The Preface to Leibniz's famous Theodicy offers a perspective on the work that has been insufficiently studied. In this paper, I ask that we step back from the main text of the Theodicy and attend to its Preface. I show that the latter performs two crucial preparatory tasks that have not been properly appreciated. The first is to offer a public declaration of what I call Leibniz’s radical rationalism. The Preface assumes that any attentive rational being is capable (...) of divine knowledge. The basic idea is that it is knowledge about a divine perfection that can be understood more or less completely. In the Preface, Leibniz entices his readers to seek such knowledge and explains why doing so has been so difficult before now. What makes this rationalism radical is that divine knowledge is severed from any religion or set of religious beliefs. While some Christian doctrines make it easier to approach God, they are neither necessary nor sufficient to do so. The author of the Theodicy thereby informs his readers that they have access to divine perfections, regardless of religious affiliation. To acquire such knowledge, they need only work through his book. The second task of the Preface is closely related to the first. It invites readers to seek divine love and virtue. To set themselves on the path to virtue, they need only avoid the pitfalls of religion and use reason in the right way to grasp a divine perfection. Once they enter the main text of the Theodicy, they have begun that journey. (shrink)
I develop a new theodicy in defense of Anselmian theism, one that has several advantages over traditional and recent replies to the Problem of Evil. To make my case, I first explain the value of a positive trajectory: a forward-in-time decrease in ‘first-order-gratuitous’ evil: evil that is not necessary for any equal-or-greater first-order good, but may be necessary for a higher-order good, such as the good of strongly positive axiological trajectory. Positive trajectory arguably contributes goodness to a world in (...) proportion to the magnitude of this trajectory, and worlds that contain first-order-gratuitous evil thereby have the potential to contain a strongly positive trajectory. This would arguably explain why God would permit first-order-gratuitous evils: he may be indifferent between a world with no first-order-gratuitous evil and a world with some first-order-gratuitous evil but a strongly positive trajectory. Next, I answer the most salient objections to this theodicy. Finally, I explain how this theodicy is superior to some common theodicies. (shrink)
In this paper, we attempt to show that if Plantinga’s free will defence succeeds, his O Felix Culpa theodicy fails. For if every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity, then given that Jesus has a creaturely essence (as we attempt to show), it follows that Incarnation and Atonement worlds cannot be actualized by God, in which case we have anything but a felix culpa.
Theodicy, the enterprise of searching for greater goods that might plausibly justify God’s permission of evil, is often criticized on the grounds that the project has systematically failed to unearth any such goods. But theodicists also face a deeper challenge, one that places under question the very attempt to look for any morally sufficient reasons God might have for creating a world littered with evil. This ‘anti-theodical’ view argues that theists (and non-theists) ought to reject, primarily for moral reasons, (...) the project of ‘justifying the ways of God to men’. Unfortunately, this view has not received the serious attention it deserves, particularly in analytic philosophy of religion. Taking my cues from such anti-theodicists as Kenneth Surin, D.Z. Phillips and Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, I defend several reasons for holding that the way of thinking about God and evil enshrined in theodical discourse can only add to the world’s evils, not remove or illuminate them. (shrink)
Marilyn McCord Adams agrees with D. Z. Phillips that instrumental theodicy is a moral failure, and that sceptical theists and others are guilty of ignoring what we know now about the moral reality of horrendous evils to speculate about unknown ways these evils might be made sense of. In place of theodicy, Adams advocates ‘the logic of compensation’ for the victims of evil, a postmortem healing of divine intimacy with God. This goes so deep, she believes, that eventually (...) victims will see the horrors they suffered as points of contact with the incarnate, suffering God and cease wishing they had never suffered them. I argue Adams’s position falls foul of the very criticisms she and Phillips make against instrumental theodicy. (shrink)
Amid the diverse ways men and women have viewed the relationship between science and religion, explicit arguments that “Science is God's Provision” remain unexamined by historians. Such arguments are examined here as they relate to the problem of theodicy, by looking at a particular case study that inspired comments on the relationship between medicine and faith, namely, the discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin. This story highlights, first, the flexibility of the tradition of natural theology, and second, the important role (...) the problem of theodicy has played in the history of the relationship between science and religion. (shrink)
The author contextualizes the Problem of Evil in Open Theism system, listing its main theses, primarily the logicof- love-defense (and free-will-defense) connected to Trinitarian speculation. After evaluating the discussion in Analytic Philosophy of Religion, the focus is on the personal mystery of evil, claiming that, because of mystery and vagueness, the Problem of Evil is undecidable. Recalling other schools of thought (Pareyson: ontology of freedom; Moltmann: Dialectical theology; Kenotic theology; Original Sin hermeneutics), the author tries to grasp their common insights. (...) One of them is the evident explanatory failure of theodicies, expressed in the antinomian statements ‘God is not innocent’. The author follows these insights, developing the concept of Eternal Immolation (Bulgakov), arguing that, without a proper understanding of its mystery (what is, and what is not), theistic theodicy could remain compromised. ‘Eternal Immolation’ is considered consequent – or already present – in recent speculations, it stands or falls when we accept that these reveal some unresolved points in Christian doctrine. Hence, ‘Eternal Immolation’ becomes a coordinating-concept, able to bring together their assumptions: several kinds of kenosis, the ontology of freedom with a logic-of-love defense, strongly linked to a libertarian human freedom, and the acknowledgement of the unresolved mystery of evil. (shrink)
Contemporary proponents of theodicy generally believe that a theodical reply to the evidential argument from evil must involve some appeal to the afterlife. In Richard Swinburne's writings on theodicy, however, we find two arguments that may be offered in opposition to this prevailing view. In this paper, these two arguments - the argument from usefulness and the argument from assumed consent - are explained and evaluated. It is suggested that both of these arguments are rendered ineffective by their (...) failure to distinguish between the different ways in which persons may be of-use in the attainment of some good state of affairs. (shrink)
CRITIQUES OF THEODICIES FOR NATURAL EVIL, DERIVED FROM NATURAL LAWS, SUGGEST TWO REQUIREMENTS THAT A SUCCESSFUL THEODICY PURPORTEDLY MUST SATISFY. REQUIREMENT (1)-- THAT THE THEIST MUST SHOW THAT IT IS CONTRADICTORY OR ABSURD FOR GOD TO INTERVENE IN THE WORLD IN A MIRACULOUS FASHION TO ELIMINATE NATURAL EVIL--IS MET BY SHOWING THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO CREATE A WORLD GOVERNED BY DIVINE MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION. AS FOR REQUIREMENT (2) -- THAT THE THEIST MUST SHOW THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE (...) FOR GOD TO CREATE A SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER WORLD THAN THIS ONE, AND THAT THIS IMPOSSIBILITY DOES NOT CONFLICT WITH DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE--I ARGUE THAT IT NEED NOT BE MET, SINCE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE EMPIRICALLY WHETHER THIS IS OR IS NOT THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS. (shrink)
In this paper I offer a discussion of chapter 3 of Adrian Moore’s The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, which is titled “Leibniz: Metaphysics in the Service of Theodicy.” Here Moore discusses the philosophy of Leibniz and comes to a damning conclusion. My main aim is to suggest that such a conclusion might be a little premature. I begin by outlining Moore’s discussion of Leibniz and then raise some problems for the objections that Moore presents. I follow this by raising (...) a Moore-inspired problem of my own and offer a possible response. The response is based on a little-known essay of Leibniz’s called “Leibniz’s Philosophical Dream” and leads me to consider Leibniz’s deepest motivations for engaging in philosophical reflection. (shrink)
Marilyn Adams rightly pointed out that there are many kinds of evil, some of which are horrendous. I claim that one species of horrendous evil is what I call horrendous-difference disabilities. I distinguish two subspecies of horrendous-difference disabilities based in part on the temporal relation between one’s rational moral wishing for a certain human function F and its being thwarted by intrinsic and extrinsic conditions. Next, I offer a theodicy for each subspecies of horrendous-difference disability. Although I appeal to (...) some claims made by Marilyn Adams for this theodicy, I reject one particular claim. I deny that one must be aware that one participates in a horrendous evil when the horrific event occurs. To develop this point and its relevance for a theodicy for horrendous-difference disabilities, I engage with Andrew Chignell’s work on infant suffering. In doing so, I show that what partly motivates the claim is a time-bias, i.e., near-bias. By rejecting this time-bias, I show how it is possible, given post-mortem life, for persons with profound cognitive disabilities to participate in horrendous evils and how these might be defeated by God. (shrink)
Inductive arguments from evil claim that evil presents evidence against the existence of God. Skeptical theists hold that some such arguments from evil evince undue confidence in our familiarity with the sphere of possible goods and the entailments that obtain between that sphere and God’s permission of evil. I argue that the skeptical theist’s skepticism on this point is inconsistent with affirming the truth of a given theodicy. Since the skeptical theist’s skepticism is best understood dialogically, I’ll begin by (...) sketching the kind of argument against which the skeptical theist’s skepticism is pitched. I will then define ‘skeptical theistic skepticism’, offer a precise definition of ‘theodicy’, and proceed with my argument. (shrink)
Leibniz wished that his Theodicy (1710) would have as great and as wide an impact as possible, and to further this end we find him in his correspondence with Caroline often expressing his desire that the book be translated into English. Despite his wishes, and Caroline’s efforts, this was not to happen in his lifetime (indeed, it did not happen until 1951, almost 250 years after Leibniz’s death). But even though the Theodicy did not make quite the impact (...) in England that Leibniz had hoped it would, it did draw some attention from the English intelligentsia. In this paper I shall focus on two responses to the Theodicy that were made in England in the years immediately following its publication. First, I shall consider the response of Michel de la Roche and his efforts to promote the book to an English audience in 1711 (efforts which only came to Leibniz’s attention much later, in 1713). De la Roche’s response was broadly positive, though his admiration for the Theodicy was tempered by his belief that Leibniz had struggled – unsuccessfully – to reconcile free will with divine foreknowledge. Second, I shall consider the largely negative response of George Smalridge, the Bishop of Bristol, who delivered his verdict on the book in a letter to Sophie written in 1714. Leibniz subsequently wrote a point-by-point rebuttal of (most of) Smalridge’s criticisms in a letter to Caroline, conceding only one very minor point to the Bishop. As we shall see, some of the points of substance raised by de la Roche and Smalridge have loomed over the Theodicy ever since. (shrink)
Marilyn McCord Adams argues that God’s goodness to individuals requires God to defeat horrendous evils; it is not enough for God to outweigh these evils through compensatory goods. On her view, God defeats the evils experienced by an individual if and only if God’s goodness to the individual enables her to integrate the evil organically into a unified life story she perceives as good and meaningful. In this essay, we seek to apply Adams’s theodicy of defeat to a particular (...) form of suffering. We argue that God’s goodness to individuals requires that God defeat the suffering to which a range of disabilities can give rise. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a Kantian theodicy, i.e. one based on some of the leading ideas in Kant's ethics, to the classical problem of evil and recommend it as an adequate solution to the problem of evil so understood.
In this essay, moral anti-theodicy is characterized as opposition to the trivialization of suffering, defined as the reinterpretation of horrendous evils in a way the sufferer cannot accept. Ambitious theodicy (which claim goods emerge from specific evils) is deemed always to trivialize horrendous evils and, because there is no specific theoretical context, also harm sufferers. Moral anti-theodicy is susceptible to two main criticisms. First, it is over-demanding as a moral position. Second, anti-theodicist opposition to least ambitious theodicies, (...) which portray God's decision to create as an scenario, requires a moral commitment to philosophical pessimism. Thus anti-theodicists should not be quick to take the moral high ground. However, this should not encourage theodicists, since theodicies may well be self-defeating in so far as they attempt to provide comfort. (shrink)
Several recent critiques of theodicy have incorporated some form of moral objection to the theodical enterprise, in which the critic argues that one ought not to engage in the practice of theodicy. In defending theodical practice against the moral critique, Atle O. Søvik argues that the moral critique (1) begs the question against theodicy, and (2) misapprehends the implications of the claim that it is inappropriate to espouse a theodicy in certain situations. In this paper I (...) suggest some sympathetic emendations for Søvik's theodical apologetic, but I argue against Søvik's claim that the moral critique of theodicy is altogether irrelevant. (shrink)
In his recent paper in Sophia , ‘Theodicy: The Solution to the Problem of Evil, or Part of the Problem?’ Nick Trakakis endorses the position that theodicy, whether intellectually successful or not, is a morally obnoxious enterprise. My aim in this paper is to defend theodicy from this accusation. I concede that God the Creator is a moral monster by human standards and neither to be likened to a loving parent nor imitated. Nonetheless, God is morally perfect. (...) What is abhorrent is not tough-minded theodicy but the hubris of imitating God. I further claim that it is no accident that the same sort of objection is made to act utilitarianism as to tough-minded theodicy if the latter is misinterpreted as implying a guide for human action. (shrink)
This paper draws on Weber’s theodicy problem to define organizational corruption as the emerging discrepancy between experience and normative expectation. Theodicy describes the attempts to explain this discrepancy. The paper presents four normative principles enlisted by observers to respond to perceived corruption: moral dilemma, detachment, systematic regulation, and normative controls. Consistent with social construction, these justifications work to either reaffirm or challenge prevailing social norms in the face of confusing events. An exemplar case involves perceived corruption in the (...) business of mountain climbing as represented through the 1996 Mt. Everest climbing disaster. The events illustrate how theodicy informs descriptive accounts of corruption and expose two limitations of normative models of ethics. (shrink)
In 1710 G. W. Leibniz published Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil. This book, the only one he published in his lifetime, established his reputation more than anything else he wrote. The Theodicy brings together many different strands of Leibniz's own philosophical system, and we get a rare snapshot of how he intended these disparate aspects of his philosophy to come together into a single, overarching account of divine (...) justice in the face of the world's evils. At the same time, the Theodicy is a fascinating window into the context of philosophical theology in the seventeenth century. Leibniz had his finger on the intellectual pulse of his time, and this comes out very clearly in the Theodicy. He engages with all of the major lines of theological dispute of that time, demonstrating the encyclopaedic breadth of his understanding of the issues. Leibniz's Theodicy remains one of the most abiding systematic accounts of how evil is compatible with divine goodness. Any treatment of the problem of evil must, at some point, come to grips with Leibniz's proposed solution. This volume refreshes and deepens our understanding of this great work. Leading scholars present original essays which critically evaluate the Theodicy, providing a window on its historical context and giving close attention to the subtle and enduring philosophical arguments. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between the problem of evil and a kenotic view of the Atonement evidenced not just by feminist theologians, but by analytic philosophers of religion. I will argue that, although kenosis provides an interesting story about the ability of Christ to partake in human suffering, it faces debilitating problems for understanding divine concurrence with evil in the world. Most significantly, I will argue that the potential tensions between divine justice and divine love can be loosened by (...) looking at ‘redemptive accounts’ of theodicy in the scholarship of women writing in the early modern period in philosophy, particularly Mary Hays , and Catharine Macaulay . Their work collectively confirms the problem of concrete evil and yet offers a unique theodicy grounded in the saving power of the Atonement and restorative power of Christian service. Their arguments are all the more compelling for having been written in response to egregious civil rights abuses and rampant domestic violence of their day. If the Atonement is the divinely-ordained method for gaining insight into the redemptive power of divine grace, then rather than speculating about the metaphysical nature of the divine, this paper will question how we can understand divine perfection in light of evil in the world, especially if the Atonement of Christ involves kenosis. (shrink)
In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.
This article is a response to William Lynch’s, ‘Social Epistemology Transformed: Steve Fuller’s Account of Knowledge as a Divine Spark for Human Domination,’ an extended and thoughtful reflection on my Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History. I grant that Lynch has captured well, albeit critically, the spirit and content of the book – and the thirty-year intellectual journey that led to it. In this piece, I respond at two levels. First, I justify my posture towards my predecessors and contemporaries, which (...) Lynch shrewdly sees as my opposition to deference. However, most of the response concerns an elaboration of my theodicy-focussed sense of social epistemology, which is long-standing but only started to become prominent about ten years ago, in light of my involvement in the evolution controversies. Here I aim to draw together a set of my abiding interests – scientific, theological and philosophical – in trying to provide a normative foundation for the future of humanity. (shrink)
In the elaboration of his soul-making theodicy, John Hick agrees with a controversial point made by compatibilists Antony Flew and John Mackie against the free will defense. Namely, Hick grants that God could have created humans such that they would be free to sin but would, in fact, never do so. In this paper, I identify three previously unrecognized problems that arise from his initial concession to, and ultimate rejection of, compatibilism. The first problem stems from the fact that (...) in two important texts, Hick rejects compatibilism for different and seemingly contradictory reasons. His various explanations of soul-making theodicy’s relationship to compatibilism are therefore in conflict. The second problem is closely related to the first. It turns out that when Hick’s concession to compatibilism is closely examined, soul-making theodicy appears unable to explain the existence of moral evil. The final problem consists in understanding why Hick would have made any concessions to compatibilism in the first place given that he ultimately opts for incompatibilist free will. After identifying these three problems, I develop a distinctive way in which to interpret Hick’s soul-making theodicy that solves the first two. This distinctive interpretation, moreover, has the added benefit of solving another, well-recognized problem that has long plagued Hick’s exposition: the problem of the hypnotist metaphor. Finally, I address the third problem by suggesting a rationale for Hick’s initial concession to the compatibilists. (shrink)
We develop and knit together several theodicies in order to find a more complete picture of why certain forms of animal suffering might be permitted by a perfect being. We focus on an especially potent form of the problem of evil, which arises from considering why a perfectly good, wise, and powerful God might use evolutionary mechanisms that predictably result in so much animal suffering and loss of life. There are many existing theodicies on the market, and although they offer (...) helpful resources, we combine and further develop several proposals to produce a composite theodicy that avoids certain shortcomings of the individual theodicies. An important element of our project is locating a role for randomness in cosmic and biological evolution. In particular, we show how randomness might enhance or enable certain goods, including everlasting goods, at the risk of temporary evils. (shrink)
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shusako Endo’s novel Silence takes up the anguished experience of God’s silence in the face of human su-ering. .e main character, the Jesuit priest Sabastião Rodrigues, /nds his faith gu0ed by the appalling silence of God. Yujin Nagasawa calls the particularly intense combination of the problems of divine hiddenness and evil the problem of divine absence. Drawing on the thought of Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola, this essay will explores the way Scorsese’s Silence might enable viewers (...) to both encounter the problem of divine absence and /nd a way of living with it, thereby o-ering a practical response to the problem of divine absence. .is mode of response makes the sort of a0itude Nagasawa recommends accessible by grounding it in an experience akin to catharsis, delivering a clarifying emotional consonance. In this sense, I will argue, /lm can be a practical theodicy. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 278 - 292 Responding to Zachary Braiterman’s and Daniel Garner’s ideas on post-Holocaust religious thought, the author proposes a new model of relationships between theodicy and antitheodicy in which divine perfection is no longer privileged as the single key factor. Building on Peter Berger’s and Clifford Geertz’s treatments of the problem of evil, it is suggested that focusing on meaning-making and tradition can result in a stratified view of theodicy–antitheodicy more able (...) to engage with the dynamics of several well-known thinkers associated with religious responses to the Holocaust. (shrink)
This study is the first work ever to interpret the Meditations as theodicy. I show that Descartes' attempt to define the role of God for man's cognitive fallibility in so far as God is the creator of man's nature, is a reiteration of an old Epicurean argument pointing out the incongruity between the existence of God and evil. The question of the nature and origin of error which Descartes addresses in the First Meditation is reformulated in the Fourth Meditation (...) into broader considerations about the nature and scope of human freedom. ;The point of gravity of my thesis is Descartes' conceptions of human freedom and divine liberty. Since the conception of human freedom is the reversal of the doctrine of divine liberty, I analyze the two conceptions as two sides of the same problem--the problem of man's relation to God, or the problem of the relation of finitude to Infinity. I show that Descartes' quest for Certitude--which runs parallel to his attempt to overcome the problem of an evil deity--can be reformulated into the problem of creation. I present the problem of error as the problem of evil, and the problem of human will I present as the problem of human freedom, and the search for Certitude I interpret as the vindication of God's goodness and omnipotence, that is, theodicy. ;There are several points which are essential for Cartesian metaphysics, and which, as I demonstrate, Descartes borrowed from St. Augustine: the doctrine of the eternal truths , the conception of human freedom, the theory of error and the explanation of the will's propensity towards error , and the account of human nature. It is my contention that as much as Descartes insisted on the timelessness of his philosophy, what he had to say on the relationship between God and man is a reflection of the 17th c. theological debates which were fought by the Augustinians and the Molinists and were expressed by Descartes in the language and categories created by St. Augustine. (shrink)
Recent feminists have critiqued G.W. Leibniz’s Theodicy for its effort to justify God’s role in undeserved human suffering over natural and moral evil. These critiques suggest that theodicies which focus on evil as suffering alone obfuscate how to thematize evil, and so they conclude that theodicies should be rejected and replaced with a secularized notion of evil that is inextricably tied to the experiences of the victim. This paper argues that the political philosophy found in the writings of Catherine (...) Macaulay (1731–1791) can serve as a support to Leibniz’s larger claims and can also offer a more concrete, situated notion of evil that escapes the contemporary feminist critique. Macaulay’s work on natural and moral political evil, especially, will be presented as an early modern precursor to feminism, which defends divine perfection and a pre-established harmony in the face of political evil. I then identify three unique theodicical arguments in Macaulay’s work: the pragmatically beneficial defense, the eschatalogical defense, and the redemptive defense. (shrink)
In this article I attempt to reconstruct Berkeley’s views on the nature of God and his Providence, as well as the way he refers to the problem of evil and justice in the world. My analysis is based on one of the early works by Berkeley, i.e. Principles of Human Knowledge. Its aim is to present Berkeley’s understanding of theodicy as different from the one suggested by Leibniz in Theodicy.
This essay gives a close reading of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex in light of Schelling's discussion of theodicy as teleology. The article raises the question of the connection between ethics and time, and it argues that ethical categories are really temporal ones, so much so that it would make little sense to posit a choice between good and evil as if there were two simultaneous options. Instead, the story of Oedipus shows us how Thebes is always to precede if one (...) is to reach Colonus, that evil precedes and enables the good. (shrink)
The paper explores the way in which we can make sense of the seemingly contradictory presentations of God and the gods in tragic literature by looking to the thought of Martin Heidegger. The duplicity of the gods in tragedy is found to be a function of the uncertainty and questionworthiness of being.
Evolutionary theodicies are attempts to explain how the enormous amounts of suffering, premature death and extinction inherent in the evolutionary process can be reconciled with belief in a loving and almighty God. A common strategy in this area is to argue that certain very valuable creaturely attributes could only be exemplified by creatures that are produced by a partly random and uncontrolled process of evolution. Evolution, in other words, was the only possible way for God to create these kinds of (...) creatures. This article presents and examines two versions of the “only way”-argument. The anthropocentric version tries to justify God’s use of evolution by reference to the value of human freedom, and argues that freedom presupposes that God lets go of full control over the process of creation . The non-anthropocentric version presents a similar argument with respect to more inclusive creaturely properties, such as that of being “truly other” than God, or of being a “creaturely self” with a certain degree of autonomy in relation to God . With the help of a number of thought-experiments of the “Twin-Earth”-type, the author argues that both the anthropocentric and the non-anthropocentric only way-arguments fail. (shrink)
In "Evil and the Justice of God", N.T. Wright presses the point that attempting to solve the philosophical problem of evil is an immature response to the existence of evil--a response that belittles the real problem of evil, which is just the fact that evil is bad and needs to be dealt with. As you might expect, I am not inclined to endorse this sort of sweeping indictment of the entire field of research on the philosophical problem of evil. (I (...) sort of doubt that Wright really meant to either.) But I do think that there is a kernel of truth in what I take to be Wright's fundamental objection to attempts to solve the philosophical problem of evil. In the first section of what follows, I will try briefly to explain why. I will then go on to argue that, despite this fact, certain efforts at solving the problem of evil avoid Wright's objection. Indeed, drawing on recent work by Elenore Stump, I will argue that one perfectly legitimate way to try to solve the philosophical problem of evil is to follow precisely what seems to be the main piece of advice in "Evil and the Justice of God": namely, to look more seriously than we have at the attitudes taken toward evil by human authors of and characters in the Bible, and to attend more carefully to what the Bible says about how God deals with evil. (shrink)
From a theoretical standpoint, the problem of human suffering can be understood as one formulation of the classical problem of evil, which calls into question the compatibility of the existence of a perfect God with the extent to which human beings suffer. Philosophical responses to this problem have traditionally been posed in the form of theodicies, or justifications of the divine. In this article, I argue that the theodical approach in analytic philosophy of religion exhibits both morally and epistemically harmful (...) tendencies and that philosophers would do better to shift their perspective from the hypothetical “God’s-eye view” to the standpoint of those who actually suffer. By focusing less on defending the epistemic rationality of religious belief and more on the therapeutic effectiveness of particular imaginings of God with respect to suffering, we can recover, (re)construct, and/or (re)appropriate more virtuous approaches to the individual and collective struggle with the life of faith in the face of suffering. (shrink)
This paper summarizes a version of the argument from evil 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.
The nineteenth century English Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins struggled throughout his life with desolation over what he saw as a spiritually, intellectually and artistically unproductive life. During these periods, he experienced God’s absence in a particularly intense way. As he wrote in one sonnet, “my lament / Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent / To dearest him that lives alas! away.” What Hopkins faced was the existential problem of suffering and hiddenness, a problem widely recognized by analytic (...) philosophers to be left relatively untouched by conceptual explanations. In this essay, I argue that Hopkins’ poems themselves fill this gap left by conceptual approaches by articulating the existential crisis faced by those who feel the searing pain of suffering and the numbing, leaden echo of silence. His lyric speaks into existential suffering in ways akin to biblical laments and, as such, creates a space in which those who suffer can meet God, even if only to contend. Understood within Hopkins’ view of the incarnation and passion, these poems also suggest a way to identify with Christ in the experience of hiddenness, thereby making God present even in divine absence. (shrink)
Recent criticisms of theodicies express a conflict between theoretical and practical responses to the existence of evil. Theodicies, and defenses, seek to provide a resolution to the question of why there is evil if there is God. In providing an answer, theodicies offer an explanation for evil that responds to the existence of evil in a theoretical manner. In contrast to those theoretical responses, there have been a number of responses to the existence of evil that have emphasized acting against (...) evil. These practical responses have stressed human actions to lessen the occurrence and impact of evil. Examining the criticisms of theodicies and the responses that have been made to those criticisms opens up the possibility of an interaction between theoretical and practical responses to evil. A survey of the changing understanding of divine omnipotence demonstrates the reciprocal interaction between theoretical and practical responses to evil leading to a more a comprehensive response to the existence of evil and God’s relationship to evil. (shrink)