers have pondered for almost two thousand years. The main problem of evil consists in reconciling belief in a just and loving God with the evil and suffering in the world. Michael Peterson frames this issue by working through questions such as (...) the following: What is the relation of rational belief to religious faith? What different conceptual moves are possible on either side of the issue? What responses have important thinkers advanced and which seem most promising? Is it possible to maintain religious commitment in light of evil? Peterson relies on the helpful distinction between moral and natural evil to clarify our understanding of the different aspects of the problem as well as avenues for response.The overall format of the text rests on classifying various types of argument from evil: the logical, the probabilistic, the evidential, and the existential arguments. Each type of argument has its own strategy which both theists and nontheists must recognize and develop. Giving both theistic and nontheistic perspectives fair representation, the text works through the issues of whether evil shows theistic belief to be inconsistent, improbable, discredited by the evidence, or threatened by personal crisis.Peterson explains how defensive strategies are particularly geared for responding to the logical and probabilistic arguments from evil while theodicy is an appropriate response to the evidential argument. Theodicy has traditionally been understood as the attempt to justify belief in a God who is all-powerful and all-good in light of evil. The text discusses the theodicies of Augustine, Leibniz, Hick, and Whitehead as enlightening examples of theodicy. This discussion allows Peterson to identify and evaluate a rather dominant theme in most theodicies: that evil can be justified by designating a greater good. In the end, Peterson even explores how certain types of theodicy, based on specifically Christian renditions of theism, might provide a basis for addressing the existential problem of evil. The reader of this book gains not only an intellectual grasp of the debate over God and evil in professional philosophy but also the personal benefit of thinking through one of the most important issues in human life. (shrink)
We argue that Michael Peterson's and William Hasker's attempts to show that God and gratuitous evil are compatible constitute miserable failures. We then sketch Peter van Inwagen's attempt to do the same and conclude that, to date, no one has shown his attempt a failure.
This work offers a clear exposition of evil and moral regeneration as they appear in Kant's late work Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. Michalson examines a doctrine of "radical evil" which he sees as strongly resembling the Christian doctrine of original sin. In the author's view, Kant compromises his position as a result of this throwback to the Christian tradition, which is at odds with some of the basic tenets of the Enlightenment. Kant is thus seen (...) to be deeply ambivalent in the philosophy he puts forward when he talks about divine action, on the one hand, and human autonomy, on the other. (shrink)
Gray zones, which develop wherever oppression is severe and lasting, are inhabited by victims of evil who become complicit in perpetrating on others the evils that threaten to engulf themselves. Women, who have inhabited many gray zones, present challenges for feminist theorists, who have long struggled with how resistance is possible under coercive institutions. Building on Primo Levi's reflections on the gray zone in Nazi death camps and ghettos, this essay argues that resistance is sometimes possible, although outsiders are (...) rarely, if ever, in a position to judge when. It also raises questions about the adequacy of ordinary moral concepts to mark the distinctions that would be helpful for thinking about how to respond in a gray zone. (shrink)
Recent scholarship has focused attention on the difficulties that evil, suffering, and tragic conflict present to religious belief and moral life. Thinkers have drawn upon many important historical figures, with one significant exception - Augustine. At the same time, there has been a renaissance of work on Augustine, but little discussion of either his work on evil or his influence on contemporary thought. This book fills these gaps. It explores the 'family biography' of the Augustinian tradition by looking (...) at Augustine's work and its development in the writings of Hannah Arendt and Reinhold Niebuhr. Mathewes argues that the Augustinian tradition offers us a powerful, though commonly misconstrued, proposal for understanding and responding to evil's challenges. The book casts new light on Augustine, Niebuhr, and Arendt, as well as on the problem of evil, the nature of tradition, and the role of theological and ethical discourse in contemporary thought. (shrink)
There are a number of different senses of the term “evil.” We examine in this paper the term “evil” when it is used to say things such as: “what Hitler did was not merely wrong, it was evil”, and “Hitler was not merely a bad person, he was an evil person”. Failing to keep a promise or telling a white lie may be morally wrong, but unlike genocide or sadistic torture, it is not evil in (...) this sense. In this paper we analyze the specific moral difference between “evil” and “mere wrongdoing”. In so doing we shall defend a specific conception of what acts and which persons should count as evil. On the view defended in this paper it is a necessary feature of an evil act that the victim of that act suffer what would at least normally be a life-wrecking or life-ending harm. (shrink)
There is yet one more proposed solution to the argument from evil 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)
Arne Johan Vetlesen argues that to do evil is to intentionally inflict pain on another human being, against his or her will, and cause serious and foreseeable harm. Vetlesen investigates why and in what sort of circumstances such a desire arises, and how it is channeled, or exploited, into collective evildoing. He argues that such evildoing, pitting whole groups against each other, springs from a combination of character, situation, and social structure. Vetlesen shows how closely perpetrators, victims, and (...) bystanders interact, and how aspects of human agency are recognized, denied, and projected by different agents. (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 argument from evil for atheism. Since the argument from evil 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 argument from evil 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 argument from evil is unsound, but rather that certain naturalists’ use of the argument has been misguided. (shrink)
I don’t know whether undead beings exist. I also think it is an open question whether anyone is evil in, say, the way bad guys are depicted in supernatural horror films and serial killer movies. I do think it’s nevertheless puzzling that the undead are frequently portrayed as evil in that way. I’m inclined to think that if we were to stumble across any undead they would be less likely to be evil than any random live person (...) we stumble across. Consider this a call for some undead understanding. I am going to approach these conclusions in a roundabout way. First, I’ll try to sketch something of an ontology of the undead, an account of their nature and variety. Then, I’ll show how these considerations should change how we think about the undead and their purported propensity for evil. (shrink)
The problems of evil and suffering have been extensively discussed in Jewish philosophy, and much of the discussion has centred on the Book of Job. In this study Oliver Leaman poses two questions: how can a powerful and caring deity allow terrible things to happen to obviously innocent people, and why have the Jewish people been so harshly treated throughout history, given their status as the chosen people? He explores these issues through an analysis of the views of Philo, (...) Saadya, Maimonides, Gersonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and post-Holocaust thinkers, and suggests that a discussion of evil and suffering is really a discussion about our relationship with God. (shrink)
The notion of radical evil plays a more important role in Kant's moral theory than is typically recognized. In Religion Within the Limits of Mere Reason, radical evil is both an innate propensity and a morally imputable act – a paradoxical status that has prompted commentators to reject it as inconsistent with the rest of Kant's moral theory. In contrast, I argue that the notion of radical evil accounts for the beginning of moral responsibility in Kant's theory, (...) since the act of attributing radical evil to one's freedom is an inauguration into the autonomous stance. (shrink)
In his recent book, A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil, Andrew Gleeson challenges a certain conception of justification assumed in mainstream analytic philosophy and argues that analytic philosophy is ill-suited to deal with the most pressing, existential, form of the problem of evil. In this article I examine some aspects of that challenge.
In this paper I defend the Anselmian conception of God as a necessary being who is necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good against arguments that attempt to show that we have good reason to think there are evil possible worlds in which either God does not exist or in which He lacks at least one of these attributes. I argue that the critics of Anselmianism have failed to provide any compelling reason to think such worlds are possible. The best (...) the critic of Anselmianism can achieve is a stand-off of competing modal intuitions. I conclude by suggesting some ways of resolving such a stand-off in favor of the Anselmian view. (shrink)
Why is the philosophy of religion important? -- Is God real? -- How can God be known? -- Faith and reason or faith vs. reason? -- What is religious experience? -- Who is religious and what is faith? -- What is God? -- Does religion need the supernatural? -- Do miracles occur? -- What is evil and why does it exist? -- What happens after death? -- What is spirituality? -- How does religion affect personal ethics? -- How does (...) religion affect social ethics? -- What is a religious life? (shrink)
The De Malo represents some of Aquinas' most mature thinking on goodness, badness, and human agency. In it he examines the full range of questions associated with evil: its origin, its nature, its relation to good, and its compatability with the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent God. This edition offers Richard Regan's new, clear readable English translation, based on the Leonine Commission's authoritative edition of the Latin text. Brian Davies has provided an extensive introduction and notes. (Please note: this (...) edition does not include the Latin text). (shrink)
Since September 11, 2001, many people in the United States have been more inclined to use the language of good and evil, and to be more comfortable with the idea that certain moral standards are objective (true independently of what anyone happens to think of them). Some people, especially those who are not religious, are not sure how to substantiate this view. Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? provides a basis for exploring these doubts and ultimately defends the (...) objectivity of ethics. Engaging and accessible, it is the first introduction to meta-ethics written especially for students and general readers with no philosophical background. Focusing on the issues at the foundation of morality, it poses such questions as: How can we know what is right and wrong? Does ethical objectivity require God? Why should I be moral? Where do moral standards come from? What is a moral value, and how can it exist in a scientific world? Do cultural diversity and persistent moral disagreement support moral skepticism? Writing in a clear and lively style and employing many examples to illustrate theoretical arguments, Russ Shafer-Landau identifies the many weaknesses in contemporary moral skepticism and devotes considerable attention to presenting, and critiquing, the most difficult objections to his view. Also included in the book are a helpful summary of all the major arguments covered, as well as a glossary of key philosophical terms. Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? is ideal for a variety of philosophy courses and compelling reading for anyone interested in ethics. (shrink)
Preliminary matters -- Appendix to chapter 1: evil and experimental philosophy -- Taxonomies of wickedness -- The structure of evil character -- The content of evil character -- Appendix to chapter 4: evil and social psychology -- Evil and moral responsibility -- Evil and abnormal psychology -- Evil and capital punishment.
Augustine, perhaps the most important and most widely read Father of the Church, first became preoccupied with the problem of evil in his boyhood, and this preoccupation continued throughout his life. Augustine's ideas about evil were to mark out the boundaries of the problem for those who came after him; his influence was greater and more widespread than any other early Christian thinker and is still of importance both with those who agree with him and with those who (...) do not. Augustine's personality, so loveably and intricately revealed in his Confessions, has always made him a figure of intense interest. (shrink)
First book: Just plain evil -- You cannot meaningfully talk this way : violence is a virtue-so you cannot justifiably act that way -- Second book: Ordinary silence -- Affirming the limits of our words : listening attentively makes a life worth living -- Supplements to first and second books -- The difficulty is to stop.
The concept of evil has been an unpopular one in many recent Western political and ethical discourses. One way to justify this neglect is by pointing to the many problemswiththe concept of evil. The standard grievances brought against the very concept of evil include: that it has no proper place in secular political and ethical discourses; that it is a demonizing term of hatred that leads to violence; that it is necessarily linked with outdated notions of body (...) and sexuality; and that it only hinders rather than aids our ability to understand. I shall seek to argue in defence of the concept of evil against these charges. The upshot of this argument is that the language and concept of evil has a justified and important role to play in political and ethical discourses. (shrink)
Raising the question -- The cause of evil -- Why evil? -- What it means for evil to be -- Origins -- Genealogy -- Mirrored evil -- The eerie -- The unholy -- The ignoble -- The reality of evil -- Epilogue.
Genocide in Rwanda, multiple murder at Denver or Dunblane, the gruesome activities of serial killers - what makes these great evils, and why do they occur? In addressing such questions this book, unusually, interconnects contemporary moral philosophy with recent work in New Testament scholarship. The conclusions to emerge are surprising. Gordon Graham argues that the inability of modernist thought to account satisfactorily for evil and its occurrence should not lead us to embrace an eclectic postmodernism, but to take seriously (...) some unfashionable pre-modern conceptions - Satan, demonic possession, spiritual powers, cosmic battles. Precisely because it strives to observe the high standards of clarity and rigour that are the hallmarks of philosophy in the analytical tradition, the book makes a powerful case for the rejection of humanism and naturalism, and for explaining the moral obligation to struggle against evil by reference to the New Testament's cosmic narrative. (shrink)
"Today our nation saw evil." - President George W. Bush, September 11th 2001 Evil! Like a zombie back from the grave, it has arisen--a word many of us had long ago relegated to Sunday sermons, video games and horror flicks. But of course, evil is not old fashioned, nor has it ever gone away, and may be as robust as ever. So what is evil? Does it exist? Veteran journalist Bill Hart tries to drag evil (...) out of the darkness and hold it up to the light. In doing so, he has written a very readable account of 5,000 years of philosophy, theology and human history as it reflects and refines its notion of evil. More than an explanation of why bad things happen, Evil: A Primer is a tour through the nether regions in search of what we really know. (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 Argument from Evil 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)
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the concept of 'evil' has enjoyed renewed popularity in both international political rhetoric and scholarly writing. World leaders, politicians, and intellectuals have increasingly turned to 'evil' to describe the very worst humanitarian atrocities that continue to mark international affairs. However, precisely what 'evil' actually entails is not well understood. Little consensus exists as to what 'evil' is, how it is manifested in the international sphere, and what we ought (...) to do about it. With this in mind, this work seeks to ascertain precisely what is meant by 'evil' when it is used to describe actors and events in international politics. Focusing on the history of evil in western secular and religious thought, it reintroduces a classical understanding of evil as the means according to which we seek to understand otherwise meaningless human suffering. (shrink)
In The Nature of Evil, Daryl Koehn takes us on a sweeping tour of different interpretations of evil. In this timely and serious discussion she argues that evil is not intentional malice, but rather violence that stems from a false sense of self. Violence is not true evil but a symptom of the underlying evil of our failure to really know who we are. Koehn examines situations in which good intentions can have horrific results. She (...) explores such works as The Talented Mr. Ripley , Dante's Inferno , and The Turn of the Screw to illustrate the origins of evil and suffering. The Nature of Evil offers an insightful and engaging exploration at a time when we are all struggling to understand the roots of violence and suffering. (shrink)
A clearly written and up-to-date textbook on the profound question of how God can exist simultaneously with evil. It introduces the fundamental issues of philosophical thinking for the beginner student, while at the same time clarifying and the answering deeper philosophical questions of interest to a more advanced readership.
Follow the leader: why people go against their better judgment? -- How could they do that?: understanding the many sources and faces of evil -- Silently standing by: why we do or don't come to the aid of those who need us -- Paving the way to resistance: the gift of good during the Nazi occupation 1939-1945 -- Preconditions of resistance during the Armenian and Rwandan genocides -- Nature of goodness -- The world of heroes: why we need heroes (...) -- Conclusion. (shrink)
"A wild and exuberant romp through the terrain of the monstrous . . . Oppenheimer's lucid explanations are the perfect antidotes to the sordid scenes he recreates." -American Book Review "A masterly and original study of one of the most frightening topics with which human beings have to struggle." -Literary Review "What is compelling, different and page-turning about this impressive book is that the author analyses evil through the medium of films and literature . . . Cinema buffs will (...) find it a fascinating read." -Evening Standard The notion of evil- does it exist? what forms does it take? -has always fascinated humankind. The evil underlying such atrocities as the Holocaust, Communist China's Tibetan abattoir, and the murderous ethnic cleansing undertaken by the Serbs and Croats seems beyond explanations or analysis. In this powerfully original work, Oppenheimer analyzes the phenomenon of evil in a mental behavior that emerges in particular conditions. Oppenheimer argues that evil contains specific, predictable ingredients. By understanding its nature, we can diagnose its specific manifestations in mass murder, genocide, and serial killings. Utilizing a variety of cinematic and literary genres in developing its evidence, the book considers such familiar films as The Silence of the Lambs and Brazil , and draws upon such literary works as Richard III, Oedipus the King and the Picture of Dorian Gray. Evil and the Demonic takes a bold first step, providing a framework in which to place the horrors of human existence. (shrink)
One of the most intractable problems for the contemporary Anglo-American theist is reconciling the enormous amount of apparent gratuitous suffering in the world with the existence of an all-perfect deity. Suffering Belief reviews the leading attempts at justifying the existence of evil and salvaging a rational basis of belief in the traditional Western God. Through a systematic evaluation of the kinds of evil that most strongly call belief into question, such as genocide, natural catastrophes, animal suffering, and disease, (...) it is shown that there is scant basis for continued belief in an all-perfect God and compelling reason for abandoning such a damaging construct. (shrink)
The distinctiveness of political evil -- Widespread evil within -- Unrelenting evil without -- The misuses of appeasement -- Democracy's terrorism problem -- The case against dramatizing genocide -- Ethnic cleaning's seductive attractions -- The politics of counter-evil.
This book is the first comprehensive study of Rousseau's rich and complex theory of the type of self-love (amour proper) that, for him, marks the central difference between humans and the beasts. Amour proper is the passion that drives human individuals to seek the esteem, approval, admiration, or love--the recognition--of their fellow beings. Neuhouser reconstructs Rousseau's understanding of what the drive for recognition is, why it is so problematic, and how its presence opens up far-reaching developmental possibilities for creatures that (...) possess it. One of Rousseau's central theses is that amour proper in its corrupted, manifestations--pride or vanity--is the principal source of an array of evils so widespread that they can easily appear to be necessary features of the human condition: enslavement, conflict, vice, misery, and self-estrangement. Yet Rousseau also argues that solving these problems depends not on suppressing or overcoming the drive for recognition but on cultivating it so that it contributes positively to the achievement of freedom, peace, virtue, happiness, and unalienated selfhood. Indeed, Rousseau goes so far as to claim that, despite its many dangers, the need for recognition is a condition of nearly everything that makes human life valuable and that elevates it above mere animal existence: rationality, morality, freedom--subjectivity itself--would be impossible for humans if it were not for amour proper and the relations to others it impels us to establish. (shrink)
The idea of ‘hope’ has received significant attention in the political sphere recently. But is hope just wishful thinking, or can it be something more than a political catch-phrase? This book argues that hope can be understood existentially, or on the basis of what it means to be human. Under this conception of hope, given to us by Gabriel Marcel, hope is not optimism, but the creation of ways for us to flourish. War, poverty and an absolute reliance on technology (...) are real-life evils that can suffocate hope. Marcel’s thought provides a way to overcome these negative experiences. An ethics of hope can function as an alternative to isolation, dread, and anguish offered by most existentialists. This book presents Marcel’s existentialism as a convincing, relevant moral theory; founded on the creation of hope, interwoven with the individual’s response to the death of God. Jill Hernandez argues that today’s reader of Marcel can resonate with his belief that the experience of pain can be transcended through a philosophy of hope and an escape from materialism. (shrink)
Reprinted in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, Wadsworth, 2013, 6th edition, eds. Michael Rea and Louis Pojman. In this essay, I argue that the moral skepticism objection to what is badly named "skeptical theism" fails.
Could God have created a better universe? Well, the fundamental scientific laws and parameters of the universe have to be within a certain miniscule range, for a life-sustaining universe to develop: the universe must be ‘Fine Tuned’. Therefore the ‘embryonic universe’ that came into existence with the ‘big bang’ had to be either exactly as it was or within a certain tiny range, for there to develop a life-sustaining universe. If it is better that there exist a life-sustaining universe than (...) not, then it was better that the embryonic universe was one of this small set of very similar embryonic universes than that it was not. Furthermore, there are no firm grounds for claiming that of this small set of very similar embryonic universes, there is one which would have developed into a universe better than ours. Therefore there are no firm grounds for claiming that God could have created a better universe than ours. (shrink)
There are few philosophers today cool enough to be referenced in the Matrix , interesting enough to be mentioned on Six Feet Under , and popular enough to get over 606,000 hits on Google. Jean Baudrillard has succeeded in all of this and more. Now, in his latest book, Baudrillard presents his most popular themes--symbolic exchange, hyper-reality, technology and war--and applies them to the current global conflict between "the West and the Rest", including Islam. Ultimately, it is not simply about (...) the war against terror but about the bigger picture of capitalism versus everything else. This book serves as the summation of Baudrillard's work over the last twenty years and is the essential analysis of the fundamental conflict of our time. (shrink)
I borrow an idea from the fiction of C. S. Lewis that future outcomes may affect the value of past events, defend this idea via the concept of a 'temporal whole' and show its promise as a partial theodicy and its resonance with Christian theism and a robust personalism.