First Philosophical Principles in the Problem of Evil

Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University (2002)

This dissertation explores the intellectual problem of evil by asking several questions. How does one define the word "evil?" How does evil arise? How might one find a sense of meaning and hope in the face of one's experience of evil? How can one reconcile one's experience of evil with one's understanding of the cosmos and the sacred? ;Eight possible responses to the problem are examined. Since this problem is particularly perplexing to those who believe in a monotheistic worldview, most of the eight responses begin with the assumption of monotheism. In each of the eight cases, I argue that one's solution to the problem of evil is integrally related to two subjective issues: the prioritization that one assigns to various possible authorities ; and the speculative worldview that one employs. ;The argument begins with the assertion that all worldviews are highly speculative in nature and therefore subjective. Since the worldview generally justifies the use of certain authorities, one must conclude that those authorities are also subjective. ;In part two, we examine several philosophical arguments for rejecting the problem of evil on the grounds that we are epistemologically blocked from any solution, or that it is impious of us to ask, or that the terms of the argument are meaningless. ;Part three analyzes three popular philosophical solutions to the problem of evil: either there is no divine being who controls all events; or the divine being is not entirely good; or the evil that finite humans perceive is not evil from an ultimate and eternal perspective. ;In closing, I offer my own speculations with regard to metaphysics and philosophical authorities. These assumptions generate a particular solution to the problem of evil that features a good deity who is limited in efficacy. Hence, although God is effective in many cases, God is not able to impose the divine will upon many occasions. I argue that this solution offers the most hope and meaning to those who have been the victims of horrendous evil
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