The Logical Problem of Evil: Sketching an Argument

The Logical Problem of Evil attempts to demonstrate that the existence of a traditional God is incompatible with the existence of evil, and so, given the obvious existence of evil, the non-existence of God. A famous version of this argument, given by J.L. Mackie argues1..

(1) If God exists, God is an omnipotent and wholly good being.
(2) A good being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
(3) There are no limits on what an omnipotent being can do.
(4) Evil exists.
(C) God does not exist.

Equally famous is the reply of Alvin Plantinga2. He contests (2) on several grounds, guiding a cascade of revisions, the most important amongst these being that, were there some evils logically required for the existence of a greater good, then we would expect that a good being would not eliminate the evil as doing so would also eliminate the good. Plantinga eventually settles on an inconsistent set of propositions from which a valid argument from evil may be constructed. Rather than present that set here, I’ll give an approximation suited to my purposes (philosophy, rather than history):

(1) If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.
(2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil E whose existence is not entailed by some greater good G.
(3) Every evil E is such that E’s existence is not entailed by some greater good G.
(4) Therefore, if God exists, every evil E is such that God denies it existence.
(5) Evil exists.
(6) If God exists, then some evil E exists and it is the case that God denies it existence (which would be contradictory).
(7) Therefore, God does not exist.

The above argument is valid. One difference it has from the usual sort of argument is the idea of denying existence to evils, where for example Plantinga’s formulation speaks of God ‘properly eliminating’ evils. The reason for this change is that if God properly eliminates evils, then this seems to be consistent with evil existing in the world, so long as God eventually gets around to dispensing with them. A fortiori, Plantinga’s formulation places no restriction on what God creates, good or evil, whereas having God deny existence to evils (whether by declining to create them, or by eliminating them when they occur) sensibly rules these possibilities out. Notice also that if some evil were necessary, such that denial of its existence were logically impossible, then this would contravene premise (3): a greater good G entails each and every necessary truth, if “E exists” is a necessary truth, then G would entail it, and so (3) would be false.
There’s one further adjustment that needs to be made. Plantinga indicates that a premise like (3) can easily be falsified, since there might be some state of affairs S, such that S is good overall, but where a constituent of S is an arbitrary evil – for example, S might represent the conjunction of “Alvin is deliriously happy” with “Paul has a papercut”. A conjunction entails its conjuncts, and so (3) is false if any good outweighs some evil, and if these are compossible3.
The obvious way in which (3) goes wrong (or in which it is ambiguous) is that the “goods” and “evils” cover states of affairs, whereas it is not specifically these that we have in mind when we think of goods and evils. What mostly comes to mind are basic goods or evils, the kind of goods and evils which are at once atomistic and general: the impulse to charity, torture of children, or the faculty of free-will. Being atomistic, they do not divide into conjuncts; being general, they describe types of good which have specific tokens. In short, I think we require simple4 properties, specifically good-making and evil-making properties. This adjustment yields..

(1) If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.
(2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil -making property whose existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
(3) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
(4) Therefore, if God exists, every evil-making property is such that God denies it existence.
(5) Evil exists.
(6) If God exists, then some evil-making property exists and it is the case that God denies it existence (which would be contradictory).
(7) Therefore, God does not exist.

.. again, a valid argument. (References to numbered premises will be to this argument from here on out). Is it sound? Well, (1) is a uncontroversial statement of traditional theism, and (2) seems unobjectionable as well. (5) has as good a claim to truth as any other moral assertion. (4), (6) and (7) are logical consequences. That leaves (3), which makes an obviously outrageous claim. I’ll support it in my next post.

1 I jump into the deep end in this and the next post. For a more careful summary, and links to papers on the problem of evil, see here.
2 Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (1974), p. 12-29.
3 A and B are compossible iff A and B share a possible world.
4 Simple properties do not consist of other properties, compound properties do. For brevity, I’ll talk of properties, but these are to be understood as simple properties.

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25 thoughts on “The Logical Problem of Evil: Sketching an Argument

  1. Chucky says:

    Okay. Well I’m no philosopher, but reading through your argument, I agree with (1) but don’t see why (2) has to be true. Why not? Because *we* are those “evil making properties”. We are the ones who do evil. In my view it is a tremendous good (of God) that he loves us despite the fact that we do evil.

    But supposing we move on…

    Perhaps (3) is automatically satisfied? Perhaps it is better to lovingly restore/repair what is evil then surely allowing evil temporarily would be justifiable so long as that victory can be achieved in the future.

    (4) doesn’t follow – even if I accept the previous two premises which both seem false to me – because you have dropped the “is not entailed by some greater good-making property” part of (2) and (3).

    (5) is true.

    (6, 7) Are built on shaky foundations. Perhaps if you go back and change (or argue for) some of the earlier points. I mean, maybe these have all been long decided by philosophers, but me – random internet surfer that I am – don’t see why you would think any of (2), (3) or (4) are necessarily right.

  2. Chucky says:

    Oh. My mistake! I misread three. Now I just think three is false, and automatically false. Well it will be interesting to see what you argue.

  3. cl says:

    That leaves (3), which makes an obviously outrageous claim. I’ll support it in my next post.

    [..hangs on to edge of seat]
    :)

  4. TaiChi says:

    I agree with (1) but don’t see why (2) has to be true. Why not? Because *we* are those “evil making properties”. ~ Chucky”

    This is an objection to (3), not (2) – you’re saying that we’re essentially good, this is why a God-like being would create us, but that our existence (somehow) entails evil.

    Perhaps (3) is automatically satisfied? Perhaps it is better to lovingly restore/repair what is evil then surely allowing evil temporarily would be justifiable so long as that victory can be achieved in the future. ~ Chucky”

    This seems to concern (2). The thing is, if it is better to create evil and then to eliminate it, then it is better in virtue of some good-making property that this scenario would realize, and which could not be realized otherwise. So you’re talking about a good-making property which entails an evil making property.

    (4) doesn’t follow – even if I accept the previous two premises which both seem false to me – because you have dropped the “is not entailed by some greater good-making property” part of (2) and (3). ~ Chucky”

    (3) is of the form “All A’s are B’s. (2) tells us that ‘A God-like being denies existence to all B’s’. (4) infers that ‘A God-like being denies existence to all A’s’. I drop the bit that I do because I have made a substitution, A’s for B’s.

    Oh. My mistake! I misread three. Now I just think three is false, and automatically false. Well it will be interesting to see what you argue. ~ Chucky”

    Cool, that’s to be expected.

    • Chucky says:

      “This is an objection to (3), not (2) – you’re saying that we’re essentially good, this is why a God-like being would create us, but that our existence (somehow) entails evil.”

      It’s definitely an objection to (2) not (3). I’m saying that we’re often evil and God is good for still creating us. It shows both his love and his patience with us. It doesn’t matter how good or bad we are going to be (and many of us will create a bunch of evil), that is still a loving and good action.

      “This is an objection to (3), not (2) – you’re saying that we’re essentially good, this is why a God-like being would create us, but that our existence (somehow) entails evil.”

      Well, it is an example where “Every evil-making property is such that its existence *is* entailed by some greater good-making property.” Namely, achieving justice and the righting of the wrong. Meaning there may well be nothing which satisfies (3). I’m looking forward to you proving that (3) is always satisfied.

      Yup. You’re right about (2),(3)->(4). I misread (3). I still don’t necessarily accept either (2) or (3) though.

      • TaiChi says:

        “It’s definitely an objection to (2) not (3). I’m saying that we’re often evil and God is good for still creating us. It shows both his love and his patience with us. It doesn’t matter how good or bad we are going to be (and many of us will create a bunch of evil), that is still a loving and good action.”~ Chucky

        Ok. If it’s an objection to (2) rather than (3), then you’re saying that God’s creating us is consistent with (3), but not with (2). That means you’re saying that the evils which ensue are not entailed by some greater good-making property, but they are evils which God would let be nevertheless.
        But why would he leave them be, knowing that these evils were not required for greater goods, being able to annihilate them leaving only good, and being wholly good himself? Why would he allow them to be in the first place? If such evils weren’t in some sense required, then I don’t think there can be a morally justifying reason for the existence of these evils. Neither do other philosophers – this is why the serious resistance to the problem of evil runs through (3).

  5. TaiChi says:

    Ahoy, cl!

    Do you find the blog easy enough to read, with the new theme?

  6. Thomas Reid says:

    Wow, 3 is a very strong claim. I look forward to you seeing you try and defend it!

  7. Chucky says:

    > If it’s an objection to (2) rather than (3), then you’re saying that God’s creating us is consistent with (3), but not with (2).

    I think that both (2) and (3) are both wrong. I don’t really know or care if God’s existence is consistent or not with either, because it’s not important to me.

    > That means you’re saying that the evils which ensue are not entailed by some greater good-making property, but they are evils which God would let be nevertheless.

    Right. One reason is that I don’t think that (sorry to use a maths term, I’m not sure what the philosophical one is) morals are not well ordered so the whole concept of “greater” makes little sense in many cases.

    > But why would he leave them be, knowing that these evils were not required for greater goods, being able to annihilate them leaving only good, and being wholly good himself?

    Perhaps because God is patient and loves us.

    > If such evils weren’t in some sense required, then I don’t think there can be a morally justifying reason for the existence of these evils.

    Perhaps not. But that moral responsibility lies with us, since we are the people who perform the actions, not God.

    • TaiChi says:

      “I think that both (2) and (3) are both wrong. I don’t really know or care if God’s existence is consistent or not with either, because it’s not important to me.” ~ Chucky

      If (2) is false, then omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being allows the existence of evils which are not logically required by any greater goods. He allows evil, for no purpose. Since I fail to see how any wholly good being could allow the existence of arbitrary evil, I think you’re contradicting yourself by rejecting it.
      As for (3), I think it’s false too. But I’m not committed to it by the likes of the subargument I’ve given, since I reject (A).

      “Right. One reason is that I don’t think that (sorry to use a maths term, I’m not sure what the philosophical one is) morals are not well ordered so the whole concept of “greater” makes little sense in many cases.” ~ Chucky

      If I have you right, you’re suggesting that we can’t really judge the value of good-making properties against each other, or against evil-making properties – they’re incommensurable.Ok, suppose that. I can still reformulate my argument so that (2) becomes “(2′) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil -making property whose existence is not entailed by some good-making property.“, and (3) can be replaced with the premise I’ve derived it from, “(F) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some good-making property.“. The force of the argument remains the same.

      “Perhaps because God is patient and loves us.” ~ Chucky

      That’s a non-sequiter.

      “Perhaps not. But that moral responsibility lies with us, since we are the people who perform the actions, not God. ” ~ Chucky

      God performed at least one action, on your account, that of creating us. Such an action leads to evils which could’ve been avoided, had he created flawless rather than flawed beings. So God would at least be responsible for evil as an enabler of it. But God is morally perfect, and so he would not partake in evil in this way. So he didn’t, and the reason he didn’t is that he doesn’t exist.
      Yes, of course, we’re responsible for some of the evil in the world (far from all of it). Any atheist will agree with you on that score. But the fact that we’re responsible does not mean that God would not be responsible too.

  8. Chucky says:

    “If two is false… He allows evil, for no purpose”

    That would negate (2), but is only one way of many ways to deny (2). If you think that is the only way to deny it, you have to show that. For example, I think that the statement (2), as it stood, was simply incoherent because it involved maximizing a cost function which does not exist – and in any case I’m not sure that morality can be reduced to a cost function.

    Personally I think evil doesn’t serve any purpose, and, yes, God allows that. But that is *our* own evil that he allows. I don’t think a God bears moral responsibility for our own evil. We have chosen to do things which are ultimately purposeless and destructive. Perhaps that is where we are not connecting? The evil which we do in no way counts against God, and he is not morally responsible for it. God doesn’t have to make sure his own character outweighs ours. He himself simply has to have a good character – which he does.

    > “(2′) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil -making property whose existence is not entailed by some good-making property.“

    Well, as I say, I think this particular requirement is automatically fulfilled. If it is hurtful to do evil, it is good to repair the damage done by evil. This leaves you in the absurd situation of trying to claim that ultimately repairing the damage done is itself and evil act (or perhaps morally neutral). I think we’ve been through that – and the best you could do was offer what seemed to be a poor analogy and to deny that God can love people before they’re born.

    > “That’s a non-sequiter.”

    No, it wasn’t a non-sequitur. You just want God to deny existence to mankind – suggesting that God have never created us. That he did create us is a good thing, and love and patience are morally good reasons for allowing mankind to live and to continue to exist.

    > God performed at least one action, on your account, that of creating us. Such an action leads to evils which could’ve been avoided, had he created flawless rather than flawed beings.

    Right. And God did have morally good reasons for creating us.

    > So God would at least be responsible for evil as an enabler of it.

    God is not responsible for my evil actions. A manufacturer of a knife is not responsible for the murder that it was used for. The manufacturer does not force the killer to kill. It is the killer’s misuse of the knife which is the problem, not the existence of the knife itself. In fact, the existence of the knife, is actually a good and useful thing.

    > Yes, of course, we’re responsible for some of the evil in the world

    Yes, of course. We agree here (thankfully!), and for all our talking about it, nothing stands out like actually doing some good :-)

  9. TaiChi says:

    “That would negate (2), but is only one way of many ways to deny (2). If you think that is the only way to deny it, you have to show that.” ~ Chucky

    Why? Why shouldn’t you, who after all are the one who wishes to deny (2), have the burden of showing that there is some other way to deny (2)? It seems to me a truism that, in the absence of a reason to deny a proposition, it is unreasonable to deny that proposition. So if you insist on denying (2) without producing a reason, I’ll assume that you’re being unreasonable.

    “For example, I think that the statement (2), as it stood, was simply incoherent because it involved maximizing a cost function which does not exist – and in any case I’m not sure that morality can be reduced to a cost function.” ~ Chucky

    If you can make sense of it, it’s obviously not incoherent. But I can’t make much sense of your comment here – I don’t see how (2) involves a ‘maximizing cost function’, and I don’t see what you mean by saying it doesn’t exist. As for whether morality can be reduced to accountancy, I’ve already met this objection with my commments on incommensurability.

    “Personally I think evil doesn’t serve any purpose, and, yes, God allows that. But that is *our* own evil that he allows. I don’t think a God bears moral responsibility for our own evil. We have chosen to do things which are ultimately purposeless and destructive. Perhaps that is where we are not connecting?” ~ Chucky

    Sure, it’s why we’re not connecting. You persist in thinking of the world as it now is, adding God to that, as treating the problem of evil as if it were one of non-intervention. But it’s not, as I’ve told you ad nauseum. The problem of evil is also a problem of the world’s being the way it is in the first place, with beings like us, as opposed to better beings. Sorry if this is repetitive, but your replies consistently ignore this important point.

    “This leaves you in the absurd situation of trying to claim that ultimately repairing the damage done is itself and evil act (or perhaps morally neutral).” ~ Chucky

    I’ve claimed no such thing. I’ve agreed with you, in fact, that this would be a good action. But to create imperfect beings, knowing that they would go wrong and perpetuate all sorts of horrible evils, when a God could instead create morally perfect creatures is inconsistent with God’s moral perfection. A morally perfect being performs the best actions, for else the morally perfect being could’ve performed a morally better action but didn’t, which is to say, the morally perfect being could’ve been more moral than s/he was – which is absurd.

    “I think we’ve been through that – and the best you could do was offer what seemed to be a poor analogy and to deny that God can love people before they’re
    born.” ~ Chucky

    Oh, the analogy which I’ve told you wasn’t an analogy? And the denial that is based solidly in logic?
    I’ll try one last time to convince you that the “God loves us” solution doesn’t work. First: suppose “God loves Chucky” is true. Two things follow: (i) that it is true of God that he loves Chucky, and (ii) that it is true of Chucky that he is loved by God. But if Chucky does not exist, as we’re supposing is the case prior to God’s creating the world, then (ii) is not true, for it can only be true of Chucky that he is loved by God if Chucky exists.
    Second: suppose that you are right, and it is the case that non-existent beings can be loved by God. Then it is the case that morally perfect versions of ourselves can be loved by God, and since God is all-loving, it is true that he loves them. But then morally imperfect beings like you and me are on a par with the morally perfect versions of ourselves so far as God’s love goes, and so God’s love for us cannot be the basis for his differential treatment in actualizing us rather than them. So the “God loves us” defense fails to do what it needs to do – it fails to give us a reason why creating us flawed beings over unflawed ones would be consistent with God’s omnibenevolence.

    “You just want God to deny existence to mankind – suggesting that God have never created us. ” ~ Chucky

    I don’t “want” God to do anything. That would be irrational.

    “That he did create us is a good thing, and love and patience are morally good reasons for allowing mankind to live and to continue to exist.” ~ Chucky
    “Right. And God did have morally good reasons for creating us.” ~ Chucky

    Let me be extremely charitable and allow you to assert that performing an action which results in unnecessary evil could be a moral action, when the evil does not outweigh the good. Even ignoring this, the action you’re supposing to be moral is still not the best action of all those available, for by definition, the good made actual by the action could be secured without the unnecessary evil. So, even if you feel that creating flawed beings would not imply that God was evil or even impinge his claim to being good, it would certainly be inconsistent with the conception of God as morally perfect.
    And a morally perfect God just is the target of my argument. If you want to disagree, thinking that God may be less than perfect, then I’ll not begrudge you your lesser deity. Certainly, there are other arguments which I could put to you as regards that, but I’d be content to call it a day.

    “God is not responsible for my evil actions. A manufacturer of a knife is not responsible for the murder that it was used for. The manufacturer does not force the killer to kill. It is the killer’s misuse of the knife which is the problem, not the existence of the knife itself. In fact, the existence of the knife, is actually a good and useful thing.” ~ Chucky

    I never said God was responsible for your evil actions. My point, which undercuts the whole issue, is that a morally perfect God would never have created beings with the potential for evil over beings who were perfectly good.

  10. Eric says:

    “(2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil E whose existence is not entailed by some greater good G.
    (3) Every evil E is such that E’s existence is not entailed by some greater good G.”

    Could you explain the nature of the type of “entailment” relation you have in mind?

  11. TaiChi says:

    Eric,
    If G entails E, then G could not exist without E also existing; if G does not entail E, then G could exist without E existing. I could rephrase this de dicto, but I think it’s clear enough.

  12. cl says:

    Hi there. So, I’m following up from yesterday, and at the moment I’ve only got a few tangential questions.

    Plantinga eventually settles on an inconsistent set of propositions from which a valid argument from evil may be constructed.

    Which of Plantinga’s propositions do you allege as inconsistent?

    Also, how is your first set of 7 premises an “approximation” of Plantinga’s if you arrived at the opposite conclusion? Do you mean it was like a “converse approximation” or something?

    Lastly, if you haven’t, reading what I’ve written here may shed a little light into how I’ve approached this discussion in the past.

    I’m letting your arguments soak in all over again, since it’s been a few months. I think I’m going to write a more detailed response to post on my own blog, and if you’re into it, maybe we could approach this like one of those “letter-exchange” types of discussions bloggers are known to do.

  13. cl says:

    Here’s another question, this one not so tangential:

    Why doesn’t your first premise 5 say, “Evil E exists?” Do you mean anything different between “Evil” [generic] and “evil E” [an evil not entailed by a greater good]?

  14. cl says:

    I’m also questioning this:

    The above argument is valid. One difference it has from the usual sort of argument is the idea of denying existence to evils, where for example Plantinga’s formulation speaks of God ‘properly eliminating’ evils. The reason for this change is that if God properly eliminates evils, then this seems to be consistent with evil existing in the world, so long as God eventually gets around to dispensing with them. A fortiori, Plantinga’s formulation places no restriction on what God creates, good or evil, whereas having God deny existence to evils (whether by declining to create them, or by eliminating them when they occur) sensibly rules these possibilities out.

    What do you see as the significant difference between “eliminating evils as they occur” and “proper elimination of evils?” Are you arguing that the former must be instantaneous? Would you agree that “proper elimination of evils” need not necessarily be instantaneous?

  15. Eric says:

    “If G entails E, then G could not exist without E also existing; if G does not entail E, then G could exist without E existing.”

    Do you mean by “could not” logical impossibility or metaphysical impossibility (or do you identify the two)?

  16. TaiChi says:

    Which of Plantinga’s propositions do you allege as inconsistent?
    Also, how is your first set of 7 premises an “approximation” of Plantinga’s if you arrived at the opposite conclusion? Do you mean it was like a “converse approximation” or something?” ~ cl

    You’ve misunderstood. Plantinga begins with J.L. Mackie’s argument from evil, finds it wanting, patches it up, finds it wanting, patches it up… until he arrives at a set of seven propositions which would supposedly make for a sound argument from evil. These contain a premise, like my (3), that Plantinga thinks is unsupportable. And then he brings in his free-will defense, which supposedly shows that no amount of patching up is going to save the argument. So he’s playing devil’s advocate when he’s coming up with the set.
    I use similar propositions to these seven to begin from, which I’ve changed so as to make the transition to my final argument more smooth. My task is to support my (3), pace Plantinga. In case you’re interested, here are his original seven:

    (1) God is omnipotent
    (2) God is wholly good
    (2′) God is omniscient
    (3) Evil exists
    (19c) An omnipotent and omniscient good being eliminates every evil
    that it can properly eliminate
    (20) There are no nonlogical limits to what an omnipotent being can do.
    (21) If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he can properly eliminate
    every evil state of affairs.

    Not that it matters: the argument I give stands or falls on its own. Plantinga’s discussion is just a convenient starting point.

    Why doesn’t your first premise 5 say, “Evil E exists?” Do you mean anything different between “Evil” [generic] and “evil E” [an evil not entailed by a greater good?” ~ cl

    It doesn’t say “evil E exists” because I’m not concerned to identify a particular evil – any evil will do. I’m not sure what your second question’s about. Plainly, “Evil” differs from some specific “evil E”, which differs from “evil E which is not entailed by some greater good”. But I can’t see how this affects the argument: to say that evil exists is to imply that some particular evil E exists, and (4) says that the particular evil would be denied existence by God.

    What do you see as the significant difference between “eliminating evils as they occur” and “proper elimination of evils?” ~ cl

    Plantinga’s definition: “a being properly eliminates an evil state of affairs if it eliminates that evil without either eliminating an outweighing good or bringing about a greater evil”. So proper elimination imposes no time frame on the elimination of evil. All it really requires is that the elimination should be, on the whole, a good thing.

    Are you arguing that the former must be instantaneous? Would you agree that “proper elimination of evils” need not necessarily be instantaneous?” ~ cl

    I’m not inclined to judge the matter. Though I use a term broad enough to cover the elimination of evil when it occurs, I don’t think evil would occur at all if God existed. That is because, if God exists, no evil is entailed by any good, and so evil need not occur, even for a yoctosecond.

    From CSA:
    How is that a “counterpossible?” ” ~ cl

    The original statement was “God could create free beings who could do wrong”. That is counterpossible because it has God creating free creatures who can do wrong, whereas God would create free creatures who would do only good. The fragment “free creatures are able to do wrong” is not counterpossible, I agree.

    Aren’t all free beings able to do wrong by default? Isn’t it fair to say that by necessity, a morally free being must be able to do either good or evil?” ~ cl

    No, though you might say significantly free beings are able to do wrong. But by that definition, God is not significantly free. But God instantiates all the good-making properties. So significant freedom is not a good-making property. So significant freedom is not a good-making property which entails an evil-making property. So God would not instantiate it (he does not increase the good by doing so). So this is not a counterexample to the argument. You can see the pattern, here.

    Which statement of mine are you alluding to there? That the beings God creates need not do good? Are you now saying that’s false, i.e., that the beings God creates must do good and only good? ” ~ cl

    Yes.

    If so, I would respond that they are not free.” ~ cl

    Fine, they’re not free. Just like God is not free. But then being free isn’t a good-making property, because God instantiates all good-making properties. A fortiori, it’s not a good-making property which entails an evil-making property… and so we continue.
    I should point out to you that I’m not really taking up a position on what God would or wouldn’t do, nor on what counts as a good-making property or an evil-making property. I’m only responding to the suggestions you put forward, and running them through the argument. And it’s really no mystery why this works – the argument is a valid argument, it is the expression of a valid argument form, and so any interpretation of it should also be valid.

    Honestly, another thing that confuses me is the whole “good-making property” vs. “evil-making property” aspect of your argument. Could you give examples of each? ” ~ cl

    Kindness is probably a good-making property. Sadism is probably an evil-making property. But I’m open to suggestions here. Providing the argument is valid, it should go through on any consistent interpretation.

    Finally (!), I noticed in your post that you have some unorthodox opinions. In that case, you may not be on board with the perfect-being theology which underwrites premise (C). I’d like you to consider carefully whether you think (C) is true or not, as it would save both of us alot of time if you denied it outright. If you do deny (C), and perfect-being theology with it, then I have nothing to offer you, for you do not endorse the standard philosophical theism which the argument targets.

  17. TaiChi says:

    Eric,
    I identify the two. Or, rather, I only recognize broadly logical possibility. Does it make a difference?

  18. cl says:

    Sorry for the delay. At times, life calls.

    You’ve misunderstood. Plantinga begins with J.L. Mackie’s argument from evil, finds it wanting, patches it up, finds it wanting, patches it up… until he arrives at a set of seven propositions which would supposedly make for a sound argument from evil. These contain a premise, like my (3), that Plantinga thinks is unsupportable. And then he brings in his free-will defense, which supposedly shows that no amount of patching up is going to save the argument. So he’s playing devil’s advocate when he’s coming up with the set.

    A-ha. Now I understand.

    I’m not sure what your second question’s about.

    Precision. I wanted to be certain that there was no discrepancy between the terms.

    So proper elimination imposes no time frame on the elimination of evil. All it really requires is that the elimination should be, on the whole, a good thing.

    Understood. I’ll proceed by those definitions as well.

    I’m not inclined to judge the matter.

    You just did, didn’t you? Didn’t you just say, “…proper elimination imposes no time frame on the elimination of evil?” Or, were you speaking for Plantinga there? Either way, I need to know what you think on the matter before I give my official rebuttal.

    “Aren’t all free beings able to do wrong by default? Isn’t it fair to say that by necessity, a morally free being must be able to do either good or evil?” ~ cl

    No, though you might say significantly free beings are able to do wrong. ~ TaiChi

    So, you don’t believe that moral freedom entails the ability to do good or evil? If that’s the case, I’m very confused by that.

    I noticed in your post that you have some unorthodox opinions.

    What exactly are you alluding to?

    I’d like you to consider carefully whether you think (C) is true or not, as it would save both of us alot of time if you denied it outright.

    Which “C” are you alluding to? I don’t see any in this post.

  19. TaiChi says:

    You just did, didn’t you? Didn’t you just say, “…proper elimination imposes no time frame on the elimination of evil?” Or, were you speaking for Plantinga there? Either way, I need to know what you think on the matter before I give my official rebuttal.” ~ cl

    I mean: I’m not inclined to say whether, given some evil exists and God exists, we should think God eliminates them instantaneously, or whether there is a time-lag. The situation never happens, so far as I’m concerned.
    And that is what my argument says, too. So you don’t need to have my opinion on this matter.

    So, you don’t believe that moral freedom entails the ability to do good or evil? If that’s the case, I’m very confused by that.” ~ cl

    Sorry, I missed the “morally” qualification. I think what you mean by that is essentially what is known as significant freedom, which is something over and above freedom simpliciter, in that it allows for the exercise of free-will to make morally significant choices:

    “[Plantinga’s free-will defense] involves first of all the claim that God is justified in creating beings that are significantly free. If a being is free with respect to a decision to
    perform an action, then, holding fixed the entire history of the universe up to the time of the decision, it is causally possible both that he make this decision and that he refrain from making this decision. Plantinga has in mind a paradigmatic type of libertarian freedom. If a being is causally determined to make a choice, then by definition he is not free with respect to that decision. Further, an action is morally significant for a person at a time if it would be wrong for him to perform the action then and right to refrain, or vice versa. A person is significantly free at a time if he is then free with respect to an action that is morally significant for him.” ~ Derk Pereboom, Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Religion, p.150.

    What exactly are you alluding to?” ~ cl

    This:
    Now first off, nearly every single time I see or hear POE discussions, I see or hear the words “Christians say” or similar and I will tell you upfront – I do not care for dogma nor do I care what other “Christians” say, and I’ve read the Bible cover-to-cover enough times to know where I stand on the matter. Regardless of your belief system, the purpose of this challenge is for you to provide me with scriptural support you think justifies one or more qualities of the aforementioned Omni^4 Claim, in your own words, not some supposed theologian’s.” ~ cl

    And that was 2009. I’m not sure what your concept of God is now – whether you share the usual philosophical conception or not.

    Which “C” are you alluding to? I don’t see any in this post.” ~ cl

    Because it’s in the next post, where I support 3 by arguing from the standard philosophical conception of God.

  20. cl says:

    I’m not sure what your concept of God is now

    Nothing’s changed. The statement of mine you cited wasn’t even an opinion, such that you could call it unorthodox. It was simply a request for those who argue the omni-qualities to sustain their arguments with Scripture. What’s unorthodox about that?

    Regarding C,

    If God exists, then he instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties.

    I’m pretty sure I accept this, but the language is confusing. What does it mean to say that God “instantiates all good-making properties?” Are you just saying something like, “God cannot do evil?” If so, how are we defining evil? Is killing anyone at anytime evil, no matter what? Is causing suffering evil, no matter what? Is allowing a being to experience suffering evil?

    I need to know exactly what it is your argument alleges God cannot do. Evil is a pretty vague term.

  21. cl says:

    Also, from your OP:

    Notice also that if some evil were necessary, such that denial of its existence were logically impossible, then this would contravene premise (3): a greater good G entails each and every necessary truth, if “E exists” is a necessary truth, then G would entail it, and so (3) would be false.

    Wouldn’t that only contravene 3 if and only if the necessary evil is not followed by a greater good?

  22. TaiChi says:

    What does it mean to say that God “instantiates all good-making properties?” ” ~ cl

    As I said in the second post (#27), I leave this up to you to decide. But included amongst the traditional good-making properties are: omniscience, omnipotence, moral perfection, lovingness, immateriality, immanence, timelessness, self-sufficiency, simplicity, necessity, immutability, creativity, and uniqueness.

    Are you just saying something like, “God cannot do evil?”” ~ cl

    Yes, I’m saying that God cannot do evil, and also that God cannot be evil (conversely, he does good and is good).

    If so, how are we defining evil? Is killing anyone at anytime evil, no matter what? Is causing suffering evil, no matter what? Is allowing a being to experience suffering evil?” ~ cl

    I think all these things are evil, if they do not entail the existence of some greater good. I argue that, at least on the standard philosophical theism, no evils entail greater goods.
    The important thing here is not the specific content of the terms ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Vague conceptions will do. What is important is that the premises are true on any plausible interpretation of them – that God instantiates all good-making properties, whatever they happen to be; that God instantiates no evil-making properties, whatever they are; that some evil-making properties are instantiated in the world; and that God would deny existence to every evil-making property which does not entail a greater good-making property.
    Sorry if that makes things overly abstract. But there’s a reason why I’m resisting giving a theory of ethics along with it: to do so would weaken the argument by tying its fortunes to those of the ethics, and it is completely unnecessary for me to do that. I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

    Wouldn’t that only contravene 3 if and only if the necessary evil is not followed by a greater good?” ~ cl

    No. Necessary truths are entailed by anything.

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