Tackling the Problem of Evil in Philosophy Essay
Tackling the Problem of Evil in Philosophy The problem of evil comes along the heels of another perennial issue in the field of Philosophy – that of the existence of God. The basic assumption is that traditional arguments for the latter are debunked by epistemic evidence of the existence of evil in the world. Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz’ more popular works, namely the “Philosopher’s Confession” and “The Theodicy” focused on the problem of evil, with his arguments employing to a great extent one of his foundational principles: the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Liebniz argues against the view that the presence of evil is indicative of God falling short of his perceived perfection (hence disproving, ultimately, the claim that he exists) since he has failed to create the best possible world.
By virtue of the Principle of Sufficient Reason Liebniz rejects the idea of a continuum of worlds increasing in goodness ad infinitum – an idea upon which objections to his claim rest; likewise, he rebuffs the other objection by stating that it cannot be ascertained that what one perceives to be a better world is actually better given the relative / subjective characteristic of goodness. Consequently, he advances the claim that this world is the best possible world, since there is no reason to think otherwise. Accordingly, Liebniz states in “The Theodicy” that “the best plan is not always that which seeks to avoid evil”. Having acknowledged the presence of evil, he still maintains that this world is still the best possible one since it may be the case that the evil is “accompanied by a greater good” (Leibniz). Evil then becomes “morally permissible” when it is an inevitable, necessary result of God’s execution of his duty of creating the best possible world, subject to his rectification in the future (Murray, 2008).
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Further pushing for the compatibility of the existence of God and the existence of evil, Leibniz also defends his position (on the world being the best possible world) from opposition following this possible scenario: the world, with evil being “permitted” so to speak, may become more evil than good, proving that it is not the best possible world that can be created by God. Leibniz offers a counter-argument, saying that goodness advances infinitely while evil is bound by limits; as such, even if in quantity evil may surpass good, the latter is still greater and still prevails. David Hume represents the other side of the problem of evil. Refuting Liebniz, he asserts that it is beyond human comprehension and contrary to human experience to suppose two things: (1) that God will rectify evil in the world (thereby permitting its necessary existence), and (2) that there is more good than evil in the world. Ultimately, Hume’s refutation points out the inability of man to ascertain the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent God amidst the human experience of evil; and the inability of theists to establish the moral attributes of God and the presence of necessary evil to justify their claims.
Among contemporary philosophers John Hick is the figure worth mentioning when it comes to the issue of the problem of evil. Although in support of Leibniz’ arguments, his method of arriving at the concept of necessary evil is different. Hick purports that the immediate assumption that by virtue of God’s attributes the existence of evil is impossible (because it is impossible with prevailing theodicy) leads to the idea that God creates a “hedonistic paradise” for man, which should not be the case. Evil is necessary, accordingly, because it serves “God’s purpose of ‘soul-making’”, which brings man closer to him (Madden and Hare). Hick’s argument does not do much to refute Hume’s claims. Although both philosophers tackled the problem of evil, they approached the issue differently. Hick provides a theory reliant on basic Christian doctrine, and hence does not really refute an opposing view point-blank. Hume, on the other hand, does not discount the possibility of either the existence of God or the necessity of evil; he merely points out the complexity of the problem and the inferiority of man’s faculties to understand it.
In this light, and with the arguments of Leibniz in mind, I am of the opinion that Hume’s take on the problem of evil supersedes that of Hick and Leibniz. The two latter philosophers desperately attempt to make sense of what are, inarguably, two incompatible ideas: the goodness of God and the presence of evil.ReferencesMurray, Michael. “Leibniz on the Problem of Evil”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2008 Edition. Edward N. Zalta (ed.
). 22 May 2009 <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/leibniz-evil/>.Look, Brandon. “Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz”.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2008 Edition. Edward N. Zalta (ed.
). 22 May 2009 <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/leibniz/>.Russell, Paul.
“Hume on Religion”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2008 Edition. Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
22 May 2009 <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/hume-religion/>.