What follows is a reworking of my previous posts on evil, which I wanted to combine into one document. Much of the material is the same, though I’ve clarified it some, and added another objection. Since I seem to have gone about as far as I can for the moment, it’s posted.
EDIT: Best version and last version here.
Groundwork for the Argument
I begin by picking up a thread of inquiry which Alvin Plantinga follows in God, Freedom, and Evil1. There we find Plantinga examining the logical problem of evil, as given by J.L. Mackie in his 1955 paper, Evil and Omnipotence. According to Plantinga, Mackie takes the following propositions to form an inconsistent set..
(1) God is omnipotent
(2) God is wholly good
(3) Evil exists.
(19) A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can
(20) There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.
.. all of which seem plausible on theism. Yet if the set is inconsistent at least one proposition must be rejected on pain of contradiction. Since (3) is obvious, while (19) and (20) appear to be sound definitions, it appears that either (1) or (2) must go, or both, if the presupposition of God’s existence is false. But Plantinga contests (19) on several grounds, guiding a cascade of revisions, the most important amongst these being that if some evils are logically required for the existence of a greater good, then we would expect that a good being would not eliminate the evil, as this would also eliminate the good. Eventually, he settles on an inconsistent set of propositions from which a valid argument from evil may be constructed:
(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.
So, having constructed this set, why does Plantinga doubt that a logical argument succeeds? Continue reading