Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Richard Swinburne - A theistic response to he problem of evil - Part 2

I've made some notes on this article by Richard Swinburne - A theistic response to he problem of evil (Introduction to Philosophy, Louis P Pojman, 4th Ed. pgs. 236 - 247).

I've been allocated by my tutor to Group B (Evil is compatible with belief in God). My notes that make arguements FOR Group A (Evil undermines belief in God) are in green. My own comments are in orange.

God is by Swinburne's definition:-
  • omniscient
    • one who knows all true propositions
    • "all-knowing"
  • omnipotent
    • able to do anything logically possible
    • "all-powerful"
  • perfectly good
    • one who does no morally bad action (including omissions to perform some action)
If God exists:-
  • being omniscient
    • he knows under what circumstances evil will occur if he does not act
  • being omnipotent
    • he is able to prevent its occurence
  • being perfectly good
    • he will prevent its occurence and so evil will not exist
    • he will not necessarily prevent its occurence
        • eg he will not prevent the 'evil' of a mild toothache
      • hence God exists
  • hence the existence of God entails the non-existence of evil
    • the existence of evil means that God does not exist
      • eg severe undeserved physical pain (not just mild toothache!)
There are degrees of evil which are:
  • Passive Evil (just happen to people or animals)
    • 1) Physical Evil
      • painful sensations of man and other animals
        • toothache
        • physical pain
    • 2) Mental Evil
      • painful emotions
        • loss, failure
    • 3) State Evil
      • in the mind evils
        • hatrid, envy
        • rubbish tipped over a beauty spot
  • 4) Moral Evil
    • Evil actions
      • lying, promise breaking
      • omissions to perform certain actions
      • by devils or creatures on other planets
Swinburne argues that the 4 evils are compatible with God.

Objection 1: God ought not to create evil doers (Moral Evil)
Free Will defense against "creator should only create men who do not do evil"
  • God logically must create free agents because
    • free agents are a good thing therefore God
      • gave man free will
        • God therefore cannot control man
          • man can do good or evil

Compare this to parents who must allow their children ulitimately to be free to make their own decisions - whether that results in good or evil. The importance of free will trumps the downside that children may do evil.

Objection 2: Against Passive Evil (evils 1-3)

Creator should always ensure that anything he creates does not cause Passive Evils (or at any rate Passive Evils that hurt anything other than himself viz. cannot cause pain or distress to other men). So why can't creator create men with free will that can do evil actions but that the evil actions do not have evil consequences (cf. pilot in a flight training exercise) or at least evil consequences for others?

But men would then have freedom but not have responsibility... blah blah

Objection 3: God must allow a large quantity of Evil

Freedom and responsibility have gone too far. A creator should not create beings that end up doing as many evils as are in the world today. Creator could allow hitting your brother - but not Belsen or some horrible diseases. But disease make men do good by trying to combat it for the good of their fellow human beings. If God interferes to much to stop the evil then you cut off the good.

But where do you draw the line about the quantity of evil that is acceptable? Actually God intervenes in the world to stop the worst evils - the world would be a far more evil place if it wasn't for him! However as Group A might say - the issue still remains; is there not a tremendous amount of suffering - far more than is required for people to do good?

Objection 4: Passive Evil not due to Human Action

What about passive evil and the pain caused by earthquakes? Man is actually, despite appearances, responsible for this pain because the goodness of man is tied to the wellbeing of the world (Genesis 3: 16-20) (very weak argument)

What about pain that animals experienced even before man came on the seen. This is caused by fallen angels which are 'humanly free creatures'. Group A may say that God should never create a world in which evil results except by the action of a humanly free agent (whatever that is!)

Choice of type of Universe
  • finished universe
    • nothing needs improving
  • evil universe
    • everything needs improving
  • half finished universe
    • creatures make it a better universe over many generations
    • god created pain and other evils so that man would be incentivised to make a better or more perfect world by overcoming these evils.
    • a mans suffering is never in vain if it leads other noble men try to help him and thus make a better world

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