Tag Archives: problem of evil

John McTaggart

If it is suggested that there is no evidence that the universe is working towards a good end, the doubter is reminded of the limitations of his intellect, and on account of this is exhorted to banish his doubts from his mind, and to believe firmly that the universe is directed towards a good end. And stronger instances can be found. An apologist may admit, for example, that for our intellects the three facts of the omnipotence of a personal God, the benevolence of a personal God, and the existence of evil, are not to be reconciled. But we are once more reminded of the feebleness of our intellects. And we are invited to assert, not only that our conclusions may be wrong, not only that the three elements may possibly be reconciled, but that they are reconciled. There is evil, and there is an omnipotent and benevolent God.

This line of argument has two weaknesses. The first is that it will prove everything—including mutually incompatible propositions—equally well. It will prove as easily that the universe is tending towards a bad end as that it is tending towards a good one. There may be as little evidence for the pessimistic view as for the optimistic. But if our intellects are so feeble that the absence of sufficient evidence in our minds is no objection to a conclusion in the one case, then a similar absence can be no objection to a conclusion in the other. Nor can we fall back on the assertion that there is less evidence for the pessimistic view than for the optimistic, and that, therefore, we should adopt the latter. For if our intellects are too feeble for their conclusions to be trusted, our distrust must apply equally to their conclusion on the relative weight of the evidence in the two cases.

John McTaggart, Some Dogmas of Religion, London, 1906, pp. 67-68

Stewart Goetz

[W]hile no one who is sane will deny that an experience of pain has certain relational features (e.g. other things being equal, one who is experiencing pain will act for the purpose that the pain be mitigated), no one who is sane will hold that an experience of pain is nothing more than its relational features. After all, pain feels a certain way. It has an intrinsic nature for which the only adequate description is that it hurts. And it is precisely because pain has this kind of intrinsic nature that it also has the relational features that it has. It is this irreducible, intrinsic qualitative nature of pain that modern philosophical orthodoxy is intent on either reducing to something else or outright eliminating. Were their efforts to prove successful, there would be no problem of evil because there would be no quale that is evil.

Stewart Goetz, ‘The Argument from Evil’, in William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Oxford, 2009, pp. 449-450

William Rowe

[F]rom the assumption that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being who created the world nothing can be logically deduced concerning whether certain other religious claims held by Judaism, Islam or Christianity are true.

William Rowe, ‘Friendly Atheism, Skeptical Theism, and the Problem of Evil’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 5, no. 2 (April, 2006), pp. 79-92

Quentin Smith

Not long ago I was sleeping in a cabin in the woods and was awoken in the middle of the night by the sounds of a struggle between two animals. Cries of terror and extreme agony rent the night, intermingled with the sounds of jaws snapping bones and flesh being torn from limbs. One animal was being savagely attacked, killed and then devoured by another. […] [I]it seems to me that the horror I experienced on that dark night in the woods was a veridical insight. What I experienced was a brief and terrifying glimpse into the ultimately evil dimension of a godless world.

Quentin Smith, ‘An Atheological Argument from Evil Natural Laws’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 29, no. 3 (June, 1991), pp. 159, 173