God's Apology I: The Problem of Evil
Wed, Oct 07
In this session we consider natural a-theology: arguments that no rational person should believe that a god exists. In particular, we will focus on the Problem of Evil. To guide our thinking, we will consider some real world tragedies and the burden that theists have in understanding them. We'll also consider one of the most important meditations on evil in the history of literature: Ivan's "Rebellion" speech in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.
By the end of class, you will:
- Understand the philosophical "problem of evil" and some leading theodicies.
- Reflect on whether there are any morally satisfying resolutions to the problem of evil, given the actual evils we find in the world.
- Reflect on the appropriate effect evils should have on theistic faith.
- Debate in class whether specific theological assumptions should be appealed to in efforts to prove the argument from evil is unsound.
Complete these steps before you come to class
Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
- What are some reasons God (if He exists) might allow evil in the world? If you were going to craft a defense of God, what would you try?
- Do you think your defense works, given the moral theories we studied earlier this semester? How might Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill or another philosopher we have studied object to your defense?
- Are there some forms of suffering that simply cannot be compared to other forms of suffering? Why or why not?
- Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check.