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The logical problem of evil Michael Lacewing

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1 The logical problem of evil Michael Lacewing

2 The problem of evil If God is supremely good, then he has the desire to eliminate evil. If God is omnipotent, then he is able to eliminate evil. If God is omniscient, then he knows that evil exists and knows how to eliminate it. Therefore, if God exists, and is supremely good, omnipotent and omniscient, then evil does not exist. Evil exists. Therefore, a supremely good, omnipotent and omniscient God does not exist.

3 The logical problem of evil The mere existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of God. The following claims cannot all be true: –God is supremely good –God is omnipotent –God is omniscient –Evil exists. (The evidential problem: the amount and distribution of evil that exists is good evidence that God does not exist.)

4 Two types of evil Moral evil: evil caused by moral agents through choice. Natural evil: pain and suffering caused by natural processes, e.g. earthquakes, predation, etc.

5 Mackie on the logical problem God is supremely good. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. Evil exists. Good is opposed to evil, such that a good thing eliminates evil as far as it can. There are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. We can solve the problem by denying one of these claims –Does evil exist? Or is what we call ‘evil’ not really evil? –Are there limits to what an omnipotent being can do?

6 ‘Good can’t exist without evil’ ‘There can be no good without some evil’. If it is logically impossible for good to exist without evil, then God can’t create a world in which good can exist without evil –And evil doesn’t oppose good, but is necessary for it. But is this true? –A contrast effect? E.g. could everything be red?

7 ‘Good can’t exist without evil’ Mackie: contrast effects are only needed for us to know. –Everything can be red, but we wouldn’t notice –But how we think and talk isn’t a restriction on what is possible for God –So why can’t everything be good (even if that means we wouldn’t notice)? (Even if we allow that good can’t exist without evil, we would face the difficulty of explaining how much evil there is – the evidential problem.)

8 ‘The world is better with some evil’ There are some goods that require some evil: –Virtues such as courage, benevolence, sympathy –As good, God will only eliminate those evils that are not necessary for a greater good. Suffering: ‘first-order’ evil; pleasure: ‘first- order’ good. Virtues: ‘second-order goods’ –Seek to minimise first-order evils, but can’t exist without them. Second-order goods are more valuable than first-order evils are ‘disvaluable’.

9 ‘The world is better with some evil’ Therefore, a universe with both second- order goods and first-order evils is a better universe than one without both. Objection: what about second-order evils, e.g. cruelty, cowardice, malevolence? –Is the world better with these as well? –Can’t we have a world without second-order evils?

10 ‘Evil is due to free will’ Second-order evils are the result of free will –As are many first-order evils. But free will is so valuable that it outweighs these evils. Why doesn’t God make us choose the good? –Because this is logically impossible – to be free, our choices can’t be determined.

11 ‘Evil is due to free will’ Mackie: second-order evils are not logically necessary for free will. It is possible to freely choose what is good on one occasion. If it is possible to freely choose what is good on one occasion, then it is logically possible to freely choose what is good on every occasion. God can create any logically possible world. Therefore, it is possible for God to create a world in which creatures are free and freely choose only what is good.

12 ‘Evil is due to free will’ God would eliminate evil that is not necessary for a greater good. Second-order evil is not necessary for a greater good. Second-order evil exists. Therefore, God does not exist.

13 Theodicy v. defence To try to answer the question ‘Why does God allow evil?’, to give a reason, is to offer a theodicy. To try to show only that God’s existence is logically compatible with evil is to offer a defence –This doesn’t require that we discover the true explanation for why evil exists – perhaps we can’t know.

14 Plantinga’s free will defence A world containing creatures that are significantly free is better than a world containing no free creatures. God can create significantly free creatures. To be significantly free is to be capable of both moral good and moral evil. If significantly free creatures were caused to do only what is right, they would not be free.

15 Plantinga’s free will defence Therefore, God cannot cause significantly free creatures to do only what is right. Therefore, God can only eliminate the moral evil done by significantly free creatures by eliminating the greater good of significantly free creatures. The conclusion is not defended as true, but as possible. If it is possible, then the existence of evil, including second-order evil, is logically consistent with the existence of God.

16 Natural evil We can provide a defence for natural evil either by –Arguing, as we have, that it is possible that first-order natural evils are necessary for second-order virtues –Or arguing that it is possible that natural evil is a consequence of moral evil – free will of the Devil – and moral evil is necessary for free will.

17 How good is free will? Plantinga only compares free will with an absence of free will –But what about selective interference? –You can’t defend a murder by saying how good it is that the murderer has free will! Wouldn’t God interfere to prevent very harmful actions? –But if God is constantly interfering, we don’t have free will. But wouldn’t God at least prevent the terrible harms done by the Devil? But this is now the evidential problem of evil.


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