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Problem of Evil: Discussions and Evidences for and Against

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Joseph Agnew

Medieval Philosophy

November 6, 2011

The Problem of Evil

In the various schools of thought that comprise Philosophy there is a recurring concept that while being one of the oldest and most discussed has as of yet to be resolved. This is commonly known as The Problem of Evil, and in short is the premise that if there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God then evil should not exist Logically it would then follow that since there is evil in the world it would the lack of a God with these characteristics would be implied. On the side of the religious there are various arguments that are commonly exercised and known as Theodicies and while many are less than stellar, there are a couple that are well thought out, logical and rational and thus should be addressed. In this case a distinction can be made between logic and rationality, since the assumption of a creation having a creator is logical, but in the case of the universe and existence as a whole it is irrational. It is also important to note that while many theodicies are quite impressively done, and some are nearly inarguable for anyone without extensive experience with philosophy as well as religion, these arguments still inevitably fall short of being verification of the existence of God, and more importantly fail to answer the question of the Problem of Evil. In general a burden of proof must be met, however when dealing with a concept as abstract as an all-powerful being that exists beyond the plane of human dealings and evidence an exception can be made for the sake of argument. Any arguments as well constructed as several theodicies are, are for philosophical discussions at least, able to cause this burden to be overlooked for means of debate. However, in a pragmatic sense it behooves one to always keep in mind that there is still no concrete evidence, neither for nor against the existence of any God, nor any collection of gods.

In addressing the Problem of Evil, the most common and well-constructed theodicy is the Free Will Defense, most recently reexamined and put forth by an American Analytic Philosopher by the name of Alvin Plantinga. It states that if God, as is understood by the three main monotheistic religions of the modern era, were to design a world free of evil, it would nullify free will, as only by having the capacity for moral good and moral evil can the choices a being with free will makes be thought of or understood to be morally good. By designing creatures incapable of evil thoughts or actions, the only choices open them would be gradients of moral good, and thus not free choices. This defense is both logical and coherent, and goes on to state that there is a possibility that God could not create a world with beings, humanity in this case, that are capable of only moral good as it would be outside of his/her power.

This is a very heavy implication, however, and does cut both ways. By stating that there is anything imaginable outside of the capabilities of an otherwise omnipotent being, it nullifies it's status as omnipotent and makes it merely powerful.

One counter to this argument is the general idea that if the three monotheistic religions, which is to say Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, each state that God/Allah is in fact omnipotent then nothing is impossible for Him. This causes the afore mentioned theodicy to be nullified because one of the core precepts put forth in the argument is that there are things outside of the power of an omnipotent being, which is a self nullifying statement. Being unable to create creatures with free will who would not be prone to evil is similar to the logical paradox that asks whether God could create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it, no matter the approach or outcome He would be rendered incapable of something and thus no longer be omnipotent. Both argument and this first counter put intrinsic value on free will, which is an assumption to many that is oftentimes argued or simply ignored, the Determinists for example view free will as an illusion put forth by the mind. Another major problem with the Free Will Defense as put forth by Plantinga is that it only addresses moral evil, not natural evil, and as such is a major flaw. Natural evil is, in short, the natural phenomena that occur in the world that cause suffering and chaos to humanity and other life. If there was in fact a kind and loving God why would suffering occur to innocent creatures, or life that has no capabilities or faculties designed for decisions of morality. Thus one of the glaring omissions of this argument is in fact that it does not address the existence of natural

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