About this topic
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
Related categories
Siblings:See also:History/traditions: The Argument from Evil

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  1. Good and Evil Actions.Romanus & Justin Marie Brophy, O. P. - 2011 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 85 (3):499-500.
  2. R. A. Sharpe. The Moral Case Against Religious Belief. (London: SCM Press, 1997.) Pp. 102. £7.95 Pbk.B. A. - 1998 - Religious Studies 34 (2):231-234.
  3. The Resolution of the Problem of Theodicy in the New Testament.F. Abel - 2005 - Filozofia 60 (8):573-595.
    The question of Theodicy demands a reasonable justification of the nature, structures and goals of evil and suffering in the world. The paper attempts to explain the reasons for its presence in our lives and seeks to unveil its principles. If God is all knowing, almighty and also merciful, we must face the problem of the presence of evil and suffering in this world. The main goal of the paper is to show the way the New Testament deals with this (...)
  4. An Alternative Free Will Defence.Robert Ackermann - 1982 - Religious Studies 18 (3):365 - 372.
    Many philosophers have written in the past as though it were nearly obvious to rational reflection that the existence of evil in this world is incompatible with the presumed properties of the Christian God, and they have assumed a proof of incompatibility to be easy to construct. An informal underpinning for this line of thought is easy to develop. Surely God in his benevolence finds evil to be evil, and hence has both the desire and the means, provided by his (...)
  5. An Alterantive Free Will Defence.Robert Ackermann - 1982 - Religious Studies 18 (3):365.
    Many philosophers have written in the past as though it were nearly obvious to rational reflection that the existence of evil in this world is incompatible with the presumed properties of the Christian God, and they have assumed a proof of incompatibility to be easy to construct. An informal underpinning for this line of thought is easy to develop. Surely God in his benevolence finds evil to be evil, and hence has both the desire and the means, provided by his (...)
  6. Julian of Norwich: Problems of Evil and the Seriousness of Sin.Marilyn Adams - 2011 - 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 (...)
  7. Ignorance, Instrumentality, Compensation, and the Problem of Evil.Marilyn McCord Adams - 2013 - Sophia 52 (1):7-26.
    Some theodicists, skeptical theists, and friendly atheists agree that God-justifying reasons for permitting evils would have to have an instrumental structure: that is, the evils would have to be necessary to secure a great enough good or necessary to prevent some equally bad or worse evil. D.Z. Phillips contends that instrumental reasons could never justify anyone for causing or permitting horrendous evils and concludes that the God of Restricted Standard Theism does not exist—indeed, is a conceptual mistake. After considering Phillips’ (...)
  8. Plantinga on “Felix Culpa”.Marilyn McCord Adams - 2008 - 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 (...)
  9. Chalcedonian Christology: A Christian Solution to the Problem of Evil.Marilyn McCord Adams - 1997 - In Stephen T. Davis (ed.), Philosophy and Theological Discourse. St. Martin's Press.
  10. God and Evil: Polarities of a Problem.Marilyn McCord Adams - 1993 - Philosophical Studies 69 (2-3):167 - 186.
  11. Redemptive Suffering: A Christian Solution to the Problem of Evil.Marilyn McCord Adams - 1986 - In William Wainwright & Robert Audi (eds.), Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment: New Essays in the Philosophy of Religion. Cornell University Press.
  12. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God.Marilyn McCord Adams & Stewart Sutherland - 1989 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63 (1):297 - 323.
  13. Horrendous Evils and The Goodness of God.Marilyn McCord Adams & Stewart Sutherland - 1989 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 63 (1):297-323.
  14. Theodicy Without Blame in Philosophy of Religion.Ms Adams - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (2):215-245.
  15. Love and the Problem of Evil.Robert Merrihew Adams - 2006 - 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 (...)
  16. Schleiermacher on Evil.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1996 - 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 (...)
  17. The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1987 - Oxford University Press.
    Robert Merrihew Adams has been a leader in renewing philosophical respect for the idea that moral obligation may be founded on the commands of God. This collection of Adams' essays, two of which are previously unpublished, draws from his extensive writings on philosophical theology that discuss metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues surrounding the concept of God--whether God exists or not, what God is or would be like, and how we ought to relate ourselves to such a being. Adams studies the (...)
  18. Existence, Self-Interest, and the Problem of Evil.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1979 - Noûs 13 (1):53-65.
  19. The Nature of Necessity (A. Plantinga).Robert Merrihew Adams - 1977 - Noûs 11 (2):175-191.
  20. Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1977 - American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (2):109-117.
  21. Mittleres Wissen und das Problem des Übels [Middle knowledge and the problem of evil].Robert Merrihew Adams & Vincent C. Müller - 1998 - In Christian Jäger (ed.), Analytische Religionsphilosophie. Ferdinand Schöningh. pp. 253-272.
    Wenn Präsident Kennedy nicht erschossen worden wäre, hätte er dann Nordvietnam bombardiert? Das weiß Gott allein. Oder doch nicht? Weiß wenigstens Er, was Kennedy getan hätte? ... Die Jesuiten behaupteten unter anderem, daß viele menschliche Handlungen in dem Sinne frei seien, daß die Ausführenden nicht logisch oder kausal gezwungen seien, sie auszuführen. („Frei“ wird im vorliegenden Aufsatz stets in diesem Sinne verwendet werden.) Wie behält Gott dann die Kontrolle über die menschliche Geschichte? Nicht dadurch, daß Er menschliche Handlungen kausal determiniert, (...)
  22. A. S. Peake, The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament. [REVIEW]W. E. Addis - 1904 - Hibbert Journal 3:619.
  23. Michael Bergmann, Michael J. Murray, and Michael C. Rea, Eds. , Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham . Reviewed By. [REVIEW]Peter Admirand - 2012 - Philosophy in Review 32 (2):82-85.
  24. God and Evil— A Note.M. B. Ahern - 1967 - Sophia 6 (3):23-26.
  25. An Approach to the Problem of Evil.M. B. Ahern - 1963 - Sophia 2 (1):18-26.
  26. Environmental Ethics and the Expanding Problem of Evil.Scott F. Aikin - 2014 - Think 13 (36):33-39.
    The problem of evil is that morally gratuitous suffering and destruction is evidence against a benevolent and potent god. Often cases of this evil are restricted to human suffering, but if the moral universe is expanded in the fashion associated with environmental ethics, the scope of morally significant suffering and destruction grows. Consequently, the wider the scope of the moral universe, the problem of evil becomes harder for theists to solve.
  27. The Problem of Evil: An Islamic Approach.Muhammad Al-Ghazali - 1997 - In William Cenkner (ed.), Evil and the Response of World Religion. Paragon House. pp. 70--79.
  28. Calvinism and the Problem of Evil.David E. Alexander & Daniel M. Johnson (eds.) - 2016 - Wipf & Stock.
    Contrary to what many philosophers believe, Calvinism neither makes the problem of evil worse nor is it obviously refuted by the presence of evil and suffering in our world. Or so most of the authors in this book claim. While Calvinism has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years amongst theologians and laypersons, many philosophers have yet to follow suit. The reason seems fairly clear: Calvinism, many think, cannot handle the problem of evil with the same kind of plausibility as other (...)
  29. Flannery O'Connor.Rose Alice - 1964 - Renascence 16 (3):126-132.
  30. The Soul-Making Theodicy: A Response to Dore.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The soul-making theodicy seeks to explain how belief in the existence of God is compatible with the evil, pain and suffering we experience in our world. It purports to meet the problem of evil posed by non-theists by articulating a divine plan in which the occurrence of evil is necessary for enabling the greater good of character building of free moral agents. Many philosophers of religion have levelled strong objections against this theodicy. In this essay, Leslie Allan considers the effectiveness (...)
  31. Plantinga's Free Will Defence: Critical Note.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    Some atheistic philosophers have argued that God could have created a world with free moral agents and yet absent of moral evil. Using possible world semantics, Alvin Plantinga sought to defuse this logical form of the problem of evil. In this critical note, Leslie Allan examines the adequacy of Plantinga's argument that the existence of God is logically compatible with the existence of moral evil. The veracity of Plantinga's argument turns on whether his essential use of counterfactual conditionals preserves the (...)
  32. The Problem of Evil.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The existence of evil, pain and suffering is considered by many philosophers to be the most vexed question concerning the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect deity. Why would a loving God permit wanton acts of cruelty and misery on the scale witnessed throughout human history? In this essay, Leslie Allan evaluates four common theistic responses to this problem, highlighting the benefits and challenges faced by each approach. He concludes with a critical examination of a theistic defence designed (...)
  33. The Order of Evils: Toward an Ontology of Morals. [REVIEW]Barry Allen - 2008 - Common Knowledge 14 (3):505-505.
  34. Natural Evil and the Love of God.Diogenes Allen - 1980 - Religious Studies 16 (4):439 - 456.
    There is some important data which has not as yet found its way into philosophic discussions on the problem of evil. Some religious people report that suffering, instead of being contrary to the love of God, is actually a medium in and through which his love can be experienced. This looks highly paradoxical, but it will be our purpose to show that it is intelligible and that it has important consequences for philosophical discussions of the problem of evil.
  35. Critically Muddled: A Reply to Carrier.Michael Almeida - 2008 - Philo 11 (1):120-129.
    In a recent article in Philo I critique William Rowe’s new evidential argument from evil. Richard Carrier claims I advance an argument for theism in that article and proposes a counterexample to that argument. I show that Carrier’s counterexample fails for reasons that are fairly obvious. I then offer help. The best chance for a counterexample to the argument I offer comes from the possibility of cryptid creatures. But it is not difficult to show that counterexamples from cryptic creatures also (...)
  36. Can God Be Free? [REVIEW]Michael Almeida - 2006 - Faith and Philosophy 23 (3):345-350.
  37. Rowe's Argument From Improvability.Michael Almeida - 2006 - Philosophical Papers 35 (1):1-25.
    William Rowe has argued that if there is an infinite sequence of improving worlds then an essentially perfectly good being must actualize some world in the sequence and must not actualize any world in the sequence. Since that is impossible, there exist no perfectly good beings. I show that Rowe's argument assumes that the concept of a maximally great being is incoherent. Since we are given no reason to believe that the concept of a maximally great being is incoherent we (...)
  38. On Infinitely Improving Worlds.Michael Almeida - 2005 - Philo 8 (1):38-46.
    William Rowe argues that an essentially perfectly good being could not actualize a world unless there is no better world it could actualize instead. According to Rowe’s Argument from Improvability, if there is an infinite series of ever-improving and actualizable worlds then a perfect being could actualize exactly none of them. I argue that there is no reason to believe Rowe’s argument is sound. It therefore presents no important objection to theism.
  39. The New Evidential Argument Defeated.Michael Almeida - 2004 - 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 (...)
  40. A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil. [REVIEW]Michael J. Almeida - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):607-610.
  41. A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil, by Andrew Gleeson: New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, Pp. Ix+ 172, US $85.00 (Hardcover). [REVIEW]Michael J. Almeida - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):1-4.
  42. The Logical Problem of Evil Regained.Michael J. Almeida - 2012 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 36 (1):163-176.
  43. On Evil's Vague Necessity.Michael J. Almeida - 2009 - In Jonathan L. Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion: Volume 2. Oxford University Press.
  44. Ideal Worlds and the Transworld Untrustworthy.Michael J. Almeida - 2004 - Religious Studies 40 (1):113-123.
    The celebrated free-will defence was designed to show that the ideal-world thesis presents no challenge to theism. The ideal-world thesis states that, in any world in which God exists, He can actualize a world containing moral good and no moral evil. I consider an intriguing two-stage argument that Michael Bergmann advances for the free-will defence, and show that the argument provides atheologians with no reason to abandon the ideal-world thesis. I show next that the existence of worlds in which every (...)
  45. Rowe's Argument From Freedom.Michael J. Almeida - 2003 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 53 (2):83-91.
  46. Refuting Van Inwagen's 'Refutation': Evidentialism Again.Michael J. Almeida - 1998 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 44 (1):23 - 29.
  47. Sceptical Theism and Evidential Arguments From Evil.Michael J. Almeida & Graham Oppy - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):496 – 516.
    Sceptical theists--e.g., William Alston and Michael Bergmann--have claimed that considerations concerning human cognitive limitations are alone sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We argue that, if the considerations deployed by sceptical theists are sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil, then those considerations are also sufficient to undermine inferences that play a crucial role in ordinary moral reasoning. If cogent, our argument suffices to discredit sceptical theist responses to evidential arguments from evil.
  48. Reply to Trakakis and Nagasawa.Michael Almeida & Graham Oppy - 2005 - Ars Disputandi 5:5-11.
    Nick Trakakis and Yujin Nagasawa criticise the argument in Almeida and Oppy . According to Trakakis and Nagasawa, we are mistaken in our claim that the sceptical theist response to evidential arguments from evil is unacceptable because it would undermine ordinary moral reasoning. In their view, there is no good reason to think that sceptical theism leads to an objectionable form of moral scepticism. We disagree. In this paper, we explain why we think that the argument of Nagasawa and Trakakis (...)
  49. The Inductive Problem of Evil.William Alston - 1991 - Philosophical Perspectives 5 (65):59.
  50. Some (Temporarily) Final Thoughts on Evidential.William P. Alston - 1996 - In Daniel Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument From Evil. Indiana University Press. pp. 311.
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