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Lecture 20

PHL105Y5 Lecture 20: 07a The Logical Problem of Evil

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHL105Y5
Professor
Bernard Katz
Semester
Fall

Description
The Logical Problem of Evil Mackie: the following three propositions are inconsistent: God is omnipotent. God is wholly good. Evil exists. Recall: a set of propositions isinconsistent iff it is not possible for all of the propositions in the set to be true. So, if the propositions God is omnipotent. God is wholly good. Evil exists. are inconsistent, then at least one of them must be false. A set is explicitly inconsistent iff it implies an explicit contradiction; e.g., the following set of propositions is explicitly inconsisent: {Alfred is a politician. All politicians are liars. Alfred is not a liar} It follows from the first two statements that Alfred is a liar which explicitly contradicts the last statement. Mackie does not claim that God is omnipotent. God is wholly good. Evil exists. are explicitly inconsistent. Mackie says that to derive a contradiction, we need further principles that connect the underlying concepts Mackie’s two principles: (a) A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can. (b) There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. We shall understand (b) in the following way: There are no non-logical limits to what an omnipotent being can do. Reformulation 1 of Mackie’s argument 1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent and wholly good. 2. A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can. [Mackie’s principle a] 3. There are no non-logical lim its to what an omnipotent bei ng can do. [Mackie’s principle b] Therefore, 4. A being who is omniscient and wholly good will prevent the occurrence of anyevil whatever. [from 2 and 3] 5. If someone prevented the occurrence of any evil whatever, there would be no evil. 6. Evil exists. Therefore, 7. God does not exist. [from 1, 4, 5, and 6] This shows that given the principles 2. A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can. [Mackie’s principle a] 3. There are no non-logical lim its to what an omnipotent being can do. [Mackie’s principle b] 5. If someone prevented the occurrence ofany evil whatever, there would be no evil. the following statements form an inconsistent set: 1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent and wholly good. 6. Evil exists. not-7. God exists. But premise 2 (i.e., Mackie’s principle a) imiply false: it ignores the epistemic component of action: a wholly good being will not eliminate evil of which it is unaware. Two modifications are required: a) include reference to the fact that God is supposed to be omniscient and that an omniscient being would anticipate the occurrence of evil b) revise premise 2 accordingly Reformulation 2 of Mackie’s argument 1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good. 2. An omnipotent being could preventthe occurrence of any evilh tat it is logically possible for that being to prevent. 3. An omniscient being would anticipate the occurrence of any evil. 4. A wholly good being who anticipated some evitlhat he/she could prevent would prevent that evil. Therefore, 5. A being that is omnipotent, omniscient, andwholly good would prevent the occurrence of any evil whatever. [from 2, 3, and 4] 6. If someone prevented the occurr ence of any evil whatever, ht en there would not be any evil. 7. Evil exists Therefore, 8. God does not exist. [from1, 5, 6 and 7] Reformulation 2 shows that given the following principles 2. An omnipotent being could prevent the occu rrence of any evil that it is logically possible for that being to prevent. 3. An omniscient being would anticipate the occurrence of any evil. 4. A wholly good being who anticipated some evil that he/she could prevent would prevent that evil. 6. If someone prevented the occurrence of anyevil whatever, thenthere would not be any evil. the following three statements form an inconsistent set: 1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent and wholly good. 7. Evil exists. not-8. Geodists. But premise 4 is questionable: itoverlooks the possibility thatsome evils are necessary for the realization of certain goods (or to prevent other evils).
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