Share
Explore BrainMass

"Argument of Evil"

4. One of the most troublesome arguments adduced by atheists against the belief in the existence of God is the so-called "argument of evil." Explain in detail what is entailed by this argument. Is it possible to find a solution to the difficulties apparently posed by this argument?

Solution Preview

Please see response attached, including one supporting article (which are presented below, as well).

RESPONSE:

Let's take a closer look.

4. One of the most troublesome arguments adduced by atheists against the belief in the existence of God is the so-called "argument of evil." Explain in detail what is entailed by this argument.

The Secular/Atheist argument of evil:

One of the most popular and perhaps most effective arguments against both the existence of gods and believing in gods is known as the "Argument from Evil." It's a popular argument because it's not one that requires a great deal of sophistication or philosophical education to understand. It's effective because even the weakest forms of the argument make a strong case that gods, or at least any beings that look very much like the gods people tend to believe in, probably don't exist. There are many variations on this but there is also another category called the evidential or inductive Argument from Evil. Arguments of this type merely try to demonstrate that the existence of God is highly unlikely given the existence of amount of evil in the world.

This argument goes something like this:
(1) The world is full of evil
(2) If God really exists, there would be no evil

Therefore,
(3) God does not exist.

It is used against moral arguments for the existence of God. Briefly, the moral arguments for God's existence may be defined as that family of arguments in the history of western philosophical theology having claims about the character of moral thought and experience in their premises and affirmations of the existence of God in their conclusions. Some of these arguments are on all fours with other theistic arguments, such as the design argument. They cite facts that are claimed to be evident to human experience. And they argue that such facts entail or are best explained by the hypothesis that there is a God with the attributes traditionally ascribed to him. Other moral proofs of God's existence take us away from the patterns of argument typical of natural theology. They deal in our ends and motives. These variants on the moral argument for God's existence describe some end that the moral life commits us to (such as the attainment of the perfect good) and contend that this end cannot be attained unless God as traditionally defined exists. However, the atheist argument of evil is used to challenge these moral arguments for the existence of God. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/

THERE ARE TWO BASIC ARGUMENTS OF EVIL, ONE DEDUCTIVE AND THE OTHER EVIDENTIAL AS DISCUSSED ABOVE.

Logical or Deductive argument of Evil:

Deductive forms of the Argument from Evil try to show that the existence of evil in the world is not logically incompatible with God's love and power. Many people who end up as atheists are inspired to take a much harder look at their religion and their theism after being forced to face the problem of evil and suffering in the world. Thus, even if the argument doesn't disprove gods, it starts people down the road of questioning and skepticism. The earliest formulation of the Argument from Evil comes from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, writing in the early 3rd century BCE:

Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot,
or he can but does not want to,
or he cannot and does not want to,
or lastly he can and wants to.

If he wants to remove evil, and cannot,
he is not omnipotent;
If he can, but does not want to,
he is not benevolent;
If he neither can nor wants to,
he is neither omnipotent nor benevolent;
But if God can abolish evil and wants to,
how does evil exist? http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsagainstgod/a/EvilSuffering.htm

This is a logical or deductive Argument from Evil because it attempts to show that the existence of God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil. Evidential or inductive forms of the Argument from Evil don't try to show that the existence of gods is impossible, just improbable. This means that even if you accept the argument, you aren't forced to reject the existence of any gods; you are, however, forced to regard the existence of gods as highly unlikely, and therefore probably not worth believing in. Such an argument might, for example, argue that a sufficiently benevolent and powerful being that warrants the label "god" would be able to at least reduce the amount of suffering in world - not eliminate it entirely, just reduce it. Therefore, the existence of any unjustified and unnecessary suffering indicates that such a being probably doesn't exist. Such forms of the Argument from Evil don't generally justify denying the existence of gods, but it does justify rejecting belief in the existence of gods and being an atheist.

B. Is it possible to find a solution to the difficulties apparently posed by this argument?

Moral arguments for the existence of God, such as Kant and other sources exemplify the secular problem of evil. There are several solution posed by theists.

1. They posit an agency (e.g., God) capable of defeating evil. Therefore, evil has a purpose, and God is capable of defeating evil.

The facts that make the realization of the ends of morality impossible are reflections of the underlying truth that our world is beset by evil. Evil is present in the human will and character. It is present in the course of events that distributes happiness and misery without regard to the claims of justice. The core of Argument V (see attached article) is that morality is irrational or pointless given evil unless we posit an agency capable of defeating evil, which is a possible solution to the difficulties posed by the argument of evil by the atheists. In fact, taking this one step further, that agency has to be trans-human because it is one of the facts about evil that it manifests itself in weaknesses which beset the human character and will at root, thus making our agency imperfect. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/

2. Thus, moral arguments point to evil and state that, on the premise that morality is a rational enterprise, there must be a God whose providence shows that such evil is but a temporary or surface feature of our world.

However, the argument from moral order hereby throws up a striking paradox. On the one hand, evil in the world serves as the ground for an argument for God's existence. On the other, that same evil serves as a ground for thinking that there is no God. The evil pointed to in the moral argument highlights the evil that is the basis of the more famous problem of evil in arguments for God's non-existence. In particular, the fact of evil provides an interesting tu quoque to any version of Argument V (see attached article). Such arguments point to evil and state that, on the premise that morality is a rational enterprise, there must be a God whose providence shows that such evil is but a temporary or surface feature of our world. But if there is such a God, why is there this evil in the first place? If there was a God, there would be a moral order and a vital premise of the argument from moral order would be false. The God of theism, if actual, is working now to remedy the defects in the human will and ensure that the course of events supports the goals of virtue. So how can it be that this God appears to be doing no such thing? (See Kekes 1990, 27-8.) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/

3. Evil is necessary for the existence of free will, virtues, and other qualities we humans need.

A divine power to support morality's ends is linked to the need to allow human beings freedom in an imperfect-seeming world to confront evil via their own free choices, with the assurance that an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent agency will bring those choices to fruition. Thus, evil exists, but serves a purpose of individual growth by choosing not not do evil, and God will rewards you in the end.

Attempts to rebut this counter to the moral argument by the atheist's argument of evil would take us too deep into the structure of theodicies (accounts from within theism of how evil exists within a divinely providential world). A good example of how such a rebuttal goes can be found in ch. 18 of W.P. Sorely's Moral Values and the Idea of God. A divine power to support morality's ends is linked to the need to allow human beings freedom in an imperfect-seeming world to confront evil via their own free choices, with the assurance that an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent agency will bring those choices to fruition. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/

Theists recognize that arguments from Evil are among the most powerful atheological arguments that can be offered, both from a logical and an intuitive perspective, so significant effort is invested in countering them. Responses to such arguments are called "theodicies," or a vindication of the justness and holiness of God in the face of evil. Theodicies in response to deductive forms of the Argument from Evil try to show that the existence of evil in the world is not logically incompatible with God's love and power. Common means for doing this are to argue that evil is necessary for the existence of free will, virtues, and other qualities we humans need. Theodicies in response to inductive forms of the Argument from Evil may have to argue that each instance of suffering is indeed justified and necessary - not an easy task because even a single unjustified instance of suffering is potentially enough to render the existence of a god too unlikely to bother with. http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsagainstgod/a/EvilSuffering.htm

See the attached article, as well as the article below for other considerations.

ARTICLE:

Moral Arguments for the Existence of God
First published Tue 25 May, 2004

Moral arguments for God's existence may be defined as that family of arguments in the history of western philosophical theology having claims about the character of moral thought and experience in their premises and affirmations of the existence of God in their conclusions. Some of these arguments are on all fours with other theistic arguments, such as the design argument. They cite facts that are claimed to be evident to human experience. And they argue that such facts entail or are best explained by the hypothesis that there is a God with the attributes traditionally ascribed to him. Other moral proofs of God's existence take us away from the patterns of argument typical of natural theology. They deal in our ends and motives. These variants on the moral argument for God's existence describe some end that the moral life commits us to (such as the attainment of the perfect good) and contend that this end cannot be attained unless God as traditionally defined exists
· 1. Arguments from the Normativity of Morality
o 1.1 Crude Arguments from Moral Normativity
o 1.2 Sophisticated Arguments from Moral Normativity
· 2. Arguments from Moral Order
o 2.1 The Basic Argument and its Exemplification in Kant
o 2.2 The Secular Problem of Evil
o 2.3 Moral Order and Moral Skepticism
· 3. Practical Arguments: Moral Despair and Moral Discouragement
· Bibliography
· Other Internet Resources
· Related Entries

1. Arguments from the Normativity of Morality

Many examples of theoretical arguments for God's existence start from the fact of ethical normativity. Human beings are aware of actions as being right and wrong, obligatory and forbidden. Such awareness carries with it the thought that they are "bound" to do some things and bound to avoid doing others. Moral qualities have a bindingness attached to them shown in the force of the moral "ought" and the moral "must". If I make a promise, the promise creates (ceteris paribus) an obligation to deliver what is promised. The normative fact is, first, not dependent on my own goals and ends and, second, possessed of a universal force. The fact that I am bound by the normative truth "do what you promised" does not hold because I have ends which I cannot achieve unless I fulfill the promise. The imperative is not what Kant styled a "hypothetical" one. It is rather "categorical". It binds no matter what my particular goals are (see Kant 1996/1973 67; 4/414). That is linked to its universal dimension. I have an obligation to deliver what I promised, because anyone who makes a promise thereby (ceteris paribus) obligates him- or herself. The obligation created by the promise holds independent of my particular goals because it reflects a universal rule, holding at all times and places and applying to any human being as such.

Now we have a fact from which moral arguments for God's existence can proceed: there appear to be morally normative facts/qualities in the world. Many of these arguments claim that the postulation of God provides the best explanation of this fact. We must use "appear" to record the fact, because there is a venerable line of thought in philosophy contending that moral bindingness is not real. It is a projection on the part of the human mind. It is no more "out there" in the world-minus-us than is (on some accounts) a secondary quality like taste. I say that the whisky tastes sweet, appearing to ascribe a quality to it. But in truth there is no sweetness in this mix of chemicals. I am projecting a reaction which I and others have toward it. So: we can be realists or anti-realists about the existence of moral normativity.

Such projective accounts of moral normativity, of moral qualities and facts, offer one naturalistic explanation of the appearance of normativity. A projective explanation thus avoids the need to posit God as the best explanation of the fact that moral normativity appears to exist. Proponents of theoretical moral arguments will contend that projectionism is false to our experience and gives rise to forms of moral skepticism that are corrosive of moral thought and action. We cannot rule on such issues here. (For a very clear form of moral projectionism see Mackie 1977.)
A template for a moral argument for God's existence can now be given.

Argument I:
1. It appears to human beings that moral normativity exists.
2. The best explanation of moral normativity is that it is grounded in God.
3. Therefore God exists.

This schematic argument incorporates an inference to best ...

Solution Summary

One of the most troublesome arguments adduced by atheists against the belief in the existence of God is the so-called "argument of evil." This solution explains this argument in detail, as well as discusses possible solutions to the difficulties apparently posed by this argument. Supplemented with two articles that provide numerous proposed arguments to solve this problem.

$2.19