This book engages the problem of evil from a variety of philosophical viewpoints, traditions, methodologies, and interes
1,447 110 1MB
English Pages 199  Year 2016
This book engages the problem of evil from a variety of philosophical viewpoints, traditions, methodologies, and interes
497 46 1MB Read more
John R. Schneider explores the problem that animal suffering, caused by the inherent nature of Darwinian evolution, pose
521 52 5MB Read more
Who of us has not wondered why a God with absolute attributes causes or allows evil in the world? This most puzzling iss
149 41 1MB Read more
This volume discusses the topics of sin, suffering, and evil in the Hebrew Bible. It gathers fresh and innovative perspe
163 19 43MB Read more
Who of us has not wondered why a God with absolute attributes causes or allows evil in the world? This most puzzling iss
140 61 1MB Read more
Paul Rateau traces the genesis and development of G.W. Leibniz's treatment of the problem of evil, from his earlies
852 114 3MB Read more
Table of contents :
Is pure evil possible? --
The problem of evil in the speculative mysticism of Meister Eckhart --
Evil by nobodies --
Pursuing Pankalia : the aesthetic theodicy of St. Augustine --
On the impossibility of omnimalevolence : Plantinga on Tooley's new evidential argument from evil --
Epistemic evil, divine hiddenness, and soul-making --
What the hell is God up to? : God's evils and active love in Schelling and Dostoevsky --
Redemptive suffering --
Predatory goodness in the discourse on evil among Anglo-American philosophers of religion.
The Problem of Evil
The Problem of Evil New Philosophical Directions Edited by Benjamin W. McCraw and Robert Arp
LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • London
Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2016 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data McCraw, Benjamin, 1984– editor. The Problem of Evil : New Philosophical Directions / Edited by Benjamin W. McCraw and Robert Arp. Lanham : Lexington, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index. LCCN 2015040207| ISBN 9781498512077 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781498512084 (electronic) LCSH: Good and evil. LCC BJ1401 .P7665 2016 | DDC 170--dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015040207 TM The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
Introduction Robert Arp and Benjamin W. McCraw 1
Is Pure Evil Possible? Hugo Strandberg
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart Gregory S. Moss 3 Evil by Nobodies Jennifer Mei Sze ANG 4 Pursuing Pankalia: The Aesthetic Theodicy of St. Augustine A.G. Holdier 5 On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence: Plantinga on Tooley’s New Evidential Argument from Evil Edward N. Martin 6 Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making Benjamin W. McCraw 7 What the Hell Is God Up To?: God’s Evils and the Theodicies Holding God Responsible John R. Shook 8 Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels: Active Evil and Active Love in Schelling and Dostoevsky James M. McLachlan 9 Redemptive Suffering Neal Judisch 10 Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil among AngloAmerican Philosophers of Religion Nathan Loewen Index About the Contributors
35 51 69
Introduction Robert Arp and Benjamin W. McCraw
THE NATURE OF EVIL Evil has been, remains, and surely will continue to be, a fruitful and important topic for philosophical analysis and thought. This collection is composed of new essays centering on philosophical examinations of the existence, nature, and problem of evil. The chapters draw upon a wide variety of philosophical methodologies and positions, offering a diverse set of aims, views, and approaches. But what exactly is evil? With cognates in the German übel and the Dutch evel, the English noun evil is derived from the Old English yfele, meaning “harm,” “misfortune,” “damage,” “disease,” “ill,” “malice,” “misery,” as well as that which is “defective,” “cruel,” “wretched,” “wicked,” and “bad” (Mackay 1877, 158; Hall 1894, 366; Onions 1966, 332). The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun evil as “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity” and “something that is harmful or undesirable” (http:// www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/evil), while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as that which is “sinful,” “wicked,” “offensive,” “undesirable,” and “pernicious” (http:// www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evil). English speakers will look at these definitions and, at first blush, likely agree with them as resonating with their experience. The term’s etymology and modern-day definition(s) notwithstanding, evil and its opposite, good, are probably among the most vague and ambiguous terms in the English language (van Inwagen 2006, 4). We can distinguish evil from the mere bad, but it is far from obvious just how much commonality we find in the term’s usage, even amongst philosophers and other thinkers who have spilt much ink over it throughout human history. There are more than 25 different senses of the term used in the Bhagavad Gita, for example, which have been noted, discussed, and debated by scholars (Palshikar 2014). As Aristotle famously affirms of the notion of being in his Metaphysics, we might say that evil is “said in many ways.” Indeed, it seems as though we can only get as clear as something really bad as a rough and ready description of evil in general.
Philosophers usually say more about the nature of evil than it has to do with something really bad. Especially within the analytic tradition of philosophical theology—specifically concerning the so-called problem of evil, discussed below—the focus has been limited to instances of suffering or pain, including physical, emotional, psychological, and so forth. 1 Nevertheless, this move identifying evil with pain is usually accompanied by a proviso that such an identification is only made for the sake of space, to limit the problem for discussion, or some other move clarifying that evil is taken, strictly speaking, to extend beyond suffering or pain alone (see van Inwagen, 2006). In the history of Western philosophy and philosophical theology, two broad theoretical approaches to the nature of evil have been developed, what we will call nothing evil and something evil. Christian philosophers such as St. Augustine, St. Anselm, and St. Thomas Aquinas have advocated nothing evil. 2 Aquinas, for example, does not think evil is a physical or metaphysical thing at all, but rather is “simply a privation of something which a subject is entitled by its origin to possess and which it ought to have . . . it is a negation in a substance. Therefore, evil is not an essence in things” (Aquinas 1924, 3.7.2; also 2003, I.1.3; 1948, I.49.2–3). In The City of God, Augustine tells us, “Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil’” (2003, XI.9), and in his Confessions: “Things that exist are good” (1961, VII.12). In the Summa Theologica at I.14.10, Aquinas affirms what Augustine claims in his Confessions at III.7, namely, “evil is the privation of good,” rather than a positive entity or substance in its own right. On this approach, the nature of evil is compared to silence or darkness; there is silence only insofar as it is a lack of sound, and darkness exists only as a lack of light. We speak of there being or existing darkness or silence only in a loose way since they have no substantial existence themselves—there is no thing or entity out there called silence or darkness. 3 Evil is like a metaphysical “nothing thing”—to paraphrase Aquinas (1948, I.48.3)—that results when goodness or existence is removed, like a moral or metaphysical hole; thus, our choice of the name, nothing evil. To say that something is evil is another way of saying it either lacks goodness or being, or is a lower order of goodness or being than what should have been or should be. In Davies’ (2001) words, evil “signifies any kind of failure or shortcoming, anything we might think of as less than good” (14; also Davies 2006). 4 So, for example, life and limb are good things that are supposed to exist for embodied organisms; taking them (through human action, morally) or missing them (naturally, through disease or being born that way) is evil in that there is now a lacking and the entity is deprived of them. Further, to reach their fullest potential as rational beings (and not mere animals), humans are supposed to be virtuous (self-controlled, just, prudent, caring, knowledgeable), so any vice (self-indulgence, injustice, foolishness, wickedness, ignorance) is evil because it is a
lack of virtue—that is, something one ought to have according to one’s nature. Also, any kind of bad state of affairs, or pain, suffering, destruction, corruption, or deterioration is a lack of good or appropriate existence—ideally, organisms should live cancer-free, for example, and cancer is the evil which deprives the organism of its normal physiological parts and processes. The example of evil as a privation that Aquinas uses in several works is blindness: a person should be born with sight, and this is a straightforwardly good thing for a person, so the lack of sight is an evil for that person (see 1927, II.10–11; 1948, I.5.5, I–II.18.1; Davies 2001, 20–1). To define evil in this nothing or negative way probably strikes the contemporary ear as strange since we normally think of evil as a metaphysically “positive,” something like a state of affairs that results in physical or psychological pain, suffering, distress, destruction, corruption, and/or deterioration of some kind. States like this, others suggest, really are elements of reality. We call this positive kind of evil something evil. Whereas negative, nothing evil can be thought of as a moral or metaphysical hole in reality, positive, something evil can be thought of as a moral or metaphysical blotch on reality. In addition to the twofold distinction between nothing and something accounts regarding the nature of evil, philosophers commonly distinguish two types of evil; namely, natural or physical evil and moral or human-made evil. Standard cases of natural evil are natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes but include any phenomena that we don’t take to come about via humans’ agency, like cancer or the actions of non-human animals (assuming they are not moral agents). Think of all of the humans and other beings capable of suffering who lose life and limb as a result of a disease, prenatal condition, genetic disposition, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or simply “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” during a natural disaster—these we consider evil that results from the world’s natural physical, chemical, and/or biological processes. Moral evils are perpetuated by human beings with minds and wills (or any moral agent in general). The high-school bully seeks out, humiliates, and punches the weak kid in the class; hooligans destroy the newly constructed playground at the day care center “just for the fun of it” on a Friday night; a scammer takes what is left of an elderly person’s life savings; thieves steal the single mother’s car from her driveway overnight during the work week; college seniors drug someone at a party and rape her; the gang member feels insulted and shoots the offender dead in front of the convenient store; all of these are examples of moral evil. The intuitive distinction here between natural and moral evil regards its locus: does it reside in a free moral agent’s choice or not? But perhaps the basic distinction between natural and moral evil is not as clear as it appears to be. There is some reason to think that climate
change causes or contributes to the cause of certain natural evils impacted by meteorology (Hoyois and Sapir 2012; Stocker et al. 2013). Suppose this is true: how do we assess the impact of a hurricane, for instance, if part of the cause of that impact is humanity’s action? Or the ambiguity might be subtler. And we have good evidence of a number of humanproduced causes of cancer (American Cancer Society 2003; Jemal et al. 2015). Many other diseases do not seem to have any causal input from the actions of moral agents, but it is unclear how likely this “seeming” is to hold up under future medical research. But, while it seems difficult to draw philosophically principled, neat lines between moral and natural evils in all or even many cases, the distinction between moral and natural evil in general seems clear and intuitive enough to function. In addition to these standard types of moral evil, philosophers have looked at other sub-types of moral evil. For instance, Ted Poston (2014) has recently argued for what he calls social evil, which occurs when collections of even individually blameless and well-intentioned agents act in such a way as to bring about evil on a larger scale. Using his example, suppose that a location is under severe drought and, thus, water restrictions are needed (as we write this, all of California is experiencing a drought with 50 percent of the state in what is called exceptional drought, the worst kind). Knowing that drought can be alleviated if only most people adhere to the restrictions, you can reason that your single usage of water as usual will not cause any disastrous water shortage—”My individual actions aren’t causing the water shortage,” you think to yourself. But if everyone reasons accordingly, disaster will strike. Thus, Poston defines social evil as “an instance of pain or suffering that results from the game-theoretic interactions of many individuals” (210). Another important analysis of the nature of moral evil comes from Hannah Arendt (2006) in the twentieth century. Taking the actions of Adolf Eichmann in promoting the genocidal horrors of the Holocaust as her model, Arendt argues that his evil does not come from some grand monstrosity or privation of the good, but simply that it stems from thoughtlessness and “doing his duty” as one of those blindly following the crowd. Eichmann’s evil is the evil of a bureaucrat passively and unreflectively doing his work without any consideration as to what that work actually is, or whether that work is good to do. Famously, she argues that great evil is banal, arising coming from simple, unassuming, and thoughtless persons rather than great, super-villain-types of moral monsters. 5 Other approaches to evil focus on the role(s) the Christian God might play. Notably, one major instance of evil would be eternal damnation in the so-called fires of Hell, an obviously horrible state of affairs for one’s soul. 6 In Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason J. L. Schellenberg (2006) argues that a loving God would not allow instances of unbelief. Unbelief, he argues, comes from God’s not making His existence open or obvious to everyone, referring to this lack of obviousness as divine hiddenness. This
divine hiddenness, in Schellenberg’s thought, becomes a kind of evil upon which he builds an argument against the existence of God. 7 In addition, Daniel Kodaj (2014) has argued for a particular class of moral evils done by those claiming to do them in the name of God. Clear instances of what Kodaj calls religious evil include the crusades and witch hunts (426–7), but we can add to the list the Spanish Inquisition, the events of 9/11, the bombing of abortion clinics and killing of abortion doctors, and the mass beheadings those people considered to be against Allah taking place right now in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the world by members of the Islamic State of Syria/Levant. Thus, we can find in the literature types of evils that purport direct agency from God (damnation), indirectly agency from God not doing something (divine hiddenness), or even actions done by humans merely in the name of God (religious evil). But we can add to the taxonomy of evil. Not only can we say that different types of evils occur but we can also distinguish the extent or depth of evils. Suppose we associate evil (in general) as suffering. It’s obvious that “suffering” comes in degrees running from minor inconvenience to life-destroying atrocity. Thus, we may pick out an extent of evil that Marilyn McCord Adams (1989; 1999) terms “horrendous”—evils that are so bad that they seem to make life not worth living. 8 Horrendous evils add degrees to the taxonomy of the kind of evil discussed previously. Consider, for instance, natural evils. Some thinkers have distinguished a subset of natural evils that are particularly dreadful, appalling, senseless, gratuitous, and inducing of hopelessness (Rowe 1979; Hasker 1988; Martin 1990, 412; Chrzan 1994). Consider that seven million Chinese people died in floods and landslides between 1887 and 1975, around one million Indian people died in various cyclones in the past few hundred years, and millions and millions more in earthquakes throughout the world in the past 1,500 years. No doubt a historian would consider the Black Plague a dreadfully evil, even diabolical, thing, while no one on the planet would quarrel with the claim, “Cancer is a blight on humanity.” (Cawthorne 2006; Guiberson 2010; Withington 2010). These are horrendous natural evils. But, clearly, there are horrendous moral evils. Adams (1989) offers a “list of paradigmatic horrors”—horrendous evils that are identical to what we consider to be morally despicable: the rape of a woman and axing off of her arms, psychophysical torture whose ultimate goal is the disintegration of personality, betrayal of one’s deepest loyalties, cannibalizing one’s own offspring, child abuse of the sort described by Ivan Karamazov, child pornography, parental incest, slow death by starvation, participation in the Nazi death camps, the explosion of nuclear bombs over populated areas, having to choose which of one’s children shall live and which will be executed by terrorists, being the accidental and/or unwitting agent of the disfigurement or death of those one loves best. (297–8)
Unfortunately, we can easily add to Adams’ list: the art museum or history museum located in any major city of the world (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Barcelona, and many others) will likely have a collection of implements used to torture and kill some 32,000 “infidels” during the Spanish Inquisition; countless millions of people (Jews, as well as Poles, Romani, Africans, homosexuals, Russian POWs, the mentally and physically handicapped, the old and infirmed) were murdered in Nazi Germany and other places in Europe during the reign of the Third Reich; some 78 million Chinese people were murdered during Mao Zedong’s reign from 1949 to 1976 (not to mention the 100 million more who were murdered as a result of mass genocides all throughout Chinese history since the 2nd Century CE); more than 60 million were murdered or unjustly killed between 1917 and 1953 in the Soviet Union; and some 40 million were murdered in their homelands during the Mongol conquests of the thirteenth and fourteenth Centuries (Hewitt 2004; Guiberson 2010). This kind of morally despicable evil is utterly unimaginable to most people. “How could a human being do such a thing to another human being?” we ask in disbelief. In fact, we often equate the morally despicable evil done with the morally despicable evildoer, saying things such as, “Hitler was evil,” “Jack the Ripper was diabolical,” “John Wayne Gacy was a monster,” or “The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, is an evil son of a bitch”—as has been noted in countless Internet blogs since 1996. When all is said and done, even if the concept of evil remains vague and/or ambiguous, there is no shortage of analyses and discussions of its nature in the philosophical literature. The nature of evil, as reflected in the first part of this volume, remains a topic that encourages significant philosophical work. THE PROBLEM OF EVIL A significant portion of philosophical discussion of evil concerns the problem of evil qua specific problem (or, better, a group of specific problems under the same general heading) within philosophical theology. The problem of evil in this sense spawns a huge literature in philosophical scholarship, a large amount of class discussion in philosophy courses, and general philosophical attention. The so-called problem is this: If it is true that there exists a God who is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing—as is the belief of the standard Christian, Jewish, or Muslim person coming from traditional Western theism—then one would think that such a being so defined would prevent evil, especially evil of the kind that could be considered appalling, diabolical, horrendous, and/or unnecessary. And, as intimated in the previous paragraphs, there is no dearth of evils in this world. A standard version of the deductive argument against the existence of a God so defined that can be traced back (in the
West) in some form through Lactantius and Cicero to Epicurus may be laid out as follows: 1. If God exists, then He is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing. 2. If God is all-good, then He desires to eliminate evil altogether. 3. If God is all-powerful, then He has the ability to eliminate evil altogether. 4. If God is all-knowing, then He is aware of evil and knows when it exists so as to eliminate it altogether. 5. Yet, evil exists. 6. Thus, if evil exists, then either God doesn’t have the desire to eliminate evil altogether, or He doesn’t have the power/ability to eliminate evil altogether, or He isn’t aware of evil so as to eliminate it altogether. (From 2, 3, and 4) 7. Thus, either God doesn’t have the desire to eliminate evil altogether, or He doesn’t have the power/ability to eliminate evil altogether, or He isn’t aware of evil so as to eliminate it altogether. (From 5 and 6) 8. Therefore, God does not exist. (From 1 and 7) In Part X of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume echoes part of the above argument: “Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent? Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent? Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Hume 1998). And numerous thinkers throughout history have considered the problem of evil as well as offered solutions and theodicies regarding a God with these superlative qualities (see McBrayer and Howard-Snyder 2013; Evans 2013; Frances 2013; Stump 2010; van Inwagen 2006; Howard-Snyder 2008; Davies 2006; Arp 2000; Swinburne 1998; Adams 1989, 1999; Plantinga 1974; Hick 1966). In The Cross of Christ (1986), John Stott has correctly stated that the “fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation” (303). Perhaps the primary reason why atheists and hard agnostics remain unconvinced that a God so defined exists has to do with the fact that people think this being is supposed to act just like a good and loving father or parental figure to all of humanity—especially the innocent, weak, and downtrodden—and a parent that knowingly and willingly allows her/his child to be raped, tortured, murdered, dismembered, and eaten by some serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, either is not really a good and loving parental figure or simply does not exist. Recall Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:26: “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not; neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. And yet, your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” Or his words from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not
perish but have eternal life.” The Magisterium of the Catholic Church throughout its existence has also affirmed that God is a Father who loves and cares for His earthly children—Christians universally pray “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. In paragraphs 218–221 under the section “God is Love” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994), we are told about the “sheer gratuitous love” that God has for people which is “compared to a father’s love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’” Thus, at its most general level, the problem of evil in various ways urges some kind of justification or defense of religious belief or theism (in general). Of course, such a claim is so vague as to border on being uninformative and empty of any interesting philosophical content. But, given this general framework, how evil poses a problem for theism via argument leads to the standard way of characterizing the various instances of the problem. That is, just how the logic of the argument from evil works in the specific problem of evil at hand helps categorize it. Analytic philosophers of religion almost always divide the problem into two camps: the logical (deductive) and evidential (probabilistic, inductive) version of the problem of evil. The logical problem of evil works deductively by trying to establish that the existence of evil and the truth of classical Western theism generates, in some fashion or other, a straightforward logical contradiction. 9 The locus classicus for the logical variant of the problem of evil is J. L. Mackie’s (1955) “Evil and Omnipotence.” There, he argues that one can show “not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another” (200). In particular, he (and other proponents of this version of the problem) argues that propositions asserting that God exists and possesses the various divine attributes part and parcel of classical Western them (including omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence most crucially), in conjunction with a proposition asserting the existence of evil, leads to a formal contradiction. On the other hand, one might argue not that the existence of evil forms a strict logical contradiction in conjunction with (classical Western) theism but, instead, serves to decrease the probability or likelihood that theism is true. 10 Call this the evidential problem of evil (since evil serves as evidence making theism unlikely). 11 Whereas the logical problem of evil is deductive, this argument (type) is inductive: even if the premises in any given evidential argument are true, they only contribute to the likelihood that theism is false. William L. Rowe (1979) provides what’s probably the most cited and influential evidential version of the problem, arguing that “it does seem that we have rational support for atheism, that it is reason-
able for us to believe that the theistic God does not exist” (338; his emphasis). Note that Rowe only claims that atheism is rational/reasonable: not that atheism is true. Accordingly, the point is not that theism is false (full stop) but only that theism is not rational/reasonable. In short, evil provides strong, reasonable evidence that the probability of theism is low or, at least, lower than that of atheism. There are two important points to note following this distinction. First, as noted by Plantinga (1974, 27–9), whether one gives a logical or evidential version of the problem of evil determines what kind or strength of a response is adequate. Since the logical version attempts to show that a formal contradiction occurs with the conjunction of propositions describing theism and the existence of evil, what’s needed is not to show that these propositions are actually true but only that they could be true (together). That is, one only needs to show that theism and evil are consistent (i.e., not-inconsistent) to rebut the logical problem of evil, and this can occur even if they are, in fact, false. In Plantinga’s language, defeating the logical problem of evil requires only showing that there’s a possible world where God and exist coexist (are both actualized or instantiated) even if the actual world is not it. Considerations like this lead him to distinguish a theodicy from a defense. A theodicy, on his view, is a response to the problem of evil showing the reason why God does in fact permit evil. That is, the theodicies gives a true proposition (or set of propositions) showing that theism and evil are consistent. A defense, though, is weaker: showing only that theism and evil could be true (together). Giving a defense requires only a possibly true proposition implying the consistency of theism and evil, but it’s crucial to note that this position need not actually be true. Whether one aims to give a defense or a theodicy alters what kind and strength of evidence one needs in making one’s argument, and the strength of the evidence needed can often determine the adequacy of the argument given for that evidence. The second point concerns how the argument in question uses evil to generate the problem for theism. In particular, the question concerns whether one appeals to abstract/general or concrete/local evil. 12 When arguments use evil without any specification, they give an abstract formulation. Abstract usages of evil tend to occur in logical arguments from evil. Consider Mackie’s argument: his proposition leveled at theism asserts only that “evil exists” (200). Now, he might specify in more detail what he means by “evil exists” but this abstract/general formulation is all that his logical version of the argument needs. As one might expect, concrete usages of evil focus on specific instances of evil: particular people doing particular things or particular events happening to particular people/groups. Concrete usages tend to fit in evidential arguments from evil. Rowe’s (1979) article famously imagines a fawn dying a gruesome and painful death and from that specification of evil—not just “evil exists”—goes on to generate his argument against theism.
Considerations like this form the general landscape into which arguments from evil and the responses to them occur. What type of argument from evil one gives or considers can impact its adequacy as well as how the interlocutor may respond. It is by understanding this landscape that one can see how the problem of evil in general works in the literature and also how the responses to this problem relate. And it is these responses to which we turn in the next section. RESPONSES TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL So, let us suppose we have some version of the problem of evil on the table (leaving the logical/evidential and abstract/concrete particularities aside). What sorts of responses are available? In the previous section, we explored the landscape of the arguments from evil and this section concerns the terrain of the major responses to such arguments. As one would expect, such a survey will be general and not exhaustive: the aim is simply to examine a few of the more frequent, influential, or persistent responses. One can respond to the problem of evil either from within or outside traditional Western theism. We will begin with the latter sort of response. On this route, the problem of evil gives good reason to reject traditional Western theism in some fashion. Two obvious candidates here might be general religious skepticism (=agnosticism) or the rejection of all religious traditions or belief systems (=atheism). In either case one would reject belief in theism overall. Yet, one might reject classical or traditional Western theism without rejecting theism simpliciter. Many options lie along this path: we mention only a few. Certain non-Western religious traditions would be options here. For instance, certain non-theistic strands of Buddhism would resist the problem of evil as stated. If the Divine Reality is not a person or agent, then it is hard to see how a problem involving personal properties (such as knowledge or goodness) can get off the ground. Another possible option would be to adopt a dualist approach: accepting a second, potentially evil/bad, (element of) Divine Reality. 13 Also, one might keep to a Western tradition but reject classical or traditional theism. For instance, one might reject one (or more) of the divine attributes in order to preserve the rest. John Stuart Mill, for example, denies omnipotence in response to the problem of evil in order to maintain God’s goodness (see Raeder 2002, 193–8). Limiting God’s power, then, keeps Mill in the Western religious tradition but only by rejecting the classical version of theism. Others, instead of flatly rejecting the classical model might alter it. A neo-classical or process theology, arising out of the thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, affirms with the classical theist that God is perfect but differs in ways from how God’s perfection is understood. For instance, some process philoso-
phers have argued that God has as much power as possible for any being to possess but this level falls short of the all-powerful attribute of classical theism (where only logical contradictions limit the scope of God’s power). That is, one might accept that God has maximal power but still deny that “God has the power to unilaterally bring about any logically possible creaturely state of affairs” (Keller 2007, 117). David R. Griffin (1981) suggests that, on the process view in question, “there has always been a plurality of actualities having some power of their own” such that “the power possessed by the non-divine actualities is inherent to them and hence cannot be cancelled out or overridden by God” (105). On Griffin’s view, then, God lacks unilateral, coercive power; instead, “divine creative power is necessarily persuasive” (105). Process or neo-classical theists like Keller and Griffin, therefore accept the notion of God’s having maximal power (pace Mill) but reject the classical conception of God’s power as entirely unlimited, coercive, and unilaterally efficacious. So, we have discussed a few of the many potential options one might have in responding to the problem of evil from outside traditional Western theism. But, of course, there is no shortage of responses from within that tradition: views claim that one can rationally square the existence of evil with a Perfect Being. Let us now turn to a few of them, again, making no claims to exhaust all potential theistic replies to the argument from evil. 14 First, consider a couple of views that get very little attention from philosophers because they tend to strike us as tremendously counterintuitive. One might, as with Spinoza, deny that there really is evil in the world. This is not the privation account from Section 1: for them, evil is a (quasi) real element of the world—it is just not a substantial entity in its own right because it exists only as a parasite on some good, substantial entity of which it is a privation, lack, or what have you. Instead, Spinoza (and adherents to this sort of view) argue that evil really is not real at all when viewed properly. What we think as evil really is not. Evils are only goods that we misperceive to be bad. Call this view Spinozism. Or one might affirm, with Leibniz, that we live in the best of all possible worlds. There really is evil and it really is bad (to varying degrees) but there just is not any world possible of containing less of them or evils with less intensity. Things may be and frequently are genuinely evil/bad but every other possible way things could have happened is worse. Call this view Optimism. The problem most people have with Spinozism and Optimism is the same: they both just strike resoundingly against our intuitive picture of the world. There really does seem to be real evil in the world (pace Spinozism) and it seems that we could imagine some way things turned out that’s better than the actual state of the world (pace Optimism). So, let us take these intuitions for granted if only for the sake of argument. One important response to the argument from evil from within (traditional Western) theism emphasizes our free will as a way to rebut the
problem. Suppose, for instance, that we make free choices and are thereby morally responsible for our actions. Without this freedom and responsibility, we think, our actions would be far less valuable. An automatic or robotic act of charity wouldn’t be as good as a freely chosen act for which we can bear responsibility. Along this line of response, one can see this value as a way to reject the argument from evil: so long as we are really free moral agents, God cannot (on pain of contradiction) force us to do (or refrain from doing) anything. With the possession of free will, it is suggested, there is always at least the possibility of misusing it to do evil. The free will response here can take one of two forms corresponding to a defense or a theodicy (discussed in Section 2). A free will defense, as typified in Plantinga (1974), uses free will to show that there is no contradiction arising between the existence of a Perfect Being and evil. A world containing free moral agents that misuse their freedom to do evil is a possibility that would make consistent God’s perfection and evil existing (or, at least, so Plantinga and philosophers giving similar defenses argue). However, a free will theodicy, an important example of which being Swinburne’s (1998) Providence and the Problem of Evil, would try to show that free will actually does provide an adequate reason why God does permit evil. 15 But, as with any interesting philosophical position, important objections arise that we can only mention. First, a free will response might assume that compatibilism is false—which would presuppose a significant philosophical thesis in a live and rigorous debate. If compatibilism is true and one can freely choose an action that is also fully determined, it seems as though God could have created a world where every agent is determined to act for the good and still do such actions freely. Also, one (see Schellenberg 2004) might argue that free will is not so valuable as to sanction God’s permission of evil. Another popular route of criticism has to been to note that a free will maneuver seems designed to explain moral evils but natural evils seems to be left out of the theory. A key objection to the free will maneuver would likely focus on concrete formulations of evil. One might agree that in general free will might justify the existence of evil: this is the abstract formulation. However, one might consider an instance of what’s come to be called gratuitous evil. The term gratuitous has been used to describe evils following Rowe’s (1979) description: “instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse” (336). Indeed, Rowe’s evidential argument there focuses on a concrete/local example of evil—a fawn’s slow, painful suffering death—to emphasize that it is gratuitous (i.e., we can’t see any good to be got from the suffering of Bambi or any worse evil that such suffering could have prevented). The shift from the abstract good of free will to a concrete instance of gratuitous suffering, it is suggested by these objectors, is either a lacuna (best case)
or defeater (worst case) for the free will theory. But, as with the objections to the free will maneuver, its adherents have no shortage of replies. Another important response from the theist to the argument evil arises, in its modern guise, from the work of John Hick (1966). His Evil and the God of Love provides a different value than free will that, he argues, defends God from the argument from evil. On his view, it’s the value of soul-making or, alternatively, as character development that drives his theodicy. God allows (much of) the evil we experience so that we can develop our souls or character for the better. It is through suffering ourselves or our connections to the suffering of others that we can develop virtues like kindness, courage, generosity, and so forth. Having to develop kindness makes no sense in a world devoid of suffering and there would be little to cause fear and, thus, the need to overcome it in bravery without evil. Hick’s soul making theodicy doesn’t deny the reality and the genuine badness of evil; it only claims that God has good reason—via development of the soul or character—to allow suffering or evil to occur. As with the free will maneuver, many philosophers take issue with the soul making response. One particularly compelling objection picks out plausible cases where evil does not make the soul but rather breaks it. Take, for instance, the infamous case of “Sue” so named by Alston (1991) derived from Bruce Russell’s (1988) “The Persistent Problem of Evil.” Russell examines the case of Sue, a five-year-old girl who was raped, tortured, and finally murdered. It is hard to see just how Sue’s soul is made after only five years of life, especially when ended in such a terrible, atrocious fashion. Augustine (1993, Bk III) suggests that God may permit (or perhaps even cause) the death of children to improve their parents, friends, and family; which would fall into Hick’s general line of thought. But, as with Spinozism and Optimism above, many will find this inadequate, in the best case, and positively callous in the worst. At any rate, we can easily imagine instances where someone’s life is not made better by suffering but rather positively crushed by the experience of evil. Recall from Section 1 that we may call instances of evil like this “horrendous” evils following Marilyn McCord Adams. For her, horrendous evils are “evils the participation in which (that is, the doing or suffering of which) constitutes prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could… be a great good to him/her on the whole” (1999, 26). In effect, Adams’ horrendous evils are Rowe’s gratuitous evils distilled to the worst possible extent: implying one’s whole life is/was prima facie not worth living. If there are such horrendous evils, then they seem to cut against the soul-making theodicy for evil. 16 Another important response to the argument from evil comes from skeptical theism. A skeptical theist affirms that God exists and evil exists but denies that the latter counts decisively against rational belief in the former. Why? Well, the skeptical theist rejects the problem of evil by
denying knowledge of something that the argument from evil requires. Some (e.g., Wykstra 1984) argue against the unrestricted inference from “we can’t see any reason that God would permit some evil” to “there is, in fact, no reason why God would permit some evil.” Only sometimes does lack of evidence for X become evidence against X, and proponents of this view argue that we would not have knowledge of the goods or motives a Perfect Being would have to permit evil. Thus, even if we cannot see the reason for some evil, that will not be good evidence that there is no such reason. Others, like William Alston (1991), argue that we have general cognitive limitations about, for instance, values that God would have. Thus, we should not be confident in our general assessments that no values exist that justify any given evil. Peter van Inwagen (1991 and 2006) urges a skeptical stance regarding our modal intuitions, that is, our intuitions about what must be or could be the case. If our modal intuitions are not trustworthy, then we can’t say with any certainty what sorts of goods God would or would not have to justify some evil. In all cases, though, the theist in question rejects the argument from evil based on skepticism of something crucial to that argument: namely whether we have good reason to think that there are no goods God would have that are weighty enough to balance out the evils we experience. If we do not know that there are no such goods, then they claim that we are not justified in thinking that there are not any. And, hence, we won’t be justified in affirming that there really are gratuitous evils: for all we know, all evils might, in fact, have counterbalancing goods. A healthy dose of skepticism, on the view here, goes a long way in preserving the rationality of theistic belief in spite of the argument from evil. As popular as skeptical theism is and has recently become, there has also been popularity in the objections leveled against it. Rowe (1996), for instance, rejects the skeptical point: arguing that “we are justified in concluding that we’ve been given no good reason to think that if God exists the goods that justify him in permitting much human and animal suffering are quite likely to be beyond our ken” (279). Others, however, argue that skeptical theism actually opens itself to really worrisome skepticisms. Sometimes the argument is that skeptical theism them has problematic implications for moral knowledge (see Tooley 1991) or moral living (see Jordan 2006 and Almeida & Oppy 2003). Others (like Dougherty 2008) urge that the skeptical theist must also be skeptical of much in commonsense epistemology, that one’s knowledge of God is threatened (see Rowe 2006), or that skeptical theism undermines one’s faithful relationship to God (see Gale 1996). In various ways, then, the objection is that skeptical theism is just too skeptical: that is, accepting the skepticism at work in responding to the problem of evil leads to a much higher dose or kind of skepticism than, intuitively, one is willing to accept. As with every other response to the argument from evil, there’s no dearth of objections to skeptical theism that an adherent of the view
should consider. But, also, there’s no scarcity of replies to these objections, either. Like any interesting philosophical problem or discussion, the dialogue on the problem of evil and the various responses to it has seen much ink spilled in response and will surely see more in the future. This is why we have the basis for a collection of new direction: to engage the past and present debate as well as lead it into the future. THE META-PROBLEM OF EVIL In Sections 2 and 3, we have focused on the problem of evil and the response to it. But the response in section 3 takes the problem of evil as a philosophical or theoretical to be addressed, resolved, or examined with more philosophical or theoretical responses developed from within the framework of that problem itself. In this section, we discuss some responses taking on the problem of evil qua philosophical problem or as a theoretical field of inquiry. Let us say that responses of this sort concern the meta-problem of evil. In some fashion, meta-responses will object or examine the “game” of the problem of evil as it’s played in contemporary (or historical), usually analytic, philosophy. First, one may take the standard problem of evil qua problem and thereby shift away from that “problem” sort of mindset or “game.” For instance, D. Z. Phillips (2004) proposes a Wittgensteinian reexamination of the problem of evil. In particular, Phillips uses the standard problem of evil as a way to reorient much of the theistic talk away from traditional discussions of omnipotence, problematic assumptions of consequentialist reasons for permitting evil, denying that God is a moral agent (or in a moral community with us), and others. Instead of rejecting theism or trying to make these traditional elements consistent or rational with evil, Phillips argues that we should shift the “grammar of God” (as he likes to say) away from the standard confines of the problem of evil debate, game, and so forth. As an example, Phillips challenges the standard notion of omnipotence as “having all (logically consistent) power” or “able to do anything (logically possible).” The notion of power or able to here applying to God shouldn’t and cannot fit the mundane notion of power we commonly predicate of limited human beings. By rejecting an overly anthropomorphic conception of God (as Phillips sees things) in the problem of evil debate, he tries to reorient the “grammar of God” beyond the back-and-forth war of attrition in the philosophical landscape of the argument from evil. One must not conflate the “grammar” of Divine Power with that of creaturely power (also Davies 2006, 88–93). And it is this conflation in the philosophical problem of evil to which Phillips objects. Similar considerations appeal to the grammar of “goodness” or being a “moral agent” that, in various ways, give the problem of evil its theoretical shape. Andrew Gleeson (2012), in a similar approach, suggests that
the problem of evil, in good (later) Wittgensteinian fashion, engages with one’s form of life or living in the world. In either sort of approach, Phillips and Gleeson give meta-responses (derived from Wittgenstein) to the problem of evil: arguing that it works within a limited or faulty grammar or that it fails to engage with one’s form of life. Additionally, one may suggest a distinctively religious approach to the problem of evil. Even one of the major contributors to the standard problem of evil “game,” Alvin Plantinga, argues (2004) for a response to the problem of evil from a distinctively Christian perspective. We have a plausible justifying reason for permitting evil, he argues, in making possible the great goods of the Incarnation and Atonement crucial to Christianity. Without evil, there would be no need for the Incarnation as the path to atonement. Marilyn McCord Adams (1999), too, provides a Christian response to the argument from evil. God’s redemptive plan, through the Incarnation, involves the divine (in some fashion) suffering as humans suffer. 17 Her point is that “horrendous evils require defeat by nothing less than the goodness of God” by identifying “ways that created participation in horrors can be integrated into the participants’ relation to God, where God is understood to be the incommensurate Good” (155). Suffering—by us and by God—in light of the Incarnation, draws us closer to the Good and, thus, provides the only kind of value (the Good itself) that can adequately answer the argument from evil (also see Arp 2000). While both kinds of responses engage the problem of evil, they neglect addressing it on purely philosophical grounds uninformed by specific religious commitments. As such, they offer a different kind of response. But one may appeal to religious rejoinders in a different way. One may reject the problem of evil as a principally theoretical problem; instead viewing it as a religious or existential problem. 18 Amidst Plantinga’s watershed work on the logical problem of evil and the free will defense, we find him concluding that, for the person going through personal tragedy, s/he may not see evil as a theoretical problem needing a theoretical answer but rather that “[s]uch a problem calls, not for philosophical enlightenment, but for pastoral care” (1974, 63–4). Adopting this sort of response would be to give up on the “problem of evil” as a discussion for philosophers or theologians for but a pastor or even psychologist: dealing with living with or through evil rather than trying to understand it intellectually. One might also accept the force of the argument from evil but refuse to give up or modify (classical Western) theism. An instance of this approach would be a “protest theodicy.” On this view, one remains committed (intellectually, morally, religiously, etc.) to a theistic God but also sees God as bearing responsibility for the evil encountered in the world. David Blumenthal (1993) explicitly links a theodicy of protest against the “abuses” of God with a limitation on God’s goodness by suggesting that God is not essentially omnibenevolent and, in fact, God does evil (at least
on occasion). A protesting theodicy, according to John Roth (1981), finds theodicies absolving an omnipotent being wanting: “Nobody is OK. Otherwise the slaughter-bench [of history] would not be so drenched [with blood]. And when one says ‘nobody,’ God is included as well as humanity” (11). But Roth’s protest does not entail outright rebellion or even atheism: “it remains possible to be for God by being against God, and the way we do so best is by giving life in care and compassion for others. Then there is reason for hope on earth and perhaps beyond” (19, emphasis added). Finally, Roth sees this “protest with hope” message at the core of Christianity: “Jesus brings signs of what good can be. . . . But the world does not yield, then or now, and Jesus himself ends up crucified, Godforsaken. . . . Promises, glimpses, and failure, waste—taken together, as they must be, those realities make the New Testament a source of protesting faith as well” (21; author’s emphasis). Effectively, a protest theodicy seems to look at the “game” involved in the problem of evil and simply overturns the playing board: affirming both theism and God’s responsibility for evil. Finally, one may (meta-)respond to the problem of evil by rejecting the various practice of theodicy outright. 19 Emmanuel Levinas (1998) famously claims that all possible theodicy ends at Auschwitz. And Holocaust survivor Primo Levi is famous for having summed up the sentiment of countless Jews and others regarding the Nazi death camps: “There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God” (Camon 1989, 44). Yet the Holocaust does not function as some “evil” trump card to be played in the argument from evil: “Levinas’ point is not that theodicy still remains possible but merely appears impossible, but rather that it was always impossible, and should have been seen as such” (Sachs 2010, 280). Still, a further objection arises: theodicy isn’t merely impossible or hopeless—it’s positively evil in itself. Thus, Terrence Tilley: “theodicy as a discourse practice must be abandoned because the practice of theodicy does not resolve the problems of evil and does create evils (1991, 5, emphasis added) and D. Z. Phillips (2004): any given theodicy provides “a clear instance where . . . in the language it employs, actually adds to the evil it seeks to justify” (100, emphasis added). Theodicy, thus, is not merely a theoretical failure but actively contributes qua evil to the very problem it attempts to resolve. One must object to theodicy, then, not on theoretically grounds but on moral ones: to participate in the problem of evil “game” or discourse is to actively promote the bad. As with the responses to the problem of evil in Section 3, we only intend this section as a partial but non-exhaustive list of the various meta-responses to the argument from evil one might give. And, also with Sections 2 and 3, our purpose here is to clarify and describe the landscape of philosophical (or religious, theological, etc.) thought about evil: we have no intent to weigh into any of the debates therein. The goal is purely descriptive and, like the other three sections, simply meant to lay out the
landscape of some philosophical discussion of evil from which the chapters in this book may launch. As you read the chapters of this book, much of what we have communicated here in this introduction will be reiterated. But there are many more fascinating arguments and insights that the authors have put forward. We leave you with this quotation from Albert Camus’ The Plague (1991), which surely is appropriate given the nature of this book: “The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance. . . . There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness” (131). NOTES 1. There’s no shortage of philosophers of religion explicitly taking pain or suffering as the paradigmatic or easiest instance of pain. See, for only a very short list, Swinburne (2004); Alston (1991); Draper (1989); Adams (1989); van Inwagen (1991); Wykstra (1984); Rowe (1979); Tooley (1991); and Pike (1963). And there’s no necessary focus on human suffering: see Rowe (1979), Murray (2008), Ferré (1986), and Draper (1989) among others. 2. Others may term “nothing” approaches like these as privation theories since, on them, evil is merely a privation of the good (privatio boni). 3. For more on evil and non-being, see Moss and Holdier’s chapters in this volume. 4. More recent thinkers have similar conceptions of evil. Reichberg (2002) puts forward a notion of evil as imperfection, Adams (1999, 2) sees evil as a “resistance to order,” and, like Augustine (On Free Choice of the Will, III), Calder (2007) seriously considers whether evil is a flaw in, or corruption of, nature or the order of things. 5. See Ang’s chapter in this volume for more on banal evil. 6. See John Shook’s paper in this volume for a version of the problem of evil modeled on Hell. 7. For more on Schellenberg’s analysis of divine hiddenness and the problem of evil, see McCraw in this volume. 8. More on Adams’ “horrendous” evils in Section 3. 9. Classical or traditional Western theism affirms the existence of some perfect, allknowing, all-powerful, all-good Being who created the Earth and is, somehow, involved in its operation. Such a description should locate the main strand of theism in the philosophical literature but leave enough room to include many specific religious traditions under it as well. We make no claim about the adequacy of this model in the literature: there are many other non-Western or non-classical/traditional models of them that might plausibly and reasonably serve for philosophical discussion here. 10. For more on the evidential argument from evil, see Martin’s chapter in this volume. 11. However, the terminological use of “evidential” isn’t standard (though we suspect this is, by far, the most common way of describing this argument type). Philosophers refer to this type of argument as inductive (see Alston 1991), probabilistic (see Draper 1992 and Plantinga 1979), abductive (McBrayer 2010, 621n5), and epistemic (Draper 1989). Though there may be subtle differences among these arguments that may call of different usage, the general point we’re making here doesn’t require any difference among them. Thus, our purpose here takes all of these usages as equivalent. 12. The abstract/concrete usage comes from Tooley (1991) and Adams (1999) whereas van Inwagen (2006) uses the general/local description. 13. For more on dualism, see the chapter by Strandberg in this volume. 14. We present the following responses separately because they are distinct. However, it’s possible to present an overall response to evil as a hybrid of two or more (or
all, for that matter) of these theories (insofar as they can be combined without contradiction, of course). For a mention of such a hybrid or cumulative case against the argument from evil see McCraw’s chapter in this work (chapter 6) or Dumsday (2014, 302). 15. A. G. Holdier’s chapter in this volume discusses Augustine’s free will theodicy at length. 16. One important note here is that Hick anticipates this sort of objection and suggests that, in response, we need to affirm some kind of postmortem existence to develop one’s soul after a life containing horrendous evils. This might be reincarnation (where one lives multiple lives to develop one’s soul) or a kind of purgatory (wherein one goes through some process after death by which one develops the virtues one didn’t in life). For Hick’s hypothesis of a reincarnation approach see (1994, 408) or his views regarding a purgatorial sort of response (1978, 347–8). Importantly, though, this response requires adding a lot of conceptual machinery to theism (by adding reincarnation, purgatory, etc.) and such addition will add to the burden of proof one needs to satisfy in order to give an adequate response to the argument from evil overall. 17. For more on redemptive suffering, see Neal Judisch’s chapter in this volume. 18. Again, Gleeson’s (2012) approach making one’s form of life crucial to the argument from evil would be relevant here. 19. For a similar approach see Nathan Loewen’s chapter in the current work.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1989. “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 63: 297–323. Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1999. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Almeida, Michael and Graham Oppy. 2003. “Sceptical Theism and Evidential Arguments from Evil” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81(4): 496–516. Alston, William P. 1991. “The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 29–67. American Cancer Society. 2003. Cancer: What Causes It, What Doesn’t. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Aquinas, St. Thomas. 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation Against the Unbelievers]. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Aquinas, St. Thomas. 1927. De Principiis Naturae ad Fratrem Sylvestrum [The Principles of Nature to Brother Sylvester]. Edited by P. Bazzi, M. Calcaterra, T.S. Centi, E. Odetto, and P.M. Pession. Turin: Marietti. Aquinas, St. Thomas. 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Aquinas, Thomas. 2003. On Evil. Translated by Richard Regan and edited by Brian Davies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Arendt, Hannah. 2006. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Penguin Books. Arp, Robert. 2000. “Suffering as Theodicy” Cahiers Simone Weil 23(4): 413–33. Augustine. 1961. Confessions. Translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin. New York: Penguin Books. Augustine. 1993. On Free Choice of the Will. Translated by Thomas Williams. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Augustine. 2003. City of God. Translated by Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin Books. Blumenthal, David R. 1993. Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest. Louisville: John Knox Press.
Calder, Todd. 2007. “Is the Privation Theory of Evil Dead?” American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (4): 371–81. Camon, Ferdinando. 1989. Conversations with Primo Levi. Translated by John Shepley. Marlboro, VT: Marlboro Press. Camus, Albert. 1991. The Plague. Translated by Stuart Gilbert. New York: Vintage International. Cawthorne, Nigel. 2006. 100 Catastrophic Disasters. London: Arcturus Publishing. Chrzan, Keith. 1994. “Necessary Gratuitous Evil: An Oxymoron Revisited” Faith & Philosophy 11(1): 134–7. Davies, Brian, ed. 2001. The De Malo of Thomas Aquinas. Translated by Richard Regan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Davies, Brian. 2006. The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil. London: Continuum. Dougherty, Trent. 2008. “Epistemological Considerations Concerning Skeptical Theism” Faith and Philosophy 25: 172–6. Draper, Paul. 1989. “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” Nous 23(3): 331–50. Draper, Paul. 1992. “Probabilistic Arguments from Evil” Religious Studies 28(3): 303–17. Dumsday, Travis. 2014. “Divine Hiddenness as Deserved” Faith and Philosophy 31: 286–302. Evans, Jeremy. 2013. The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs. New York: Broadman. Ferré, Frederick. 1986. “Theodicy and the Status of Animals” American Philosophical Quarterly 23(1): 23–34. Frances, Bryan. 2013. Gratuitous Suffering and the Problem of Evil. New York: Routledge. Gale, Richard. 1996. “Some Difficulties in Theistic Treatments of Evil.” In The Evidential Argument from Evil, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder, 206–18. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Gleeson, Andrew. 2012. A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan. Griffin, David R. 1981. “Creation Out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil.” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by Stephen T. Davis, 101–19. Atlanta: John Knox Press. Guiberson, Brenda. 2010. Disasters: Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes Through the Centuries. New York: Henry Holt & Company. Hall, John R. Clark. 1894. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: For the Use of Students. New York: Macmillan. Hasker, William. 1988. “Suffering, Soul-Making, and Salvation” International Philosophical Quarterly 28: 3–19. Hewett, William, ed. 1994. Defining the Horrific: Readings on Genocide and Holocaust in the 20th Century. London: Pearson. Hick, John. 1966. Evil and the God of Love. New York: Harper and Row. Hick, John. 1994. Death and Eternal Life. Louisville: John Knox Press. Hoyois, Philippe, and Debarati Guha Sapir. 2012. “Measuring the Human and Economic Impact of Disasters.” Report from the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, Government Office for Science. Hume, David. 1998. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Richard H. Popkin. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Jemal, Ahmedin, Paolo Vineas, Freddie Bray, Lindsey Torre, and David Forman. 2015. The Cancer Atlas. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Jordan, Jeff. 2006. “Does Skeptical Theism Lead to Moral Skepticism?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72: 403–16. Keller, James A. 2007. Problems of Evil and the Power of God. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company. Kodaj, Daniel. 2014. “The Problem of Religious Evil” Religious Studies 50(4): 425–43.
Levinas, Emmanuel. 1998. “Useless Suffering.” In Entre-Nous: Essays on Thinking-of-theOther, translated by Michael B. Smith and Barbara Harshav, 91-102. New York: Columbia University Press. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Mackay, Charles. 1877. The Gaelic Etymology of the Languages of Western Europe: And More Especially of the English and the Lowland Scotch, and of Their Slang, Cant, and Colloquial Dialects. London: N. Trübner and Co. Mackie, J. L. 1955. “Evil and Omnipotence” Mind 64(254): 200–12. Martin, Michael. 1990. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. McBrayer, Justin P. 2010. “Skeptical Theism” Philosophy Compass 5(7): 611–23. McBrayer, Justin P., and Daniel Howard-Snyder, eds. 2013. The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers. Murray, Michael J. 2008. Nature Red in Tooth & Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Onions, C. T., ed. 1966. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Palshikar, Sanjay. 2014. Evil and the Philosophy of Retribution: Modern Commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita. London: Routledge. Phillips, D. Z. 2004. The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. London: SCM Press. Pike, Nelson. 1963. “Hume on Evil” The Philosophical Review 72(2): 180–97. Plantinga, Alvin. 1974. God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids: Eedrmans. Plantinga, Alvin. 1979. “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil” Philosophical Studies 35(1): 1–53. Plantinga, Alvin. 2004. “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa’.” In Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, edited by Peter van Inwagen, 1–25. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Poston, Ted. 2014. “Social Evil.” In Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 5, edited by Jonathan Kvanvig, 209–33. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Raeder, Linda C. 2002. John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. Reichberg, Gregory M. 2002. “Beyond Privation: Moral Evils in Aquina's ‘De Malo’” The Review of Metaphysics 55: 751–84. Roth, John K. 1981. “A Theodicy of Protest.” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by Stephen T. Davis, 7–22. Atlanta: John Knox Press. Rowe, William L. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” American Philosophical Quarterly 16(4): 335–41. Rowe, William L. 1996. “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look.” In The Evidential Argument from Evil, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder, 262–85. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Rowe, William L. 2006. “Friendly Atheism, Skeptical Theism, and the Problem of Evil” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 59: 79–92. Russell, Bruce. 1989. “The Persistent Problem of Evil” Faith and Philosophy 6(2): 121–39. Sachs, Carl B. 2010. “The Acknowledgement of Transcendence: Anti-Theodicy in Adorno and Levinas” Philosophy and Social Criticism 37(3): 273–94. Schellenberg, J. L. 2004. “The Atheist’s Free Will Offence” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 56: 1–15. Schellenberg, J. L. 2006. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Stocker, T.J., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.M. Midgley, eds. 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Stott, John. 1986. The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Swinburne, Richard. 1998. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Swinburne, Richard. 2004. The Existence of God, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tilley, Terrence W. 1991. The Evils of Theodicy. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Tooley, Michael. 1991. “The Argument from Evil” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 89-134. van Inwagen, Peter. 1991. “The Problem of Evil, The Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 135–65. van Inwagen, Peter. 2006. The Problem of Evil: The Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of St Andrews in 2003. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Withington, John. 2010. Disaster: A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. Wykstra, Stephen J. 1984. “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance’” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 16: 73–93.
ONE Is Pure Evil Possible? Hugo Strandberg
In Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft, Kant writes: there is thus no comprehensible ground for us from which the moral evil in us could first have come.—This incomprehensibility, adding a more detailed determination of the wickedness of our species, the Scriptures express in the historical narrative by projecting evil certainly in the beginning of the world but not yet in man, but in a spirit of an originally sublime destiny: thereby the first beginning of absolutely all evil is thus presented as incomprehensible to us (for whence the evil in that spirit?), man however as fallen into evil only through temptation, thus not fundamentally corrupted (not even as regards the first predisposition to the good), but as still capable of improvement, in contrast to a tempting spirit, i.e. such a being whom the temptation of the flesh cannot be accounted as mitigation of his guilt. (1968, 693–4; my translation)
When Kant here discusses the ground from which the moral evil in us has come, he is discussing the origin of evil in mankind. But a similar question can also be asked about the origin of evil in the individual, either as a question about his or her first sin or as a question about how each and every sin originates. An account similar to the above, but related to the latter question, is often found in comic books, when people are depicted with an angel over one shoulder and a devil over the other, speaking for virtue and vice respectively. 1 Accounts of these kinds are not only used to give temporal descriptions but also to describe the logic of evil. Freud (1973b) writes: About the evil demon we know that he is thought as opponent of God and is yet very close to his nature. [ . . . ] Not much analytical acuteness 23
Chapter 1 is needed to guess that God and the Devil were originally identical, one single character, which was later divided into two with opposite qualities. [ . . . ] This is the process, familiar to us, in which a notion with contradictory—ambivalent—content is divided into two sharply contrasting opposites. The contradictions in the original nature of God are however a reflection of the ambivalence that governs the relation of the individual to his personal father. (300–1; my translation)
Referring to ambivalence is not to say anything about how my relation to my father has acquired the form it has; it is to say something about the logic of my way of relating to him, that it cannot be accounted for by reference to one single term but should be understood in terms of a tension between two principles (good and evil, love and hatred, “the spirit of God” and “the spirit of the Devil”). As we have seen, Kant points out a problem to accounts of this kind: whence the evil in that spirit? This does not mean that Kant rejects them. On the contrary, his own account of the origin of evil differs from the above primarily only in his attempt to express it in what he sees as rational, in contrast to mythological, terms. The incomprehensibility, and hence the above problem but only in another form, is still there: evil as we know it presupposes that the person who succumbs to it is susceptible to temptation, but since being susceptible to temptation is already having succumbed to evil, that first fall cannot be understood in those terms but is, Kant says, incomprehensible (1968, 667–8; 671–2; 690–7). There is much confusion in the way Kant expresses the point, but the problem he highlights is there also when this confusion has been cleared up. As to the confusion: That I succumb to a temptation does not mean that the susceptibility to this temptation must already have been there. On the contrary, I might become tempted to do something the possibility of which had never struck me before someone pointed it out to me. If I worry over economical problems I have, I need not have given a single thought to the possibility of solving them by means of a swindle before an acquaintance of mine asked me if I would like to join him in a swindle; in fact, the economical problems would not have been as worrying and, if I am tempted, the offer he gives me not as tempting (in contrast to just being a great opportunity), had such a swindle been an option for me all along. Is it not merely to insist on a philosophical a priori claim to assert that there must still have been some susceptibility in me already before this—if not to such a swindle, then to swindles in general, if not to swindles in general, then to being dishonest—that there must be some more general description under which what I am now tempted to do falls, designating a susceptibility which is already there? Kant’s point should then not, I believe, be understood in temporal terms, but in this way: someone does not become tempted to do something just because you try to tempt him, that is, saying that I see something as a tempting possibility just because someone else said it is, is a very bad attempt at exculpating myself. In
Is Pure Evil Possible?
other words, I can feel remorse not only for what I have done, but also for what I have seen as possible to do, and although it may sometimes be important to be clear about who came up with the idea, the remorse I feel need not be affected just because I know that the idea was not mine originally. This means that all attempts to account for the origin of evil in me by referring to someone else tempting me still leaves questions unanswered: he tries to tempt me, that is right, but why am I tempted by what he says? Answering this question by saying that the possibility of being tempted is simply given is also a very bad attempt at exculpating oneself; in remorse, I worry about it and do consequently not see it as something that should simply be accepted. In this sense there is something to saying that the origin of evil is incomprehensible, even though one should be open to the possibility that there is something wrong with the question here said not to have an answer. This was the incomprehensibility of evil as Kant sees it, now to the problem he highlights. The problem is that an infinite regress arises: whence the evil in that spirit? The same question can, in slightly different forms, also be asked with regard to my other two examples. If the evil things I do are the result of me yielding to temptations the devil who sits on one of my shoulders whispers in my ear, are the evil things this devil does—tempting me—to be described in the same terms or not? If in the same, we get an infinite chain of creatures sitting on one of the shoulders of the previous one; if not, we get a very different kind of evil, which then must be described in very different terms. And if my relation to my father is one of ambivalence, does this mean that I vacillate between two ways of relating to him, each of which is non-ambivalent and hence must be described in very different terms than the ambivalent relations we in fact know of? Or goes the ambivalence all the way down, so that it is not possible to remove the ambivalence by isolating one of its alleged sides, hatred (evil, “the spirit of the Devil”) being essentially ambivalent? That these questions are possible to ask does not mean that the accounts they are directed to must be rejected. As long as the accounts shed some light on what they are supposed to shed some light on they are of significance, even if that light is dim and restricted. In answering the questions, however, there seems to be two ways to go. Either one could break off the regress and try to give an account of pure evil, an evil which hence must be described in very different terms than the evil we started out from. Or one could accept that the impurity goes all the way down, that is, that any process of analysis will end up with elements as impure as the ones started out from. In this chapter I will not try to answer these questions. What I will do is point out some problems you run into if you try to answer the questions in the first way. In other words, I will not try to show that pure evil is impossible, only that the idea of that kind of purity is more problematic than one might be inclined to believe. My discussion has three parts. In
the first one, I will present some examples in which an impurity of evil goes all the way down. In the second one, I will discuss some alleged examples of pure evil and show that they are not as pure as they might seem to be. In the third one, I will point out that it is possible to direct moral criticism to the very idea of pure evil. And lastly I will give some concluding remarks on the possibility of discussing evil philosophically. Speaking in terms of the Devil, what I will do is investigate the psychology of the Devil, one might say. If pure evil is possible, the Devil, understood as a personification of evil, will be evil through and through; if pure evil is not possible, such a personification will be as full of tensions as the concept personified. EXAMPLES IN WHICH AN IMPURITY OF EVIL GOES ALL THE WAY DOWN A clear example of impure evil is evil done by someone who takes it to be for the sake of the good. Like so many other bad cops in movie history, Hank Quinlan, in Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, is spreading that infection he takes himself to be fighting. Whenever he is convinced that someone is guilty, he takes all measures in order to frame them: planting evidence on them and murdering people standing in his way. This evil is impure, for a thorough description of it will include the fact that he takes it to be for the sake of the good. That what he does is in fact evil is not due to an intellectual mistake, to be sure, as if he mistook his measures for good ones, but that it is for the sake of the good is not just a lie he tells others, as if he did not at all care for the justice he says he works for. Here a concept such as self-deception is apt, and it highlights the impurity of the evil he does. Quinlan’s actions are a reaction to the murder of his wife, and things similar to the above could be said about evil in the form of punishment, revenge, and retaliation generally. A description of the evil I do in such a case must include the fact that I do it as a reaction to something that I take to have happened and make what I do called for. What I do would not be revenge if I did not do it as a response to something. It would not be revenge if there were no moral relations between us. Retaliation need not only be direct but also has indirect forms (and this is certainly the form it takes in Quinlan’s case). This should make one attentive to the possibility that also forms of evil that do not at first seem to be instances of retaliation could in fact be. I may feel generally mistreated and humiliated—by “life”—and therefore relate to others in a spirit of vicarious retaliation. The vicarious character of the retaliation is here not necessarily a substitution of one subject for another—as in well known chains where the boss fires the worker, the worker beats his wife, the wife spanks their child, and the child kicks the dog—but since the
Is Pure Evil Possible?
injustice I feel that I am constantly subjected to is so undetermined, anyone is just as much to blame as anyone else, so the person I mistreat need not be understood as a stand-in for someone I am unable to reach. The vicarious subject of my retaliation may also be myself, retaliation not only being a means of inflicting pain to the one it is directed at but also a way of securing my own power and control in executing it. In fact, however, the moral relations between us mean that it is not possible to distinguish clearly between the subjects of my retaliation and those not subjected to it. I may punish my parents by hurting myself, for example. However that may be, in all these cases the evil is impure: a detailed description of it will include the fact that it is a reaction to something, that the one doing it is taking this situation to make it called for and that there thus is a reason for doing it which is distinct from the fact of its being evil, and that the features of the evil done presuppose moral relations between us. A process of distillation aiming at removing impurities from the phenomenon analyzed will here end up mischaracterizing it, since what is then left out of account is an integral part of it. The possibility that what the one doing evil is telling herself can be brushed off as being superficial and misleading does not change this, for what she tells herself nevertheless belongs to the characterization of what she here does. When I retaliate, I am as it were telling others that there are things that should not have happened, things on account of which I now do what I do. (What is told need not be external to the telling, however; someone might be punished for being contemptible and the proof of his being contemptible simply that he is not able to defend himself against the punishment.) That retaliation bears such a message means that it presupposes moral relations between us. But also the things here referred to may do this. To the extent I describe the injury someone inflicts upon me as physical, to that extent I take the injury to be possible to understand without taking the relation between me and the one inflicting it upon me into account, and in such a case it is primarily in the very act of retaliation that other dimensions of our relation come to the fore (that she takes it to be possible to tell me that I should not have done this and that, for example). But if I retaliate when someone has taken advantage of my trust in her, the moral relations between us are a central dimension to the characterization also of the injury, and the understanding of my retaliation will have to take them into account two times over. And if I here retaliate in the literal sense of the word—take advantage of her trust in me since she has taken advantage of my trust in her—those moral relations will be central to the understanding of what I do in yet another respect. Furthermore, the things for which I retaliate can have several moral layers also in the sense that I may punish someone for the bad conscience I have for having hurt her before. The evil I do now thus here refers to the evil I have done previously, and this not only goes for cases when it is the same person I relate to: one way of trying to silence one’s
conscience is to commit all the more and all the more horrendous crimes, in that way trying to hide each one of them amongst the rest and burn all bridges that lead away from evil. Additional entanglements are there when what the issue concerns are questions of prestige and status. Retaliation is then obviously relational: promoting myself means demoting the other and vice versa. In that sense it is not strange that I could take something merely destructive to be a positive thing—to the extent prestige were not a morally strange thing, that is. This also means that the thing which has happened for which I retaliate need not be there to be seen in any straightforward sense. The impression that what someone does diminishes one’s prestige and that there thus is a need for elevating oneself by humiliating her can be intangible for everyone but the person having it. (It is in cases such as this that the conflict really becomes unlimited, for to the extent what we are fighting over is something neither the possession of which nor the point of possessing it presuppose the relation between us, there will be a natural end to the fight, namely when I have acquired that which I fought over, but in cases such as this there is no such end.) And that promoting and demoting can be done using moral terms makes all this even more entangled: presenting oneself as a victim and throwing the blame upon the one whose position I want to make precarious is one way of playing this game. One form of such moralization is touched upon by Freud (1973a) when he claims that “the Devil is certainly nothing but a personification of the repressed, unconscious life of drives” (28–9). Mind the racist who runs down those who live lives he secretly wants to live but for some reason or other does not—”the wild and irresponsible Gypsies,” “the woman-hating Muslims”—and hides his envy in contempt. What I have said here—about evil in the form of punishment, revenge and retaliation—has been an attempt of showing how manifold the connections between evil acts and other things often are and that an understanding of what doing evil is here about cannot abstract from this very complicated context. And the more complicated we realize that such situations are, the more difficult it will be for us to clearly delimit them, which means that even though I have only given a few examples, it will not be a straightforward task to give examples of evil which undeniably have nothing in common with them. That these complications are not always paid attention to is obvious in one of those doctrines that portray the world as ruled by two principles, strictly opposed and with equal primordiality: Manichaeism. When the evil principle that opposes the good one is here substantiated, it is described in terms of bitterness, envy, hate, and resentment. 2 But these are of reactive characters, presuppose moral relations between, say, the envious one and the one she is envious of, and are not without connections to questions of prestige. In Christian theology, on the other hand, evil is understood as having a secondary character: “evil [ . . . ] even if this is a
Is Pure Evil Possible?
strange way of speaking, has its being in non-being” (Gregory of Nyssa 1863, 93; my translation), “evil [ . . . ] is not a substance” (Augustine 1991, 138), “Everything which exists, so far as it exists and has a particular nature, tends naturally towards some good” (Aquinas 1981, 314–5). 3 And it is therefore consistent that the concept of envy is there often used to describe this secondary character. Thomas Aquinas (1981), for example, portrays the Devil as, after his fall “it cannot be said that the devil was wicked in the first instant of his creation” (315–6)), an essentially prideful and envious character: “Under envy and pride, as found in the demons, are comprised all other sins derived from them” (313). And the same terms are found in John Milton: “Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile / Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived / The mother of mankind, what time his pride / Had cast him out from Heav’n” (1998, 121). SOME ALLEGED EXAMPLES OF PURE EVIL In Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik, Schopenhauer (1860) writes: “Egoism can lead to all kinds of crimes and misdeeds, but the injury and pain of others it thereby causes is only means for it, not an end, thus occurs here only accidentally. To wickedness and cruelty, however, the sufferings and pains of others are an end in itself and attaining it pleasure” (200; my translation). 4 This would be an example of pure evil; whereas egoism is not such an example, wickedness and cruelty is, if Schopenhauer is to be believed. (Schopenhauer’s description of egoism is undoubtedly too simplified; what he forgets is that egoism not only causes pain, a result which could certainly be said to be accidental, but that the disregard of others egoism is, is as such a pain and hence no accident. But pure cruelty may still be possible, and this is our question here.) But even if there is such a distinction and it is only the latter which possibly is an example of pure evil, we do not yet know what kind of real cases fall under that description. Montaigne (1952) gives such a possible example: I could hardly persuade myself, before I saw it with my eyes, that there could be found souls so cruel and fell, who, for the sole pleasure of murder, would commit it; would hack and lop off the limbs of others; sharpen their wits to invent unusual torments and new kinds of death, without hatred, without profit, and for no other end but only to enjoy the pleasant spectacle of the gestures and motions, the lamentable groans and cries of a man dying in anguish. (206)
But it is not clear how we should understand what Montaigne is here talking about. How is it possible to determine that not anything of that which I described in the last section is involved here? Are there really no connections between what these people do and what they do in other situations? If there are, the act is only purely evil if the one committing it is evil through and through; if there are not, the evil is something that
infects someone from without and takes control over her, and even though there is something to such a description—one might be frightened by one’s feelings of rancour towards someone who has wounded one—its alien character may very well be illusory, for the discomfort which is the reason for describing it as alien is also the reason why one keeps away from those situations which may excite it. Furthermore, note another respect in which what Montaigne describes is not as clear as it might appear to be. On the one hand, it sounds as if the people Montaigne is talking about are doing what they are doing just for the kick of it. But if we took that suggestion literally, this would mean that what we here have examples of is Schopenhauer’s egoism: the suffering and pain of others would then only be an unfortunate secondary result. But on the other hand, the suffering and pain of others are said not to be possible to isolate from the kick which causing them brings about; they belong to its content, as it were. But how is this internal relation between them to be understood? If we could take recourse to the concepts we made use of in the first section—revenge, for example—there would be a clear answer to this question. But if we want an example of pure evil, that road cannot be taken. This not only means that it is not yet clear what we are talking about when we are talking about pure evil, it also means that the kind of purity which however is not hard to imagine—a fit of mine, causing suffering and pain to others—is pure, or rather does not necessarily presuppose any moral relations between us, to the detriment of its being an evil action on my part. A somewhat similar point is made by Anscombe (1963) in Intention. She writes: “Evil be thou my good” is often thought to be senseless in some way. Now all that concerns us here is that “What’s the point of it?” is something that can be asked until a desirability characterisation has been reached and made intelligible. If then the answer to this question at some stage is “The good of it is that it’s bad,” this need not be unintelligible; one can go on to say “And what is the good of its being bad?” to which the answer might be condemnation of good as impotent, slavish, and inglorious. Then the good of making evil my good is my intact liberty in the unsubmissiveness of my will. Bonum est multiplex: good is multiform, and all that is required for our concept of ‘wanting’ is that a man should see what he wants under the aspect of some good. A collection of bits of bone three inches long, if it is a man’s object, is something we want to hear the praise of before we understand it as an object; it would be affectation to say “One can want anything and I happen to want this.” (75)
“Wanting x” is not a function that can take any argument; is “to commit murder for the sole pleasure of it” one of them? If we, like Anscombe, would refer to something more than this pleasure—”condemnation of good as impotent, slavish, and inglorious […] my intact liberty in the
Is Pure Evil Possible?
unsubmissiveness of my will”—we would be on our way to one answer to that question, but the purity would then be lost, for we would then be back in the previous section. In other words, to the extent I do not see anything in the murders someone commits and the only thing I have to go by is his saying that he simply happens to want to murder, to that extent the whole thing is so strange that I do not know what to say about it, neither that it is evil. But are things as simple as that? That I used the first person pronoun is not an accident, for seeing something as intelligible is one thing for which I may feel remorse. This means that Anscombe’s suggestions— ”condemnation of good as impotent, slavish, and inglorious [ . . . ] my intact liberty in the unsubmissiveness of my will”—are not as self-evident as they might appear to be. I wish I did not understand them, and I hope that not everyone does. The upshot of all this is then that a condition for being able to describe some case as an example of pure evil is that one finds pure evil to be intelligible, that is, that one sees that as an intelligible “desirability characterisation.” Whether that condition is fulfilled or not is in the end a question of moral self-examination. As regards Montaigne’s example, there are other possible ways of relating to the events he is talking about than describing them (one might be dumbfounded by them, or one might not want to say anything about them) and describing them in his terms (one might describe them in terms conveying one’s concern about the corruption that cruelty expresses and thus not understand the evil to be pure, and this is just one possibility). MORAL CRITICISM OF THE VERY IDEA OF PURE EVIL All this brings us to the last part of our discussion, dealing with the moral criticism it is possible to direct to the very idea of pure evil. If the idea of pure evil has a possible application, it is applied to others or to oneself. The last alternative is hard to get one’s head around, and I will drop it. But what about applying it to others? Applying it is a way of relating to the people it is applied to, and as there are moral concerns that can be brought to bear on these relations, these moral concerns can be brought to bear on the concepts I apply to them. Since the discussion about the possibility of pure evil runs the risk of degenerating into psychological speculation, this is especially important to point out. In Enten—Eller, Kierkegaard (1962) writes: “That I point out the reality of remorse also shows that I do not presume a radical evil; for remorse is certainly an expression of reconciliation, but also an absolutely irreconcilable expression” (2:165; my translation). 5 The possibility of remorse means that the evil someone has done does not permeate her as a whole, in which case there would be no way from evil to goodness, in which case goodness would only appear by leaving everything that has been behind
and the sense in which she feels remorse for something she has done would be obscure. Saying that someone is purely evil is to say that remorse is not within the horizon of her possibilities, and the problem with saying this is not only that it is far from clear how one can claim to know that this is so, but first and foremost that saying this is to give up hope about her: she will never come to even an inkling of moral understanding of what she has done. And this not only concerns my relation to her; speculating about such a possibility risks making one’s own conscience turbid. This would be the moral criticism it is possible to direct to the very idea of pure evil. This criticism could be said to be present also when it is not explicitly stated. If my reaction to the evil I am confronted with is one of perplexity—”how was it possible for him to do it, how could he do it?”– I am not taking what he has done as a matter of course, that is, not as something that were only to be expected (given his psychological make-up, say). This perplexity need not be of the kind that aims at being disentangled, and if it is not of that kind, the above criticism is implicitly present. In that sense, the chain of devilish creatures sitting on one of the shoulders of the previous one is really infinite, someone might say, for the question “how could he do it?” can be asked again and again and will never be given an answer that settles everything. CONCLUDING REMARKS The one who claims that pure evil is possible runs into problems, as we have seen, and the problems in the second and third sections are the most important ones I believe: it is not possible to show that pure evil is possible by presenting an example of such purity from real life, for the question concerns how that which is presented should be understood and concerns how I should relate morally to those it concerns, and my way of understanding it thus says as much about me as about those people, for a relation has more than one term. In order for it to be possible to say that pure evil is, or is not, possible, moral clear-sightedness is hence needed, and that clear-sightedness is not given by the case alone. The possibility of discussing evil philosophically is consequently beset with difficulties, and by way of conclusion I would like to say a few words about them. One of those situations in which it is most difficulty to be morally clear-sighted is precisely when being confronted by real evil: here questions about rancour, resignation, bitterness, corruption, and enchantment, to name but a few possibilities, become topical. Discussing evil philosophically in the context of such real situations is, if it is at all possible, consequently no guarantee for the lucidity of what one says, on the contrary. Discussing evil philosophically without contact with such real situations, on the other hand, risks trivializing it. So how is evil to be
Is Pure Evil Possible?
discussed? To this problem there is no other solution than taking seriously the need of that moral clear-sightedness which my discussion of the possibility of pure evil ended up in, clear-sightedness also concerning the grave dangers that beset the choice and phrasing of the situations to be discussed, dangers of corruption and trivialization. But this is not all. It is typical of the experience of grave evil that it involves changes with respect to what one holds to be meaningful, and those experiences cannot be anticipated, in which case they would not be as momentous as they often are. Ways of speaking which I now do not find anything in might in such situations prove to be to the point and expressions I now hold to be substantial I might then see as void. Above all, the fact that there are things we do not know what to say about, and the fact that there are situations in which whatever one would like to say—also that they are meaningless—rings more or less hollow, should not be seen as a lack which it is the task of philosophy to fill, but as a positive characterization of them, even though one should keep the fact I pointed to above in mind, the fact that one of those situations in which it is most difficulty to be morally clear-sighted is when being confronted by real evil, which means that my dumbness and the change with respect to what I hold to be meaningful could be the result of the destructiveness of evil. In any case, does the fact that these experiences are not possible to anticipate mean that evil is after all not possible to discuss philosophically, if whatever one says about it could come to be seen as devoid of sense? No, not necessarily, for the moral clear-sightedness which my discussion of the possibility of pure evil ended up in pointing out the need of also concerns being attentive to everyday situations and the character of them. For example, the talking that goes on in the academic context in which philosophical texts are most often written could be more full of spite, and of a less trivial kind, than I have taken it to be. Even though other experiences, not possible to anticipate, would make great differences, that does not make it less important to examine those experiences of evil one actually has, as if all our experiences of something were merely approximations of the real thing, close to its heart or of superficial aspects of it. As I intimated, the experiences of evil one actually has might be more numerous, and there might be much more to them, than one is clear about, and aiming at such clarity is in the end one thing that discussing evil philosophically is about. NOTES 1. The earliest instance of this picture I have run into is found in The Shepherd of Hermas, (2007) second century CE, even though there is not much detail to it there which means that it can be read in many ways: “there are two angels with the human being, one of righteousness and one of wickedness” (36.1; my translation).
2. See Jonas (2001, 210–15). One way of understanding this is that Manichaeism is in fact not as dualistic as it is often described, also by Jonas himself. 3. Ideas in some respects similar to these are to be found in Stoicism (see Epictetus 1916, Enchiridion 27) and in Plotinus (1964–82, 184.108.40.206–7). 4. For a similar distinction, see Schopenhauer (1998, 1:433). 5. That it is Kierkegaard who writes this is only true in a sense, the publisher of Enten—Eller being “Victor Eremita” and the author of the above quote “Judge Wilhelm.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY Anscombe, G. E. M. 1963. Intention. 2nd ed. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Aquinas, Thomas. 1981. Summa Theologica. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press. Augustine. 1991. Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Epictetus. 1916. Dissertationes. Edited by Heinrich Schenkl. Leipzig: Teubner. Freud, Sigmund. 1973a. “Character und Analerotik.” In Zwang, Paranoia und Perversion. Studienausgabe, edited by Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards, and James Strachey, 7:25–30. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag. Freud, Sigmund. 1973b. “Eine Teufelsneurose im siebzehnten Jahrhundert.” In Zwang, Paranoia und Perversion. Studienausgabe, edited by Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards, and James Strachey, 7:287–319. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag. Gregory of Nyssa. 1863. De anima et resurrectione. In vol. 46 of Patrologia Graeca, 11–159. Paris: Migne. Jonas, Hans. 2001. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. 3rd ed. Boston: Beacon Press. Kant, Immanuel. 1968. Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft. In Schriften zur Ethik und Religionsphilosophie. Werkausgabe, edited by Wilhelm Weischedel, 7–8:645–879. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Kierkegaard, Søren. 1962. Enten – Eller. 2 vols. Samlede Værker 2-3. Copenhagen: Gyldendal. Milton, John. 1998. Paradise Lost. In The Complete Poems, edited by John Leonard, 119–406. London: Penguin. Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de. 1952. The Essays. Translated by Charles Cotton. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. Plotinus. 1964–82. Plotini opera. Edited by Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1860. Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik. 2nd ed. Leipzig: Brockhaus. Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1998. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. 2 vols. Edited by Ludger Lütkehaus. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. The Shepherd of Hermas. 2007. In The Apostolic Fathers, 3rd ed., edited by Michael W. Holmes, 454–684. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
TWO The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart Gregory S. Moss
BEING IS UNIVOCAL One of the heretical claims in the philosophical corpus of the great Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart is the proposition that “God is neither good nor better, nor best; hence I speak as incorrectly when I call God good as if I were to call white black” (1981b, 88). In the first section of this chapter, I demonstrate why Eckhart must be committed to the truth of this claim given his commitment to the thesis that Being is necessarily indivisible and God is Being. 1 Eckhart’s insistence on the univocity of Being engenders the identification of Being with Nothingness. 2 In the second section, I reflect on how Eckhart’s identification of Being with Nothingness appears to generate a special paradox concerning the existence of evil. 3 It is important to note that the paradoxical nature of Eckhart’s conception of evil has been recognized since Eckhart’s own lifetime, both by his inquisitors and scholars alike. 4 Nonetheless, I offer my own reading of this paradox, and argue that the paradox concerning evil is a logical consequence of Eckhart’s speculative mysticism, not an aberration or lack of attentiveness on Eckhart’s part. 5 In the third section, I suggest that the dialectical relationship of God to the Godhead in Eckhart’s treatment of Being accounts for why the special paradox of evil is present in Eckhart’s work. 6 Unlike the Aristotelians who claim that Being is said in many ways, 7 Eckhart advances the thesis that Being is univocal. Eckhart posits that God is Being, and Being as such is undifferentiated. Since God is Being, and 35
Being is undifferentiated, God is undifferentiated. What is inherently undifferentiated is necessarily indivisible. Since unity, in its most primary and primitive sense, is indivisibility, Being is simply one. Given that Being is indivisible, Eckhart infers that no predicate can be attributed to God without differentiating God, and thereby rendering God multiple. He writes: So if I say: “God is good” that is not true. I am good, but God is not good. […] But since God is not good, he cannot become better. And since he cannot become better, he cannot be best of all. For these three degrees are alien to God: “good,” “better,” “best,” for he is superior to them all. (1981i, 207)
If God were to admit of “good,” “better,” or “best” he would necessarily admit of plurality and degree, which is impossible, since God is indivisible. Naturally, it does not follow that “God is evil” Just as much as God is neither good, better, nor best, God is neither bad, worse nor worst. In fact, nothing can be said of God. Eckhart teaches us that God cannot be understood and is beyond the reach of language (1981i, 207). Eckhart says more: I say that God is neither being nor rational, and that he does not know all things. Whoever will be poor in spirit must be poor of all his knowledge. So that he knows nothing, not God or created things or himself. (1981h, 201)
If God is Being and thereby indivisible, we cannot even say of God that God is Being. Since Being has no differences at all, Being as such is nothing. Why is Being nothing? Being as such cannot be differentiated from nothing because Being is undifferentiated. Being, as the undifferentiated, fails to be differentiated from Nothingness. Thus, Being cannot be held apart from Nothingness. Eckhart will at times speak of God as nothing. Indeed, we may say that Being is not a being. If it were a being then it would have a difference by which it would be differentiated from other beings. In this case, it would not be Being. According to Eckhart, only those who are nothing are equal to God because “The divine being is equal to nothing” (1981g, 187; my emphasis). For Eckhart, one becomes equal to God only through act of detaching oneself from contingent beings. Eckhart proceeds further to identify God with detachment, and describes such absolute detachment as nothing at all. 8 As Eckhart states: . . . God has it from his immovable detachment that he is God and it is from his detachment that he is God, and his simplicity and his unchangeability. (1981f, 287) . . . But to wish to be this thing or that, this it does not want. . . . Detachment wants to be nothing at all. (1981f, 291)
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
When we approach Being with our intellect and attempt to grasp that which differentiates Being from nothing, we find that the difference by which Being is differentiated from nothing cannot, in principle, be discovered. The simple reason for this is that there is no difference. Or, if we follow the common logic, we presume that no category can differentiate itself. Accordingly, if Being behaves similarly, Being as such cannot differentiate itself. Thus, what differentiates Being into differences must have its origin outside of Being. Since only Nothing is outside Being, it is only Nothing that can differentiate Being. Thus, any distinction in Being is ultimately no distinction at all. If any distinction in Being is no distinction at all, there cannot even be a distinction between Being and Nothingness. 9 Eckhart has the tendency to identify contingent beings, beings that do not necessarily exist, but could or could not exist, as nothing “in themselves.” They only have being in Being itself or as Being itself. Since Being is in itself undifferentiated, no being has any Being that is separate from Being itself. The being of every particular being is Being itself. Insofar as they are differentiated, they are differentiated from Being, and are nothing. Eckhart is not equivocal about the radical equality of all beings: “All things possess existence immediately and equally from God alone” (1981c, 89–90). Having freed ourselves from an understanding of “God” as a being differentiated from others, Eckhart implores us to pursue detachment through which we may experience the radical equality of all entities in the God: “So let us pray to God that we may be free of “God,” and that we may apprehend and rejoice in that everlasting truth in which the highest angel and the fly and the soul are equal . . .” (1981h, 200; my emphasis). Upon initially encountering Meister Eckhart, one might wonder why the problem of evil is not one of his major preoccupations. Eckhart scholars such as Elizabeth Brient have pointed out that if one has recognized what is essential for salvation in Meister Eckhart, (namely detachment) one should see that the problem of evil is an issue with which one ought not be primarily concerned (Brient, pers. comm.). Since the one who is detached is unified with the God, and in God there is no good or evil whatever, the detached one is beyond good and evil. For this reason, the detached one would have no concern for evil. Because tranquility and security are the fruits of detachment, the enlightened mystic is not disturbed by the problem of evil. In a discussion of willing and suffering, Eckhart invokes Seneca, the great Stoic philosopher and endorses the view that the best consolation for a person in a time of trouble is for one to embrace whatever happens as if one had asked for it oneself with the understanding that everything that happens only occurs by an act of divine willing (1981a, 215). Through his affirmation of Seneca’s consolation, it appears that it is improper to prefer some happening over another. In other places, Eckhart is clear that the life of prayer ought to preclude
preference when he claims that one ought not pray that one acquire some virtue or obtain some way of living, but only to pray that God does whatever God wills to do, without qualification regarding what that may be (1981e, 248). This indifference towards evil in the detachment of God may by itself constitute a moral objection to Meister Eckhart, for one may claim with great plausibility that it is immoral to be indifferent to evil. 10 Though this is a serious moral objection that deserves consideration, there is also a fundamental ontological problem concerning the existence of evil that must be addressed in advance of the moral consideration. 11 THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL Thus far we have shown how Eckhart’s insistence on the univocity of Being entails the identification of Being with Nothingness. The identity of Being and Nothingness in Eckhart’s conception of God generates a special paradox of evil that threatens to undermine the coherency of his mystical theology. 12 On the one hand, in his Commentary on John Eckhart (1981d) seems to casually endorse Augustine’s solution to the problem of evil in On Free Will in which evil is whatever does not have God as its source (140). In his discussion of Verse 3 of the Gospel of John, “all things were made through the word,” he makes it clear that evil does not exist: . . . Sin and evil in general are not things that exist, so they are not made through him but without him. This is the meaning of what follows: “Without him was made nothing,” that is, sin or evil, as Augustine says. Here it says that all things were made through him, but evil things do not exist and are not made because they are not produced as effects, but as defects of some act of existence. (1981d, 140)
On the other hand, in his Commentary on Genesis, Eckhart (1981c) apparently reverses course and claims that evil must exist: Seventh, “He created the heavens and the earth,” that is, good and evil—“Creating evil and making peace” (Is. 45:7). The existence of evil is required by the perfection of the universe, and evil exists in what is good and is ordered to the good of the universe. (90) 13 Whether we accept that evil does exist, is made without him, and is necessary for the good of the universe, or that evil does not exist, and is only a defect of some act of existence, we seem to encounter an aporia. If we hold to the thesis that Being is nothing, it seems impossible to hold that evil is a defect of existence. If there is no Being except for God, evil is nothing, and God is nothing, then it would appear that identifying God with Nothingness would at least imply that God could be evil. Because it is impossible for God to be evil, it is problematic to claim that evil is nothing. To avoid this result, we may deny that evil does not exist, and
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
hold instead that evil exists. Since Eckhart holds that there is no Being except for God, or what is the same, that all beings are equal insofar as they have the same Being, it would follow that if evil were to possess any Being whatever, then God would necessarily be evil. In conclusion, it appears that Meister Eckhart’s identification of Being with nothing generates a special paradox of evil such that either it is possible for God to be evil or God must necessarily be evil. Neither are attractive options. Given that Eckhart appears to be committed to the necessary non-existence of evil in God (as well as the necessary non-existence of the good), 14 it may appear that Eckhart ought not accept either of these conclusions. Nonetheless, in order to remain philosophically coherent, Eckhart’s philosophical mysticism must ultimately force Eckhart to admit that, at least in some sense, God is evil. In what follows, I work out, in some detail, the sense in which God is evil in Eckhart’s mysticism. THE DIALECTIC OF “GOD” AND GODHEAD If we follow the dialectical aspect of the univocity of Being, we may at least begin to better understand how Eckhart falls into this paradox, and begin to unravel it. Central to Eckhart’s dialectic of Being is the distinction between “God” and Godhead. 15 On the one hand, the Godhead is Being in its total lack of differentiation or its emptiness. The Godhead is empty of everything, and is thereby absolute Nothingness. The Godhead is what God is ‘in himself’ as we spoke of him in the first section of this chapter. Naturally, the Godhead is not a being, but simply Being itself. On the other hand, “God” exists as a being distinct from creatures, and is thereby a being differentiated from others. As a being distinct from other beings, “God” is not God as God is ‘in himself’ and by himself. “God” is not mere Being, but God is ‘in the creatures’ or God understood in relation to creatures. The fundamental distinction between Godhead and God is that the Godhead is undifferentiated and by itself, while “God” is a differentiated being in relation to other differentiated beings. As Nishitani (1983) points out, it is not the Godhead but “God” to which we attribute personal attributes, since the Godhead is nothing and nothing can be attributed to it: “The originality of Eckhart’s thinking strikes us on a number of counts. First, he locates the “essence” of God at a point beyond the personal God who stands over against created beings. Second, this essence of God, or godhead, is seen as an absolute nothingness, . . .” (63). Accordingly, the univocity of God which we discussed in the first section is more properly the univocity of the Godhead. As Eckhart indicates, it is out of the univocity of the Godhead as undifferentiated Being, that “God” arises. In order to grasp this, one must attend to the speculative aspect of Eckhart’s mysticism, namely the dialectical activity of Be-
ing. Being is nothing insofar as it is undifferentiated. Or what is the same, insofar as Being must be, it must have some difference. Since Being is undifferentiated, it is not only nothing, but it is, in itself, differentiated from differentiated being. Insofar as the undifferentiated must be differentiated from differentiated beings, it must be a differentiated being that exists in contrast to other differentiated beings. Thus, Being as such must be a being. If Being is Being, then Being is a being. 16 The Godhead, upon being differentiated, becomes “God.” Being, as undifferentiated unity, is not differentiated, and is thereby set apart from all differentiated beings. Insofar as it is set apart from all differentiated beings, it transcends all differentiated beings. Accordingly, we must infer that Being, as the transcendent, undifferentiated unity is distinct from all differentiated beings. 17 Nonetheless, insofar as Being is differentiated from differentiated beings, it is itself differentiated. Thus, at the same time, it is also undifferentiated from differentiated beings. 18 Being is that in virtue of which the undifferentiated becomes differentiated, or that in virtue of which Being empties itself of its own nothingness and gives beings. God’s creation of everything out of nothing is nothing different from God’s creation of everything out of himself. In this sense, every being is just the self-emptying, the self-negation of the undifferentiated Being as such. Thus, the withdrawal of Being into the nothing and the giving of beings out of the nothing is the infinite revelation of Being. Since the Godhead, as the undifferentiated Being, is now set into opposition with the world of differentiated beings which He has created, a hierarchy of beings is established in which “God” is the principle of the Being of all contingent, created beings. Now “God,” as the undifferentiated being, stands in contrast to, not in equality with, differentiated beings. Having begun the dialectical analysis, we may apply these initial results to the question of evil. If we return to the passage in which Eckhart claims that evil exists, he notes that evil is created, exists in the creation, and that it is necessary for the good of the universe. Not unlike other philosophers of religion, Eckhart distinguishes between natural and moral evil. Let us begin our analysis with natural evil. Eckhart appears to identify the natural evil, that is, evil that is in the creation with plurality or multitude. Eckhart (1981d) writes: . . . Multitude, the opponent and adversary of the One, is always a sin, either of nature or morality. . . . Every sin in itself is “many,” even if it happens only once, because the many is a fall from the One and therefore from the Good, which is interchangeable with it. (166–7) 19
Although the Godhead is the ordering principle in virtue of which all beings exist, the act by which the Godhead gives rise to beings also makes God into a distinct, individual being. For this reason, God is also just another differentiated being. Accordingly, in the act of creation the
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
Godhead not only establishes order, and establishes himself as the principle of that order, but also undermines that order by absolutely negating himself: there is nothing but mere multitude. Because undifferentiated Being cannot be differentiated from differentiated beings, undifferentiated being is just another differentiated being among the multitude. Being gives rise to the multitude of beings out of itself, and the multitude of beings is the absence of undifferentiated Being. In the passage above, the Good is identified with the One, and the many, insofar as they constitute a fall from the Good, are evil. The good and perfection of the creatures is in the Good, the One. Insofar as evil is the multitude, and the multitude is created, evil exists and is created, as Eckhart states. Though evil exists as the multitude, it is also the absence of Being, for insofar as it is a multitude it is the absence of the indivisible unity, or to use the language Eckhart invokes, it is a defect of the indivisible unity of Being. Evil is the selfnegation of God into mere multitude, the complete self-abandonment of God. Accordingly, evil is also the defect of absolute nothingness. 20 Viewed this way, evil is created, but only as the absence of Being. We now have the resources to begin to unpack the meaning of the apparently contradictory claims in Eckhart’s text, 21 namely his assertion that evil does not exist, and his assertion that evil exists. As Eckhart states, evil is made, since it comes to be from the creation, but it is only made “without him” and exists “without him,” for its existence as the self-negation of God is just that which is “without him.” In sum, it appears that it is differentiated being that is initially posited as natural evil, as the defect of Being. For this reason, it is not mere Nothingness that is opposed to Being but differentiated being. Indeed, it is only from this position of multiplicity from which the journey back to God in the practice of religious mysticism may begin. In the creation there are various kinds of beings, and not all of the kinds of beings are capable of moral evil. Only those living, intelligent beings capable of willing and affirming the multitude are capable of moral evil. 22 For Eckhart, moral evil is not simply willing the multitude, but willing the separation of the multitude from Being, or what is the same, willing the separation of the multitude from God. One wills the separation of the multitude from God, whenever one wills oneself to be a creature separated from God, or intentionally attaches oneself to any characteristic of the creature. When one wills the separation of the multitude from God, one wills the separation of oneself from God. In contrast, he who has a good will wills nothing but God alone and strives for detachment. In “The Book of ‘Benedictus’: The Book of Divine Consolation” Eckhart (1981a) claims that God possess all of the properties of Goodness in his very essence, and that a truly good person possess all of these properties (217). In this passage we encounter another conflict in Eckhart’s text. Here, Eckhart claims that God has all the properties of goodness in itself, while in other passages, Eckhart exclaims that God is not good (see 1981b, 80).
Again, in his discussion of consolation, Eckhart emphasizes that the good person exercises detachment and to this person everything that is created is worthless (1981a, 217). Detachment is privileged over other virtues such as humility, love, and mercy because it has no regard for creatures (1981f, 285). The good person strives to embody the order of the world in himself through detachment in which “God” is the principle of the multitude. According to Eckhart, this order is a unity and is good and evil cannot exist where order exists. 23 Regarding the goodness of God, the upshot is this: in the Godhead, or indivisible Being, there is no good or evil, for there is no differentiation. Accordingly, “good” and “evil” are only terms that apply where there is differentiation. Nonetheless, when “God” differentiates himself from his creatures, and is their principle, he is the principle of order in virtue of which they have any unity and Being. 24 Accordingly, it is possible to say of the “God” (the principle of the creatures) that stands in opposition to creatures, that he is “good.” 25 Likewise, since the creatures fail to be “God,” and thereby fail to be one and are plural to some degree, they are evil. The good person orders her soul in such a way that “God” (the principle of the creatures) is the goal of her moral life. The evil person wills the separation of the creatures from their source, that is, rejects “God” (the principle of the creatures). This is why, by my lights, Eckhart thinks that he can say that “God” (as the principle of the creatures) is good, while God (as the Godhead) is neither good nor evil. Still, we have not yet reached the end of the dialectical story. The dialectical development necessitates that “God” is just as much evil as he is good. As that which is differentiated from differentiated beings, Being as such has the same determination as that from which it is differentiated. As undifferentiated, Being cannot be differentiated from differentiated Being. Thus, only differentiated being exists. Since differentiated being is absolute, differentiated being is itself not differentiated from anything else. Hence, differentiated being stands in contrast to no other difference, and is itself indivisible. 26 Accordingly, Being is what it is, undifferentiated unity, only in virtue of differentiating itself from itself. It is only in differentiating itself from itself that it can be undifferentiated. The undifferentiated qua undifferentiated becomes differentiated, and it is in virtue of its differentiation that it is truly undifferentiated. 27 Having lost itself, it returns to itself in and through its self-loss. 28 As Eckhart states, evil cannot exist where order exists. On the one hand, it only makes sense to speak of evil in a context in which there is order. For there can only be a lack of order in a context in which there is some order to negate. Accordingly, following Augustine and Plato, when one privileges the creature over “God” in the context of differentiated beings, this is evil because it inverts the proper order of creation. In the Godhead there is no differentiation, and thus no order. For this reason, it is not possible to attribute “good” or “evil” to the Godhead. No inversion
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
is possible where there is no plurality. Since in the detached Godhead neither good nor evil apply, the soul that is fully detached from creatures, and thereby fully one with God is also neither good nor evil. The detached soul, like the Godhead, is “beyond good and evil.” Though we may say of the person who strives after “God” that she is “good,” “better,” or “best” in relation to others, we cannot say the same of the detached soul. If we take a moment to reflect on the paradox in the second section of this chapter, it becomes evident how the dialectical aspect of Eckhart’s treatment of the univocity of Being helps to clarify the paradoxical position Eckhart takes on evil. Insofar as God becomes separated from himself as the multitude, evil exists as God “without God.” Insofar as God is not separated from himself and differentiated being is integrated into undifferentiated Being, God is not evil. For this reason, Eckhart must flatly reject the claim that generated the paradox, namely the premise that God is not evil. 29 What is more, in order for God to be complete, God must be evil in some sense. Indeed, it is only through the self-separation of God from himself, or what is the same, through the fall of the differentiated plurality from the undifferentiated One, that God fully becomes himself as undifferentiated Being. As the Godhead, God is neither good nor evil. As “God” God is both “good and “evil.” The contradiction in the special paradox of evil is a reflection of the contradiction in the dialectics of the univocity of Being. Let us first consider the necessity of natural evil for the good, and thereafter consider the necessity of moral evil for the good. Because it is only through the fall of the differentiated plurality from the One, that is, through evil, that the undifferentiated God is fully undifferentiated, Eckhart can claim that evil, or the differentiated multitude, is necessary for the good, or the indivisible, and does not exist independently of the good (1981c, 90). Eckhart claims that darkness and light are not mutually exclusive opposites, but are contained within one another (1981d, 152). If we reflect upon the dialectical process, it becomes evident that the hierarchical structure that obtains between God and creatures is relative, for it is derivative from the absolute Godhead. As we described above, in this hierarchy “God” appears as the good of the creatures to which he is opposed. From the perspective of the hierarchy, God transcends the creatures. Nonetheless, insofar as “God” is a differentiated being, God is one of the multitude. As one of the multitude, there is no longer an ordering principle, and the ordered whole is inverted. What is more, it is in virtue of God’s activity that the order is undermined, and gives way to the absolute anarchy of differentiated being. Since evil is constituted by this undermining of order, “God,” as a differentiated being, is “evil” and its source. Accordingly, the hierarchical positing of God as “good” disintegrates into the positing of God as “evil.”
Upon seeing that the hierarchical view of God is doomed to identify “God” with evil, the practitioner must empty her conception of “God” from any multitude in order to recover God as the Godhead, a God beyond good and evil. 30 The practitioner of detachment realizes that the desire for “God” is evil; indeed, to be free of evil is to be free of “God,” who is himself a fall from the One, a differentiated God. Thus, to be free of “God” the practitioner must cease to attempt to strive after “God” and must instead practice true “poverty of spirit,” namely utter detachment from “God.” Out of the incompleteness and self-negation of hierarchy a radical new equality arises, in which the radical immanence and equality of all beings in the Godhead is recovered and realized in the soul of the practitioner. Upon recovering the Godhead from “God,” the practitioner unites her own differentiated being with the undifferentiated Godhead, thereby “giving birth to Christ in the soul” as the Meister was fond of saying. Although the practitioner begins with a perspective of God as the merely transcendent principle, at the close of her journey she finds God existing immanently as Christ in the soul. As the Godhead, God is by himself, and he is neither transcendent nor immanent. As “God,” God transcends the creatures. As Christ in the soul, God is immanent in the creatures as a unity of undifferentiated and differentiated Being. The achievement of unity with the Godhead out of differentiated being is indeed a return to undifferentiated being with which the dialectic began, but it is now no longer undifferentiated being that is opposed to differentiated being. Now, undifferentiated being cannot even be differentiated from differentiated being, and only in this oneness with its opposite is undifferentiated being truly itself: undifferentiated. Accordingly, Christ in the soul is the “all encompassing Christ.” As is evident, the identification of “God” with evil is absolutely central to eschatological aspects of Eckhart’s speculative mysticism. 31 What we have described is creation ex nihilo: beings come to be from nothing at all. God reaches into his own Nothingness, and thereby creates a world. Upon creating the world, God returns to himself out of that world. As Eckhart (1981h) claims: “Therefore, God is free of all things, and therefore he is all things” (201). The nothing is not separate from God’s Being. Since every being exists only in God’s Being, the world itself must be divine. 32 As Rumi (1997) says, the fool cries out in the ocean of God “there is no God!” (82). Or, as Meister Eckhart (1981c) makes clear, everything that is created exists within God and there is nothing outside of God (89). One who understands the truth of Being, the most universal category, descends back to the most mundane givenness, moved by the necessary force of Being and with great joy. 33 One is called therefore, as the Sufis say, to proclaim that “only God is,” and “to worship God as if you see him” (see Chittick 1998, xii).
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
When we contemplate Being once more, we find that all beings have their Being in Being. Nothing escapes Being. Insofar as anything is, it is God. When Meister Eckhart claims that contingent beings are essentially nothing, and God as the Godhead is essentially nothing, he is simultaneously claiming that contingent beings are essentially divine. When the philosopher comes to see that everything is God, he has a new sense of his proper dwelling place. 34 Christ’s proper dwelling place is with everyone: Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him “your mother and brother are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers” he asked? Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 31–4; NIV)
The universal dwelling of God in beings is succinctly expressed in Eberhardt Arnold’s (2011) contention that Christ’s redemption is not “from nature” but “the redemption of nature” (80). 35 Accordingly, the natural state of the human being is that of divinity, and the goal of the religious life is to rediscover that inner divinity out of one’s fallenness. Upon achieving detachment, the self re-discovers its finitude as an expression of the infinite God, as a unity of the indivisible and the differentiated, and thereby undergoes the same process as that of God or Being. 36 In order to achieve Christhood, and to “redeem nature,” evil is necessary. According to Eckhart, God permits human beings to sin in order that they might recognize the mercy of God, and in order to incite them to do great things (1981e, 262). Upon recognizing the necessity of evil for the good, Eckhart claims that if one desires to achieve perfection, then it is necessary to will sin. 37 In defense of the charge of heresy, Eckhart insists that the perfect man wills that he has sinned: “A perfect man, knowing that God has willed and wills him to have sinned, in loving God’s honor wills that he had sinned, but ought not will sin for the sake of anything that is beneath God” (quoted in McGinn 1981, 44). 38 McGinn (1981, 44) claims that this is a weak response to the charges of heresy, though once we recognize the dialectical aspect of Eckhart’s account of Being, we are able to recognize why Eckhart thinks that sin is necessary for the development of detachment. On the whole, evil is the separation of the differentiated being from the whole unity of differentiated and undifferentiated being. The separation of differentiated being from the whole unity of differentiated and undifferentiated being may be of a natural or moral type. Only through the fall of differentiated being from the undifferentiated Godhead may the undifferentiated be united again with the differentiations. Likewise, it is only through sin, through going astray, that one recognizes one’s own desire and need for detachment. As
Eckhart claims, one only wills sin in loving God’s honor, that is, insofar as it has been instrumental for turning the soul back to God. Sin ought not be willed insofar as it is for the sake of anything that is “beneath God,” for in this case, one does not will the reconciliation of the soul with God, but wills the separation of God from the soul and the inversion of the proper order of the cosmos (McGinn 1981, 44). In sum, for Meister Eckhart the indivisibility of God entails that God is nothing. This leads to the problem that God must be conceived as evil. By heeding the dialectical aspects of Eckhart’s account, it becomes clear how the dialectical relationship of “God” to the Godhead reveals how Eckhart’s thesis on evil is endemic to his speculative mysticism. Though this discussion certainly does not answer all our questions regarding evil in Meister Eckhart, it may at least begin to shed some light on how the special paradox of evil follows from the univocity of Being and why the Meister choose to defend himself by insisting that perfection requires the practitioner to will sin. NOTES 1. As Bernand McGinn (1981) points out, for Eckhart unity is connected with the concept of the “indistinct,” because everything that is indistinct is also one, while everything that is distinct is at least two or greater (from McGinn 1981, 34). Further, McGinn rightfully notes that for Eckhart, Being and God are identified with “one” in this sense of “indistinct.” Being (ens) is what is held in common by beings and is differentiated by its own lack of difference or distinction. In addition, God is differentiated by his lack of difference (from McGinn 1981, 35). 2. One may rightly be skeptical that Eckhart’s heretical claims (as well as many of the apparently contradictory claims between various texts) cannot be adequately addressed without attending to the political context of Eckhart’s writing. Though I am sympathetic to this concern, my main concern is to inquire into whether Eckhart’s texts maintain a conceptual coherency and plausibility on their own accord. For a comparative analysis of mystical and non-mystical theology in providing a coherent theodicy, see Stoeber (1992). 3. The main concern motivating my inquiry into Meister Eckhart’s ontological account of evil is a broader concern regarding the coherency of philosophical mysticism. In particular, there is a profound question about whether philosophical mysticism can provide a coherent account of evil. Instead of tackling this issue all at once in a very general fashion, this paper investigates the coherency of Meister Eckhart’s philosophical mysticism in respect to the question of the ontology of evil. By thinking through particular philosophical mystics, we avoid equivocating on various forms of mysticism. On the whole, I offer this analysis as a case study. 4. Eckhart’s inquisitors condemned Articles Fourteen and Fifteen. Article Fourteen claims that a good man should not will that he had not sinned, and that God wills for him to have sinned (1981b, 79). Article Fifteen also claims that a man ought not will that he had not committed sins (1981b, 79). 5. Some scholars have indicated that Eckhart’s defense of his view of evil is weak, and fails to properly address the heretical nature of his claims. I suggest that his dialectical treatment of Being motivates the way Eckhart’s response to the charge of heresy, and thereby brings us into closer proximity to the spirit of Eckhart’s work. 6. A concept is “dialectical” if it is unified with its opposite in virtue of what it is. Though Eckhart advances the thesis that Being is meant univocally, it is in virtue of the
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
univocity of Being that different senses of Being arise, namely Being as God and Godhead. Because different senses of Being develop out of the univocity of Being, the meaning of Being in Eckhart is “dialectical.” 7. See Aristotle (1979, 54). 8. See 1981f, 288. 9. Of course, the claim that “Being is Nothingness” is a contradiction. Eckhart claims that “reason” is a lower faculty, and it is with “intellectual” understanding that such truths may be grasped. With intellectual understanding, one perceives Christ “without images” and “without a medium,” that is, one perceives Christ directly. As a mystic, Eckhart argues that God cannot be grasped in a mediated way via concepts, but directly. Likewise, as philosophers we fail to grasp the meaning of such sentences as long as we are beholden to reason and have not yet understood “intellectually.” Naturally, this appears to require that Eckhart must reject his own claims if he is going to accept them. But this is not a surprising feature of Eckhart’s account or unique to his philosophy, since it is a basic feature of much philosophical mysticism from Nagarjuna to Wittgenstein. See (1981i, 207–8). 10. Though this problem deserves more attention that I can afford to give it here, I think that Eckhart provides us the resources to answer the objection. Given the integration of differentiated beings into the indivisible unity of God, self-love cannot be contrasted with the love of others. Because the mystic seeker begins by loving herself enough to seek God through detachment, and in detachment she recognizes that all beings have the same Being in the Godhead, she comes to see that her self-love cannot be distinguished from the love of others. As Bernard McGinn (1981) points out, when one loves God over everything else only then does one come to love oneself and all other things in an egalitarian fashion. By becoming indistinct in God, one’s love ceases to differentiate among entities (58). So naturally, one practiced in the mystic life comes to obey Christ’s commands quite naturally as a result of the practice: to “love others as oneself” and “to love God.” As it turns out, the love of others is also the love of God, and the love of God nothing other than the love of others. Since God is love, one becomes the vehicle of God’s self-love in which all otherness is included. For this reason, in detachment the mystic is not at all indifferent to beings or to evil. Quite to the contrary, the mystic resists evil through unconditional love. 11. For more on the question concerning the moral consequences of mysticism, see Jones (1984). 12. Bernard McGinn (1981) notes that Eckhart’s Neo-platonic optimism led him to a paradoxical position on evil (44). I am not sure that the optimism is exactly what is relevant here. More exactly, it is Eckhart’s Neo-Platonic mysticism that is of greatest relevance. Once we think through the consequences of Eckhart’s assumption concerning the oneness of Being, we see that it is the dialectical nature of his reasoning that not only (1) leads to the paradox in the first place, but also (2) provides a way to overcome the problem. 13. Though this passage appears consistent with a Thomistic perspective on evil, it appears quite problematic when placed in conjunction with his other claims. 14. As will become evident, this claim must be qualified. In particular, God understood as the Godhead could neither be good nor evil. 15. Eckhart draws the distinction in many places. In (1981h, 200) Eckhart distinguishes between the Godhead as an absolute emptiness from “God” who is a being distinguished from creatures. 16. Much of the third section of this chapter is reproduced from my discussion of Eckhart and Heidegger (see 2014; chapter 5). 17. Bernand McGinn is spot on when he notes that “since indistinction is the distinguishing mark of unum, what sets it off from everything else, to conceive of God as unum, or Absolute Unity, is to conceive of him as simultaneously distinct and indistinct, indeed, the more distinct insofar as he is indistinct” (1981, 34; my emphasis). 18. For more on the dialectic of Being and one in Eckhart see Kertz (1959, 342n53 and 351–3).
19. I want to thank Elizabeth Brient for referring me to the Commentary on John as a source for Eckhart’s perspective on evil. 20. Often it is supposed that “something” is merely opposed to “nothing.” But for Eckhart “something” is defect of absolute nothingness, which is indistinguishable from absolute Being. Accordingly, “something” is opposed not only to “nothing” but also to “Being.” 21. The apparently contradictory texts are “Commentary on John” (1981d) and “Commentary on Genesis” (1981c). Although to say of God that he is “goodness” is not the same to say that he is “good,” if nothing can be said of God, then it cannot be said of God that he is “goodness.” Naturally, this raises questions concerning the relation of the universal to the particular. Is “goodness” itself “good”? On the one hand, if it were a good, then it would be a particular good, and would assume “goodness” itself as its antecedent, which would be problematic, since God is goodness, according to the passage. Yet, it seems that “goodness” is good—for it is the good integral to goodness in virtue of which anything is good. 22. As Eckhart points out, it is not the inherent disposition to sin that is sin, but it is wanting to sin that is sin (1981e, 256). 23. See 1981c, 109. 24. God is the One and the Good, the principle of order from which the many fall (1981d, 166–7). 25. I by no means pretend to have justified attributing “good” to God here, only that upon removing the lack of differentiation, a necessary condition for attributing the usual theological predicates to “God” (such as “goodness”) is fulfilled. Again, see (1981d, 166–7). 26. As Bernand McGinn points out, if we correlate indistinction with immanence and distinction with transcendence, one is in possession of a way of talking about God as transcendent just insofar as he is immanent in creatures (1981, 34). 27. In the formulation of God as the unity of undifferentiated and differentiated being lies Eckhart’s formulation of the Trinity. God as the merely undifferentiated Being is the Father. The Son is God the father, undifferentiated Being, in his differentiated Form, or the word become flesh. The Holy Spirit is the return of God to himself through the Father and the Son. Or what is the same: the Undifferentiated Being returns to itself out of differentiation through the integration of differentiation into his own undifferentiated Being. Each of these persons of the trinity are inseparable from the others. As is evident, Meister Eckhart appears to clothe his Neo-Platonic theology in Trinitarian terminology. One of the concerns that arises when the Neo-Platonic theology is clothed in Trinitarian terminology is whether Eckhart has equivocated on the acts of creating and begetting. According to the Nicene Creed Jesus is begotten not created, yet here it is unclear whether a clear distinction between these two can be properly maintained. This is a problem endemic to Neo-Platonist theologies and is not specific to Eckhart. 28. Three senses of infinity correspond to the three moments of undifferentiated Being: (1) The undifferentiated Being is indeterminate, insofar as there is no differentiated being with which it stands in contrast. (2) Undifferentiated Being falls into contrast with differentiated being, and an infinite regress of differentiated beings ensues. The infinite multitude of differentiated beings constitutes the second sense of the infinite as a quantitative series, in which there is an infinite multiplicity of beings. This is the sense of “the bad infinite” in Hegel’s terms. It is also the infinite as the fall from the One, and thus as evil. (3) Undifferentiated Being is infinite as perfection. It is perfect because it lacks nothing. This sense of the infinite contains the previous two. 29. As is evident, this reading of Eckhart makes his theology plainly heretical. I think any attempt to render his theology consistent with Catholic teaching on this point will fail to appreciate why Eckhart falls into this paradox concerning evil. 30. As Eckhart states, one must desire to be “free of God” (1981h, 200).
The Problem of Evil in the Speculative Mysticism of Meister Eckhart
31. Of course, if the eschatological aspect of Eckhart’s mysticism requires positing that “God” is evil, then we must come to terms with the fact that Eckhart’s speculative mysticism is inherently heretical. 32. In the Godhead there is neither good nor evil. But since nothing exists outside of God, and evil exists, it must also exist in God. For this reason, Eckhart cannot unequivocally claim that God is not evil. 33. Here we may remember Plato’s cave analogy. Whereas there the philosopher is forced to go back down into the cave, the mystic returns with joy, because he must never really leave. The cave is the dwelling place of the divine. 34. Seeing God as merely transcendent is idolatry—in such a case one is not yet free from images of God. Indeed, the incapacity to see God as immanent is, ironically, to reduce him to one differentiated being among others, and to thereby fail to see God the father that He is, namely as the undifferentiated Godhead. 35. In his own words, he states the following: “Nature needs to be redeemed. This does not mean we should be redeemed from nature, in the sense of becoming detached from nature, but that nature itself must be redeemed” (Arnold 2011, 80). 36. Because the self’s own finite nature is redeemed through detachment, Eckhart goes so far as to identify himself with God among us, Christ, the only begotten Son of God (1981g, 188). 37. If we remember that to will to sin is sin, then it appears that to will that one has sinned appears to be a sin as well. But in this case, we are not willing that we may be separate from God, but we will that we were separated from God in order that we might toward him in detachment. In this case, willing that we have sinned is not a will to be separate from God, but instead wills the unity of God with the human being. 38. And again, Eckhart makes it clear that the quickest way to perfection is through suffering (1981f, 294).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Aristotle. 1979. Metaphysics. Translated by Hippocrates G. Apostle. Des Moines: The Peripatetic Press. Arnold, Eberhard. 2011. Selected Writings. Rifton: The Plough Publishing House. Chittick, William C. 1998. Forward to The Niche of Lights, by Al-Ghazali. Translated by David Buchman, xi–xiv. Provo: Brigham Young University Press. Jones, Richard H. 1984. “Must Enlightened Mystics Be Moral?” Philosophy East and West 34(3): 273–93. Kertz, Karl G. 1959. “Meister Eckhart’s Teaching on the Birth of the Divine Word in the Soul” Traditio 15: 327-63. McGinn, Bernard. 1981. “Theological Summary.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 24–61. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981a. “The Book of ‘Benedictus’: The Book of Divine Consolation.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 209–39. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981b. “The Bull ‘In agro dominico’.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 77–81. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981c. “Commentaries on Genesis.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 82–121. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981d. “Commentary on John.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 122–74. Mahwah: Paulist Press.
Meister Eckhart. 1981e. “Counsels on Discernment.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 247–84. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981f. “On Detachment.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 285–94. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981g. “Sermon 6.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 185–9. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981h. “Sermon 52.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 199–203. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Meister Eckhart. 1981i. “Sermon 83.” In The Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by Edmund Colledge and Bernard McGinn, 206–8. Mahwah: Paulist Press. Moss, Gregory S. 2014. Ernst Cassirer and the Autonomy of Language. Lanham: Lexington Books. Nishitani, Keiji. 1983. Religion and Nothingness. Translated by Jan Van Bragt. Berkeley: University of California Press. Rumi. 1997. In the Arms of the Beloved. Translated by Jonathan Star. NY: Penguin Publishers. Stoeber, Michael. 1992. “Constructivist Epistemologies of Mysticism: A Critique and a Revision” Religious Studies 28: 170–16.
THREE Evil by Nobodies Jennifer Mei Sze ANG
Atrocities in our human history revealed one fact—that ordinary human beings are capable of great evil by creating a living hell. From Hannah Arendt’s observations in Eichmann in Jerusalem, evil did not come from monsters, but stemmed from banal and thoughtless individuals. The new crime of the authors of these monstrous deeds, she explains, is their inability to tell right from wrong, take a larger view of their context, and think about the meaning of their actions. The fact that they were “terribly and terrifyingly normal individuals” without any diabolical or demonic profundity makes them a new type of evil-doers (Arendt 2006, 276). On the other hand, Jean-Paul Sartre showed us that what is ordinary evil is how Manichean mindsets dominate concrete relationships to create a living hell. In Anti-Semite and the Jew, Sartre (1995) paints a portrait of antiSemites in bad faith—anti-Semites need the construct of “the Jew” to perpetuate their own existence, and yet, their single purpose was to prepare for “the death of the Jew,” as sanctified evildoers who do “evil for the sake of the Good” in order to create a better world without Jewish people (50). Thus, Sartre tells us, Hell does not require instruments of torture for “Hell is other people” who offer us no reprieve. This chapter examines the works of both thinkers and sketches an alternative understanding of how ordinary individuals are capable of committing evil deeds on a gigantic scale, and in this case, genocides. It argues that it takes more than thoughtlessness, the obedience to authority, and an ideology for ordinary individuals to perpetuate what Arendt described as dehumanizing totalitarianism. But instead of subscribing to Arendt’s banality-of-evil thesis, I argue that the annihilation of a population can only be conceptualized and brought about by individuals who 51
are morally vacuous, do not conceive of a present-world-being-with-others, and do not reflect on their relation to their community. This re-imagination of evil carried out by ordinary individuals in our modern age offers a new understanding to Sartre’s concept of bad faith and Arendt’s banality of evil, and brings together their concerns for individual responsibility and guilt. THE OBEDIENCE OF CORPSES Arendt tells us that a new phenomenon of evil can be found in the extraordinary shallowness of thoughtless individuals like Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann sincerely believed that he was innocent because he had never killed anyone or given an order to kill anyone. And because his actions did not arise from base motives but from his determination to perform his utmost in carrying out the orders and law of the Third Reich, he did not want to deny or regret his actions. He believed he was not a moral monster but a victim of history. Eichmann’s case clearly shows us that not all evildoers are monstrous or have evil propensities. Psychologically, Eichmann was tested normal; he did not have any malevolent tendencies, did not take pleasure in the suffering of others, and had no intention to make others suffer. In fact, he found the Final Solution to be “one of the greatest crimes in the history of Humanity” (Arendt 2006, 22). How then do sound ordinary people become evildoers? Some psychological tests seem to suggest that when ordinary and normally decent people are put into dichotomized groups, they can descend mindlessly into brutality. For instance, well-adjusted individuals willingly followed instructions to deliver electric shocks to strangers in Stanley Milgram’s obedience test and student participants actively performed their roles and even creatively adopted their tasks as prison wardens in Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Like Eichmann, Milgram’s obedient test subjects followed the instructions from someone in authority, and like Eichmann, student participants in Zimbardo’s basement prison carried out what was expected of them simply by belonging to a group. But this “blindless obedience” theory has its limits in explaining the actions of all ordinary people in a group. The experimenters were not exactly regarded an authority figure in Milgram’s tests, and the participants were clearly struggling to follow orders, appearing distraught and visibly upset. And in Zimbardo’s experiments, not all guards embraced the oppressive role even when they were encouraged. In other words, not all ordinary people mindlessly succumb to acts of brutality because of authority or social pressure. Instead, what these experiments reveal is that some ordinary people choose to identify themselves with a perspective or ideology that considered brutal means to be necessary for bring-
Evil by Nobodies
ing about what they considered a right order or consequence. They are thus a self-selected lot rather than mere ordinary people. In fact, social psychologists such as Alexander Haslam and Stephen Reicher (2007) have questioned the idea that ordinary people can commit atrocities without awareness, care, or choice, and had instead shown in recent studies that these participants in violence have acted thoughtfully, creatively, and with conviction. 1 They have also shown that individuals will only move towards tyranny when they identified with their roles, developed and shared their identification with others in the in-group, and when the interests associated with this identity is being advanced by leaders of the group. Indeed, from Arendt’s documentation of Eichmann, we also observed the conviction and pride he had when he performed his role in the SS machinery, and carried out his duties creatively and zealously to achieve the vision of the Reich. Eichmann’s motivations in joining the SS were also clear. As a failure in his family and in his social class, Eichmann was eager to be part of an organization where he could draw an identity from, achieve recognition, and advance his ambitions. He made efforts to creatively adapt to his situation, overcame challenges and took initiatives, and even went against the changing tide of the moderate wing by sabotaging Himmler’s orders as much as he could. His choices were made freely and not coerced, and his actions were deliberate, not accidental. In short, he was not an automaton who happened to be at the wrong place and at the wrong time, but an opportunistic individual who purposefully made the best of his situation. His evildoing was not the result of malice, coercion, or circumstances, but the absoluteness of his motive to promote his personal ambitions at the cost of causing excessive harm to others; exactly the same reason why Franz Stangl accepted the top post at Treblinka. As Wolfgang Bialas (2014) puts it, when we examine their motivations, it was as if “below the surface of cultural domestication and moral safeguards, man had been lying in wait for opportunities to become once more that beast he had always been despite his guise as a civilised being” (15). Eichmann was also in a position which gave him visibility over the consequences of his actions and not someone who was removed from reality, shielded by “self-deception, lies and stupidity” as Arendt (2005) suggests in Responsibility and Judgement (54). Initially in charge of Evacuation and Emigration, Eichmann was put in charge of Jewish Affairs (Evacuation) by March 1941 where he had learnt about the killings carried out by the Einsatzgruppen and also made several trips to the different types of camps and saw enough to be fully informed of the atrocities. Yet, the only times he suffered a crisis of conscience was when he realized German Jews were also murdered and when his job to make the Reich judenrien was compromised. According to Arendt (2006), because Eichmann had wrongly believed that he was no longer able to change any-
thing and no longer the “master of his own deeds,” he thought he needed to blindly follow the Führer’s order like “obedient corpses” (135). He believed that his duty to the Führer was so absolute that when he could choose between profiteering from Jews who could pay to save their own lives and carrying out Hitler’s orders, he would choose to follow orders than take part in the corruption. Thus to Arendt, his inability to tell right from wrong by hiding behind Nazi clichés and not taking a larger perspective of the implication of his actions was indicative of his thoughtlessness. Her solution for his banal evil is found in Responsibility and Judgement. “Thinking,” which involves the shattering of idols, opens our learned or innate rules to examination and questioning, and in this way, unfreezes what we thought we know so that we can judge anew (2005, 103). It is when we shield people from thinking that they get used to “never making up their minds” and continue to “hold fast to whatever the prescribed rules of conduct” are at a given time, in a given society (2005, 178). Hence, she praised the doubters and the skeptics, and found them more reliable because they examine things and make up their own minds. Those who did not participate in the crimes, she argues, “were the only ones who dared judge by themselves” and did not allow their conscience to function in an “automatic way” by applying fixed learned or innate rules to situations (2005, 44). In other words, it is better to find a monster than a machine like Eichmann on Arendt’s terms, as Terry Eagleton (2010) suggests. But Eichmann was not a machine lacking in judgement, according to Barry Clarke (1980). Eichmann was heteronomously evil because he “surrendered only his autonomy and not his spontaneity and at each moment [in] time he could presumably have resumed exercising his judgement and reason and used his freedom of will to recommence choosing for himself” (Clarke 1980, 438). Therefore, having freely chosen to defer to some external judgment rather than autonomously initiate significant action, Clarke argues that the rightness or wrongness of Eichmann’s action depended on the rightness or wrongness of the Nazi laws to which he deferred. Furthermore, Eichmann’s evildoing was not as banal as Arendt made it to be, that is, ordinary individuals thoughtlessly applying fixed moral categories simply because their normal moral standards have collapsed into a mere set of mores to be changed at will (Arendt 2006, 54). What Arendt failed to realize, as Clarke points out, was that Eichmann could not judge because he lacked an independent moral standard to judge from. Thus, if we have to identify a feature of Eichmann that can explain his deliberate choices and failed judgement, it would be that he did not have a conscience—an independent standard of right and wrong—to begin with. Being a morally vacuous individual also explains why he was not in a moral struggle when he took on the role of a “desk murderer” and why he can be easily seduced by the opportunity to be part of what he
Evil by Nobodies
considered grandiose and historic. It hence becomes obvious that Arendt’s solution will not help a morally bankrupt individual know what is right or wrong since all thinking does is to “unfreeze” and dissolve accepted rules of conduct without putting in place a general standard from which to judge from. In fact, Arendt (2005) herself reminded us that our conscience “does not create values,” nor does it confirm or find out what “the good” is (188). Her solution for us then is to refer to Socrates, Plato, and Kant as models of virtue, but for a morally bankrupt Eichmann, not only did he not have models of virtue to start with, he was also unable to find one in a society where Nazi conscience meant that he had to do everything in the interest of the superior Aryan race. Therefore, if Eichmann is a monster, he is a different type of monster—one who is morally bankrupt and hence, incapable of making any judgements regarding the standards he adopts. But we would also need to examine the Nazi conscience that morally vacuous individuals adopted in order to fully understand the nature of this new type of evil-doer. THE CONSCIENCE OF FACELESS EVIL In Roots of Evil, John Kekes (2007) explains that the Enlightenment approach to evil is to see that reason helps us realize our propensity for good (6). Thus, the more reasonable we are, the better human life is supposed to become. In the Platonic sense, with reason, we will not carry out evil out of ignorance or out of false beliefs concerning what is good. But when we turn to Nazi ideology, the system of false beliefs has a certain reasoning of its own. Sartre’s phenomenological analysis of antiSemitism, for example, gives us an idea of the false beliefs about the Jews and demonstrates how their bad faith is perpetuated through the Nazi ideology. In Anti-Semite and the Jew, Sartre (1995) discusses how the idea of “the Jew” does not rest on a set of biological, physiological, geographical, religious, historical or political characteristics, nor did it arise from the actual encounters with the Jewish people. The “Jew” is an idea invented by the anti-Semite to explain their socio-economic experiences based on their irrational passion of fear and hate. Passion, Sartre explains, is irrational because it precedes the fact, seeks to nourish itself upon these facts, and interprets facts in a way that is offensive (1995, 17). In other words, it is unprovoked unlike how ordinary hate and anger work. And as a metaphysical concept, “the Jew” arose from a Manichean world-view which understood History as a struggle between the irreconcilable “principle of Good with the principle of Evil” in which Evil is the Being of the Jew and in them is a metaphysical principle that drove them to do evil such that they are only free to do evil (40–1). In this way, anti-Semitism attributed all Evil in the world to “the Jew,” and used this metaphysical principle to
explain their socio-economic experiences: the Jew used their intelligence to rob from the Aryans, and hid “behind the governments, breathing discord,” created war among nations, and seduced workers into communism and created class struggles (40). Thus, the anti-Semite’s conclusion was that the Jew is completely evil because he is Jew such that even “[h]is virtues, if he has any, turn to vices by reason of the fact that they are his” (33). Built on this irrational passion of hate and fear, the Nazi future is to bring about this metaphysical inevitability: the complete destruction of every structure and fabric of the Jew as a human race. According to this reasoning, the anti-Semites do “good” by destroying “evil.” They are “mediocre,” but superior to the Jewish people who are “inferior and pernicious.” In fact, many of the anti-Semites were from the lower middle class of the towns, and chose to think of themselves as victims re-establishing their status as possessors (25). This perception rests on the idea they have of themselves—as elite by birth and hence, a fact that cannot be denied. Their status as possessors as such is a given right rather than merit. In this way, the Manichean ideas of the “Evilness” of the Jew and the “Goodness” of the anti-Semites occupied an ontological status, and gave justification to the anti-Semite’s retaliation against the Jew. But we need to also turn to studies in Nazi ideology as Sartre’s phenomenological account of anti-Semitism could not give us sufficient insight into the complex genocidal agenda of the Nazis. More importantly, Sartre’s analysis makes the assumption that all perpetrators of this crime are necessarily racist when it need not be the case (and I will return to this in the final section of this chapter). In SS Thinking and the Holocaust, André Mineau (2014) outlines a Nazi ideology that justifies the superior ontological, biological, and moral status of the master race. Here, we find that the argument of biological necessity is pivotal in creating the first steps for morally bankrupt ordinary persons to become knowing individuals that took part in the Final Solution. According to Nazi ideology, Volk or race based on blood line represents “the real locus of ontological value as compared to the individual” because its flow comes from eternity and leads to eternity (Mineau 2014, 38). Inherent in this concept is a feeling of biological superiority and a scientific and ethical mission to preserve the purity of blood in order to guarantee the Volk’s eternity. To actualize this biological necessity, the Nazis argued that it is ethically justified to euthanize Germany’s weak and conquer more areas in the East that were occupied by the Slavic peoples who are lower on the biological hierarchy. In fact, Hitler believed that Germany would have won WWI had it shed all respect for life and the laws of war. To this end, SS ideology subverted the foundations of traditional morality and replaced it with the moral form of Nazi ideology (Mineau 2014, 2). Mineau outlines three particular dimensions to the moralization of this ideology founded on biological necessity: a treatise on virtues such as
Evil by Nobodies
faithfulness and truthfulness to members of the Aryan race in order to actualize Nazi ideology; the moral justification of the consequences of Nazi ideology so as to enable individuals to overcome psychological difficulties for the sake of Nazi morality; and the categorical imperative of this duty each has towards the Aryan race (Mineau 2014, 58). For Bialas (2014), the new man Nazi ideology aims to create is one who will “liberate himself from the fetters of moral obligations to the weak and needy and to subordinate his life to racial imperatives instead of following outdated (Christian) precepts of unconditional humanity and charity” (23). In the same vein, Gunner Heinsohn (2000) argues that the Holocaust is unique because of the destruction of the Jewish invention of the idea of “conscience” in order to “reintroduce the archaic rights” to infanticide and genocide (426). Evil, as we now see, is comprehensible and has certain reasoning of its own. Understanding its reasoning does not require us to sympathize with evildoers, but allows us to see how Nazi racial policy is able to provide morally bankrupt individuals a pseudoscientific framework to rationalize and moralize the means they employ by using “arguments concerning history, natural laws, race, population policy, national hygiene, and biology” (Bialas 2014, 18). What thus seems to be horrifyingly evil to some in this new pseudoscientific and moral framework is the idea of human sacrifice. Yet, we find that justifying mass murder as necessary towards some greater good based on an ontological account of struggle is not entirely unfamiliar in an era marred by atrocities on similar gigantic scales such as Stalin’s collectivism, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and Pol Pot’s communism. We are also reminded of similar levels of brutality in cases of ethnic cleansing and genocides like those in Turkey, Bosnia, and Rwanda. And even though they differ by methods, they share common features such as methods of collective humiliation and the objective of mass destruction. 2 Thus to others, Arendt’s conclusion that nobodies— banal thoughtless individuals—are capable of such inhumane destruction on a gigantic scale is what presents a terrifying truth of our modernity, and also the new form of evil. Arendt argued that banal evil is when ordinary people extinguished their private conscience. As Eichmann watched the elite of the Civil Service attempting to outdo each other to take the lead in the Final Solution, he thought to himself—Who was he to judge? Who was he to have his own thoughts in this matter (Arendt 2006, 114)? He embraced the logic of the Nazi ideology to help him rationalize the Holocaust as an ontological and historical necessity, and also rationalize that his actions were not personal acts of malice but a moral right and duty. And in deferring his judgment to the Nazi conscience this way, Eichmann said that he sensed a kind of Pontius Pilate feeling for he felt free of all guilt. In fact, Arendt maintained that this self-extinguishing of private conscience was pervasive in the entire Nazi machinery even before the horrors of war struck
Germany. This has to be the case because the enormous difficulties of operationalizing the Final Solution in the whole of Europe required more than tacit acceptance from the Reich’s state apparatus and mere compliance from the Ministries and Civil Service. Operationalization required a series of complicated legal processes and procedures to be put in place regarding the treatment of Jews, concrete proposals on various methods of killing, and logistical and manpower considerations when coordinating the effort between different parties and across borders. The fact that only when Germany was going to lose the war did defections from the higher SS ranks occur shows that private conscience has already been self-extinguished, and even then, Arendt (2006) argues that they were inspired not by conscience but by corruption (116). But such massive tasks at hand will call for more than a suspension of one’s conscience as suggested by Arendt, and would instead, require one’s active participation and coordination with others to build a common conscience. Furthermore, if conscience is meant to be an inner judge that guides one’s beliefs and actions, it is necessary that it performs the role of an independent standard from which we judge public conscience and morals. As such, it is not a matter of replacing the command ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as Arendt thinks, but rather, it must be the case that Eichmann was morally bankrupt for him to adopt and not judge Nazi morality correctly. What I have thus clearly shown is that Eichmann belongs to a particular kind of nobodies who exercised their judgment, but failed to make ethical judgments because they are morally bankrupt. Being morally vacuous made them truly convinced that exterminating their enemies for the world to be saved is rational and also moral, because their false beliefs were justified by an ideology, institutions, and state leadership. It is thus the fact that someone like Eichmann did not have an inner voice that judged public morality, and not what Arendt suggests—that he is able to soothe his own conscience because he could see that no one was actually against the Final Solution. In fact, Arendt’s version of Eichmann leaves the question of his individual responsibility open: he could have continued to suspend his conscience, and in a completely different world, his action could have been morally praise-worthy. By leaving Eichmann to his circumstantial luck means that Arendt is unfair to treat him as an object of moral judgment and hold him morally responsible for factors outside of his control. How then do we judge these individuals who believed in their clear conscience that their enemies are non-humans that need to be exterminated?
Evil by Nobodies
NO-THINGNESS, NO-BODIES, AND ANNIHILATION David Livingston Smith (2011) argues in Less than Human that through methods of dehumanization, one group of human beings treats another group as though they were sub-human creatures by seeing not just what they lack but also seeing them as creatures that are less than human (26). In so doing, they convince themselves that they have no moral rights and obligations towards this group of sub-human creatures. In fact, the dehumanization of the enemy is necessary for soldiers in combat precisely because they tend to still see their enemies as human beings like themselves. And for this reason, each group uses an us-versus-them paradigm to describe their enemies in animalistic terms. But we must first distinguish Smith’s idea of “dehumanization” from the other uses of dehumanization such as dehumanization to mean the taking away of individuality (for example, an administrator seeing himself as a cog in a bureaucracy) and dehumanization as a process of objectification where one is treated as mere means. For Arendt, the lack of individuality characterizes the mass of atomized individuals in our modern era, and the Nazi movement filled their need for a sense of identity. The identity for atomized individuals like Eichmann is built on his race, and with that, the moral duty to maintain the purity of the Volk by exterminating sub-human creatures. In her judgment of Eichmann’s crimes, she described crimes against humanity as the extermination of whole groups of people and endangerment of mankind in its entirety by seeing them as sub-humans: And just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang. (2006, 279)
While Arendt pointed out that what formed this new crime was the process of reducing humans into sub-humans, Sartre’s “look phenomenon” in Being and Nothingness was able to explain the element of racism in antiSemitism further, that is, how the anti-Semite came to objectify the Jew as the Other through Manichean lenses. Sartre tells us that in our encounters with others, we reveal the object-ness of our being as being-for-other as we encounter their subjectivity. We experience a loss of control over how the Other comprehends our being that we are nonetheless responsible for, and this causes us to desire the recovery of our being and we achieve this by reducing the Other’s freedom. The Other is thus experienced as a subject that needs to be reduced to its object-ness. But we will realize that this is a futile attempt because in trying to absorb the subjectivity of the
Other, we need to ensure that the Other is intact since “the Other is the foundation of [our] being” (Sartre 1956, 475–6). The bad faith of the antiSemites therefore resides in this very fact: they require the construct of “the Jew” for them to destroy, and yet have a vital need for this enemy because the anti-Semite can only exist through the construct of “the Jew,” with rights to recover and a “good” to reinstate (Sartre 1995, 28). We must also understand that for Sartre (1965), it is not always the case that “our relations with others are always rotten or illicit” because Hell is the Other only when “our relations with others are twisted or corrupted” (98). Our concrete relations with others depend on the attitude we assume towards our “being-for-other”—whether we envisaged it within the perspective of conflict by fleeing from our object-ness and reducing the Other as object, or whether we identify with our freedom and recognize the Other as freedom that is fundamental to our being-forother and seek to integrate with the Other’s freedom by sharing their projects. And even when we find that our attempts at unifying with the Other unrealizable, we can still choose to continue in our attempts to unify with them by not acting on their freedom. Clearly then, the antiSemite is morally at fault for choosing an attitude of hostility towards the Jew instead of authenticity, and this also puts him in bad faith as he reduces the Jews’ freedom to their mere object-ness and sees them as subhumans under Manichean lenses. Bad faith explains why soldiers after the war often report that they would not have been able to commit these acts if they had not seen their enemies as sub-humans. They admit responsibility for their actions, and continue to carry with them feelings of guilt towards their victims. During the war, these soldiers had lifted themselves into pure freedom and reduced their victims to their pure object-ness, and for some of them who chose to see themselves as objects-for-the-leaders, they have chosen to deny their freedom to disobey orders and hence devolved themselves from any personal responsibility for their actions. But after the war, those who experienced guilt towards their victims are those who acknowledged their bad faith, and thus, expressed regret at not having assumed their freedom to resist superior orders. It is however unclear if the tension described between subjects-andsubjects in a typical us-versus-them structure fully explains the case of Eichmann. This is because Eichmann did not need to find anything objectionable about the Jews to be able to carry out these crimes. In us-versusthem paradigms, the perpetrator first sees the Other as consciousness that needs to be subdued and invents an ideology that justifies structural and procedural oppression. But Eichmann encounters the Jews as nonhumans. And because of this difference, he did not need to be a racist to believe that their annihilation must be made an objective fact in order for the Aryans to negate the present-world and usher in the new Nazi future. Furthermore, because Eichmann did not see them as humans, he did not
Evil by Nobodies
feel any remorse for having done what he did since he did not act against sub-humans who share some characteristics of human-ness. 3 Unlike the racist in bad faith who deceived himself about the subjectivity of the other by encountering the other through irrational fear and hate, Eichmann did not experience his encounters through these emotions and carried out his duties in “cold rationality” for which he claimed to be his Kantian duty. Hence, it may be the case that those in an us-versus-them paradigm employed dehumanization and humiliation tactics for the purpose of making their victims sub-humans but this is because they see their victims as humans in the first place. But for those like Eichmann who sees others as non-humans, they do not see the need to dehumanize them, but instead, adopted tactics that they think were simply treatment befitting for non-humans. Eichmann was therefore not in bad faith and did not feel guilty, and this is also the reason why to him and others like him on trial think that no crimes were committed against the Jews because crimes can only be committed against humans. And what this means is that both a racist and Eichmann-like perpetrator could commit the same act and be held culpable for the same crime, but their perception and attitude they adopt were fundamentally different. What can we therefore deduce about the structure of consciousness of one who grasps other human subjects as non-humans and conceives of their complete annihilation? Sartre’s phenomenological account of consciousness may offer us some explanation and we start with Sartre’s application of Husserl’s basic theory of consciousness: that consciousness is always consciousness of something because the being of consciousness is itself empty. “Nothing” on the other hand, is a revelation of an absence in the world and is also introduced as negation into the world by consciousness. In the first instance, “no-thingness” is revealed as an absent fact in the world by an “expectation” of a presence in the world. In Sartre’s (1956) example, it is with an expectation of seeing Pierre in the café that I experience his absence. His absence is thus understood in relation to the café that served as the condition or the ground in which Pierre’s absence is experienced as “nothingness” (42). 4 Put in another way, absence or “no-thingness” is not “something” residing in the world or a thought, but a disclosure of an objective fact situated in the world based on a judgment made in light of some human expectation. For the Nazi new man, the absence that is revealed in the present world is the necessary condition of a unified Aryan race to bring forth the future Nazi Germany they desire. In the second instance, “no-thingness” is introduced into the world as negation. As beings-in-itself-for-itself, we are free to negate the given and posit an alternative state of affairs, and we can also create and destroy our own possibilities at will, even though in the same moment, we apprehend that these motives for negating the given are not sufficiently effec-
tive (Sartre 1956, 67–8). 5 We can thus transcend our current condition through negation and create the possibility of it being-what-it-is-not. In the same way, we can also introduce the possibility of negating our past and our future. What therefore seemed to be positive freedom and liberating in Sartre’s account also explains how the Nazi “new man” liberates himself by exterminating the present conditions that were seen as obstacles to the future that Nazi Germany wants to create. In addition, Eichmann negated himself. Arendt observed this “negation of self” in her idea of banal evil when she described Eichmann as “nobody.” Accordingly, nobodies are people who had no higher meaning in their lives but instead found purpose in a movement they thought was historical, grandiose, and unique. And because they were neither monsters nor bureaucrats, they refused to be somebody in the machinery, unable to grasp the meaning of their acts to the community and deny their responsibility towards them. Hence, in responding to the judgement of Eichmann, she returns the responsibility to the individual—the perpetrator of crimes against humanity: We heard the protestations of the defense that Eichmann was after all only a “tiny cog” in the machinery of the Final Solution . . . in its judgement the court naturally conceded that such a crime could be committed only by a giant bureaucracy using the resources of the government. But insofar as it remains a crime—and that, of course, is the premise for a trial—all the cogs in the machinery, no matter how insignificant, are in court forthwith transformed back into perpetrators, that is to say, into human beings. (2006, 289)
Hence, to Arendt, Eichmann was a textbook case of an unrepentant criminal, deceiving himself by using self-fabricated stock phrases even after these cliché lines were no longer issued from above. It is also clear for Sartre that this question of whether anyone can claim to be nobody and deny individual responsibility was never an issue. In fact, he discussed the bad faith of the anti-Semites at length. First, Sartre described anguish as our experience of our ontological freedom where we become conscious that we are not free to choose not to be free. We experience freedom through anguish because it is a realization that we alone are responsible for all our choices and actions with a separation between our present ontological for-itself and our past and future in-itself. Flight emerges as a reaction against anguish before the dreadful freedom we have. In a project of flight, we attempt to flee from our transcendence as for-itself by pursuing being in-itself. But flight is a futile attempt to escape from anguish because we are attempting to flee in order not to know but we cannot avoid knowing that we are fleeing. This is what Sartre described as bad faith—a project of flight of self-deceit aimed at reducing being-for-itself-in-itself to pure facticity (in-itself) or absolute freedom (for-itself). And it is a state of faith because it is a belief
Evil by Nobodies
that is not true of human reality, and requires one who is in possession of the truth to alter the truth and persuade themselves of it (1956, 89). In other words, there is only a single consciousness at work because the deceived and the deceiver are one and the same person, not infected by an external situation or a situation that one encounters, but what reflective consciousness creates. Deception works by choosing to turn oneself into a mere thing that is compelled to act in a certain manner determined by external forces. The “I” which emerges upon reflection is a free being, and it is this very “I” that one in bad faith wishes to deny. Another way to live a life of bad faith is to assume complete freedom by disengaging oneself from the surrounding and one’s present, and even one’s past and future. In short, the “I” which emerges is one that is situated in facticity that one in bad faith wishes to disregard. Living a life of bad faith thus means that one puts into place a set of mental and behavioral mechanisms to escape from anguish. Eichmann, however, is not always in bad faith because he as the deceiver in him does not exist. Eichmann negates his “I” by being unreflective so that his “I” does not even emerge. Sartre explains that consciousness is consciousness of something, but in this same moment where it intends a transcendental object, it is also aware of itself. This is what Sartre referred to as first-degree consciousness. The “I,” however, emerges only through a second-degree consciousness, that is, a reflection on the first-degree consciousness. Here, “the Self itself apprehends itself” where the “I” emerges as a state of self-consciousness (Sartre 1956, 319). 6 But what we can observe from the example of Eichmann is that the negation of self can occur from a failure to reflect. Eichmann’s first-degree consciousness is intended towards the world—his negation of Jewish subjectivity based on the Nazi ideology and conscience he differed to, his annihilation of the present world, and annihilation of “non-humans” for a future only for Aryans. He is fully immersed in the experience of his transcendental first-degree consciousness, and in failing to reflect on his first-degree consciousness, the “I” that needs to emerge for judgment to take place does not appear. 7 As a consequence, Eichmann will not realize that he is morally vacuous, nor see that he needed to overcome the Nazi lies he adopted as truth, or be able to grasp himself as being-in-the-world with other beings like himself. 8 And because he is unreflective, he failed to constitute his own object-ness in a world with others, ascribe values and meanings to his choices and actions, and be a judge of himself. In order to do so, reflection is necessary, and hence, also more fundamental than the thinking and judging that Arendt argued for. 9 What Eichmann is therefore morally blameworthy for is his failure to reflect in order for him to be able to assume his being as a moral agent. And what we can conclude is that for Eichmann and those along with him who argued that their actions were not criminal but “acts of states,”
they need to not only see others as “somebody” and not non-humans, but also for them to see themselves as somebody and not nobody. Only when “I” emerges upon reflection would the notion of moral responsibility make sense—for one to judge oneself for one’s choice of beliefs and actions, and for feelings of shame and guilt to surface, and for one to assume personal responsibility. And only then can we return ethics to the individual; individuals as members of the human race. For Sartre and Arendt, this is both a collective and personal moral responsibility we have in forming moral judgements about our responses and our conduct. The revision made in military law immediately before the Nuremberg trial also appears to be the right step in this direction by reinstating the responsibility to the individual (regardless of whether one is combatant or non-combatant) where crimes against humanity are concerned. The United Nations War Crimes Commission revised the Charter of the International Military Tribunal before the trial in order to prevent the Germans and Japanese standing for trial on crimes against humanity to appeal to the plea of superior orders by restating Article 8 as follows: The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires. (quoted in Lewy 1970, 118) 10
In addition, the court of Nuremberg removed the plea of head of state immunity as a defense or mitigation of punishment by ruling that a person in a position of superior authority should be held individually responsible for giving the unlawful order to commit a crime, and he should also be held responsible for failure to deter the unlawful behaviour of subordinates if he knew they had committed or were about to commit crime yet failed to take the necessary and reasonable steps to prevent their commissions or to punish those who had committed them. (Robertson 2002, 222)
CONCLUDING REMARKS The new crime I have presented in this chapter is the act of annihilating groups of people that were considered to be evil non-humans. The new criminal I have described is one who is ordinary, psychologically sound, and bears no malice to specific groups of people, but because he is morally bankrupt and unreflective, he chose to adopt an ideology that justifies annihilation as his response to the world. Unreflective individuals like Eichmann negated the emergence of an “I” for which they can judge themselves as moral agents situated in a world with responsibilities to others like themselves, and because they are morally bankrupt, they failed in their judgment in distinguishing what is morally reprehensible, and what is morally good. It is these nobodies—individuals who do not
Evil by Nobodies
regard themselves as moral agents and assume moral responsibilities— who are the new evildoers responsible for genocides, not banal individuals. What we can thus make of Arendt’s observation is that for us to grasp the essence of this new evildoer, we must seek to understand them holistically—from the ideology that provided acceptable reasons to justify the plan and the new methods of extermination that were used, to their phenomenological structure of consciousness. This requires us to begin from the phenomenological description of the experience of this evildoer before we can arrive at what is new about the structure of his consciousness to explain his attitude and choice of beliefs and actions. Sartre provides us with the tools to do so, yet, only by probing the limits of his categories were we able to construct a more likely profile of the new evildoer that is capable of mass annihilation without any feeling of malice and remorse after the deed, rather than a banal individual in bad faith. NOTES 1. See also Haslam and Reicher (2012). 2. It is interesting to note that Margalit and Motzkin (1996) argue that the Holocaust is unique because of its particular fusion of collective humiliation and mass destruction. In its ideology, the Nazi sought both humiliation and death, and in its execution, it seeks to inflict humiliation or death. 3. The common use of sub-human refers to a lower order of being than humans, and by inference, a racist does not consider “sub-human” as a being that is not worthy of being treated as human beings. But it is exactly because sub-humans continue to share some characteristics of humankind (which differentiate them from other beings such as God, animals or machines) the racist finds that they must be dehumanized. This is similar to how Smith conceives of “sub-humans” as species that are humanlooking, but are not really people. Hence, to him, dehumanization made carnage possible. On the other hand, to differentiate the racist from Eichmann-like perpetrator, I have used the term “non-human” to refer to a species that do not share any characteristic of humankind. This better explains why Eichmann did not need to dehumanize them to justify extermination. 4. This example also illustrates Sartre’s objection to Husserl’s view that non-being is found in consciousness. 5. Quoting Sartre to demonstrate this concept of freedom: “No external cause will remove them, I alone am the permanent source of their non-being, I engage myself in them in order to cause my possibility to appear, I posit the other possibilities so as to nihilate them.” 6. To use an example from Sartre relating the act of counting a box of matchsticks: while counting matches, I am aware that I am counting them. The matches are the transcendent object of my consciousness and I am aware of my intentional consciousness of counting. When I reflect on my action of counting, I reveal an “I” who was counting. It is in this second-degree or reflected consciousness that the “I” emerges. 7. Sartre gave the example of an un-reflective person: one who is fully involved in reading a book such that one is no longer reflecting on the very fact of one’s reading as a personal act, or that one is doing the reading (“I who was reading”). 8. Sartre (1957) also explained in greater detail how “hatred” is a transcendent object (62–4).
9. A comparison between Arendt’s thinking and judging with Sartre’s reflection can be found in Ang (2009). 10. Following the Nuremberg trials, both United States and Britain made adjustments to their army regulations to tighten the recourse for using superior orders as a plea in 1956 and 1958, respectively. This was a far cry from their original position prior to WWII when both nations argued that soldiers have an “unconditional obedience and with absolute non-liability for violations of international law when under superior orders.” The change in the military laws in United States and Britain a year before the Nuremberg trial has also raised criticism that it is a “victor’s justice” and a retrospective application of the law.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Ang, Jennifer Mei Sze. 2009. “Thinking and Ignoring Conscience” Philosophy Today 53: 203–11. Arendt, Hannah. 2005. Responsibility and Judgment. New York: Schocken Books. Arendt, Hannah. 2006. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Penguin Books. Augustine. 1953. Augustine: Earlier Writings. Edited and translated by J. H. S. Burleigh. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Bialas, Wolfgang. 2014. “Nazi Ethics and Morality: Ideas, Problems and Unanswered Questions.” In Nazi Ideology and Ethics, edited by Wolfgang Bialas and Lothar Fritze, 15–56. New Castle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Clarke, Barry. 1980. “The Banality of Evil” British Journal of Political Science 10: 417–39. Eagleton, Terry. 2010. On Evil. New Haven: Yale University Press. Haslam, Alexander S., and Stephen Reicher. 2007. “Beyond the Banality of Evil: Three Dynamics of an Interactionist Social Psychology of Tyranny” Personality and Social Psychology 33: 615–22, accessed 3 March 2015, doi: 10.1177/0146467206298570. Haslam, Alexander S., and Stephen Reicher. 2012. “When Prisoners Take Over the Prison: A Social Psychology of Resistance” Personality and Social Psychology Review 16: 154–79, accessed 3 March 2015, doi: 10.1177/1088868311419864. Heinsohn, Gunnar. 2000. “What Makes the Holocaust a Uniquely Unique Genocide?” Journal of Genocide Research 2: 411–30. Kekes, John. 2007. Roots of Evil. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. King, Peter. 2010. Introduction to On the Free Choice of the Will, by Augustine, ix–xxxii. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lewy, Guenter. 1970. “Superior Orders, Nuclear Warfare, and the Dictates of Conscience.” In War and Morality, edited by Richard A. Wasserstrom. Belmont: Wadsworth. Margalit, Avishai, and Gabriel Motzkin. 1996. “The Uniqueness of the Holocaust” Philosophy and Public Affairs 25: 65–83 Mineau, Andre. 2014. SS Thinking and the Holocaust. Leiden: Editions Rodopi B.V. Robertson, Geoffrey QC. 2002. Crimes against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice 2nd ed. London: Penguin Books. Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1956. Being and Nothingness. Translated by Hazel Barnes. New York: Washington Square Press. Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1957. The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness. Translated by Forest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick. New York: The Noonday Press. Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1965. “Sartre gives the keys to Hell is Other People” Le Figaro littéraire, Jan 7–13. Cited in Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, eds. and Richard C. McCleary, trans. The Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre Vol.1 (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974). Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1992. Notebooks for an Ethics. Translated by David Pallauer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Evil by Nobodies Sartre, Jean-Paul.1995. Anti-Semite and Jew. New York: Schocken Books. Smith, David Livingston. 2011. Less than Human. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
FOUR Pursuing Pankalia The Aesthetic Theodicy of St. Augustine A.G. Holdier
In a field filled with out of control trolley cars, brains-in-vats, and at least one color-blind neuroscientist, philosophers often find ourselves returning to the same illustrations to express our ideas; in the library of such thought experiments, somewhere between one of Theseus’ ships and a room holding a Chinese writer, lies a dog-eared copy of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov with a long line of theodicists waiting for their turn to read it. Amidst the classic story of a struggling Russian family, one conversation between Alyosha and his brother Ivan has stood out as a famous study of what academics have dubbed “The Problem of Evil.” If God truly exists, Alyosha’s brother demands, then why does He not prevent the tragedies that fill our world? After cataloging a series of such profane abuses, primarily of children, Ivan laughs at the suggestion that such evils could all be ultimately used for some “greater good,” somehow woven together into an ultimately beautiful tapestry, and proclaims that even if some Deity exists, that method of operation should disqualify such a god from being worthy of any worship. “I don’t want harmony,” Ivan cries, “From love for humanity I don’t want it. . . . Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it” (Dostoyevsky 1966, 222). Instead, Ivan tells a story of a bitter humanist who has secretly rejected God for the sake of caring for God’s people; by painting himself the color of his own Grand Inquisitor, Ivan seeks to embody his commitment to holding God accountable for the many who are damned. 69
Ivan is disgusted by evil, by God, and by the ugliness of life; a faithful reply to him, then, must respond to three separate points: (1) something metaphysical, (2) something theological, and finally (3) something aesthetic; it is precisely at the intersection of these three fields where the theodicy of St. Augustine of Hippo can be found. Writing roughly fifteen centuries before Dostoevsky, Augustine shared many of the concerns of Ivan Karamazov, but his thoughtful contextualization of evil into a properly Christian worldview gave the neo-Platonic philosopher far more powerful resources for reconciling God and the reality of evil. Augustine offers (1) a metaphysical definition of evil that allows for (2) a theological conception of damning free will that is fashioned by God into (3) pankalia, or “universal beauty.” By seeing evil as a void rather than a substance, Augustine is able to recognize evil actions as freely chosen sins of human agents—sins that, though evil, still function aesthetically to display the harmony of God’s creation. To answer Ivan, each of these three Augustinian points shall be considered in turn: the definition of evil as a privation, the damnable power of free agents, and finally, the ultimate design for the pankalia of God’s Creation as centering on poetic justice. Though Augustine’s position may not be fully satisfactory, it lays a strong foundation for further study. SOMETHING METAPHYSICAL: PRIVATION The most foundational element of Augustine’s answer to Ivan’s Problem lies in his definition of evil as the privatio boni or “the removal of good” and not as a proper substance in its own right (1999, 41). Even at first glance the power of such a definition is clear, for one need not defend a God for creating evil if evil is not a thing that can be created. Instead, Augustinian evil is similar to physical phenomena like coldness or darkness, except that rather than “existing” as the absence or diminishment of either heat or light, evil is simply the absence of goodness—that is, the absence of God. As the young Augustine came to reject the bitheistic Manicheanism of his youth, with its purely good deity existing eternally opposite a purely evil one, his philosophical answer to Ivan Karamazov’s question began to take shape. The Manichean model had required Augustine to admit the eternality of evil, something his newfound Christianity was loathe to affirm. Eventually, under the tutelage of St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine came to recognize God as the sole supranatural ontological grounding in which all other beings find their foundation: [I]t is the one true God who is active and operative in all those things [the entirety of Creation], but always acting as God, that is, present everywhere in his totality, free from all spatial confinement, completely untrammeled, absolutely indivisible, utterly unchangeable, and filling
heaven and earth with his ubiquitous power which is independent of anything in the natural order. (2003, 292) 1
Consequently, with God as the metaphysical standard for existence in the universe, Augustine easily adopted into his worldview the Neoplatonic Great Chain of Being that fashioned the entire cosmos into a hierarchical structure; 2 Augustine simply placed the Christian God at the top of the ladder of existence, recognizing that “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17, NASB). 3 On this view, however, existence of any form constitutes at least some form of participation in the good reality of the Divine Being who defines the nature of perfect existence; 4 because of this, Augustine needed Plotinus’ definition of evil in the Enneads 5 to truly make headway with his theology. By defining evil simply as “non-being,” Augustine was able to make sense of how the Chain of Being that emanates from a perfect God could be comprised of less-than-perfect creatures while simultaneously denying a spot on that chain for ramified “Evil” itself; as he says “[t]here is no such entity in nature as ‘evil’; ‘evil’ is merely the name for the privation of good. There is a scale of value stretching from earthly to heavenly realities, from the visible to the invisible; and the inequality between these goods makes possible the existence of them all” (2003, 454). If everything that exists was perfectly good, then “everything” would be identical to the perfect God; the gradation of existence is actually made possible by privation. However, because all existence is ultimately of and from a good God, existence qua existence must be good—a fact compounded by recognizing God as an intentional, good Creator. But if Augustine is correct that God designs creatures to be what He intends them to be, then it is only by corruption that something becomes anything less (see 2010a, 99; 2003, 471–3). In the words of Phillip Tallon (2012), the practice of evil is “to become less than what one was created to be; to become, not the good thing that God made, but something else, a perverted thing of our own doing” (104). Entities are called evil, then, when they either come to lack a property that they should possess or, conversely, they gain a property God did not intend them to have. This analysis of privation applies not only to intrinsic properties that reside solely within the beings themselves, but to the relational properties of those beings to their surroundings as well. When those relational properties are properly ordered per God’s design, then it is good; when the relationship is inappropriate, even if it is internally consistent, that disruption of propriety is what Rowan Williams has dubbed a “grammar” of evil, as Tallon summarizes how there may be a disjunctive quality between subject, verb, and object. The phrases “Philip worshipped God” and “Philip played tennis” both consist of only positive terms. Yet these phrases, consisting of exactly
Chapter 4 the same terms, “Philip played God” and “Philip worshipped tennis,” indicate a state of affairs that, because they are disordered, are evil and therefore degrade the subject, verb, and object through their disjuncture. (104)
Again, even without intrinsic change, Philip’s shift in relational properties is equally dubbed “evil.” By way of example, consider a compassionless brute attacking a helpless victim: because the attacker exists, he must lie somewhere on the Great Chain of Being, but his lack of compassion (a property that, as a human being, he should possess) means that he is lacking an intrinsic property that would make him more good or more God-like—this lack of goodness is evil. However, this brute is also choosing to attack an innocent person, an event that should not take place, so he is also disrupting the proper ordering of the universe; this lack of order is also evil. 6 Yet, because some level of variation in goodness is necessary for the variety in Creation to exist and because God is “the best Maker of all natures, the One Who oversees them with the greatest justice” (2010a, 98) then Augustine is confident that a good God will successfully weave both intrinsic and relational evils together into something ultimately worthwhile. This shall be addressed further in the third section of this chapter. In the meantime, Augustine’s definition of evil as the privatio boni effectively eliminates much of the apparent evil in the world under the guise of a preeminent God’s just and loving care of the Creation He fashions as good, the inner workings of which are not always clear to its inhabitants: Divine providence thus warns us not to indulge in silly complaints about the state of affairs, but to take pains to inquire what useful purposes are served by things. And when we fail to find the answer . . . we should believe that the purpose is hidden from us. . . . There is a useful purpose in the obscurity of the purpose; it may serve to exercise our humility or to undermine our pride. (2003, 453–4)
For those examples of evil that are identifiable as such, however, Augustine is still loathe to attribute them to a perfect God—it is to finite creatures that the blame for evil must fall. SOMETHING THEOLOGICAL: THE POWER OF FREEDOM In what has been called “the most famous and central aspect” of his theodicy (Tallon 2012, 114), Augustine deploys legal language of guilt and blame to recognize the depravity of evil while attempting to absolve the Creator God of responsibility for the chosen evil actions of free agents. Although Augustine’s overall conception of freedom takes some unpacking, it never completely diverges, not even in his developed
thoughts later in life, from the sentiment expressed early on in his Christian writings that “evils have their being by the voluntary sin of the soul, to which God gave free will” (1890, 131). To equate evil with sin, a chosen action contrary to the perfect will of God, allows Augustine to shift much of the problem of evil squarely onto the backs of free moral agents and away from the shoulders of the perfect Divine. Following from the understanding of evil as the privatio boni, evil as sin is any chosen action that fails to meet God’s expected standards of behavior and therefore lacks the goodness that it should possess. If agents truly are free to choose either right or wrong actions (in the way that we naturally assume them to be blameworthy), then it is not only the case that evil becomes a logically necessary possibility under genuine free will, but it is also true that God is not to blame when a genuinely free agent abuses their free will and sinfully actualizes something evil. By this definition, a free evil act becomes a sin, an act that God would not will and does not, Himself, choose—to blame God for an action He neither wills nor controls is hardly appropriate. This libertarian understanding of free will does assume that an action must be voluntary and intentional in order to be blameworthy: a woman who sneezes and drops a kitchen knife out her window might be faulted for carelessness, but even if that knife happens to fall on and kill a passerby on the street below, the woman could not be properly blamed as a murderer—she neither chose to kill nor intended it to happen. 7 But if blameworthiness for moral evil is based in intention, so too is praiseworthiness for moral goodness, therefore the necessity of a genuine choice between right and wrong—what Plantinga (1998) has come to call a morally significant choice—becomes central to a free-will theodicy. As Plantinga, a foremost contemporary free will defender, puts it: God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil. . . .The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good. (1998, 27)
Much like how if God desires to create a two-dimensional, three-sided geometric figure, then He is bound by logic to make a triangle, God is in a similar bind if He desires to create potentially good free agents: to get the possibility of good, He must simultaneously create the possibility of evil. This is precisely Augustine’s position. He begins On the Free Choice of the Will III by having Evodius agree that “no blame can be attached where nature and necessity predominate” (2010a, 72) before contrasting human actions with a falling stone to point out that “the movement of the
stone is natural, but the movement of the mind is voluntary” and while we would not charge the stone with a sin, “we charge the mind with sin when we find it guilty of abandoning higher goods to put lower goods first for its enjoyment” (2010a, 74). To put this description of evil into terms already used in this chapter: we charge the mind with sin when it willfully tries to replace God at the pinnacle of the Great Chain of Being and pursues something of lesser importance. This reordering of one’s desires is a disruption of one’s intrinsic properties (and is therefore evil); by acting on those corrupted desires, the agent chooses a course of action that differs from God’s perfect will, thereby disrupting the relational properties of the agent (which is also evil), as well as damaging both intrinsic and relational properties of other objects in the universe. As Augustine reiterates elsewhere, because evil is only the privatio boni, “There is no evil in the universe, but in individuals there is evil due to their own fault” (1953, 246). One might fairly ask, though, why God would care to create free agents at all, if freedom truly is such a dangerous tool to be wielded— would it not be better for God to create morally neutral automata if it meant that no evil would result? To this, Augustine replies that freedom allows for greater goods to exist than if freedom were absent. However, he firstly chastises anyone who would imagine their own creative ability to surpass God’s perfect skill and argues that it is petulant to complain that lesser things exist (sinful agents) when greater things can be imagined (non-sinful agents) (2010a, 82). 8 Simply because greater things can exist on the Chain of Being does not mean that God is to be blamed for allowing gradation along that chain; as Augustine says, “it is like someone who, grasping perfect roundness in his mind, become upset that he does not find it in a nut, never having seen any round object except fruits of this sort” (2010a, 83). God allows freedom because a being who freely displays love and devotion to God is greater than one who does so mindlessly or un-freely; 9 criticizing freedom itself on the basis of its abuse at the hands of free agents is, again, quite missing Augustine’s point. To be fair, not all philosophers affirm libertarian free well and compatibilists would have no problem with a free agent being unable to act otherwise than she does in a given scenario. Particularly in the case of Augustine, it would be a significant oversight to ignore compatibilist notions of freedom for the sake of focusing entirely on the above libertarian presentation. Later in life, Augustine’s apologetics for the doctrine of original sin colored his definition of freedom sufficiently such that many readers now identify a shift in his thinking from his earlier writings to his later ones. 10 If Augustine did come to embrace a different definition of freedom that would allow for God to fully determine an agent’s free choices, then everything in his theodicy as it has been presented thus far would crumble—a consequence that Augustine himself never seemed to admit. Although space does not permit a full response to the charge of
Augustinian inconsistency on a definition of freedom, two points should be briefly considered by way of rebuttal. Firstly, the shift in Augustine’s writings in relation to the Pelagian controversy later in his life likely had more to do with his rhetoric than his logic. Whereas his earlier comments on freedom that sound particularly libertarian were responding to an unorthodox group concerned with God’s goodness (Manicheans), Augustine emphasized at that point the elements of his theology that were ignored by his then-opponents: God’s singular blamelessness and humanity’s graceful ability to choose rightly or wrongly. Later in his life, recognizing the extent to which his comments had been twisted by new, previously unforeseen enemies (Pelagians), Augustine attempted to adjust the swing of the heterodox pendulum by emphasizing different elements of his thought: the sinfulness of humanity and our need of God’s assistance for ultimate success. 11 This would not necessarily require that he reject libertarianism for compatibilism, but given the disparate contexts of his comments, it should not be surprising that different themes rise to the surface at different times, particularly when it can be shown that all of these themes are present throughout the Augustinian corpus. That is the second point: the theme of human depravity and our need for God to empower our free choices is something that appears in Augustine earliest writings, not simply those written after his alleged positionshift. Those who would claim that Augustine moves from a libertarian understanding of free will to affirm a compatibilistic framework tend to do so because of his later increased emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the necessity of His grace for human agency to function; this sounds quite similar to Augustine’s call in his early On the Free Choice of the Will that “our freedom is this: to submit to this truth, which is our God Who set us free from death—that is, from the state of sin” (2010a, 59). When “the Early” Augustine (2010a, 58) references a verse like Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart”), he is making the point that a human agent must choose to bow the knee to the God who satisfies all desires, but it is only by God’s grace that those desires are at all satisfied. 12 On this reading, Augustine is championing a God granting grace to humans, while also recognizing that the onus is on the human to receive the gift, or, as King (2010) puts it, “what is shared from a metaphysical point of view might yet be chalked up to individual responsibility from a moral point of view” (xxix). And, in the other direction, libertarian free choices and some of the philosophical grounding difficulties that such open options create, appear even in Augustine’s later works, for example predominating his discussion of the efficient cause of evil in The City of God XII (2003, 477–81). 13 However, regardless of whether Augustine can easily be identified as affirming either libertarian or compatibilistic free will, he recognizes God’s grace shown to somehow-free agents, thereby giving them the
opportunity to be great by loving God, even though they have the ability to sin. This serves Augustine’s model primarily by underlining the penal character of evil, whether or not moral blameworthiness is compatible with determinism. This is simply to say that although both the libertarian and the compatibilist will understand the metaphysical situation differently, their moral assessment of a sinful agent’s depraved condition will ultimately agree, meaning that one more facet of evil on Augustine’s view should be recognized: its function as a tool for righteous punishment of sin. The possible retributive function of evil follows a line of thinking exemplified well by Augustine’s recognition of a certain element of beauty in death; in The City of God XIII, Augustine explains why sin leads to death for all people, even those who are forgiven of their sins and justified in God’s sight: in light of Christ’s victory over death, “it is not that death has turned into a good thing . . . [but] . . . that God has granted to faith so great a gift of grace that death, which all agree to be the contrary to life, has become the means by which men pass into life” (2003, 514). This is why examples of so-called “natural” evils are nothing of the sort to Augustine; actions or events such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and disease are not attributable to the sinful choice of a human agent, but stem directly from the perfect God who may use their evilness for a variety of good reasons, including as a means to administer the “just deserts” for freely chosen sins. This means that either, as mentioned in the previous section, we may not know the reasons why God would allow such devastation (but must rest in the comfort of His perfect love and goodness), or we can recognize God’s victory over even life’s greatest enemy to bring the beauty of justice to His Creation—that second option, to Augustine at least, “precisely because it follows from and gives expression to the divine justice, needs no theodicy” (Babcock 1988, 31). Without question, a free will approach to theodicy, grounded in the definition of evil as a privation, has been one of the most historically influential elements of Augustine’s model. 14 It is a powerful one: many of Ivan Karamazov’s complaints can find a response in blaming the free human agents who chose to create such evils. Consequently, many readers of Augustine discover his privation + free-will theodicy to be sufficient enough for their apologetic purposes and simply stop reading, thereby failing to discover the final, and most important, piece of Augustine’s theodicy—the element that allows Augustine to consistently maintain that “God, who is supremely good in his creation of natures that are good, is also completely just in his employment of evil choices in his design, so that whereas such evil choices make a wrong use of good natures, God turns evil choices to good use” (2003, 448–9).
SOMETHING AESTHETIC: THE POETIC JUSTICE OF PANKALIA If the goal of the theodicist is simply to give God a sliver of logical possibility within which He might feasibly coexist with evil then the above elements of Augustine’s framework will be sufficient: no one creates evil for it is a privation and evil actions are brought about by free, evil actors—not by God. But Augustine, like Ivan Karamazov, was not satisfied with this anemic description of God’s goodness and endeavored instead to explain not merely the origin of evil, but why a good God would allow such evil to continue to exist after the fact. Whereas some thinkers have suggested that God is required to assume such a posture for the sake of respecting free will, Adams (1999) quite rightly criticizes the idolatry of such a notion, sarcastically decrying the idea that “personal agency [is] sacrosanct, holy ground on which not even God may tread uninvited without violation” (33). Instead, Augustine ties his famous free-will defense up in a bow of aesthetic themes that, much like holiday wrapping paper, are often ignored for the sake of the prize inside. This ignorance is unsurprising, for the aesthetic notion in Augustine’s theodicy is difficult for post-Enlightenment thinkers to affirm, committed as many are to a Humean fact/value dichotomy. Augustine, however, writing as he was during the period when what has been called “the unity of transcendentals” reigned supreme, saw the true head of the Great Chain of Being as the unification of every property worth possessing. To say that God is the pinnacle of Creation, in Augustine’s mind, is to affirm that God is, metaphysically speaking, the limit of each superlative quality that subsequently applies to all other categories of existence—God is, in an ontologically definitive way, all goodness, all truth, and all beauty; these are “instantiated in a primary and privileged way in God, and instantiated in a derivative way in God’s creation” (Goris and Aertsen 2013). When the Neoplatonic concept of plenitude 15 that recognizes Creation as good in virtue of its fullness and variety is added to this framework—the variety made possible by the graded variance of existence—Augustine is then primed to make his case against Ivan Karamazov that, all things considered, the world is genuinely beautiful. As was common in Late Antiquity, Augustine demonstrated a marked appreciation for symmetry and the contra-position of opposites that led him to champion a definition of beauty as that which integratively weaves good and bad elements together into a harmonious symphony that is not beautiful in spite of its dark strokes, but because of them (1953 252–3; 2003, 449; see also Slotkin 2004). In much the same way that Rembrandt’s paintings, Bartok’s études, or Cantonese cuisine combines dissonant elements to synergistically create something beautiful, Augustine’s understanding of beauty was focused on contrast, but one that can only be appreciated from the proper, distanced perspective; as he says, “A picture may be beautiful when it has touches of black in the appropriate
places; in the same way the whole universe is beautiful, if one could see it as a whole, even with its sinners, though their ugliness is disgusting when they are viewed in themselves” (2003, 455–6). To myopically view a chiaroscuro painting from mere inches away would trivialize a given brushstroke’s contribution to the overall aesthetic effect of the interplay between light and dark; in much the same way, to focus on the experience of a given fraction of the universe—however bad it may appear— limits one from appreciating the derivative beauty that suffuses all of the Beatific God’s Creation. 16 Finite creatures such as ourselves, however, often cannot help but focus on the given fraction of Creation that appears most readily to us— particularly when the visceral pain of ourselves or others demands our attention. This is certainly Ivan Karamazov’s complaint: his inability to rationalize the immense suffering of an apparently innocent child leaves him hamstrung to approach any God who could allow such a thing. At this point, Augustine can be fairly criticized for failing to meet such existential questions; as Tallon (2012) points out, Augustine’s hope of “perfect harmony evades our vision and fails to connect with much of how we experience the world” (131–2). However, Augustine would likely point out not only that logically consistent answers are not always personally satisfying, but that a single actor in Creation should not selfishly expect to understand all of the Grand Design. 17 However, Augustine’s aesthetic theodicy does grant him more explanatory power than some contemporary theodicists who wish to starkly divide a “logical” sphere of explanation for evil from an “emotional” one. 18 Not only does Augustine’s answer simultaneously touch, however briefly, on both spheres, but it does so in a manner that allows him to easily fold in one final concern: the moment-by-moment aesthetic triumph of righteous judgment for sin. Given that sin is not merely an offense against God’s law, but is a degrading perversion of one’s self further down the Great Chain of Being, 19 Augustine’s understanding of justice becomes something more than a mere penal debt and instead offers an opportunity for Creation to poetically display a darker brushstroke, automatically redeeming, at least in part, even the worst life has to offer. With a definition of beauty as the harmony of opposites, Augustine’s theodicy allows God to easily “send rain on the just and the unjust,” condemning sinners to floods, famines, and plagues, and to still genuinely work all things for good; His ultimate, transcendental purpose is always meant to be something harmonious. Whether free creatures provide depraved elements of Creation for the Grand Artist at the top of the Chain to paint with (thereby absolving the Artist for the blame of those evil acts) or whether the Artist himself is structuring painful experiences as moment-by-moment “just deserts” for those free choices, the ultimate product is something beautiful.
Consequently, Augustine’s aesthetic themes of contrast and harmony allow him to recognize the frequent painfulness of the human experience alongside its happier moments in a manner that some Pollyannaish fideism cannot accomplish. Augustine’s is the God who says to the prophet Isaiah “I form light and create darkness / I make well-being and create calamity / I am the LORD who does all of these things,” (45: 7, ESV) not denying that calamity exists, but instead recontextualizing such suffering to highlight God’s ability to effect a glorious triumph out of even those darkest moments. Genuine pankalia (“universal beauty”) proclaims God not simply as an Artist of Evil, but as its Conqueror, negating whatever destructive power it possesses by His subjugation of it to His will. As David Bentley Hart (2005, 163) wrote in a response worth quoting at length to the deadly 2004 tsunami in India and Southeast Asia: To say that God elects to fashion rational creatures in his image, and so grants them the freedom to bind themselves and the greater physical order to another master—to say that he who sealed up the doors of the sea might permit them to be opened again by another, more reckless hand—is not to say that God’s ultimate design for his creatures can be thwarted. It is to acknowledge, however, that his will can be resisted by a real and (by his grace) autonomous force of defiance, or can be hidden from us by the history of cosmic corruption, and that the final realization of the good he intends in all things has the form (not simply as a dramatic fiction, for our edification or his glory, nor simply as a paedagogical device on his part, but in truth) of a divine victory. (63)
This is precisely why Augustine would argue that God “judged it better to bring good out of evil than to allow nothing evil to exist” (1999, 60). And, to adapt a phrase from Marilyn Adams (1999), to say of this beautiful victory that it “trivializes” the worst that this world has to offer would seem, to Augustine, to reflect an insufficient appreciation of what “beautiful” really means (189). SOMETHING PROBLEMATIC This is not to say, however, that Augustine reached some unassailable position with his theodicy that renders it immune to criticism. As already mentioned, Ivan Karamazov’s angst over the phenomenology of suffering may not be existentially satisfied (even though it is logically answered) by Augustine’s appeal to God’s overall goal of pankalia. In the short space remaining, two other important criticisms to Augustine’s position shall be considered: its prima facie inability to respond to Marilyn Adams’ concern for horrendous evils and its apparent incompatibility with the Augustinian affirmation of a sinner’s eternal conscious torment in Hell.
Firstly, Augustine’s perspectival shift away from a given person’s life experiences to the overall beauty of the universe as a whole does grate against Adams’ concern for life-ruining experiences of individual agents (what she dubs “horrendous evils”); as she argues in reference to Augustine’s Great Chain of Being, “What participants in horrors are suggesting is that horrendous evil so caricatures Godlikeness at the top level as to defeat the positive value of the bottom level, indeed provides weighty reason for them to wish that their lives—prima facie so ruined and/or ruinous to others—had never occurred” (1999, 42). Although some of her concerns about the cumulative, rather than the atomistic, effect of harms is blunted by a fuller appreciation of God’s omniscience (40), 20 her primary concern for the individual is, admittedly, not a question that Augustine was seeking to answer. Had Augustine been responding, like many later theodicists, to a particular event rather than a worldview like Manicheanism, he may well have tuned his attention in the more personal direction with which Adams is concerned. Understandably, this suggestion does more to contextualize than excuse Augustine’s oversight and the apparent force of Adams’ point here is sufficient for her to simply lay claim to this beachhead and move on in her argument. And while Augustine’s universal perspective would certainly not require God to “return horror for horror” to individuals as Adams suggests (41), 21 her conclusion that God must achieve victory over evil “or at least evils of horrendous proportions within the context of each individual’s life” makes sense (43). Augustinian soteriology, however, is certainly far from universalistic; Augustine spends many a page in a variety of works describing how “perpetual death of the damned which is separation from the life of God will last forever and will be the same for all, whatever views people may have because of their human feelings concerning varieties of punishment or alleviation or interruption of suffering” (1999, 134; see also 2003, 964–1021). Hohyun Sohn (2007) brings Augustine’s aesthetic concerns into conversation with John Hick’s classic work on the subject to conclude that “whatever gain there may be in Augustine’s aesthetic theodicy of harmony is outweighed by the idea of hell as a permanent feature of the universe,” on the grounds that an infinite amount of suffering could never equally counterbalance even a full and unbroken lifetime of sin (53). While this charge once again is operating on a more personal level than where Augustine was focused, it still deserves a response. Regarding the notion that an individual’s eternal consignment to Hell could never equally offset his finite collection of sins, the traditional position has argued that “the reprobate continue to sin in hell and thus accrue guilt that warrants further punishment” (Bawulski 2010, 70). Unsatisfied with this self-perpetuating view of hellbound sinners, Andy Saville (2005) has argued for the eventual “reconciliation and the glorification of God by the damned” insofar as they “come to recognize the justice, and
true awfulness, of their state” (257; see also Blocher 1993, 310). Although it does not quite reach the level of individual balance that either Sohn or Adams is seeking, Augustine would likely gravitate towards this latter view, perhaps allowing us to once again blunt the force of Sohn’s criticism while still recognizing the point being made. 22 ALYOSHA’S RESPONSE For better and for worse, St. Augustine’s theodicy has been firmly cemented for centuries as a wellspring for Christian theodicy. His definition of evil as the privatio boni is often assumed in scholarly conversations about the topic and his free-will defense of sinful evil (as well as God’s justified punishment of said sins) has become standard fare both inside and outside of the academy. Notably, his aesthetic themes, though not given the same level of consideration, are equally important to a consistent reading of his project: God’s pursuit of pankalia is the only thing that rationally undergirds his allowance of freely chosen evil actions. Ultimately, this means that Augustine’s final answer to Ivan Karamazov looks remarkably similar to the response actually given by Ivan’s brother Alyosha in the pages of The Brothers Karamazov: after a heated conversation with his brother culminates in a powerfully poetic metaphor (Dostoevsky’s famous parable of the “Grand Inquisitor”), Alyosha’s final argument is not a sentence, but an action: he kisses his brother in a tender display of love and affection. Whatever criticisms may be brought fairly against Augustine’s system, his goal is undoubtedly to devotedly proclaim and intellectually defend the God to whom he prayed “Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee” (1955, 224). So, although Ivan’s rebellion sparked a famous debate, one need not assume the role of his Grand Inquisitor in the face of the world’s evil. Instead, we might paint ourselves into the position of Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin, whose childlike faith mirrors the young Augustine’s own journey into Christianity. And when The Idiot’s prince is said to have proclaimed that “Beauty would save the world” (Dostoyevsky 2003, 382) the bishop of Hippo would simply smile and nod. NOTES 1. See also (1955, 32–3). 2. For more on the Great Chain of Being see Lovejoy (1976). 3. See also Augustine (1955, 148). 4. As Adams (1999) says, “For Christian Platonists (such as Augustine, Anselm, and Bonaventure), God is Goodness Itself, once again, the perfect integration of Justice, Truth, and Beauty. For everything else, to be is to be somehow Godlike, to participate in, to imitate or reflect Beauty itself” (140).
5. Specifically, see Plotinus (1930, 165). 6. As in Lee (2007) “there will be bad things and bad acts, but to call them ‘bad’ will mean either that they have a privation in them, or that they cause privation” (488). 7. Conversely, if the woman had been hypnotized, brainwashed, or controlled in some other way such that she was forced by another to stab her victim, then the woman would still not be guilty of murder. 8. See also Sontag (1967, 301). 9. As in (2010a): “For just as a wandering horse is better than a stone that does not wander off because it has no perception or movement of its own, so too a creature that sins through free will is more excellent than one that does not sin because it does not have free will” (84). 10. See Couenhoven (2007) for one excellent presentation of this perceived shift. 11. See (2010b, 127–33). 12. See also (2010a): “But since we cannot rise of our own accord as we fell of it, let us hold on with firm faith to the right hand of God stretched out to us from above, namely our Lord Jesus Christ” (71). 13. In particular, see Augustine’s consideration of two men of identical dispositions who freely respond differently to the beauty of a woman’s body (2003, 478–9). 14. Adams (1999, 32–55) gives an excellent overview of how this concept can be traced through the thinking of such powerhouses as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Jerry Walls, Eleonore Stump, and (by way of opposition) John Hick. 15. The classic definition of plenitude found in Lovejoy (1976) is helpful here: “The thesis that the universe is a plenum formarum in which the range of conceivable diversity of kinds of living things is exhaustingly exemplified . . . that no genuine potentiality of being can remain unfulfilled, that the extent and the abundance of the creation must be as great as the possibility of existence and commensurate with the productive capacity of a ‘perfect’ and inexhaustible Source, and that the world is the better the more things it contains” (52). 16. As in (1953): “All have their offices and limits laid down so as to ensure the beauty of the universe. That which we abhor in any part of it gives us the greatest pleasure when we consider the universe as a whole” (264). Augustine points out that judging a building based on a single angle or the beauty of a person based solely on their hair would be fruitless—he deigns to apply the same logic to Creation in all its fullness. 17. See, once again (2003, 453–4). 18. Of the sort that Adams (1999, 14) rightly criticizes under the abstract/concrete distinction. 19. Concerning sin as a reorientation of one’s priorities, see Babcock (1988): “It is an act of self-deprivation because, in turning from God to self, the will deprives itself of the divine light in which it could see and understand and abandon(s) the fire of the divine love with which it could love its supreme good, the true source and goal of its fulfilment” (42). 20. Which is simply to say that her concerns over imprecision in the just retribution for cumulative harms should not be problematic for an omniscient being. 21. From a universal perspective, there is no necessary requirement for all individual wrongs to be proportionally repaid in kind provided that those wrongs contribute to pankalia. 22. I say this following Blocher (1993, 291), given that Augustine clearly affirms eternal punishment for the damned.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1999. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Augustine. 1890. “Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean.” In Augustin: The Writings of the Manichaeans and Against the Donatists, translated by Alfred H. Newman. Grand Rapids: Christian Literature Publishing Company. Augustine. 1953. Of True Religion. In Augustine: Earlier Writings, translated by John H. S. Burleigh. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Augustine. 1955. Confessions. In Confessions and Enchiridion, translated and edited by Albert Outler. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Augustine. 1999. The Augustine Catechism: The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity. Translated by Bruce Harbert. Hyde Park: New City Press. Augustine. 2003. City of God. Translated by Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin. Augustine. 2010a. On the Free Choice of the Will. In On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings, translated and edited by Peter King. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Augustine. 2010b. “Retractions.” In On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings, translated and edited by Peter King. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Babcock, William S. 1988. “Augustine on Sin and Moral Agency” Journal of Religious Ethics 16(1): 28–55. Bawulski, Shawn. 2010. “Annihilationism, Traditionalism, and the Problem of Hell.” Philosophia Christi 12, no. 1: 61–79. Blocher, Henri. 1993. “Everlasting Punishment and the Problem of Hell.” In Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, edited by Nigel M. de S. Cameron, 283–312. Grand Rapids: Paternoster. Couenhoven, Jesse. 2007. “Augustine’s Rejection of the Free-Will Defence: An Overview of Late Augustine’s Theodicy” Religious Studies 43(3): 278–298. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. 1966. The Brothers Karamazov. New York: Airmont Publishing. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. 2003. The Idiot. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larrisa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage. Goris, Wouter and Jan Aertsen. 2013. “Medieval Theories of Transcendentals.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford. edu/archives/sum2013/entries/transcendentals-medieval Hart, David Bentley. 2005. The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans. Lee, Patrick. 2007. “Evil as Such is a Privation: A Reply to John Crosby” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 81(3): 469–488. Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1976. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Plantinga, Alvin. 1998. “The Free Will Defense.” In The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader, edited by James F. Sennett. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans. Plotinus. 1930. The Enneads. Translated by Stephen MacKenna. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd. Saville, Andy. 2005. “Hell without Sin—A Renewed View of a Disputed Doctrine” Churchman 119(3): 243–261. Slotkin, Joel. 2004. “Poetic Justice: Divine Punishment and Chiaroscuro in Paradise Lost” Milton Quarterly 38(2): 100–127. Sohn, Hohyun. 2007. “The Beauty of Hell?: Augustine’s Aesthetic Theodicy and Its Critics” Theology Today 64: 47–57. Sontag, Frederick. 1967. “Augustine’s Metaphysics and Free Will.” Harvard Theological Review 60: 297–306. Tallon, Philip. 2012. The Poetics of Evil: Toward an Aesthetic Theodicy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
FIVE On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence Plantinga on Tooley’s New Evidential Argument from Evil Edward N. Martin
In the recently published book Knowledge of God, co-authors Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga (2008) are something more than mere sparring partners as they attempt to sort out the questions, “How can we know about God?,” and “Can we know, or justifiedly have grounds for, the non-existence of God?” After surveying many of the traditional reasons drawn from analytic philosophy of religion for thinking that God doesn’t exist, including the claim that the concept of God is incoherent, unsurprisingly Tooley offers an evidential argument from evil. And it is a doozy: of Tooley’s positive presentation for the justification of the belief in the non-existence of God, Tooley’s new evidential argument from evil takes up about 53–54 pages (97–150 or so). Perhaps this is a sort of touché to Plantinga’s (1979) “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil,” weighing in at about 53 pages (1–53). Nonetheless, Tooley (1991) had developed the first iteration of this argument in “The Argument from Evil,” and now he presents a more advanced version of the argument from evil that hinges much more explicitly upon a certain interpretation of inductive logic. Tooley declares that William Rowe’s (1991) modified non-Bayesian version of the evidential argument from evil is not successful, and he tries to show why he thinks that, as well as to give his own version that supposedly goes beyond Rowe’s and corrects it or avoids some of its pitfalls. 85
There simply are too many points in Tooley’s main presentation (stretching over some 70 pages) of his atheological arguments to lay out and critique here. So, I will focus on Tooley’s new evidential argument from evil, and especially on a central key aspect of it. One main component of Tooley’s multi-layered, complex argument is his reliance upon a principle he calls the Symmetry Principle with Respect to Unknown, Rightmaking and Wrongmaking Properties (2008, 129). I intend to summarize Tooley’s argument, showing that Plantinga’s (2008, 173) quickly dispatched “agnostic” probability assignment to Tooley’s principle is probably sufficient to dispel Tooley’s argument. However, I go further here to offer two (brief) critiques against Tooley’s argument. Tooley speaks of rightmaking and wrongmaking properties counterbalancing each other. This argument seems to ignore the conclusion that Chisholm taught us long ago, viz., that the issue of how good, evil or neutral states of affairs might come together to justify God’s allowance of some evil is a matter of defeat, that is, that the total value of an organic whole is not necessarily equal to the sum of the value of the constitutive parts in the whole. I will try to develop this and show why this insight from G. E. Moore is so valuable here. Second, there is no reason to accept Tooley’s (132) premise (a), that there are always opposing principles of good and evil that could counterbalance each other. This doesn’t follow at all for the theist because it is reasonable to believe that it is impossible that there be an omnipotent, omnimalevolent being and, because, I shall argue, of the conception of God as a good, and omnipotent, being. ASSUMPTIONS It is important to lay out a number of assumptions as we begin. When Tooley speaks of God in the context of his evidential argument from evil, he intends to limit his conception of the classical God to mean a being who has the classic three omni-properties, viz., a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect (OOMP). It is common here to mention as well that God has the property of being “creator of the world.” It may be that Tooley thinks that some theists will perhaps say that God is not the creator of the world (perhaps he has Deists like Antony Flew in mind here, but even in Deism, God is still creator of the world but simply not the providential power within the history of the world). More likely Tooley is reasoning that the Pr (OOMP/Evil in the world) is going to be higher than any other top-heavy theoretical elements you build in, since whatever one builds in, there is going to be less than a probability of 1 that that property is had by God. So, Pr (OOMP/Evil) > Pr (OOMP&C [where C=Creator of the world]/Evil). But there is another basic, often thought to be essential property of the classical Theistic concept of God that Tooley doesn’t mention—but Plan-
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
tinga surely does. This property is that God enjoys necessary existence, that is, that God exists at all possible worlds. In other words, God is not contingent, but God is a necessary being: this means that God is not just a being who happens to exist in a few worlds, and we happen to be at a world in which God also exists. Rather, it’s the notion that God couldn’t so much as not exist; His non-existence is impossible. But if God exists necessarily, this will likely have a vast affect on the way in which we view probabilities since the logical probability that God exists would either be Pr=1 or Pr=0. As we will see in Tooley’s new evidential argument from evil, God’s being necessarily existent would throw a wrinkle into things, because if God were necessarily existent, then God would be necessarily existent and necessarily good, since if God had essential properties in all worlds, then it seems to follow that to be God (the same referent in all worlds), God would have to have all those properties in each world. I rather gather from Tooley’s examples that he conceives of the concept and being of God in some fundamentally different ways from the Theist. For example, when Tooley treats the so-called Paradox of Omnipotence, he describes why he thinks ultimately the paradox dissolves (2008, 87). He envisages the omnipotent being, O, as acting at some moment of time (call it time-1) to create a stone that no one will be able to lift it once it’s created (say, at time-2), not even O. Employing the widely accepted Humean principle that a cause and its effect cannot happen simultaneously, Tooley says that O, who can perform the action of making a very heavy stone that no one can lift, must be said either to commit deicide, or to continue to exist but cease to be (presumably at about time-2 or so) omnipotent. Tooley quickly notes that an omnigood being is likely not to act in such a way so as to destroy himself or cause his own non-existence, but nonetheless Tooley sees no contradiction in this possible act description. Thus, he thinks, the Paradox of Omnipotence disappears. But surely this line of reasoning, this method of saving the phenomena regarding this famous paradox of all-potency, would constitute a Pyrrhic victory that the theist would avoid like the plague. The theist may of course accept the Humean causal principle that Tooley keenly utilizes; however, there is an easier way here for the theist viz., just argue that the act description of the omnipotent being bringing about a stone that no one can in turn lift is in fact a contradictory state of affairs, and since we don’t hold it against an omnipotent being for not being able to perform the logically impossible, there again (but for better reasons, I think) there is no Paradox of Omnipotence. At any rate, the point to see is that the Theist isn’t going to buy Tooley’s line of reasoning; the Theist will prefer to bank on the idea that it is logically impossible for an essentially necessarily existent, omnipotent person to commit deicide. Let us merely bear some of these points in mind as we proceed, for they will help us understand some of our criticisms of Tooley’s objective probability later on.
TOOLEY’S PROPADEUTIC: AN A PRIORI ARGUMENT AGAINST THEISM? In this section, I discuss Tooley’s evidential argument from evil, which takes up a big bulk of his 70-page section of his first presentation, as I have mentioned. Before the argument, however, Tooley tries to give an argument to establish that atheism is the default position, and thus that any Theist has to give some positive grounds for believing in theism. He argues in this fashion. The following three propositions are all equally likely: a. an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good being exists; b. an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly evil being exists; c. an all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally neutral being exists. Tooley realizes that there would be a continuum of shading of levels of goodness and evilness from fully good to indifferent to fully evil. But Tooley thinks that these other concepts are more theoretically top-heavy and thus would have a significantly lower prior probability. He thus thinks these three [(a)-(c)] big possibilities are the three to really look at. But of course, he reasons, two out of three of them entail that the allperfectly beneficent being does not exist. This means that the a priori likelihood of God existing is thus no more than 1/3. Thus, even before we reach out for any positive reasons for believing in theism, we have good reason to believe that theism is false. “Atheism is,” Tooley thus concludes, “the default position” (2008, 90). There are many lines of response we may pursue here, including wondering about the particular (and particularly strange and wonderful) concept of a priori probability that Tooley is pursuing here. Tooley makes it clear in this book, with ample illustrations, that he is using the inductive logical apparatus of Rudolf Carnap (see Carnap 1962). As well, Tooley’s inference that since theism (in his framing of the problem here) has a prior probability of 1/3, the probability of atheism is thus at least 2/3, is faulty, since the state of being nontheistic does not entail that that state is in fact atheistic. That is, there are several other worldviews besides just theism and atheism, so that it would not necessarily be the case that Pr (atheism) = 1—Pr (no atheism); Tooley’s first step here regarding a priori probabilities seems unacceptable as is. But deeper issues loom large here. For consider: let us examine whether (b) is even logically possible, for that matter, whether (c) is even logically possible. First on (b): What does Tooley mean by his saying that it is possible for there to be an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly evil being? As to what Tooley means by a perfectly evil person, he says that he doesn’t mean a person who has a full manifestation of all the vices as traditional virtue ethicists identify them, for example, one full of shirking cowardice, complete abandonment of any sense of moral or spiritual pro-
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
priety, and extreme laziness. Rather, he has something like a Lex Luthor type of person in mind, but with the qualities infinitized as it were in excelsis: The perfectly evil person is one who is perfectly malevolent. And concerning this concept, Tooley reports that it seems to him that the concept of a perfectly malevolent person is neither more nor less problematic than its counterpart here, viz., the concept of a morally perfect being endowed with all goodness (2008, 90). But I disagree with Tooley here. I do believe that the concept of a perfectly evil being, interpreted as a perfectly malevolent person, is logically incoherent, because it appears to my lights that if being B were perfectly evil, He would be bent on destroying all things, including himself. If he had all-power, he would in fact, when measured from any particular time, t1, in the space of time surrounding this being’s life history, have already destroyed himself. If he were perfectly evil and had all knowledge and all power, then He would have destroyed himself as close to his beginning as one wishes: in fact, it appears that such a being would have destroyed himself from eternity past (if he is eternal), or in the first moment at his existence (if he is everlasting or comes into being). For if the being destroyed himself only after x number of years, then I can imagine an even more evil being, who destroys himself even more quickly than that. And, importantly, given Tooley’s argument for the coherence of the notion of ‘omnipotence,’ cited above, he seems to think it is coherent that a perfectly evil person could in fact bring about his own destruction (even though, as omnipotent, one might pause to affirm that this is really a live possibility). Thus, the concept seems to fall in upon itself, so that it becomes impossible for an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly evil being to exist at all, or, at least, for anything but one insignificant, temporal moment. We should keep in mind here—and this is a not insignificant point against Tooley’s prior probability argument we are now criticizing—that if a being is to be truly “omnipotent,” it means that that being must have direct access to the things or events or persons that exist at all times. If to be omnipotent, in other words, is (in Aquinas’s terminology, with slightly implicit things made explicit) for a being to be able to do all things that are logically possibly able to be done, and that are not inconsistent with other essential attributes, then one could not be omnipotent without having access to such metaphysical states, substances, persons, or events at all times unless one exists either at all times, or, in an eternal now that had access to all times from one’s atemporal standpoint. So, if this line of reasoning is right, then for any being to be omnipotent, it follows that being must be omnitemporal, or everlasting, or atemporally eternal (or some best conceivable mixture of these temporal/eternal options). Thus, if the old saying that “Power corrupts, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely” is correct and applies to omnipotent, omniscient, non-morally perfect beings—covering Tooley’s omnipotent perfectly evil being as well as his omnipotent morally neutral being—, it seems to follow
that in any state in which one did not have a steady, morally perfect reason for not ending one’s own existence, sooner or later there would be a sufficient reason for ending one’s existence. In the case of a morally perfectly evil being, this being would be bent on destruction, including of one’s own being, and thus would use one’s omnipotent power to destroy oneself (and would do so immediately—in at most a split second after one’s existence). In the case of a morally neutral being one wonders if a non-morally perfect being wouldn’t again enter into a path of moral regression that would inevitably lead one into the moral and in turn the ontological destruction of oneself. For a morally neutral being, this might result from not having an omnipotent, morally perfect means and will to remain morally steadfast and non-destructive, or, it could simply mean that such a being would not see the intrinsic good of surviving, the worth of surviving—which could lead to the destruction of that being, since the being would not have a sufficient reason to exist, but would have sufficient power to bring about its own non-existence. Here a modal distinction may be enough to prove the point, since (supposing such a concept to be logically coherent for the moment) a morally neutral omnipotent being would at least have the possibility of bringing about its non-existence. But it seems that we can strengthen our reasoning above. For an omnipotent being would not only have to exist at all times to be omnipotent, but it would, arguably, also have necessarily to exist at all times (or over all times in an eternal now). For, if it did not have this modally necessary qualitatively rich property of necessary omnipotence, then it would lack some power, and thus not be omnipotent, viz., it would lack the power of having power over (which minimally is being translated as having metaphysical “reach” to, or access to) all actual and possible persons, states of affairs, events, and times, and thus would fall short, in essence, in omnipotent power. This means that we now have a reductio argument against Tooley’s a priori argument which tries to show that atheism is the default position. For on the assumption that any omnipotent being would in fact necessarily exist at all times (or over all times), it follows that no necessarily omnipotent being can be less than morally perfect. What follows from all of this? The point to see is that Tooley’s reasoning that God’s existence has an overall logical probability of no more than 1/3 seems questionable at least and downright logically incoherent at worst. Tooley himself is bent on trying to establish that atheism is therefore the default position as a result of his a priori logical probability argument. But we must ask: where is the rule that says that one’s default position is not to be based on one’s total background knowledge, and is only to consult one’s use of a priori logical possibilities, rather than one’s propositional evidence, as well as nonpropositional cognitively-related evidence (such as the productions of the sensus divinitatis) for belief in one’s starting point? No reasons are given
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
for this, and I don’t think Tooley can provide any reasons, besides what are imposed by the rules he derives from his particular version of Carnapian logical probability. But why should we think that that version of logical probability should be the dominant one we accept? I see no reason why—and no compelling reason given by Tooley at all why—this should be the version of probability that we use. But suppose we play along with Tooley, and allow him his view of Carnap’s logical probability and then wonder about the a priori probability of the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being. I would be warranted to say, in light of my objections so far, that God’s prior probability is 1, since it seems (as I’ve just argued above) that (a) the logical probability of a hypothesis that is logically incoherent and thus logically impossible is 0, and (b) the prior probability of an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly malevolent being must therefore be 0, since the concept is incoherent and it is impossible for such a being to exist (or to exist for more than a certain very brief moment of time). Since any omnipotent being O must exist at all times, and the only way for this to occur is for O to possess moral perfection at all times of its existence, it therefore follows that Tooley’s claim that atheism is the default position is wrong. Actually, it appears that theism, in contrast to Tooley’s bold claim, is the default position, and that it is in fact incoherent to think that it is even logically possible for any omnipotent being to be less than morally perfect, and to be so at all times (or through all times) of its existence. This means that there are already significant trouble brewing for Tooley’s treatment of theism and atheism and the attempt Tooley makes to establish a pivotal step in his propaedeutic for his evidential argument from evil. Already the timbers are threatened; the lineaments of the structure seem already in danger of collapse. At any rate, Tooley’s initial argument that atheism is the default position is way off base, relying on two incoherent hypotheses, and thus is faulty. AN INTERLUDE ON TOOLEY’S ETHICAL FRAMEWORK In Tooley’s new formulation of a now-popular type of argument, Tooley distinguishes between abstract and concrete formulations of the evidential argument from evil (now “EAE”), and says he favors the concrete formulations. He says this is something that William Rowe (1979) contributed to the history of the presentation of the EAE, and he also says that he doesn’t like that Plantinga dwells too much on the abstract presentations of the EAE. Plantinga’s own conviction is that whenever one has concrete evils in one’s life that one considers, that that is issue is not a rational issue, but rather a matter for the existential or ‘religious’ problem of evil, calling not for philosophical arguments or reason, but rather for pastoral counseling.
Tooley’s formulation of the EAE is concrete, inductive, and deontological (2008, 98). It is concrete in that he elects to look not at evil, or the amount of evil, taken generally, which would be only an abstract consideration of evil in any possible world, but rather to point out that a single instance of an evil that appears to us is such that if God exists, God would not allow the evil to occur. Yet, the evil occurs, and therefore—what are we to conclude from that? In the 1950s and 1960s, the conclusion was that of a deductively valid argument: If God exists, then there is no evil. But there is evil. Therefore, God does not exist. But Plantinga showed in the 1970s in his famous Free Will Defense that the logical or deductive argument from evil fails: you cannot deduce from one single evil (e.g., one prideful glance or a nick on one’s skin while shaving) that it is impossible for God to exist. However, Tooley, following Rowe, argues that given some particularly horrendous evil, it is likely that God does not exist. Tooley will follow William Rowe in several points, and this is another point of imitation: One presents the EAE as a deductively valid argument, but then one realizes that in order to justify at least one of the premises, there must be a “factual premise,” and there will be an inductive move in trying to show that it is reasonable to believe that, based on things known and unknown to us, there does not exist a Theistic God since God did not intervene to stop this particular (concrete) evil action or event or state of affairs. Finally, Tooley’s argument is deontological. Tooley intends to show that some action or event or state of affairs has an “oughtness” about it, namely, that it is an action or event that, all things considered, an all-good God ought not permit to happen if He exists and is all-good. Again, by making the argument deontological, Tooley hopes to diminish the theist’s retort to the EAE that God may have reasons, unbeknownst to us, as to why He had to allow, for example, the Lisbon earthquake to happen. For consider. Suppose the theist is committed ahead of time to certain moral principles that state when a moral agent ought to, and ought not to, intervene in the affairs of others. How would this principle apply to God? This fact would help Tooley, perhaps, to force the Theist to acknowledge that if these basic moral principles were true, then this would severely limit the ways in which God could be justified in allowing certain evils. Tooley (1991) started this “deontological” argument in “The Argument from Evil.” In his (2008) presentation in Knowledge of God, he reshapes it and has obviously tried to reformulate the idea significantly in the intervening 18 years or so. Tooley in effect is trying to use what the theist says he is committed to—what we are committed to morally—in order to limit the possibilities of God’s having good reasons unknown to us that are sufficient to justify the allowance of the concrete evil. Then, by using logical probability, Tooley will maintain that is it a priori improbable that there is some unknown rightmaking properties so attached to
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
the evil at hand that God would have been justified in allowing that evil to transpire. In the past, many proponents of the evidential argument from evil, including Rowe, each of which gave what he calls an “axiological” formulation of the argument, failed because such an argument is lacking in some central tenet, according to Tooley. He claims that these axiological formulations usually fail in making explicit the manner in which not bringing about an intrinsically good state of affairs or eliminating an intrinsically evil state of affairs implies that one has fallen short in one’s moral action, thus placing one in a morally reprehensible state (2008, 105). Then, Tooley declares, the issue becomes that one such as Rowe must at that point refer to questionable moral principles or claims, and the Theist can simply beg off at that point and claim that the principle is false, or maneuver around the principle. So, Tooley’s insight is to build right into the relevant act descriptions of God’s allowing a certain evil act (without intervening to stop it from occurring) that since the action itself has known wrongmaking qualities, then this sets the action already on a trajectory against the moral perfection of God. Now Rowe and others have all acknowledged that God’s allowance of any particular evil act, if the Theist believes, for example, in a traditional “greater-good” approach to God’s allowance of evils, will always be matched up with some God-justifying reason—perhaps unknown to us—as to why God allowed that evil to occur. Tooley sees that if he builds in the wrongmaking quality of an action, then he can avoid getting waylaid by the theist who might stop to talk about abstract notions of ethical goodness or conceptions of intrinsic evil and intrinsic goodness and never get back onto the main particular evils again. The argument might get derailed in this fashion, Tooley thinks. He intends to impose the wrongmaking quality of the action, deontologically, from the get-go, so that no matter what moral theory the Theist holds, Tooley will be saying that God ought to prevent any action with known wrongmaking properties, unless there are outweighing unknown rightmaking properties that might justify God in permitting the evil in question. Tooley also holds that the occurrence of an earthquake, presumably one that takes innocent human lives, is one that has a wrongmaking property attached to it, which means that God would be (Tooley seems to be contending) prima facie morally wrong to allow such an event to occur (2008, 116). But is this approach much of an advance over what he claims is William Rowe’s formulation(s) of the evidential argument from evil? Tooley claims it is; I think there is merely a repackaging of the moral elements of the background and foreground elements in presentations of the evidential argument, such as we see in Rowe’s classic version. I fear that in both Rowe and Tooley, there is an attempt to ignore or sidestep the important properties of what G. E. Moore calls “organic unities,” or
organic wholes, which bear on how the intrinsic value of wholes are made up of parts of the whole, a complete value of which is known only by a mind sensitive and intelligent enough to comprehend all of the physical, psychological, social, relational, inter-personal, historical, spiritual, and moral dimensions of the states of affairs involved in the organic whole, which is a set of states of affairs taken together, and whose value, Moore states, is not necessarily equal to the (mere) summing up of the value of the parts of the whole (Moore 1971, 26). And which wholes are the ones that God would aim at? Where do these wholes stop, that is, what are the outer boundaries of the part-to-whole properties of wholes, such that the summing up of values of parts to whole stops there? Are there evils so bad that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnigood being cannot permit them simpliciter, evils which cannot be combined with any other possible arrangement of states of affairs such that the value of the whole defeats, to use Chisholm’s (1990) word, presumably at least for the person or the animal who suffers, the badness of the bad they endure? Are there goods which can remedy any allowed evil, in all of its multi-dimensional intrinsic, extrinsic and relational properties? Quite apropos to the case Tooley presents—as well as Rowe and most other arguments from evil—Moore comments lucidly: Whenever, therefore, we ask “What ought we [or insert: God] to do?” or “What ought we [or insert: God] to try to get?” we are asking questions which involve a correct answer to two others, completely different in kind from one another. We must know both what degree of intrinsic value different things have, and how these different things may be obtained. But the vast majority of questions which have actually been discussed in Ethics—all practical questions, indeed—involve this double knowledge; and they have been discussed without any clear separation of the two distinct questions involved. (26)
Moore goes on to state the principle of organic wholes or unities, that the value of a whole is not necessarily equal to the sum of the values of the parts of that whole. The portion of this discussion that seems to be missing in Tooley’s framework and analysis of his evidential argument from evil, an exposition and evaluation of which follows, is in his distinction between ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ wrongmaking and rightmaking properties. Tooley seems to treat such properties as essential, intrinsic properties of states of affairs. Again, perhaps this is right; however, the relational, overall value of those parts within a larger whole of which the part is a subset, is not necessarily equal to a mere summing up of, a counterbalancing of, goodmaking and wrongmaking properties, if Moore is right. So, while Tooley claims that his formulation of the evidential argument is “concrete,” “inductive,” and “deontological,” I think each of these claims needs to be assessed in view of the wider ethical framework of defeat (which the theist is more readily to adopt, it seems to me) versus the
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
language and conceptual analysis and usefulness of the counterbalancing and counterposing of states of affairs in this way. The warrant for this criticism may perhaps be sought by this statement: it may well be that Tooley’s approach is both too concrete (at places), and not concrete enough (at others). First, it seems his approach is too concrete, when it comes to the manner in which he believes we should envisage how states of affairs might simply interact with and “counterbalance” each other. If Moore is right, the overall value of wholes is not necessarily equal to the mere balancing and counterbalancing of values of goods and bads in a state of affairs. Tooley seems to indicate that we can think of the rightmaking and wrongmaking properties that we know of, and those we don’t know of (as we’ll see, below), as hermetically sealed properties intrinsic to the event, and that we may view these events and properties in a (what appears to be merely) synchronic fashion. But what of the diachronic properties involved with suffering? Indeed, there may be wrongmaking properties attached to the lasting damage or injury or permanent harm or psychological impairment that the presence of such properties bring. But one thinks here of Kant’s contention about the difficulty of framing a concept of “happiness,” since often the affairs of our lives keep us from slipping into other difficulties or immoral activities that good health or unimpairment might have allowed to us. Only “omniscience,” Kant concludes, could properly frame a concept of what would constitute our true “happiness” (1981, 28). Note that Kant says this abstractly; a fortiori how much would it require omniscience if (a) one had to consider the organic wholes involved here, constituted by all the parts of the wholes, and (b) one had to think of the individual happiness of each animal or person, taken individually, in a way I indicate, just below. But second, Tooley’s approach for those people or animals who suffer may not be concrete enough: we perhaps do well to consider the manner in which God, if God exists, cares for each animal or person who must endure suffering as a part of their lives in this world, commensurate to achieving whatever telos is proper to each of these species, in light of the depth of ingression of their awareness of their lives as lived and as felt and as being of value to themselves, that is, as a multidimensional function of a wide array of causes and effects, states and conditions, both evaluated by God and by the individual animal or person who has them, with that depth of feeling and awareness that is (again) commensurate with the actual equipment (cognitive, moral, spiritual, physical, etc.) each token individual possesses. Consider this reason why Tooley’s analysis is not concrete enough: It is quite likely we have all had some episodes of severe or intense suffering at one time or another in our lives. Interestingly enough, like Reid’s counterexample to Locke’s continuity of memory or consciousness argument, there are instances of intense suffering we have had that (1) we remember, at least to some degree of vividness, as having happened to
us, as well as instances of intense suffering we have had that (2) we do remember that occurred, but with no degree of vividness at all as having happened to us. Take an instance of suffering that was both intense but whose intensity is but, like Hume, “a pale copy” of the former “impression”—in fact, so pale so as to pale into insignificance. (In other words, we may remember that we suffered, but suppose what is currently not remembered by us is any trace of the vividness of the actual feeling of suffering or awareness of any trouble or unease or lasting effects that such suffering did or may have been feared to cause in us, etc.) The point is: we, and our lives, are made up of organic wholes, the value of which is not necessarily equal to the value of each of the parts of those wholes. There are parts of our lives the experiential depth of which we can recall, and parts of which we cannot. Take one of these instances in our very lives taken individually, very concretely speaking (and more concretely than Tooley has envisaged, I think). It seems that, given enough time, 1 any particular part of our life can become one that, in a later stage, we cannot recall with any sort of vividness what we enjoyed or what we suffered. We do have an enduring, strong sense, however, that we would not be able to be where we are presently at in our lives if it were not for the previous parts of our lives. Those parts are essential to us, they make up who we, and our lives, are. They are, drawing on an insight of Robert Adams (1987), part of our present identity. If they did not happen, we would not be the people we presently are; thus, we cannot wish away our previous pleasures or pains, since we would be wishing away our current selves, as it were, which seems self-defeating. To think this scenario out further, for example, beyond times in lives when an abrupt ending of one’s life is part of one’s experience, would require a concept of postmortem life and experience. If theism is true, this does not pose a difficulty, it seems; it is surely a possibility for an omnipotent being to obtain, which is all we need here. Here’s why I bring this up: according to Rowe’s account, this “good” I’ve described—the good of coming to a point in one diachronic life during which one declares that one’s life is a life worth living—is surely a “good we know of.” So, would this be a good as well that Tooley would call a known rightmaking property or an unknown rightmaking property? (For a fuller treatment of this, see Tooley as well as the introduction of these terms, below.) It’s not clear to me, and I think it’s not clear because Tooley, as I have tried to show here, has not properly taken into account the paradoxical (as Moore calls it) or transcending value of an organic whole, viz., the organic whole of a person’s entire life, including future experiences yet to be had (if theism is true), during which the finite person will have a chance to see themselves wholly as a diachronic being and to integrate past experiences, both remembered and not remembered, into one’s present identity or condition. If I have succeeded in anything in this section, it is to suggest some exploratory ways in which
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
Tooley’s particular approach that he signals is “concrete” is too concrete in some facets, but far from concrete enough in other facets, as I’ve indicated. As well, I think this criticism shows that the approach Tooley gives us in his argument (just below) is focused on synchronic elements but perhaps slim on diachronic evaluation—but that it is the later, diachronic whole that forms a second level value, as it were, being spread over and usually transcending the episodic, synchronic elements of our lives not necessarily equal to the sum of the values of the parts of those synchronic elements. Indeed, if this picture is right, the value of our lives seems to be different not just in degree, but kind, from the mere balancing and counterbalancing of values of the episodic parts of those lives. The limitations of our memory regarding the vividness of our (actual) past experiences provides good reason to believe that the value of our lives to ourselves as an integrated whole is not equal to those parts (some or even many of which may be episodically intrinsically evil). As well, it is reasonable to think each of us can conceive of times (in the future, or perhaps far in future) in a diachronic personal life, after significant sufferings have occurred, during which we take our lives as remembered and as known to be constituted by its earlier stages, and of this life say, that it is of great value to me, and is valuable as it has been lived and as it is so constituted, all things (as known to me) considered. 2 There would, of course, still be the question about why God had to allow the evils that were allowed; God has a good reason, given theism, for any evil God allows. Evil is still, that is, something of a problem. However, this approach I briefly describe above may severely attenuate the problem of the problem of evil, showing that there is a problem with the problem of evil—and particularly for one like Tooley’s where a deontological, concrete, snapshot-approach to the evaluation of said evils is episodically undertaken. TOOLEY’S NEW EVIDENTIAL ARGUMENT FROM EVIL In his concrete formula of the EAE, then, Tooley chooses to dwell on the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 in which some 60,000 people—men, women, and children—died. I will attempt to summarize elements of Tooley’s long argument (consisting of 20 premises and a conclusion), lay out an important principle of the symmetry of unknown values Tooley employs, and examine some of the justification that is offered for these moves. Tooley gives his evidential argument in two stages—not unlike William Rowe’s famous article—one having a deductive part, and another an inductive, probabilistic part. The first deductive stage is set up as a conditional proof, pivoting on some 3–4 putative necessary truths about God and God’s interventions in the world. The first general principle Tooley states, like Rowe’s second premise in his famous EAE, says that if
there is any action A the decision not to eliminate some condition C of which is counted as morally repugnant, then, ultima facie, God would never perform A. (Of course, given what I said above in the last section of criticism of Tooley’s set up for his EAE, one wonders at which time in the persons’ lives affected by some suffering they make these judgments about the value of such experiences to their lives. Timing is everything!—or may be quite crucially important here.) Now, Tooley plugs in the Lisbon earthquake, in which some 60,000 people lost their lives, for C, stating that God should have eliminated C if in fact not doing so would cause God to be morally repugnant, ultima facie. But if, per history, the earthquake happened, then this implies (by Tooley’s lights) that God, an omnipotent, omniscient, moral perfect being did not exist at the beginning of the Lisbon earthquake, and of course, then, at no other point as well. The logically necessary principles Tooley uses are intended to tie together God with a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect, and with God having to intervene to eliminate significant moral evils and whose non-elimination would impugn God’s moral perfection. In part two of his argument, Tooley gives us the probabilistic phase of his new evidential argument from evil. He introduces the concept of wrongmaking properties, the property brought about by (say) not eliminating a condition (or state of affairs) that brings upon widespread death, saying that it would give an agent the wrongmaking property of not eliminating known evils the occurrence of which would bring about the death of some 60,000 regular human beings. The fact that the earthquake took place indicates clearly that God did not elect to eliminate this evil. So, Tooley concludes that we do know this much: that there is in fact a known wrongmaking property, other things being equal, to the allowance of some state or condition that results in the death of about 60,000 regular human beings. The remaining probabilistic part of his argument, which employs Carnapian objective inductive logical theory, then tries to ferret out what the probabilities are that are known rightmaking properties, as well as unknown wrongmaking and unknown rightmaking properties of the case at hand. The action of not preventing an earthquake that kills thousands of people, Tooley says, has a deep, ethically repugnant property, not befitting a perfect being. At this stage, then, Tooley employs the different possibilities concerning known and unknown rightand wrongmaking properties. He offers a claim about our ethical knowledge and about this historical tragedy, saying, sounding like Rowe’s argument again, that no rightmaking properties we know of render us justified in believing that not preventing the earthquake would have brought those rightmaking properties about, and that the realization of those rightmaking properties would be enough to “counterbalance” the requisite wrongmaking property.
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
Tooley says we can say this premise more succinctly (preserving Tooley’s own numbering in what follows): (15) Any action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake has a known wrongmaking property such that there are no rightmaking properties that are known to be counterbalancing. (2008, 120)
One begins to sense that the end of the argument is drawing near, and at this point Tooley introduces a very bold claim, that ultimately will require him to introduce his “symmetry” principle, introduced still later. (16) For any action whatever, the logical probability that the total wrongmaking properties of the action outweigh the total rightmaking properties—including ones of which we have no knowledge—given that the action has a wrongmaking property that we know of, and that there are no rightmaking properties that are known to be counterbalancing, is greater than one half. (120)
Next, Tooley says that it is a necessary truth that if the complete package of wrongmaking properties of an action are stacked up against the complete package of rightmaking properties—and the balance falls to the wrongmaking side—then permitting or undertaking that action is ultima facie morally repugnant, sub-par, base and not fitting certainly for a morally perfect being. Let me simply insert here that given what I said in the last section, the idea of merely checking the balance of right and wrong in this sort of case seems to approach the values of individual, episodic, synchronic elements of one’s life experiences in a way that does not catch the depth of what it might mean to judge and assess the value of a human life diachronically, during which one makes sense of what one knows, and also comes to later stages of one’s life during which what one knows and remembers is different from earlier stages, and the organic value of this life that emerges for the person can be vastly different from what one would ever imagine given the synchronic evaluation of (say) a specific tragedy in history—much too abstract still to be of ultimate value-introspection and value-veridicality to the person who actually suffers. Tooley then concludes that, given the machinery of Carnapian objective probability he adopts, which fuels his introduction of the idea of the value of some likelihood being larger than 1/2 (see his premise 16, above), that for any action, the likelihood that the action would objectively be morally repugnant, ultima facie, given that there is some known badmaking property so attached, and no known good-making properties that would balance out the bad-making ones, has a probability figure of greater than 1/2. Finally, plugging in the specific action of God’s allowing the Lisbon earthquake, the objective probability of such, given that there are known bad-making characteristics of the earthquake, and no known good-mak-
ing qualities for is that balance out the bad-making ones, has a probability figure of greater than 1/2. Tooley then concludes that it then follows from (11) Its being the case that the Lisbon earthquake exists, and that any action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake is morally wrong, all things considered, logically entails that God did not exist at the very start of the Lisbon earthquake (119)
—the conclusion of the first part of his long argument—and from premises (18) If the logical probability of q, given p, is greater than one half, and if q logically entails r, then the logical probability of r, given p, is also greater than one half (121)
and (20) The logical probability that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake is morally wrong, all things considered, given that choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake has a wrongmaking property that we know of, and that there are no rightmaking properties known to be counterbalancing, is greater than one half (121)
the grand conclusion that: (21) The logical probability that God did not exist at the time of the Lisbon earthquake, given that choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake has a wrongmaking property we know of, and that there are no rightmaking properties known to be counterbalancing, is greater than one half (121).
The argument, Tooley claims, is valid, meaning that if all the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. However, Tooley then proceeds to say that in order for his argument to go through, there is an assumption of an ethical symmetry principle. In order to develop this, let us note Tooley’s use of the terms “rightmaking” and “wrongmaking” as they apply to the evaluation of his argument. The justification for Tooley’s argument: in the second part of his extended EAE, Tooley employs the concept of logical probability. Tooley seems to be eager to employ whatever means possible to say that God is morally to be impugned for not having prevented the Lisbon earthquake, and thus, by implication, that God does not exist. There is still, however, the issue of the possibility of an unknown rightmaking property that God’s action (his choosing not to intervene and stop the earthquake from happening) of permitting the earthquake may have such that that rightmaking property would be sufficiently robust to make the action of God’s allowing the earthquake to occur overall a morally permissible action. Here is where Tooley likes to employ his logical conception of probability.
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
He claims that with respect to the Lisbon earthquake, this action of God’s permitting the earthquake has known wrongmaking properties, and no known rightmaking qualities. In his reply, Plantinga says that there is, pace Tooley’s judgment, a very great rightmaking quality to the Lisbon earthquake, and that is that of God’s having permitting the earthquake to happen. (170–1). The old saying seems very applicable here: “One person’s modus ponens is another person’s modus tolens.” Plantinga’s response brings out the main reason why Tooley was trying to argue that atheism is the default position. By so arguing Tooley was attempting to stop the Theist from employing theoretical elements within the theistic view of things without first giving good reasons for thinking that theism is true, or at least without first showing that one is justified in believing that theism is true. One can also detect how Plantinga’s commitment to God as a necessary being means that for any action A God performs (e.g., the action of God’s permitting an earthquake to transpire), there must be some rightmaking property p that makes God’s performing A overall right, allowable, something the allowance of which will in no way objectively impugn God’s goodness. (For it really would follow that if God were to perform some action A by which, per impossibile, God would fail to be morally perfect, this would mean that God would cease to be God, or, more perspicuously, the person currently holding the office of God (say, Yahweh) would at that point no longer hold the office of God. No one would then hold that office, though Yahweh may continue to be, albeit not as a morally perfect being.) So, as a generalization, for any evil allowed to transpire in this world, there would be a known rightmaking property, then, found in God’s permission of any action with known wrongmaking properties attached to it, and there will likely be unknown rightmaking properties, as well, enough of which would allow God, with impunity, to choose to allow that evil to transpire. Tooley’s deontological argument from evil, then, uses the notion of logical probability at this point. By referring to the Lisbon earthquake, Tooley says that there are known wrongmaking properties attached to the action of allowing the earthquake to occur. Now, what are the possibilities with respect to what is unknown? There are four of them concerning the earthquake: a. the earthquake has known wrongmaking properties = KW of value -k; and unknown rightmaking properties = UR of value +n, such that -k is stronger negatively than UR n-value is positively. In this scenario, then, the unknown rightmaking qualities were not enough to make the action of allowing the earthquake overall a morally permissible thing. b. the earthquake has KW of value -k but a UR value of +n with n+ being more counterbalancing than -k, and driving the overall value of the action into the realm of being a morally permissible action.
c. the earthquake has KW of value -k, and the UR value is itself -n, and thus the action is even worse off than our already negative judgment of it. d. the earthquake has a KW value of -k, but it turns out there are not any relevant UR properties (or for that matter, UW properties). The principle “What you see is what you get” would apply in this possibility. So, in this case, the objective judgment would be that God’s allowing the earthquake has an objective a priori probability of 1/4. Therefore, granting all this machinery Tooley manipulates, and the descriptions he gives, and given the truth of a symmetry principle for his a priori probability fields to work out properly (see just below), it would be overall improbable that God existed at the time of the Lisbon earthquake, and thus, at any other time, as well. In order for this view of logical probability to have any grounding, Tooley realizes that a principle must be affirmed, and he calls this the Symmetry Principle with Respect to Unknown, Rightmaking, and Wrongmaking Properties. It states: [SP] Given what we know about rightmaking and wrongmaking properties in themselves, for any two numbers M and N, the probability of there being an unknown rightmaking property with a moral weight between M and N is equal to the probability of there being an unknown wrongmaking property with a (negative) moral weight whose absolute value is between M and N. (129)
What reasons are we given to accept SP? PLANTINGA’S REPLIES TO TOOLEY What does Plantinga say in reply to Tooley’s presentation of the EAE, and especially of Tooley’s Symmetry Principle? Of the latter, Plantinga says in rather short order, two things. First, of Tooley’s Symmetry Principle, that “it doesn’t seem particularly implausible. But of course that’s not at all the same as its seeming plausible. I can’t see how we could have any reason at all for thinking it true—or, for that matter, for thinking it false. How would we know?” (2008, 173). Tooley’s conclusion, according to the text, is housed in what Tooley eventually called his (C1), which is: (C1) If A is an action that, judged by known rightmaking and wrongmaking properties, is prima facie very seriously wrong, then the probability that action A is morally wrong, all relevant rightmaking and wrongmaking properties considered, both known and unknown, is greater than one half. (Plantinga, 173; citing Tooley 2008, 130)
Of this Plantinga remarks, “The right answer, I think, is that (abstracting from any evidence, inferential or noninferential, for G) C1 might be true
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
and it might be false; we don’t have any way of telling. The right attitude, here, is abstention, withholding belief” (173). But this means, then, Plantinga concludes, that Tooley’s EAE isn’t successful. “It doesn’t succeed in showing that (abstracting from whatever justifying evidence there is for G) the logical probability of G on the occurrence of the Lisbon earthquake is less than 1/2” (173–4). FURTHER CRITIQUES OF TOOLEY’S ARGUMENT So, we see that Plantinga’s rejection of Tooley’s Symmetry Principle [SP] comes down to Plantinga’s saying that while there is nothing in the principle that seems particularly implausible, still that is a far cry from seeing positive reasons for thinking Tooley’s SP is in fact plausible. This reasoning is probably enough to turn Tooley’s argument aside. I shall, however, go considerably further, providing a counter-instance to Tooley’s SP that I believe shows the principle to be false. In essence, my reply here is that from the Theistic point of view, and perhaps even to the lights of certain pre-Christian pagan authors such as Plato and Aristotle, goodness is the primitive, and evil is the falling away or the “privation” of good. Evil is always derivative: one cannot have evil without good present, but one can have goodness without evil present. This is yet another reason why an omnipotent, omniscient omni-good person seems a perfectly coherent concept, while an omnipotent, omniscient omni-evil person seems, again, as above, incoherent. If it is a good (and all camps seem to acknowledge this moral fact) for a person to preserve their own lives, then an omni-evil person would as quickly as possible end his own life. Being omnipotent, he’s have the ability to do it, and being omniscient, he’s have the know-how to do it, as well. And so for a theistically-charged world in which the eternal theistic God exists, God is the originative good, and it is logically impossible that there should be an “opposite” of God and His goodness. As Tooley himself says, there cannot be two omnipotent beings, for that is logically impossible. I take it that all probability conceptions worth their weight will agree that if some hypothesis is logically impossible, and we have good reason to think that it is, then the logical probability of that hypothesis is Pr=0. (It doesn’t follow that the epistemic probability is = 0, or that everybody agrees on the probability of such an hypothesis.) But Tooley would say: Yes, but my symmetry principle is only referring to the deontological principle of a rightmaking property, and saying that there is always an equal and opposite wrongmaking property in each instance of a rightmaking property. I challenge this, then, by saying there is a good we know of, a good we can conceive of, namely, face to face fellowship with God, or, even better, the Beatific Vision, and God’s permission of this action could have ex-
traordinary rightmaking properties that, for all we know, would counterbalance any wrongmaking action at all. And, of the Beatific Vision, we know it is logically impossible that there be a sort of “Spiderman-Venom”, counterpart evil and thus a counterpart, wrongmaking property of some being’s allowing this counterpart evil to transpire. But perhaps I have read the situation wrong here. Perhaps the issue is not whether there is a Super-Duper-Good, G1, being in the Beatific Vision of God almighty, which would counterbalance any conceivable evil and perhaps even any conceivable string of evils that any one human (or possibly, any sentient being whatsoever) might endure during whatever time duration (t1 through tn). Perhaps the issue is rather whether there is a very weighty rightmaking property of God’s permitting the Beatific Vision to some finite moral agent, and a counterpart wrongmaking property, not consisting of God’s not allowing the Beatific Vision to some finite moral agent, but God’s allowing the Beatific Vision to some maximally undeserving agent? I will return to this case just below. First, however, let’s carefully analyze Tooley’s SP. In the opening phrases of his SP, he states, “Given what we know about rightmaking and wrongmaking properties themselves . . .” (129). The point I would like to make here goes back to a similar devastating criticism that Paul Draper (1992) has made of William Rowe’s evidential argument from evil: in response to Rowe’s statement that “no goods we know of are such that they would justify God in allowing E1” (say, some terrible instance of moral evil), Draper replies that not only do we not know that our sampling of goods (i.e., “the goods we know of”) is representative of all the goods there are, but in fact we know that the sampling of goods we know of is not representative. In a similar way, Tooley opens his SP by referring to “what we know about rightmaking and wrongmaking properties themselves.” And so I ask: yes, and so why would we think, based on the limited amount of rightmaking and wrongmaking properties of which we are aware, that we have them all, or that principles we construct regarding all such properties, based only on “rightmaking and wrongmaking properties we know about,” would in fact be representative of all the rightmaking and wrongmaking properties there are simpliciter? Tooley seems to have overstepped his boundaries here. Second, let’s return to my example of the Beatific Vision. I claim it provides a potential rightmaking property with no corresponding wrongmaking property, showing Tooley’s SP to be not true. But what of, say, Kant’s (1981) point in the Grounding, that it would be wrong for an undeserving agent—say, a perennially cruel and distastefully unhappy person—, to be showered with good, and bounty, and blessings when really he should receive bane and punishment. Do not our intuitions agree with Kant 3 and say that it is possible for there to be a counterpart to the rightmaking property of a deserving agent being in the Beatific Vision of God, viz., there being an undeserving agent in the Beatific Vision of God?
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
If one says that God reveals Himself to whomever He wills, and drawing near to God would cause repentance and moral and spiritual cleansing to the n-most level, then it would be logically impossible for God to reveal Himself in the Beatific Vision to a person unprepared for the Beatific Vision. All who experience God in such an intimate way are undeserving; only God is essentially and originatively holy and necessarily so! (Any other being, say a great angel, might be holy, but only because made so by God through an act of fiat.) So, anyone who has an intimate Beatific vision of God will be there solely on the merit of God’s grace and love and other-directed alterity. “Against such things there is no law.” And once again aid from an earlier point might be gotten. For, just as to be truly omnipotent seems to entail being necessarily omnipotent, so also with morally perfection: to be morally perfect, one cannot have some part of one’s moral perfection that is willy-nilly accidentally the case: rather, to be morally perfect entails that one is necessarily morally perfect: that is, that one would have morally perfect intentions and thoughts, minimally, in every conceivably possible way the world could have gone, that is, at every possible world, that is, one has one’s moral perfection essentially, and, has power over (in the sense of control over in such a way that it would not cause the possessor of moral perfection to cease being morally perfect) every possible person, event, state, condition, or time. 4 Therefore, there is not, nor could there be, any logically corresponding opposite state to the now-existing logically necessary conditions for a created person to come into the Beatific Vision, to come into Union with God. This follows, for, in effect, there is no opposite moral property that is the logical counterpart of God’s grace. In effect, there is no other logically possible way to come to behold God in the Beatific Vision except that God actualizes all the necessary conditions. And, all those conditions turn on God’s graciously allowing the created person to be transformed in order to enjoy that Beatific Vision. However, there is only one set of conditions; God must provide them to the created person to enjoy the Vision; and, since God is necessarily morally perfect, He cannot allow the Beatific Vision except by meeting the gracious conditions, and, being necessarily omnipotent, He cannot be overpowered by any other being to allow the vision on some other set of conditions. So, I feel that this counterexample shows Tooley’s SP is not true. As I said above, if it were logically possible that there be an all-powerful, all-evil Being, then perhaps such a being could provide the greatest conceivably bad counterpart of the Beatific Vision. However, such a being is impossible, for reasons I’ve stated, above. Therefore, this counterexample seems successful to show that Tooley’s SP is false. But, Tooley needed SP to be true in order for his EAE as stated to be sound. Thus, I conclude that Tooley’s new EAE is unsound.
CONCLUSION We have seen that Tooley's new EAE hinges on his so-called “Symmetry Principle” (SP). If we fail to have good reason to believe SP, then Tooley's EAE, as he himself says, fails. I have tried to show the ways Plantinga doubted this principle and to offer some reasons for doubting the principle as well. As Plantinga says, Tooley’s argument only has any chance of getting off the ground by assuming that G (God) is contingent. But the Theist, at least those of the Anselmian variety, holds that God is necessarily existent. And, there can be no doubt that a corollary of God’s necessary existence is that God is the delimiter of logical possibilities. God’s modal status is the determiner of the modal status of certain other propositions, but Tooley doesn’t account for this Theistic theoretic point. The point itself seems legitimate and is not something just ad hoc to avoid Tooley’s logical probability argument. When one asks, what is the probability of God’s allowing the Lisbon earthquake given that God exists, it is clear that the situation has substantially changed. For we know that there is, solely by virtue of God’s allowing the earthquake to transpire, as Plantinga says, a rightmaking property attached to that allowance. This means in effect that God has some good reason for allowing this event to take place, whether that good is a known or unknown rightmaking property. By definition, God has a morally sufficient reason for any evil He allows. According to theism, there is a belief—and a hope—that each of our lives, taken diachronically and evaluated at some suitable stage, will in fact allow us to see the great value of being and being us—having our lives—and for having enjoyed ultima facie and been given so graciously by the God who gave the imprimatur to create this world ab initio. Rowe’s ‘Sue’ case and Ivan Karamazov surely come to mind here: the hope I mentioned that theism provides is that we will each individually come to see our lives as constituted by the experiences we have been privileged to experience—even the severe evils. Each of these past experiences are part constituters of who we actually are at any later stage, and are necessary conditions for continuing along life’s journey. It appears that we must seriously reflect on the idea of giving permission to God and God’s plan to allow said sufferings in our lives, since without those sufferings, if Adams is tracking the truth here, we would not be able to be at that place of evaluation looking back anyway. In other words, our sufferings may well play an essential part in the very fabric of our lives, our very identities, as we find them. From the theistic point of view, giving God permission to endorse God’s plan may well be a necessary condition of our being in the best situation or condition by which to value the entire organic whole of our lives without any negative factor that could serve as an enduring defeater to that value.
On the Impossibility of Omnimalevolence
NOTES 1. The passage of time here is only envisioned as a necessary condition for the possibility of such a future state wherein one cannot recall a previous instance of severe suffering that one himself endured in an earlier phase of one’s life. There are surely other conditions that may be required: there may be choices or decisions, for those who have free will and can exercise it to some not-insignificant degree with some modicum at least of realization of knowledge and awareness, to free or keep oneself from harboring an ongoing distrust, disbelief or bitterness due to one’s suffering toward God or whatever divine powers one might believe in. These are deep waters; I merely here signal toward the all-importance that willfulness and decision might play in the larger, developed story here. 2. For a magisterial development of some of these themes, see Eleonore Stump (2010). 3. In the opening bars of Kant’s (1981) “the sight of a being who is not graced by any touch of a pure and good will but who yet enjoys an uninterrupted prosperity can never delight a rational and impartial spectator” (7). 4. I leave it to the reader to see the connection between perfect moral goodness and omniscience: they both seem to presuppose omnipotence. To have control over a situation such that one was ensured that he would not go wrong necessarily seems to imply a requisite omnipotence to stay on track morally without any possibility of swerve. But this would not necessarily do away with the freedom of others, so long as God knew with perfect clarity what people will freely do, and, in the spirit of the doctrine of divine middle knowledge, in light of what I said above, viz. how the property of omnibenevolence, when examined, is modally charged, also of what people would freely do, that is, knowledge even of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Robert. 1987. “Existence, Self-Interest, and the Problem of Evil.” In The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology, 65–76. New York: Oxford University Press. Carnap, Rudolf. 1962. Logical Foundations of Probability, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chisholm, Roderick. 1990. “The Defeat of God and Evil.” In The Problem of Evil, edited by Robert Adams and Marilyn M. Adams, 53–68. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Draper, Paul. 1992. “Probabilistic Arguments from Evil” Religious Studies 28: 303–17. Kant, Immanuel. 1981. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, translated by James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Moore, G. E. 1971. Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Plantinga, Alvin. 1979. “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil” Philosophical Studies 35(1): 1–53. Plantinga, Alvin, and Michael Tooley. 2008. Knowledge of God. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Rowe, William L. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335–341. Rowe, William L. 1991. “Ruminations About Evil” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 69–88. Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in the Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tooley, Michael. 1991. “The Argument from Evil” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 89–134.
SIX Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making Benjamin W. McCraw
The problem of divine hiddenness has become a hot topic in contemporary philosophy of religion. J. L. Schellenberg’s Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason defends an argument for the non-existence of God from divine hiddenness. We can take “divine hiddenness” here to mean— roughly—the state of affairs where God’s existence is not “obvious” or “open” to all (epistemically speaking). As Schellenberg notes: “[t]he notion of God’s hiddenness can be interpreted . . . as referring to the obscuring of God’s existence” (2006, 4). But, so Schellenberg argues, God’s existence should not be hidden if God is all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, and so on and desiring a personal relationship with humans. Presumably, no one can have a personal relationship with X unless one has some reason to think that X exists in the first place. So, in order to promote this great good of a personal relationship with God’s creation, God must make reasonable nonbelief impossible. But that kind of nonbelief is just what we come across in divine hiddenness. Call this the problem of divine hiddenness. In this chapter, I shall describe and defend an approach to the problem of divine hiddenness modeled on John Hick’s soul-making response to the problem of evil. Specifically, I shall argue that the development of faith in God can provide a good reason to think that God might be hidden even if God exists, is loving, desires a relationship with humans, and so on. Because of the epistemic nature of Schellenberg’s argument, this Hick-styled response requires a kind of epistemic soul-making grounded in faith. Viewing divine hiddenness as a kind of epistemic badness or evil 109
opens up the path to an epistemic version of Hick’s soul-making approach as a way to counter Schellenberg’s argument. The first part of this chapter will clarify and expound Schellenberg’s argument from divine hiddenness. Given the structure of the argument, we can draw parallels from it to a standard, generic problem of evil in the second part of the chapter. My intention there is to show that the problem of divine hiddenness is an instance of the problem of evil in general: focusing, in particular, on hiddenness as a kind of epistemic evil. With this point in hand, we can turn to a few extant approaches to divine hiddenness in the third part of the chapter. None, though, will suffice and their shortcomings illuminate what would be necessary for a robust soulmaking approach to divine hiddenness. My eventual response to divine hiddenness will be faith, which will be the crux of the fourth part of the chapter. There I connect faith and trust with a brief sketch of the former elucidating the latter. Given the discussion of faith, in the fifth part of the chapter, I defend the view that such faith can provide a reason why God would permit hiddenness. The final part concludes with some reflections on this approach and its place in relation to the problems of evil and hiddenness. Focusing on faith as a kind of trust-in someone allows a Hick-styled theory to connect to the kinds of epistemic goods a soulmaking approach requires. Divine hiddenness can develop one’s character in an epistemic way parallel to Hick’s moral theory of soul-making through the development of faith in God. This claim, I suggest, gives a significant response to the problem of divine hiddenness offered by Schellenberg. THE ARGUMENT FROM HIDDENNESS Without any window dressing, Schellenberg offers the following argument from hiddenness: 1. If there is a God, he is perfectly loving. 2. If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur. 3. Reasonable nonbelief occurs. 4. No perfectly loving God exists. 5. There is no God. (2006, 83) (2) and (3) yield (4) directly, which together with (1) implies (5). So, only (1), (2), and (3) could be possible points of weakness for this argument. Unsurprisingly, there’s been no serious debate on whether to accept (1). To contest (1) would, I think, require a view outside of anything like classical Western theism. 1 Keeping our discussion within those bounds, then, would take (1) off the table in terms of responding to the hidden-
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
ness argument. So, the responses to Schellenberg’s argument have focused on (2) and (3). What shall we make of them? Schellenberg himself devotes an entire chapter to the defense of (3)— showing that there are cases of nonbelief where the person in question isn’t resistant to God (or evidence for God’s existence), has no serious disposition to reject God, and perhaps even tries to seek theistic evidence and weigh it fairly and competently. Some have given reason to contest (3) for different reasons. William J. Wainwright (1995, chapter 1; 2002) suggests an answer from Jonathan Edwards claiming that knowledge of God would be evident if everyone were properly attuned to the beauty of the world and scripture. One’s moral development or correctly functioning passions hooks into the divine-sanctioned and divine evincing beauty characteristic of a loving Creator. Similarly, C. Stephen Evans (2006) claims that, for Kierkegaard, God’s existence really is evident but only to persons who are morally or spiritually attuned to communion with God. Thus, “God’s reality is or can be evident to human beings but not to anyone and everyone” (243) because “[f]rom Kierkegaard’s perspective, the knowledge of God is necessarily linked with spiritual development” (244). On this view, God’s revelation must track along with God’s nature and, therefore, God would reveal Godself only in ways that allow for one’s moral development in response to an omnibenevolent Perfect Being. Thus, “linking the knowledge of God to personal [sc. moral] transformation guarantees that the process whereby this knowledge is gained is one that will be personally upbuilding” (245). Like Wainwright/Edwards, Kierkegaard/Evans makes a certain moral development or character a necessary condition to seeing clearly the existence of God. Thus, in both cases—while reading “reasonable” in (3) a bit loosely—it seems they give one of the tools to claim that “reasonable nonbelief” may not be as obvious as one might assume prima facie based on moral grounds. But not all of the grounds for rejecting (3) need to be moral in this fashion. Paul K. Moser (2002), for example, tends to think that, like Wainwright/Edwards and Evans/Kierkegaard above, God’s existence really isn’t hidden after all to those situated rightly. For him, though, the grounds for such non-attenuation is what he calls “cognitive idolatry.” A person fails to see God’s existence because of some intellectual “blind spot,” as he calls it. These spots are symptoms of the sin of idolatry: taking something or someone other than God to be religiously supreme. Giving up one’s idols and reorienting oneself towards God removes these blind spots and allows one to see what was evident all along. Hiddenness then comes about as a symptom of one’s sin rather than God’s hiding. Given these views, there are arguments available that make rejecting (3) possible, but most of the attention devoted to the problem of divine hiddenness and Schellenberg’s argument specifically let (3) pass and focus on (2). I shall follow this procedure: (2) is my main focus of criticism.
Criticism of (2) is by far the most common target for those taking on the argument. Schellenberg himself (rightly) assesses this premise as the linchpin for the overall success of the argument. He notes that his argument “is rebutted if and only if (i) it is shown conclusively that an offsetting good necessitating the permission of reasonable nonbelief exists, and/or (ii) it is shown to be plausible that an outweighing good requiring the permission of reasonable nonbelief exists” (2006, 87–8; emphases his). Attacks on (2) then become the focus of a criticism of the overall argument once we leave aside worries about (3). My goal here is no different, and a quick discussion of the hiddenness argument and the problem of evil leads to the line of criticism I shall develop later. So, let me begin there. DIVINE HIDDENNESS AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL Consider a generic deductive argument from evil: 1. If there is a God, God is omniperfect (e.g., omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and so on). 2. If an omniperfect God exists, evil does not occur. 3. Evil occurs. 4. No omniperfect God exists. 5. There is no God. As should be clear, I’ve set up (6)–(10) to parallel (1)–(5) exactly. And I take (6)–(10) as a perfectly adequate boilerplate argument from evil. Without adding complexity to either argument, it should be clear that the structure of the argument from evil and the argument from hiddenness mirror each other. 2 Moreover, we can make the relationship tighter by noting that we can modify each argument in precisely the same way. In the post-Plantinga landscape of the problem of evil, the inductive, probabilistic version of the argument takes the forefront. Instead of entailments and statements of gratuitous evils that occur full stop, inductive arguments couch themselves in probabilities. Instead of “evil occurs” simpliciter, we might find: (8’) Probably, (gratuitous) evil occurs.
We have a version of the hiddenness argument along inductive lines as well. For instance, Schellenberg (2014) gives the “Analogy Argument,” concluding that hiddenness would “very probably” not occur if a loving God exists. Modifying his first hiddenness argument, we’ll have: (3’) Probably, reasonable nonbelief occurs
to mirror (8’)—preserving the parallel structure in the hiddenness and evil arguments. Thus, when we look at generic versions of arguments
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
from evil and hiddenness, we find the same structure whether we are considering deductive (logical) or inductive (evidential) arguments. But the connection goes beyond the same structure. (Or, perhaps, the sameness of structure is merely a symptom of substantive connections.) Consider what makes the argument from evil what it is. Most obviously, evil does the work in (6)–(10). What is evil? Well, that’s nothing easy to nail down and, given a tweak on a common Aristotelian phrase, evil is said in many ways. We use “evil” to name so many things/events/people and so many kinds of things/events/people, that it seems implausible to think that some informative, single analysis fits all such uses. At best, we can take “evil” here to mean the almost uninformatively vague and ambiguous “bad stuff that happens.” At its most fundamental level, the problem of evil states that there’s something bad that exists/occurs/obtains such that we wouldn’t expect that bad thing’s existence/occurrence/ obtainment in a world where there exists a Perfect Being. Fill in the details however you like, but I submit that this description is about as universal and nonspecific as one is bound to get regarding the argument from evil. If the foregoing is correct, we can see that the problem of divine hiddenness fits neatly into the general framework of the problem of evil. If God does, in fact, exist, then presumably ignorance (lack of knowledge) of this fact is bad. That is, if there really is a Perfect Being, it would be good to know this fact and bad to be ignorant of it. Therefore, we can say that hiddenness is a bad thing. Accordingly, it seems to be one of those things we classify as “evil” given the general “evil = bad stuff” formula from above. Divine hiddenness, accordingly, is just a specific instance of evil. That is, we should see (3)/(3’) simply as a more specific instance of (8)/(8’). Hiddenness, then, is simply a kind of intellectual or epistemic evil—a bad thing for the mind or one’s store of knowledge. Whereas typical versions of the problem of evil focus on moral or natural evil, the hiddenness argument picks out a kind of epistemic evil upon which to model the argument. As many philosophers of religion note, the problem of divine hiddenness is simply a particular variant, species, kind, or instance of the generic problem of evil. 3 Herein lies the first key point for the view I will defend later: the hiddenness problem is (no more or less than) a particular instance of the problem of evil, albeit one emphasizing an epistemic evil. It’s fair to characterize the problem of divine hiddenness as the problem of epistemic evil. Peter van Inwagen sees the force of this realization: “the two problems [of hiddenness and evil in general] are similar in their logical structure, and I recommend that, because of this similarity, theists who attempt to solve the epistemic problem employ the same methods and techniques— mutatis mutandis—that theists have generally employed in their attempts to solve the problem of evil” (2002, 32). The arguments of the previous paragraph just strengthen van Inwagen’s recommendation here: taking
the mutatis mutandis clause seriously. Take the influential free will defense, for instance. It has a distinctive variant suited to the problem of divine hiddenness. Known for this soul-making response to the problem of evil, John Hick gave a free will type of defense against the epistemic evil of hiddenness early in his career. He argues that the more ultimate reason [for divine hiddenness] is that the infinite nature of the Deity requires him to veil himself from us if we are to exist as autonomous persons in his presence. For to know God is not simply to know one more being who inhabits this universe. It is to know the One who is responsible for our existence and who determines our destiny [ . . . ] and One whose commands come with the accent of absolute and unconditional demand [ . . . ]. There is thus involved a radical reordering of his outlook such as must be undergone willingly if it is not to crush and even destroy the personality [ . . . ]. Only when we ourselves voluntarily recognize God [ . . . ] can our knowledge of him be compatible with our freedom [ . . . ] (2009, 133–4; emphasis his).
Thus, Hick argues that God hides because that is the only way to keep a person’s response to God free. One could not, on Hick’s view, really grasp the existence of a genuinely Perfect Being and not respond positively. Since God is our ultimate end and felicity, rejecting God with full knowledge would be akin to rejecting the good life if freely offered. To make our acceptance of God voluntary and thus an act for which we can be responsible, God must hide in order to avoid compulsion. Hick’s argument seems essentially identical to a standard free will defense. On this view, even if God could have arranged the world so that no evil occurs, this ordering would preclude morally significant, voluntary action on humans’ part. Thus, in order to get the good of moral action, God permits free yet potentially evil-producing agents. In an exactly similar way, Hick views God’s hiddenness as God’s way of making cognitively free responses to God possible. In order to get the good of responsible religious commitment, God permits the epistemic evil of hiddenness. Hick’s argument about hiddenness, accordingly, falls in line with van Inwagen’s recommendation by taking up an identical solution to hiddenness that we see in the free will response to evil (mutatis mutandis, of course). Generally, then, we can interpret van Inwagen’s recommendation as a program to examine the problem of divine hiddenness. And Hick’s (later) soul-making theodicy is the inspiration for my own response to the epistemic evil of hiddenness. I want to make a few points of clarification before we move to the details of Hick’s theory and how I develop it to address divine hiddenness. First, I want to note and keep in mind a distinction that both Plantinga and van Inwagen emphasize between a defense and a theodicy. The stronger sort of approach, a theodicy, attempts to give a reason why God
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
does in fact permit evil or why evil must exist. To give a theodicy for evil is to give the reason (or set of reasons) why God allows evil. But a defense is weaker: it merely gives a possible story where God and evil co-exist. The reason given for evil in a defense need only be possible rather than decisively established as obtaining in fact (as with a theodicy). And others (see Sennett, forthcoming) suggest a third option: a “robust” defense. Where a theodicy attempts to give the actual reason(s) and a defense (a) merely possible reason(s) God permits evil, a robust defense attempts to give a plausible reason for God’s permitting some evil. We may construe “plausible” as some probably north of .5 but shy of 1; leaving the details of just how much greater than .5 one needs for plausibility undefined. Those details needn’t bog us down for the purposes here. Let’s take theodicy off the table right away: it’s too strong of a project for my aims. But there’s still an important question: should we intend a defense (simpliciter) or a robust defense? Recall Schellenberg’s assessment (2): rebutting it works “if and only if (i) it is shown conclusively than an offsetting good necessitating the permission of reasonable nonbelief exists, and/or (ii) it is shown to be plausible that an outweighing good requiring the permission of reasonable nonbelief exists.” He’s missing an option: “(iii) it is shown that it’s possible that some outweighing good requiring the permission of reasonably nonbelief exists.” A theodicy requires (i), a robust defense (ii), and a theodicy only (iii). Which answer we give to the problem of hiddenness or, put differently, how strong of a claim one needs to make depends on the strength of (2). Does Schellenberg take (2) to describe God’s love in relation to hiddenness across all worlds or just ours (or perhaps ones close to ours)? That is, should we read the modal status of (2)? If (2) is necessary, then merely a defense will suffice and, thus, all that’s needed is (iii). Yet if (2) isn’t necessary, holding only for some worlds but not others, then merely showing that (2) could be false— that is, (iii)—isn’t strong enough. In this case, we’ll need a robust defense arguing for the truth of (ii). The modal status of (2), though, is unclear. Now, assuming that all plausible claims are possible (as is obvious), arguing for (ii) will thereby argue for (iii), since (ii) entails (iii). So, it’s wise to show (ii) in response to (2) because this will cover a non-robust defense and (iii) as well. But, still this requirement is fairly weak (even if stronger than a non-robust defense). We need to recognize that, in giving a robust defense, we don’t need to satisfy (i). So my aim is to describe and give some motivation for a plausible reason (=a good one would want to obtain) that God might permit hiddenness instead of a conclusive reason that necessitates hiddenness. This would be true for a theodicy but not a defense (of either sort). Also, as I suggested above, I want to take the ambiguity of “evil” in the problem of evil seriously. If evil really is “said in many ways,” it strikes me as implausible that any single theory will or could “solve” it. That’s because, with the ambiguity of “evil,” there is no single problem of
evil—only problems of evil tracking the different kinds of “bad stuff” to which one might appeal. So, in the defense I give below, I don’t take my account to solve the problem of hiddenness insofar as it is an instance of epistemic evil. Instead, I intend to give part of a response to the multiplicity of problems that could attach to “it.” In the answer I give, faith serves as a plausible reason for divine hiddenness. I do not claim that only divine hiddenness can develop faith, but merely that this sort of hiddenness can inspire faith, and so forth. Instead, I’m content with the weaker claim: the development of faith is a significant part of the overall defense against the problem of divine hiddenness. With these provisos and clarifications in mind, let’s turn to Hick’s soul making theory and how it might be altered to fit the epistemic evil of hiddenness. SOUL MAKING THEODICY AND DIVINE HIDDENNESS In Evil and the God of Love, Hick argues that our evil-ridden world is one of “soul-making.” That is, we encounter evil, and deal with it and its effects on a near constant basis. Such “dealings” play a big role in how our souls or characters come to be what they are. The evil we suffer, the evil that we do, and how we interact with these evils over the course of our lives helps generate our characters. We can become vicious in afflicting evil or taking delight in seeing evil inflicted on others. Or we can develop courage in overcoming evil, kindness in trying to counteract it, and sympathy in attempting to help others through their difficulties. Assuming that such traits as courage, kindness, and sympathy are good traits of character, we can see that the evil in the world—while irreducibly bad (i.e., having a negative value in itself)—can often promote certain goods in humans, or so Hick argues. Put in more straightforward moral terms, evil can develop in human beings certain moral virtues and, in doing so, can take on a role in bettering humans and make them more like whatever religious exemplar one’s tradition sees as essential. It is my contention here that we can extend Hick’s soul-making defense from the standard problem of evil to a response to Schellenburg’s argument from hiddenness qua problem of epistemic evil. Just as moral evil can promote the development and expression of moral virtues, the intellectual evil of God’s hiddenness can promote the development and expression of faith. Later on, I shall argue that faith is a good that God has (would have) reason to promote and that it involves character or soul development in ways that link to Hick’s emphasis on the moral development of one’s character in encountering evil. However, before we turn to Hick’s soul making theory so as to understand the purpose of the epistemic evil of hiddenness, let’s address a few other ways others have used a Hickstyled response to Schellenberg’s argument.
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
Michael J. Murray (2002) has suggested a similar route arguing that Hick’s soul-making response to the standard problem of evil can apply to the hiddenness argument as well. Murray’s argument, though, falls closer in line to Hick’s views in Faith and Knowledge than to the soul-making approach in Evil and the God of Love. At bottom, Murray uses a soulmaking theory to contest (2). He claims that [i]f God were to reveal Himself and His will in the way required to eliminate reasonable nonbelief, any desire that we might have to believe or act in ways contrary to that which has been revealed would be overwhelmed…But in doing this, God would have removed the ability for self-determination…we would all be compelled to choose in accordance with the divine will and would all thereby become conformed to the divine image. (68)
Murray’s focus soon drifts into concerns about free will; he moves away from talk of character or virtues or the like. Murray spends the vast majority of his argument dealing with what sort of coercion divine openness entails and how such openness leads a sort of practical compulsion for agents to do good. We lose what counts as soul-making for talk of compulsion, coercion, and how God’s open existence would threaten an agent’s practical freedom in refraining from doing good. Like Hick’s argument in Faith and Knowledge, Murray’s account effectively becomes a free-will defense as the soul-making aspect gives way to analyses regarding how divine hiddenness preserves our freedom to do that which is bad and avoid compulsion to do that which is good. Now, his line of reasoning does make use soul/character development in some way by Murray’s claim that “a character wrought in this fashion would not be one for which we are responsible since it does not derive from morally significant choosing” (68) but the mention of character immediately gives way to talk of freedom of the will or choice. Thus, even when Murray does talk about character development, it still hinges on moral freedom and responsibility. So, I don’t find Murray’s approach very instructive for a soul-making response to hiddenness. It fails to take seriously and primarily the role of character development in divine hiddenness and instead focuses chiefly on considerations based in free will, coercion, and moral responsibility. Other philosophers do emphasize a role hiddenness can or does play in developing character. Daniel Howard-Snyder (1996) argues that, for all we know, God’s hiddenness is a way to ensure that one’s motives remain intellectually honest or pure in loving and communing with God. With pure transparency and openness, we could (would?) accept God only to obtain goods that relationship with God might provide or to avoid harms—not for the intrinsic good of divine communion. God’s hiddenness, therefore, can function to make our motivational structure appropriate for the right kind of relationship to God. Similarly, Ted Poston and
Trent Dougherty (2007) suggest that “[i]t may be that there are certain goods of character formation that require some epistemic distance from God” (195). Following the mystical tradition of St. John of the Cross, Laura L. Garcia sees God’s hiddenness [as] a result of His merciful love, which develops love and perseverance in His disciples by withdrawing the signs of his presence from time to time [ . . . ]. Suffering, including the suffering brought about by God’s hiddenness, is necessary to effect [ . . . ] detachment and to lead us to seek our good in Him and to receive everything from Him. (2002, 92)
In each case, we find some kind of moral development that divine hiddenness can promote or cultivate. This follows more closely with the soul-making approach we see in Hick as applied to the problem of divine hiddenness. If this line of reasoning holds, then we have a plausible reason to reject (2). God hides in order to spur the moral development of human creatures confronting a religiously ambiguous world. But I have a concern with these types of approaches that applies to Murray’s as well. It’s hard to see in their responses any distinctive epistemic solution to the problem of divine hiddenness. If hiddenness is, as we’ve analyzed above, a kind of epistemic evil, then the response given should track that epistemic focus. And I see none of that in Murray’s view: the good to be gotten is morally significant free action and the bad to be avoided is moral coercion. His view does nothing to address the epistemic badness of divine hiddenness. Even if Murray’s view would take the soul-making theory more seriously like those approaches above, it would still seem to focus on only moral considerations. And in the views of Howard-Snyder, Poston and Dougherty, and Garcia, we have a soul-making sort of response (unlike Murray) but still there’s little sense of seeing their positions having a decidedly epistemic focus. They argue that divine hiddenness promotes moral goods of character—not epistemic or intellectual ones. Recall van Inwagen’s recommendation that theorists give parallel responses to the problem of hiddenness based on approaches to the problem of evil. Yet, the recommendation is couched in the nearly perfunctory mutatis mutandis proviso; but, as I’ve argued here, these approaches don’t “mutatis” enough. We need an epistemic-focused response in order for the epistemic problem of hiddenness to fit adequately. My aim in this section is more than mere criticism of Murray and the others. By seeing where their soul-making approaches lack, we can better determine just how a successful soul-making defense against divine hiddenness must work. We can draw two ‘big’ lessons from the previous section’s criticism of other approaches. A. An adequate response must focus on the development of a good character
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
B. An adequate response must be epistemic-focused (A) keeps the focus on soul-making and (B) takes seriously the mutatis mutandis of van Inwagen’s recommendation that we tailor the response to hiddenness to the specifically epistemic problem in question. We also need to keep in mind the target of the response: (2). An adequate answer will, given (A) and (B), give some plausible reason that God might hide or permit hiddenness in order to get some (epistemic or intellectual) good. A soul-making argument against (2) needs to make character formation essential as a response to Schellenburg’s argument since it is the development of the soul/character that provides a reason to think that a perfect Being would (at least) tolerate evil. Such evil can promote the development of an agent’s moral character. This is Hick’s lesson for moral (and probably natural) evil. But, Schellenburg’s argument deals with epistemic evil and therefore requires a response adequate for this different sort of evil. Thus, we should turn to the epistemic development of the agent involved. If we can find reason that divine hiddenness promotes the development of one’s epistemic character/soul, then we have a robust epistemic response to Schellenburg’s argument insofar as we have reason to reject (2) on epistemic rather than purely moral grounds. FAITH, TRUST, AND INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER Faith, or more specifically a significant kind of faith, can satisfy the requirements from the previous section, or so I argue in this section. As I see it—and more on how I construe faith below—it’s an epistemic attitude involving one’s character that a loving God interested in developing personal relationships has good reasons to promote. Thus, this sort of faith can serve as a response to (2): it’s plausibly not the case that if a perfectly loving God exists, then reasonable nonbelief does not occur. Before we can see how faith can give us a plausible reason to reject (2), we need to become clearer about just the sort of faith I have in mind. By “faith” I don’t mean an exclusively propositional attitude. 4 The locution that better picks out my use is having faith in S rather than faith that p where the latter but not the former simply reduces to propositional belief that p. So, when I use the term “faith,” I mean something very different from just believing or accepting some proposition. I mean a much richer attitude, and the object of these attitudes differ. Faith-that, as should be clear, has its object in a proposition. It concerns propositional belief that some p is true. However, faith-in usually or paradigmatically tracks a person (or something one treats as a person). Whereas we can see faith-that as a species of belief-that, taking trust as our model most adequately captures the richer faith-in. It’s the core of trust within faith (in) that sets up this sort of faith as the response to (2) above.
As I see it, we can think of trust of any sort—moral, practical, epistemic, and so forth—as involving two key conceptual clusters or strands: reliance and confidence. 5 We rely on people when we depend on them for something we aren’t in a position to do or believe (know) ourselves. And confidence, as I construe it, relates to seeing someone in a certain way: as competent in some fashion relevant to the circumstances for the trust. And remember that we need a distinctively epistemic response to (2). This means that we should focus on the epistemic aspect of trust. This epistemic trust (ET) takes the confidence and reliance elements of trust simpliciter and adds a few components. First, one must come to accept a proposition as a result of one’s trusting. Accepting that p means taking it that p in one’s reasoning and/or practices and, while it can include believing that p, acceptance doesn’t strictly entail propositional belief. If you think that ET should entail belief, one can replace ‘acceptance’ with ‘belief’ without changing the essential structure of the concept or its role in responding to the hiddenness argument. Also, the trust is grounded in the communication (or perceived communication) from someone regarding the content of the acceptance. We accept that p because we take someone (we trust) to communicate it. Thus, placing ET in someone, on the view here, blends these four components: reliance, confidence, acceptance, and taking someone to communicate (the content of what’s accepted). What does this account for ET in someone mean for our discussion of hiddenness? A few points: first, my richer model of ET in someone means that it won’t reduce to belief- or trust-that some proposition is true. And that point leads to my second: namely, that the richer model of ET in I’m providing makes for a richer model of faith I’m proposing. That richer model of faith makes a difference for its role in one’s character. It’s easy to think about faith as believing that God exists, but my view treats belief as faith-in (God) rather than faith-that (God exists). Faith-in, on the other hand, requires reliance and confidence: elements of one’s character that can be developed in certain ways. We can learn to rely better and differently and we can come to see others as competent or epistemically wellplaced over time. These developments aren’t changes in beliefs but in the dispositions of the person that lead to one’s beliefs. They are, therefore, segments of one’s intellectual or epistemic character: the dispositions of a person that ground one’s beliefs. Thus, viewing faith-in as I’m suggesting makes character development key. And that’s one of the major requirements for a soul-making response to hiddenness. So, I’ve argued that the richer faith-in, following ET-in, makes essential use of the character in developing the core elements of faith. And, as should be clear from my emphasis on epistemic trust-in, the sort of faith grounded in that kind of trust will be epistemic as well. The faith I’m developing here will issue in acceptances and/or beliefs, and it will be the sort of disposition whereby one sees the object of one’s faith (God, s
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
religious authority, writings, etc.) as communicating (religious) content meant to be accepted or believed. We have what we need in faith: character-development—relating to (A) above—and a distinctively epistemic concept—(B). How does this relate to hiddenness, though? FAITH AND DIVINE HIDDENNESS In a world where God’s existence is not obvious, faith qua trust becomes necessary. Faith has a core of dependence inherited from trust and such dependence can easily come about by the obscurity of God’s existence, aims, works, and so forth. If there is to be faith, then there must be reliance and such dependence requires divine hiddenness. 6 If we lived in a world where God’s existence, plans, and so forth were open to all, it seems difficult to imagine a context in which one could really have faith—there would be no real depth of epistemic dependence or reliance necessary in such a world. And, furthermore, if faith is more than just belief (that), it must be developed. Such development requires an underlying context—often a kind of religious-social community—where one learns to depend on persons consistently and acquires the right kind and level of confidence necessary for proper trust and, hence, faith. 7 So, divine hiddenness promotes not only individual, discrete acts of faith in particular instances (requiring reliance) but also in a general, extended sense of making possible the acquisition of trust expressed as faith over the course of a person’s life. Moral evils can make possible and promote one’s moral development and the epistemic evil of hiddenness can make possible and promote the growth of one’s intellectual character via faith. But one might object: why, if this is the case, think that faith is so valuable? If faith requires divine hiddenness, then so much the worse for faith. The world would be better with divine openness since we would be in a better epistemic position with respect to God in the first place. Even if hiddenness promotes faith, why think faith is good enough to provide a plausible reason that God might hide? This certainly seems to be the impression that Schellenberg’s tone suggests. I suppose that, if by “faith” one only means “belief that God exists,” I would readily agree with this criticism and concede the point. But, by “faith” (and, equivalently my use of “trust”) I don’t mean something as thin as mere propositional belief. And I think this is where a large part of Schellenberg’s project is not simply wrong but wrong-headed. If God’s aims concern a personal relationship, as Schellenberg contends, then just “belief that God exists” is a very small part of such a relationship. Even if such propositional belief is necessary for a personal relationship, it shouldn’t be the focus here. We are not simply talking about “evidence sufficient to produce justified belief” but a significant segment of an agent’s character and how that character relates one to God if we really
focus on a personal relationship as God’s aim. The worry would be that we pay only lip service to such a relationship as the overriding divine target and instead slip into talking about only propositional belief. A concern about reasonable propositional nonbelief skews and diverts the self-admitted aim from the outset. Hiddenness—on Schellenberg’s own theory—is not really about belief (that) but rather about a robust belief-in relationship obtaining between God and some person. Focusing on the “personal relationship” goal should weaken one’s focus on mere propositional belief but it is that “reasonable nonbelief” that remains the focus of Schellenburg’s argument. What we need are not reasons God may have to permit one to disbelieve that God exists but instead reasons that God may have—through being hidden—to promote a relationship with a person. If Schellenberg is right that God wants a personal relationship, then he is going about the problem of hiddenness in the wrong way. Thus, given the very same goods (of divine relationship) that Schellenberg makes the focus, it seems as though hiddenness is a plausible way to obtain those goods via development of faith. And that plausible reason to permit or perhaps promote hiddenness is exactly what we need to contest (2). The soul-making defense I offer here does not concern itself primarily with belief that God exists but how hiddenness impacts the character of the agent in question. Such development of character clearly cuts right to the person involved. Faith—qua trust—just is a particular expression of a segment of one’s character. Thus, if we ask why faith is so valuable, we are not simply talking about beliefs or their manner of production, but we must discuss the value of the person or, at the very least, some significant part of that person’s moral and intellectual character. And, furthermore, we ask how that corresponds to the “personal relationship” Schellenberg cites as God’s motive. In promoting faith God would not be simply promoting belief (that). Instead, this involves the promotion of that agent’s character, and a good character, I take it, has tremendous value—moral, epistemic, or otherwise. And our characters deeply impact all of our relationships. Divine hiddenness works to promote a certain kind of epistemic character—reinforcing the Hick-inspired genesis of this response. But one might object that divine hiddenness does not appear necessary to develop ET as faith. ET occurs throughout our lives and in many ways and it seems possible that such non-religious ET can develop into religious beliefs held on faith over time. I think this is generally correct: faith does not strictly require or make necessary divine hiddenness. However, I deny that we need so strong a claim as this. Recall from Section 2 that my view doesn’t “solve” the problem of hiddenness on its own. My response in this section, I suggest here, fits into a more general approach to the problem of evil on the whole. In short, it contributes a part of the general response instead of providing the sole ‘solution’. The larger problem of
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
evil has many different responses: the free-will defense, Hicks’ moral soul-making theodicy, skeptical theism, and so forth. And, as I argued in Section 2 as well, each of these views has a parallel for the epistemic evil of hiddenness. I see my view as dovetailing into these responses as an overall answer to the problem of evil. And I suggest that we should expect a dovetail here working into a convergent approach to evil. If we take seriously that evil “is said in many ways,” we won’t find a single theory adequate because the target for that theory would be an irreducibly diverse set of “bad stuff” to which the tag “evil” applies. So, just as there are multiple kinds of evil—including the epistemic variants—we should expect multiple facets responding to evil in different ways. Even if it’s not necessary that hiddenness promotes faith, my faith-based response to (2) can still fit part of the overall rejoinder to the problem of hiddenness in particular and evil in general. WHERE THIS LEAVES US I take the response I’ve described and defended to have a general and specific point. My specific point is to give a plausible reason to contest the implication in (2)—a reason why God might be loving and still permit instances of nonbelief. My rejoinder is that the good of developing robust faith-in God makes divine hiding plausible since openness would seem contrary to the development of significant trust in and reliance on God. Emphasizing the role of character in developing, having, and expressing trust/faith in God reorients our focus from mere reasonable belief or nonbelief that God exists towards centering on the character of the person involved in a personal relationship that God would want to promote. So, while my view takes Schellenberg’s argument on its own terms, I also what to point out that the ultimate focus for the argument from hiddenness should remain on a personal relationship rather than resting with “reasonable nonbelief.” To take Schellenberg seriously requires making that goal, rather than simple disbelief in a certain proposition, as the real target for a defense against the hiddenness problem. I take it as a benefit that my faith-based response can speak to both kinds of emphases: the propositional focus of (2) and the personal relationship point of the hiddenness problem overall. However, a level-headed assessment of my own response’s force speaks to how we should think of the problem of evil overall and how we should best respond to it. Noting that developing faith does not imply hiddenness shows that we shouldn’t think of a “solution” to the problem of evil in overly strict ways. Evil is ambiguous, and we should probably expect a convergent overall response with many specific prongs that engage the different kinds of evil one might examine and encounter. Given this overall approach to addressing evil, we shouldn’t be disappointed in
a view that can’t “solve” the problem (in a robust sense) with a single theory because that’s to expect of a theory something no theory could accomplish. So, I take my response for what it is: a partial and yet plausible response to the problem of hiddenness rather than the “solution” to epistemic evil. And though this may be more modest than one would optimally wish, it seems to be as responsible of an answer to a multifaceted problem as one could reasonably give. NOTES 1. Of course, nothing about that claim or any others I may state imply that one must or should accept a classical, Western theistic approach or even a theistic approach at all. 2. James A. Keller (1995) makes the same point about the identical structure of both types of arguments. 3. For philosophers emphasizing the point that the argument from hiddenness is simply a type of the argument from evil, see: Schellenberg (2006, 7) and several chapters in Divine Hiddenness: New Essays from Peter van Inwagen, “What Is the Problem of the Hiddenness of God?”; Jonathan L. Kvanvig, “Divine Hiddenness: What is the Problem?”; and William J. Wainwright, “Jonathan Edwards and the Hiddenness of God”. 4. For more on my views on the relation between faith and trust see McCraw (2015). 5. For more on ET, see McCraw (forthcoming). 6. There’s a parallel Kierkegaardian point from his Concluding Unscientific Postscript about the necessity of risk for faith. I see my point about dependence as including a kind of intellectual risk, so I’m (more than) happy to accept the Kierkegaardian point here regarding (the riskiness of) faith. 7. Crummett (2015) develops a role for one’s social community in responding to the problem of divine hiddenness. Given that I see faith (in) as a kind of trust that is developed over time, I think he’s exactly right to emphasize one’s community in light of hiddenness (at least in part). In particular, he suggests that “[b]y doing good deeds and building loving relationships with one another [in a community], we can transform one another’s characters and make ourselves more receptive to God’s will” (50; my emphasis). This point clearly links character development and living in a community, but his talk of receptivity to God, as I read him, brings us closer regarding my view on faith as a response to hiddenness. My focus remains on how a community can develop one’s character—including one’s trust/faith—but Crummett also emphasizes (rightly, on my view) that one also plays a role in this community in directing others: one is both developed by and contributes to others’ development in a community. By living a in a community, one can not only learn to trust well oneself but also, by virtue of membership in that community, lead others to trust properly: either by direct mentorship/ teaching or indirectly as a kind of role model. My use of character development, then, I suggest here dovetails with a response to divine hiddenness highlighting a communal or social element-based response as we see in Crummett’s piece.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Crummett, Dustin. 2015. “‘We are Here to Help Each Other’: Religious Community, Divine Hiddenness, and the Responsibility Argument” Faith and Philosophy 32: 45–62.
Epistemic Evil, Divine Hiddenness, and Soul-Making
Evans, C. Stephen. 2006 “Can God Be Hidden and Evident At the Same Time? Some Kierkegaardian Reflections” Faith and Philosophy 23: 241–253. Garcia, Laura L. 2002. “St. John of the Cross and the Necessity of Divine Hiddenness.” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 83-97. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hick, John. 2009. Faith and Knowledge. Eugene: Wipf & Stock. Howard-Snyder, Daniel. 1996. “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26: 433–453. Keller, James A. 1995. “The Hiddenness of God and the Problem of Evil” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 37: 13–24. Kvanvig, Jonathan L. 2002. “Divine Hiddenness: What is the Problem?” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 149–163. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McCraw, Benjamin W. 2015. “Faith and Trust” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77: 141–58. McCraw, Benjamin W. Forthcoming. “The Nature of Epistemic Trust” Social Epistemology. Moser, Paul K. 2002 “Cognitive Idolatry and Divine Hiding.” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 120–48. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Murray, Michael J. 2002. “Deus Absconditus.” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 62–82. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Poston, Ted and Trent Dougherty. 2007. “Divine Hiddenness and the Nature of Belief” Religious Studies 48: 183–98. Schellenberg, J. L. 2006. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Schellenberg, J. L. 2014. “Divine Hiddenness Justifies Atheism.” In Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, edited by Michael Rea and Louis Pojman 7th ed., 288–97. Cengage Publishing Sennett, James F. Forthcoming. “‘Now, Who Could it Be?’: Satan and the Argument from Natural Evil.” In Philosophical Approaches to the Devil, edited by Benjamin W. McCraw and Robert Arp. New York: Routledge. van Inwagen, Peter. 2002. “What is the Problem of the Hiddenness of God?” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 24–32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wainwright, William J. 1995. Reason and the Heart: A Prolegomenon to a Critique of Passional Reason. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Wainwright, William J. 2002. “Jonathan Edwards and the Hiddenness of God.” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, 98–119. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
SEVEN What the Hell Is God Up To? God’s Evils and the Theodicies Holding God Responsible John R. Shook
Atheism has intelligently designed plenty of ways to raise the problem of evil. Yet religions really aren’t so vulnerable, since they typically acknowledge how being human brings a difficult life of struggle, suffering, and death. This harsh yet realistic attitude about this life sparks the imagination about a next life and opportunities to escape evils forever. Religions hold out hope for the better, and the eternal good, in the face of horrible tragedy and inevitable destruction. Typical religious people can’t understand why atheists prattle on about suffering and tragedy. Surely religion proves its worth for all people here, since everyone must suffer evils in their lives. The more atheists talk about evil, the more religious people are glad to be religious and not atheists. Theologies defending theism, not religious believers, are the proper target for atheist criticism on the matter of God and the eternal good. As the intellectual superstructures explaining and justifying core theistic convictions, theologies make propositional claims about divine matters, plans, and deeds. Atheism must pay due respect to theology’s systematic tasks before imagining that it knows what it is talking about. Attending to theology is more the job of atheology than atheism itself. Atheism disbelieves the gods; reasonably justifying that disbelief is the task of atheology, and it is atheology which inspects theology’s work for flaws and fallacies. When a theology tries to explain God’s ways to humanity, the type of atheology called ‘moral atheology’ is ready to scrutinize those explanations and demand that morality be upheld. Letting “theodicy” 127
refer to theological attempts to maintain such theistic explanations in the face of evident injustices and evils, 1 it is therefore moral atheology’s responsibility to scrutinize theodicies for their evils. Looking closely at these theodicies, moral atheology can determine that they decisively convict God of participation in evil, no matter what God is or does. Moral atheology need only point out, as this chapter does, how theodicy accomplishes what atheism itself could never do: show why God is essentially and culpably connected with cosmically supernatural evil. Moral atheology therefore judges what any ethical person should conclude: belief in God should be abandoned. KNOW YOUR EVILS Atheology’s confirmation of theodicy’s damning verdict against God is well illustrated by theodicy’s efforts to deal with Hell. The destination of Hell hardly exhausts the problem of evil, of course. Only some theodicies are designed to deal with Hell, depending on broader theological agendas. Many religions have theologies lacking hellish designs. Some theisms never took perdition (eternal tormented damnation) seriously, because they are basically polytheistic, or they prefer reincarnation, or their monotheistic deity doesn’t decide afterlife destinations, or perhaps because their monotheistic deity only utilizes temporary torment. Atheology must deal with those theologies separately. Still, theodicies dealing with Hell illustrate the central problems for any theodicy, and moral atheology’s criticisms of hellish theodicies can be generalized to all theodicies. Theisms teaching that God made Hell and uses Hell for divine purposes can hardly deny a relationship between God and Hell. Given that close relationship, it is impossible to say that this hellish matter is accidental or out of God’s hands. Using Hell as the illustrative example, both theodicy and atheology can ask, Are there some kinds of true evils with which God must be intrinsically connected, and if so, does that connection make God essentially responsible for evil? For any alleged evil, it must be first asked if it is a genuine evil, or only an apparent evil. Hell, no less than any other putative evil, must be inspected first. Is Hell a true evil? We need to apply some common sense tests. Most evils can be thoughtfully handled and rightly classified by wise philosophy and clever theodicy. Many evils that humans personally suffer may not be all that bad from a ‘big picture’ perspective, and many evils that we observe around us may be aspects of greater goods, on the whole. Scale and situation mustn’t be forgotten; context matters. Naturalistic philosophies have long counseled against anxiety over the tragedies that really make life as a whole more of a comedy, if one could acquire
What the Hell Is God Up To?
some wisdom and practice a little stoicism. (It is said among the fools and wits that comedy is simply tragedy plus time.) Theodicies basically advise the same counsels about due perspective to religious people without having to talk specifics concerning God. If there is a deity, as theism claims, it may be the case that what we label as “evils” are actually just inconvenient events and privations, which must inevitably happen to frail yet proud creatures like ourselves. Theism has no problem telling us that we vainly expect too much from life. Naturalism’s wisdom sends the same message: only seek what is good for your own nature, not extravagances and excesses, to which you have no right. One’s evils of privation are one’s own fault, as unjust demands go unmet. The world isn’t failing to give you your due measure, if you’d empty your head of vanities. As for the world, it cannot be what we’d wish it to be. Other sorts of evils are evil from any perspective and really do deny us what would be naturally good for us, but in some sense they are necessary for the world. Theism prefers creationism to account for cosmic structure, but naturalism’s cosmology ends up making the same point without a divine designer: You temporarily enjoy a habitable part of the universe while most of it is uninhabitable and dangerous, and these two sides to the cosmos must come as a balanced package or not at all. So far, naturalistic philosophy and stern theodicy agree. These three kinds of “evils,” the evils of perspective, privation, and proportion, are certainly evils in every sense of the word. They are just as regrettable and tragic as humanity takes them to be. Classifying evils doesn’t dispel them or turn them into good, however much they may relate to the good. Most aren’t really as bad as we suffer them to be, but we can’t enjoy them or treat them as good no matter what the intellect may say. Lesser evils are still evils. We must be wary of all evils and warmly comfort each other as best we can, because what humanly counts in the end is the suffering. Philosophical stoicism has its place in the privacy of one’s temperament and domicile. Stoicism out among one’s fellow sufferers is simply public indecency. Evils suffered do not call for emotional indifference; evils encountered do not call for moral quietism. Just as there has to be a cosmic balance of goods and evils, there has to be a moral balance as well, for despising evil is necessary for pursuing good. To let go of regrets over evils to keep one’s head only abandons morality and chills the heart. Stoicism must be taken in moderation, too. Philosophical naturalism will always have a place for the tragic and knowing the difference between good and evil. Can theism say the same thing, in all honesty? Returning to our hotly contested subject, we ask, Is Hell a genuine evil? For those doomed to Hell, it must be an evil, the Hell-friendly theisms all agree. Inhabitants unable to regard their hellish conditions as unremittingly evil are just passing through (Jesus, Dante) or perhaps they are entirely evil themselves (Satan, presumably). On the topic of Satan,
however, theologies can disagree. Those who know the True Good the best would be those most sensitive to its complete deprivation, right? So Satan suffers Hell as evil more than anyone. On the other hand, True Evil cannot regard the True Good as good, right? After all, if Satan could acknowledge how God is more good than anything else, wouldn’t something in Satan still be oriented towards the good, so could Satan really be completely evil? Theologies can’t agree on this devilishly tricky problem because they don’t share the same theory of personal evil. We would disagree among ourselves as well: Is being evil more about knowing the good but choosing the bad, or is it more about lacking any sense of the good in the first place? Psychologists crudely distinguish between two kinds of cruel murderers: those who can’t understand the suffering they cause as they kill, and those who kill because they can understand the suffering and choose to cause it. Who is more evil? Perhaps both are equally evil. Dualistic theologies can go either way. In Zoroastrianism, the Evil god is entirely evil by divine nature; no mindful choice was involved. Christian theology sometimes makes it sound like Satan made a knowing and willful choice against the Good deity to become fully evil. (Which is more than Judaism’s Adam in the Garden did—he ate of the apple without knowing good and evil as he did it—Adam only knew of evil and sin afterwards, unlike the serpent, thanks to ingesting the apple.) The most arrogant jinn, known to Islamic theology as Iblis or Shayṭān, plays much the same role, as the persuasive temptation to sin so that humans join in rebellion against the Good deity. However much psychoanalysis is given to the Evil One, as John Milton tried with fascinating results, the fact remains that Hell isn’t supposed to be genuinely good for any of its inhabitants. Hell is objectively evil. It’s not as if Hell is only evil from a limited perspective, as if taking a bigger perspective would permit someone under its tortures to find them tolerable. (“Sure it’s plenty hot here, but it’s a dry heat.”) Nor could Hell’s afflictions be due to exaggerated expectations and unjust disappointments. People dying and finding themselves in Hell may feel disappointed in themselves, but not in Hell (“But I’d heard some nice things about Hell!”) Bottom line: Stoicism isn’t supposed to work in Hell. Hell’s status as evil isn’t simply a subjective matter. Only Dante’s Hell has a tedious first circle that’s tolerable for those rare people, the philosophers, with the wisdom to tolerate it. The objective status for Hell’s evil is clear, but that can imply that Hell is objectively proportionate, as an inevitable feature of creation. To say that Hell was objectively created along with the rest of creation isn’t the same thing as saying that Hell’s evil is co-originally and con-substantially real. Evil, even Hell’s evil, may still lack its own categorical reality, as if it had its own essential and independent nature apart from the good and God. To use an oft-used analogy, the unadulterated light in the presence of structure can produce shadow, but “shadow” is just a deprivation of
What the Hell Is God Up To?
light, and not its own kind of substantial reality. To be of shadow is to be apart from light, but it isn’t to be “of” something other than light. The evil of Hell is objective (not merely a matter of subjective perspective or attitude) but not necessarily con-substantial with the good of creation or the good of God. Christian theology has repeatedly taken this approach to evil for many reasons, too many to enumerate here. Alternative theistic theologies could better insulate the Good deity from participation in evil, by placing responsibility for evil on a co-original Evil Deity or metaphysical first principle, but those non-monotheistic theologies would be unable to credit God for responsibility for everything that exists beside God. Absolute dependence of everything objective upon God, directly or indirectly, has been a theological agenda for Christian theism going back to its formative eras. If some evil could objectively persist without God or God’s creative work, then absolute dependence is not the relationship between Evil and God, and theological dualism ensues. Strict monotheism instead must insist that objective evils, such as Hell, depend on God and God’s creation for their status and persistence. It may seem odd to say that Hellish theology—the theistic theology now under discussion which accepts objective Hell—ensures that Hell has a dependency upon God. But there is no safe monotheistic alternative. If Hell is supposedly objectively real (people can’t make it far less evil merely by changing perspectives or attitudes) and God has dealings with Hell (people can be put in Hell or taken out of Hell, for example) then Hell isn’t just a figment of the imagination, or a psychological ‘place’ one can fall into, like melancholy. Theologies (and atheism) which allow Hell to have at most the subjective status of a state of mind aren’t under discussion here, and they side-step the religious problem of hellish evil. Hellish theologies must regard Hell as objectively real, and so long as strict monotheism is upheld, then God is somehow sustaining Hell’s existence. Atheists may think, “Well, that’s a closed case, because we’ve got God trapped as the one responsible for evil.” Not so fast. Dependence relations aren’t all the same. God has ontological priority over evil and Hell (God has the most fundamental and ultimate reality) and God has supremacy over evil and Hell (nether can make anything happen that God doesn’t permit to happen). Evil and Hell couldn’t have any reality or causality without God. But attributing responsibility for Hell’s evils are another matter. You have to know your evils. A good God can still avoid moral responsibility for an evil Hell, if a clever theodicy can succeed. Theodicy had better be able to tell the difference between perdition and paradise.
PERDITION AND PARADISE If Christianity had become fully dualistic (like Gnosticism) or fully monotheistic (like Islam), it would have been similarly vulnerable to straightforward atheological criticism. Dualistic theology admits that believers have to accept, as the Good God must, cosmic Evil as irredeemably real. Monotheistic theology admits that believers have to regard God as participating in evil as an instrument for its ends. The next section deals more directly with simpler theodicies. Christianity is a frequent target for the problem of evil as well, yet its complex doctrines can supply plenty of insulation. Christianity relies on the Old Testament’s tale about the Garden of Eden and the New Testament’s account of Jesus’s promises of an afterlife and his own death, to preemptively offer resolutions to any problem of evil. Evil is a problem— hence Jesus. There’s a reason why few Christians are stunned and dismayed by the problem of evil. Answers are available. Life’s inevitable sufferings can be appropriate tests of character and faith. We shouldn’t lament earthly suffering so long as an afterlife paradise awaits the faithful. The Fall of Adam and Eve from innocence is the reason why humanity must live in a difficult world instead of the Garden that God intended for us, so we are only getting what we all deserve. The Christianity that ascended to orthodoxy by the sixth century CE developed a fourfold metaphysics of God-Jesus-Creation-Humanity, crediting each component with fundamental creative and destructive powers. Jesus didn’t establish Creation from nothing; God did, and God can destroy Creation. God did not die on a cross; Jesus did die, at God’s will. Creation didn’t create Humanity (but it can kill humans); God created Humanity in the beginning. God didn’t make the world that Humanity lives in now; Humanity did. There are accordingly four different modes of evil, corresponding to each metaphysical power. Because God exists, anywhere that God isn’t fully present shares in evilG. Because Jesus exists, the evilJ overcome through Jesus is defeated. Because Creation exists, there are objectively evilC events occurring in nature. Finally, because Humanity used free will in Eden, human evilH now objectively happens. Because there are four modes to evil in Christian theology, problems of evil continue to proliferate and systematic theologies can’t re-converge on resolutions. These four modes of evil aren’t reducible to each other without dramatic creedal alterations to post-Latin Vulgate Christianity. For example, suppose evilJ is actually identical to evilH so that every human evil is taken care of by Jesus’s death. This view adopts the position of universal salvation, which denies that only some people enter paradise and accordingly rejects perdition. Alternatively, suppose that evilH is just a type of evilC so that evil human deeds are no more surprising and appalling to God than earthquakes. Testing an innocent humanity in a paradise right
What the Hell Is God Up To?
after creating them, and treating a predictably poor choice as an evil sin, is an unjustifiable and unethical exercise for an all-knowing God, so perdition must be dropped. As another example, suppose evilH is inevitably part of evilG so that any sufficiently sentient God would understand how all deeds by finite creatures must fall infinitely short of perfection no matter what happens in Creation. Faulting those creatures for inevitable defects is similarly unworthy of a Good deity, so this God had better regret making Creation before entertaining any regrets over sending people to perdition, and perdition must again be dropped. Similarly, if evilJ is just part of evilG so that the whole point to Jesus is to render the inevitably imperfect Creation and the invariably unworthy Humanity somehow worthier in the eyes of God, eternal damnation for anybody is out of the question, and perdition is irrelevant. In order to reasonably maintain creedal conviction in perdition, human evil can’t be reduced to the other evils so that it isn’t foreseeably necessary. This is the case, regardless of the view that a theodicy takes concerning why some people should suffer eternal damnation, or why some other people deserve eternal salvation. Whether the point of Hell is punitive vengeance or retributive justice, or a metaphor for permanent separation from God, or something else, the key point is that God can’t morally use Hell in response to some human failure. This hardly means that we deserve paradise either. The question is not whether anybody deserves paradise; the question is whether anyone deserves perdition. Perhaps God would be ethically responsible for granting a pleasant afterlife to some while denying any afterlife to others. At least that outcome isn’t as morally monstrous as leaving people in Hell. It doesn’t appear that a good God can avoid moral responsibility for an evil Hell. RIGHTEOUSNESS VS. GOODNESS A good God cannot morally use Hell in response to foreseeable and predictable human failures. Hell can’t be real just because God upholds morality. But perhaps Hell is real because God upholds justice. Expecting God to promote the good and expecting God to uphold the right are separable demands, at least in theory. Monotheisms generally, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, appeal to God’s righteousness for the purposes of exculpatory theodicy. In the minds of most adherents of a monotheism, when God delivers justice in the name of defending the right, God is by definition doing good. And few adherents would find it easy to say that God could be any less beneficent while delivering justice. Righteous authority delivering terrible harms may even be regarded as an intrinsic good for most of the faithful. How God could ever fail to be perfectly good while delivering
justice can seem unthinkable. Theodicy does have some thinkable options about cosmic justice violating the good, as far as atheology can tell. Here is the run-down, from atheology’s standpoint. A “privation” theodicy, for which evil in any Creation is a necessary feature, reconciles God’s goodness with God’s justice by claiming that the cosmic balance of good and evil in the world is providentially the best possible. Plotinus, Aquinas, and Leibniz offered influential versions of this theodicy. A “greater good” theodicy, by contrast, treats evil as inevitably and foreseeably arising from a prioritized good (such as free will) that God providentially included in the world, so that evil is justly right in service to this higher Good. A “limited providence” theodicy takes God to be perfectly righteous, but treats evil as inevitable due to God’s less-than-supreme capacity to intervene in cosmic affairs after creation. A fourth kind of theodicy, a “submission” theodicy, declares that all creatures must submit to God’s authority regardless of the distribution of good and evil in this world, because it is only right that we are piously grateful for existing at all. 2 The privation theodicy, despite its association with the “best of all possible worlds” label, suggests that God’s aim in creating the world actually isn’t to ensure fine lives for us all, but only to give each of us a fair opportunity at life despite inhabiting a difficult and troubled world. If God had withdrawn less from creation to allow this world to be easy and delightful, we’d never strive for anything, and never appreciate our dependency on God along the way. God allows ‘evil’ to afflict humanity, but those evils are just part of the overall balance of life and death in the world. Besides, there’s salvation and a wonderful afterlife for the righteous. God is righteous and just, rather than reliably beneficent in any simplistic way, and God surely isn’t in the never-ending business of rescuing us from our own hurtful decisions. God wants our salvation for our own good, of course. But you can kill with kindness—it is wiser to let people suffer so they know what they’d miss. Apparently there’s no better way to guide people towards pious faith and righteousness. Even if only some individuals are saved in the end, righteousness is preserved forever by God in the face of chaos and extinction. Atheology’s reaction to this privation theology is to ask a simple question: “Why would God allow so many evils to afflict us, when persuading us to follow God could be accomplished with less torturous means?” It is easy to imagine a world with less evil and suffering but plenty of religious people. Proponents of privation theology must be convinced that a short duration for life and a long list of afflicting evils is necessarily the “best” way to bring people to their knees. However, this couldn’t be the best way, for an all-powerful deity prioritizing goodness. Even if this might look like a fair deal for adults, what about the terrible afflictions and sufferings delivered to babies and small children before their premature deaths, who never get a chance to grow from suffering or reach a
What the Hell Is God Up To?
soulful state of grace? And if dropping adults to their knees must be a higher priority than preventing the suffering of innocents, how could a Hell for those strong enough to take the suffering in stride make any sense? The number of people kneeling in this life is more important than the number of people released from suffering in the next life, apparently. On this privation theodicy, hellish conditions are intrinsically valuable to God. No waiting for Hell, here—this world is already a torture test to see who will submit before death comes. Taking this theodicy to its logical extremes, as Calvinism does, leaves a great mystery about how God decides which person is truly worthy of salvation. After all, visibly good deeds are irrelevant; genuine submission is subjectively psychological, and we are too frail to even have sufficient faith without God’s rescuing aid. God’s delivery of sufficient grace for faith is deemed a Great Good and proof of God’s love. However, God could easily deliver such grace to all by divine fiat and leave Hell empty. No, torturing righteousness out of us before we die, and then torturing us forever if God so pleases, is far more important to God. This is not a scheme designed for displaying God’s loving beneficence to all creatures, by any means. The “greater good” theodicy in Christianity insists that God has prioritized one good thing, free will, while remaining bound to the duty to uphold righteousness in the face of sin. Supposing, as this theodicy must, that it is impossible to freely choose doing the good without also freely choosing some evils, then this theodicy effectively makes human sin a lesser evil balanced by a greater good. This could almost make sense, except Christianity also demands that we minimize committing sin because it is an absolute evil. Those deserving salvation, ironically enough, aren’t people choosing sin once in a while in the course of choosing many good deeds, but only people who are the least sinful among us. Paradoxically, the creatures who must deserve salvation the most would be those who make the fewest choices at all, such as babies who die before choosing any sin. Furthermore, divine omnipotence demands that God can know all human deeds before we choose them, which is logically incompatible with free will. (This isn’t a claim about determinism, since God neither determines nor causes human actions on this theodicy. Rather, actual free will must be intrinsically unpredictable since it mustn’t have any sufficient reasons/causes, divine or material, for free decisions.) Atheology points out that what started out as sounding like some common sense—those more likely to choose to do good instead of evil are more likely in all fairness to get into paradise—easily warps into nonsense under this theodicy. That is why Christianity couldn’t really subscribe to a theodicy prioritizing free will, and this theodicy mutates quickly into one of the alternatives. If original sin for all humanity is conveniently added, then the amount of sin actually freely chosen during one’s life doesn’t really count for much by comparison either way, and only a God’s free and fickle will can save us or doom us. If theodicy does
take human free will seriously, on the other hand, then this requires an admission that God cannot maximize multiple important goods and cannot control creatures exercising free will, lessening God’s effective powers. The third theology, the “limited providence” theodicy, accordingly admits that God really isn’t all-powerful after creating the world. Because God designed the world with its own forces and laws, and created humans who follow their own (somewhat free) minds, this creator couldn’t have made a perfectly good creation and cannot perform all of the worldly interventions otherwise expected from a perfectly good and righteous deity. Evil tragedies and terrible holocausts are inevitable, because God cannot prevent them all and might not be able to foresee all of them. As a practical matter, God is effectively less than all-powerful and cannot guarantee maximal providential guidance over the world. God did establish creation with some providential planning, wishes us well, and may send extra help when possible, but little more should be expected from God. Because this “limited providence” theodicy surrenders that triad of perfections (omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness) which arouses most problems concerning evil, atheology has far fewer objections here. For those religious spirits able to courageously accept these harsh terms of existence and survival, life appears far more adventurous and risky. Perhaps atheists themselves are just that courageous, willing to take on life’s adventure since there are no gods anyways. Yet even atheists can notice how this theodicy neglects weaker, timid, or broken spirits unable to struggle on in a gamble for uncertain victory, and for whom life appears to be pointless suffering or a cruel joke. Hell is out the question. If a God of limited powers expects sinlessness from us and demands eternal punishment for our inevitable failure, that God must be heartless and evil. The fourth theodicy awaits, after the other three have been found severely wanting. This “submission” theodicy returns to the core idea within “privation” theodicy and fully admits that perfect righteousness, not beneficent providence, is truly the divine priority. This “perfect” God just lets terrible sufferings happen in a far from perfect world, and the truly innocent do sometimes suffer before tragic death. But the truly innocent also get to go to a heavenly paradise (or at least purgatory perhaps), while the sinners are bound for a hell. There must be some genuine evil in the divine plan, it seems to this theodicy, to guarantee a greater righteousness. But we shouldn’t get fixated on tragic evils that had to happen in God’s righteous plan. All that matters is that providence is fine-tuned perfectly to allow God to demonstrate perfect righteousness in the face of inevitable sin. It really doesn’t matter what sort of creation this God bothered to design—that mistake dooms the other theodicies. Asking for beneficence is a distraction, since it keep us alert for
What the Hell Is God Up To?
evils. The truth is that evils shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone. Evils are no surprise to God, after all. We are busy noticing evils only when we are forgetting to be grateful to god for existing anywhere at all, and grateful for whatever natural home allowing us live as we do. Atheology has no difficulty pointing out what is plainly obvious for this fourth theodicy: God has no obligation to adjust the ratio of good to evil in creation whatsoever. If evil must be a necessary feature anyways, then standing up for righteousness in the face of evil is all that matters. The more evil, the better! On this theodicy, God has a righteous duty to create Hell and guarantee eternal torment as the just punishment for sin. After all, what better way for God to ensure the sharpest possible contrast between divine righteousness and evil sinfulness than to contrast the infinitude of divine right against the infinitude of divine punishment? A lenient policy of no punishment, or temporary punishment, wouldn’t do the job. Who is more against sin: the one who eventually forgives, or the one who never forgives? God can’t forgive, not ever. GOOD GOD AND NECESSARY EVIL Moral atheology’s complaints against religions using Hells comes down to this: How can theologies justify multiplying evils throughout the cosmos and into the next world? It is here that the problem of evil hits these hellish religions the hardest, without mercy. Any religion that threatens an evil afterlife must attribute to its god(s) the ultimate responsibility for creating and sustaining evil, one way or the other. It’s not as if religions try to hide this. Many religions want everyone to know all about their hells and how impressively evil they are, and how crucial it is to avoid them and how much the god(s) deserve credit for using them. Their theologies justify those hells with theodicies explaining their necessary roles in the divine scheme of things. 3 Theologies justifying unnatural hells with pitiless logic don’t hold anything back. Puritan Jonathan Edwards was one of the faithful who explained God’s ways without restraint or regard for tender feelings. His sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” describes, in agonizing detail, not just what hell is like for those in it, but also how hell is viewed by those in heaven: That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies that he will inflict wrath without any pity: when God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed and sinks down, as it were into an infinite gloom, he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare,
Chapter 7 nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much, in any other sense than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires: nothing shall be withheld, because it’s so hard for you to bear. . . .[Y]ou shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is, and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. (1995, 99–101)
Edwards exhaustingly explains how god’s plan for heaven would be less than perfect unless the saved can view the damned suffering in hell. Heaven truly is the happiest place, praise the Lord! Edwards understood theodicy all too well. He knew better than to place the blame for evil on Satan, the devilish creature ensuring that the Christian God looks good by comparison. Theologians can comprehend what ordinary believers are apt to overlook: Satan and the suffering he causes must be just as much an essential part of God’s supreme plan as anything else. Among the faithful, one is instead more likely to hear the legacy of Persian Zoroastrianism in the dualistic Manichaeism of the 3rd to 7th centuries CE rather than its cousin, monotheistic Christianity. Manichaeism depicted a cosmic struggle between two co-eternal divine powers, one good and the other evil. Needless to say, both religions agree that only a terrible fate awaits those on the wrong side of this cosmic contest. A monotheistic religion like Christianity can’t shift evil around metaphysically so easily. It must credit its God for creating all the conditions for any demonic power, if one exists, and for allowing such a power to do its evil deeds. Evils are still only redistributed around this simpler theological scheme, and never eliminated entirely. Religions constrained by monotheistic principles have no other choice than to “resolve” the problem of evil by finally admitting that evil is a necessary and essential component of the grand divine design. As Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza honestly admits, “hell is an essential part of the Christian scheme” (2007, 271). 4 EVIL IS NECESSARY WITH GOD, OR, IS GOD NECESSARY EVIL? The difficulty reconciling perdition with paradise is generalizable to a tension between evil and God. So long as God and creation exists, objectively real evil must also exist. The atheological analysis of primary theodicies has exposed that deep relationship well enough. The only way to deny supernatural evil is to deny God. Theodicies have presumed that so long as God can’t be faulted for the reality of evil, then God has been ethically cleared and nothing stains God’s perfect goodness. That presumption in fact conveys theodicy, and
What the Hell Is God Up To?
God, straight towards a well-deserved condemnation by atheology. Leaving God faultless for evil requires the satisfaction of one of three basic conditions: either God has no relationship with evil and cannot eliminate evil; or God has a necessary relationship with evil (and hence cannot eliminate it); or God has a contingent relationship with evil and could eliminate evil but won’t. Three very different theologies emerge from theodicy’s work. The first theology about God and evil is the option of goodness-evil dualism: both the supreme basis of goodness and the supreme basis of evil are co-primeval and equally powerful. This theology abandons monotheism and guarantees that evil is a permanent feature of natural and supernatural realms. The second theology promises that so long as God exists then evil exists, which is presumably a permanent condition. This theology abandons the orthodox theistic view that God someday has a victory over supernatural evil. The third theology is compatible with monotheism, but such a God is evil, and evil is hence supernaturally permanent again. Theodicies and their theologies couldn’t be clearer: with a duo-theistic or mono-theistic God comes plenty of supernatural and cosmic evil, guaranteed. Atheology needn’t care whether a believer can figure out how absolve a praiseworthy God of responsibility for evil. Atheology aims at explaining why atheism is more reasonable than god-belief. Assuming that one doesn’t find the existence of cosmic evil intrinsically good, why would one want to believe in God? If belief in God is let go, so is belief in vast evil. Which is a more reasonable (and morally worthy) position to take? That God and supernatural evil are real? Or that no god and nothing so evil are real? Put another way, which sort of metaphysical scheme of things would an ethical person prefer? Choice one contains a Creator God of questionable motives who can’t eliminate supernatural evils, evils that might befall us humans in an afterlife. Choice two contains a natural world of questionable fate that contains ordinary earthly evils but nothing supernaturally evil is around, ever. Which choice selects the lesser of two evils? Choosing God is choosing necessary evil. Surely the ethical choice for anyone, all things considered, is the second choice. Don’t believe in God. NOTES 1. Reliable surveys of issues and theories in theodicy include O’Connor (1998); Rowe (2001); Søvik (2011); and Frances (2013). For a broader perspective, see Neiman 2004). Islam has produced creative theodices; see for example Inati (2000). On Hinduism and Buddhism, see Herman (1993). 2. On the first kind of theodicy, see for example Davies (2011). On the second kind, see Hick (1966); Plantinga (1974); and Swinburne (1998). As for the third kind, only a limited god makes sense of both the world and our ethical standards, according to James (1909). A recent example of this theodicy is the bestselling Kushner (1981).
Regarding the fourth kind, one recent proponent is D’Souza (2012). Although Islam also has emphasized dutiful submission to divine righteousness, Islamic thinkers have pondered theodicies as complex as any Christian systems, and contributed to their development. See a survey by Ormsby (1984). 3. See Kvanvig (1993) and Seymour (2000). Kronen and Reitan (2012) philosophically argue against any divine need for hell. 4. On Manichaeism, see Coyle (2009) and Baker-Brian (2011). On Satan, see Forsyth (1987). Popular Christianity can’t resist a grand conflict narrative among relatively well-matched deities; see for example Boyd (2001), or the Left Behind book series authored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. A sober diagnosis of such enthusiasm for the “end times” is provided by Price (2007).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Baker-Brian, Nicholas. 2011. Manichaeism: An Ancient Faith Rediscovered. London: Continuum. Boyd, Gregory A. 2001. Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. Coyle, John K. 2009. Manichaeism and Its Legacy. Leiden: Brill. Davies, Brian. 2011. Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press. D’Souza, Dinesh. 2007. What's So Great About Christianity. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. D’Souza, Dinesh. 2012. God Forsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is There a God Who Cares? Yes. Here’s Proof. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers. Edwards, Jonathan. 1995. A Jonathan Edwards Reader. Edited by John E. Smith, Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema. New Haven: Yale University Press. Forsyth, Neil. 1987. The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Frances, Bryan. 2013. Gratuitous Suffering and the Problem of Evil: A Comprehensive Introduction. New York: Routledge. Herman, Arthur L. 1993. The Problem of Evil and Indian Thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. Hick, John. 1966. Evil and the God of Love. New York: Harper & Row. Inati, Shams Constantine. 2000. The Problem of Evil: Ibn Sînâ’s Theodicy. Binghamton: Global Academic Publishing. James, William. 1909. A Pluralistic Universe. New York: Longmans, Green. Kronen, John, and Eric Reitan. 2012. God’s Final Victory: A Comparative Philosophical Case for Universalism. London: Continuum. Kushner, Harold. 1981. Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Schocken Books. Kvanvig, Jonathan. 1993. The Problem of Hell. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Neiman, Susan. 2004. Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. O’Connor, David. 1998. God and Inscrutable Evil: In Defense of Theism and Atheism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Ormsby, Eric L. 1984. Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute Over al-Ghazali’s “Best of All Possible Worlds.” Princeton: Princeton University Press. Plantinga, Alvin C. 1974. God, Freedom, and Evil. New York: Harper and Row. Price, Robert M. 2007. The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind. Amherst: Prometheus Books. Rowe, William L. 2001. God and the Problem of Evil. Malden: Blackwell. Seymour, Charles. 2000. A Theodicy of Hell. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Søvik, Atle Ottesen. 2011. The Problem of Evil and the Power of God. Leiden: Brill. Swinburne, Richard. 1998. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
EIGHT Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels Active Evil and Active Love in Schelling and Dostoevsky James M. McLachlan
METAPHYSICAL REBELS AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL The most well-known to introductory discussion of the problem of evil in introduction to philosophy or philosophy of religion classes is the “Rebellion” chapter of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Ivan Karamazov’s rebellion is the most powerful example of a literary rebellion against God that spans nineteenth and early twentieth century literature and is found is such diverse places as Mellville’s Moby Dick, Twain’s Mysterious Stranger, Hugo’s The End of Satan, Comte de Lautrement’s “Les Nuits de Malador,” and Albert Camus’ The Plague among many many others. The mistake philosophers make in introductory courses is to cite these literary examples and then move to J.L. Mackie and H. J. McClousky on the logical problem of evil and from there to Alvin Plantinga, William Hasker, and Peter Van Ingen’s able defenses of traditional theism against the logical problem of evil. But the logical problem of evil is not really the concern of any of these writers. Ivan Karamazov even says he accepts the existence of God, even accepts the logical proof of his goodness, but still wishes to return his ticket. Ahab rebels against God. In The Plague Dr. Rieux only contends that in practice no one can believe in an omnipotent God; he says if he believed in such a God he would cease curing the sick and leave that to Him. But no one in the world believed in a God of that sort; not even Paneloux, who believed 141
Chapter 8 that he believed in such a God. And this was proved by the fact that no one ever threw himself on Providence completely. Anyhow, in this respect Rieux believed himself to be on the right road in fighting against creation as he found it. . . . Since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn’t it be better for God it we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where he sits in silence. (Camus 1991a, 116–118)
In The Rebel Camus explains Rieux’s position as “metaphysical rebellion.” The metaphysical rebel is therefore not definitely an atheist, as one might think him, but he is inevitably a blasphemer. Quite simply, he blasphemes primarily in the name of order, denouncing God as the father of death and as the supreme outrage. . . . If the metaphysical rebel ranges himself against a power whose existence he simultaneously affirms, he only admits the existence of this power at the very instant that he calls it into question. Then he involves this superior being in the same humiliating adventure as mankind’s, its ineffectual power being the equivalent of our ineffectual condition. (Camus 1991b, 100–103; author’s emphasis)
Two points emerge here. The first is that we cannot live as though we are unfree as though what we do is totally in the hands of either providence or determinism. This supposes that we have power as real as God’s. What appears in all these examples are not so much logical criticisms of the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic theological conception of God as pragmatic and ethical critique. For Ivan Karamazov and Dr. Rieux, for Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, and Albert Camus the question is not whether or not we can conceive of an omnipotent, omnipresent deity removed in Its metaphysical perfection from all finite worldly cares, but why we should want to conceive and whether there are moral reasons we shouldn’t. It may be that creaturely suffering is but the dark speck, the contrast that makes for the greater beauty of the whole, but to forsake the suffering individuals for the beauty of the whole is a betrayal those who must sit in that part of the picture. As Patrick Masterson wrote in 1971 in Atheism and Alienation: A Study of the Philosophical Sources of Contemporary Atheism: Atheism of our day consists chiefly in asserting the impossibility of the coexistence of finite and infinite being; it is maintained that the affirmation of God as infinite being necessarily implies the devaluation of finite being, and, in particular, the dehumanizing of man. (1971, 1)
Masterson’s characterization seems to me to be correct of the writers I have mentioned. The concern among these is that traditional ideas of God and the theodicies they generate are demeaning to the existential situation of suffering creatures. This is not only true among Camus’ “metaphysical rebels” but even among some theists. Clearly this is also the case
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
for Schelling and Dostoevsky. Schelling shared with Dostoevsky the realization the quest for reality forces one to philosophize from the point of view of practical rather than theoretical reason. INVOLVING GOD: UNGRUND, FREEDOM, AND EVIL FROM BOEHME TO DOSTOEVSKY The heterodox Lutheran mystic Jacob Boehme introduced ideas of radical freedom, and the necessity of the possibility of evil in ways the Western tradition that influenced a variety of heterodox thinkers searching for an alternative to the privation theory of evil that reigned in the West since Augustine. 1 Boehmeian theosophy was present in Russia from the late seventeenth century and exerted an important influence on a wide range of religious thinkers like 18th century monk Tikhon of Zadonsk. The monk figures importantly in Dostoevsky’s thought on evil and was the basis for an important character in the suppressed chapter of Devils “Stavrogin’s Confession.” Hand-written manuscripts in Church Slavonic and Old Russian were circulated in the towns and among the peasants, especially in the Ukraine. The “Russian Socrates,” Gregory Skovoroda, employed Boehmist concepts and symbols in talking about the soul’s relation to God and the “divinization of man.” He is also presumed to have authored several manuscript translations of Boehme he distributed during his wanderings. But the main point of entry for Boehme’s theosophy, that laid the basis for its later influence on Russian religious thought in general, came through the Free-Masons. Here the imprint of Boehme is obvious and his theosophy was the most important single intellectual influence on Russian masonry. An understanding of Boehme was required of those initiates who would attain the highest degree in the lodges. Through the Masons, Boehmian theosophy became widely read among the educated classes. Boehme was also read outside of esoteric groups. In 1815 the poet Dimitiev complained that booksellers no longer imported any literature but “Boehme and the like.” However, in 1824 the government suppressed the reading of Boehme (David 1962, 43–64). Nicolas Berdyaev claimed of the suppression of Boehme’s works: “But Boehme’s memory was kept alive among the people where he was regarded as a saint” (1951, 165). Despite the suppression, Boehme was read throughout the nineteenth century and not only by “the people.” The influence of Schelling on the Russian romantic circles and the Slavophiles leads back to Boehme. The Russians’ enthusiastic reception of F. W. J. von Schelling during the 1830s was probably facilitated by the influence Boehme had especially on Schelling’s later philosophy. Throughout the century Boehme was read by diverse groups of Russian thinkers: both Westernizers and Slavophiles, including Peter Chaadaev, Ivan Kireevsky, and Alexander Herzen (a model for Stepon Verhovensky in Devils). In the
late nineteenth century renaissance of Russian religious thought Vladimir Solovyov’s ideal of the divine Sophia was profoundly influenced by his reading Boehme. Boehme’s influence is also found in the writings of S. L. Frank and Serge Bulgakov and especially Nicolas Berdyaev. F. W. J. von Schelling’s thought thrived in Russia during the 1830s and 1840s influencing a wide variety of thinkers; including both the nationalist Slavophiles and internationalist Westernizers. The Slavophiles included the Lovers of Wisdom like the Kireevskii brothers and Aleksei Khomiokov. The Westernizers of the Stankevich circle included the famous anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Timofei Granovskii (another model for Stepan Verhkevensky in Devils), Konstantin Asakov, and Vissarion Belinski who studied Schelling in the 1830s before forsaking the romantic for Hegel. The first prominent Westernizer, Peter Chaadaev was strongly influenced by Schelling’s theory of history (Terras 1991, 184–90; 1998, 520–522). Dostoevsky’s teacher I. I. Davydov, with whom he had studied literature in Moscow had helped introduce Schelling’s ideas to Russia in the 1820s (Frank 1976, 96–97). Appollon Grirgorov, who was Dostoevsky’s ally in the 1860s against the nihilists and utilitarians like Chernychevsky and Pisarev, was a proponent of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie (Frank 1986, 46). IRRATIONALISM, FREEDOM, AND EVIL Joseph Frank argues Dostoevsky was inclined to a certain theoretical irrationalism which saw art as the highest form through which eternal truth could be attained. Frank indicates that the letters between Dostoevsky and his brother Mikhail show the influences of both Schellingian irrationalism and Hegelian rationalism on the generation of the forties. Schelling’s influence on Dostoevsky is a permanent part of his romantic realism (Frank 1987, 51). This irrationalism grows from an idea of an irrational source at the basis of reason. Boehme’s idea that figures most importantly for the discussion of evil and freedom in both Schelling and Dostoevsky is the Ungrund. This is envisioned as the undifferentiated abyss of non-being and Being, the primordial realm of origination prior to Being. It is the no-thing that is also everything, potentiality without form or reason from which reason is born. Boehme also called it “Wonne,” or bliss beyond the conflict that emerges with Being. But at a deeper level the Ungrund is not or cannot be characterized at all, except as the “ewiges kontrarium,” the source of all the contraries. Using Boehme’s image of the Ungrund Schelling described this as the irrational basis of reality, of being, in freedom. It is an “irreducible remainder” that cannot be finally rationalized. The world as we now behold it, is all rule, order and form but the unruly lies ever in the depth as though it might again break through,
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
and order and form nowhere appear to have been original, but it seems as though what had initially be unruly had been brought to order. This is the incomprehensible basis of the reality of things, the irreducible remainder which cannot be resolved into reason by the greatest exertion but always remains in the depths. Out of this which is unreasonable, reason in the true sense is born. (2003, 34)
Thus the basis of the world is not an eternal unchanging, untroubled God nor Being but a chaos in need of order. Joseph Frank claims Dostoevsky’s early novel The Insulted and the Injured contains many autobiographical details of Dostoevsky’s life in the 1840s. The narrator, a young and impoverished writer, speaks about being before reality as a kind of “mystic terror.” Of something that I cannot define, something ungraspable and outside the natural order of things, but which yet may take shape this very minute, as though in mockery of all the conclusions of reason, and come to and stand before me as undeniable fact, hideous, horrible and relentless. (Frank 1987, 51)
This eternal is not the peaceful eternity of the traditional neo-platonic One or the way Christian theologians regularly think about the perfection and harmony of God beyond the struggles of existence. The mystic terror is before a much more disturbing and yet also potentially creative reality; freedom that makes possible good and evil, love and depravity. The interpretation of freedom that Dostoevsky develops is related to a radical concept of creativity at the heart of reality and the relations between persons. This type of irrationalism remained a part of Dostoevsky’s art. This ideal of groundless freedom, prior to both God and persons, as the source of the good and beautiful he pits against the nihilists and materialists. This struggle begins to mature in Notes from the Underground and extends through the great novels to The Brothers Karamazov. Frank claims that Dostoevsky sees a division between reason and the psychic irrational. The idea here is that there is something that ultimately cannot be explained rationally. In Philosophical Inquires into the Nature of Human Freedom and Related Matters (hereafter Of Human Freedom) Schelling called this the irreducible remainder, the Ungrund, the abyss, freedom, chaos, will, creativity. But where philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky’s disciples Lev Shestov and V.V. Rosanov are ultimately nihilistic irrationalists for whom reason and human existence are ultimately in themselves meaningless, Schelling, Dostoevsky and his disciple Nicolas Berdyaev argue for meaning based on moral reason, creativity, relation, and, ultimately, love. For them the negative moment of alienation from the whole is the assertion of the individual autonomy freedom. But this is only the first movement, the irony is that the assertion of egoistic autonomy is necessary to the second movement of love and relation. A movement that must be freely taken by
an autonomous individual. Berdyaev would later call these the first and second freedoms. The first freedom is the assertion of the individual breaking always from the pure potentiality of the groundless one. The second freedom is a move back into unity through love and relation to another (Berdyaev 1934, 69–72). DOSTOEVSKY, BOEHME, SCHELLING AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL Some time ago Emil Fackenheim noted that among Western philosophers only Schelling really deals with the idea of radical evil (1982, 234). Schelling’s most radical treatments of the problem of evil are located in his last published book Of Human Freedom (1809), in the unpublished Stuttgart Seminars, and the first two drafts of The Ages of the World in which he locates the possibility of evil within the Absolute itself. The reason to read Dostoevsky along with Schelling is that unlike Mellville, Lautrement, Hugo, Twain, and Camus, Dostoevsky endeavors to give a new view of the Christian God and Christ that responds to metaphysical rebellion. In this Schelling and Dostoevsky to mutually illuminate one another. Schelling’s solution to the problem of evil is to oppose “essence, in as much as it exists to essence in so far as it is the principle (Grund) of existence” (2003, 31). For Schelling, evil resides, not in any lack or privation of being, but in the radical reversal of God’s creative order—evil is active. Evil is possible because freedom to create or to return to chaos is at the foundation of Being and beings. This formulation seems obscure but it’s central to Schelling’s consideration of the mystery of evil and freedom. Schelling sees indeterminate freedom as the essence or ground of both God and creatures. God only becomes God through determining her/himself through freedom. This is an anti-platonic understanding of God and eternity. Time and finitude are an advance on a static eternity with time as the creation of meaning through the creation of the possibility of dialogue with others. Schelling describes the God as the ideal person, and human persons reflect the struggle within the divine life. For in the divine life itself is an irrational, brute creativity that can never be completely made transparent. This can only make sense for Schelling if reality is interpreted as personal. A person contains within his/her being possibility. By a person Schelling means a being that is in relation with others and experiences growth and opposition. God is not complete at the beginning but only becomes complete through relation to other persons. Schelling sees cosmic history as the process of the personalization of God: “[a]lready, then we can note that the entire process of the creation of the world—which still live on the life process of nature and history—is in effect nothing but the process of the complete coming-to-consciousness, of the complete personalization of God” (1994, 206). This is opposed to
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
any notion of God as eternal, changeless, timeless, as not simply egotistical, but meaningless. This is not to say that God is in time but that God’s self-creation and creation of others creates time. Time is the relation and response to another. Time is inevitable and an advance on eternity. Schelling’s notion of self-creation in God relates to self-creation in human beings. Science, art, and morality are the raising to consciousness what exists in us in dark unconscious form. The abyss of freedom is the absolute indifference in which there is no direction, no focus. It is the whirling rotary motion of the chaos of possibilities. One might say it is something like pure thought thinking itself. Why does God move beyond this type of navel gazing narcissism? God before relation is like the Underground Man laying on his couch dreaming but never actualizing one of the whirling possibilities that dance in his head. Schelling’s response to Leibniz’ famous question why are there beings rather than nothing seems to be that there is no absolute reason for the universe only perhaps an ethical one. Schelling writes that “God beholds himself in his own image” (2003, 35). God can only see Him/Herself in a representation. Humanity will be the image and mirror of God. God comes to know Him/Herself in the mirror of the creation but primarily humanity. One of the important themes in the freedom essay is the Socratic theme of self-knowledge. Except here this self-knowledge is related to self-creating, to Freedom. Given what Schelling says about the impossibility of eliminating freedom and chaos through the imposition of order complete self-knowledge may be impossible for us though it seems to be God’s object in creating the world. Slavoj Zizek claims that for Schelling human persons, like God, have to disengage themselves from the primal indifference. The universe begins with a choice. Man’s act of decision, his step from the pure potentiality essentiality of a will which wants nothing to an actual will, is therefore a repetition of God’s act: in a primordial act, God Himself had to “choose Himself.” His eternal character—to contract existence, to reveal Himself. In the same sense in which history is man’s ordeal—the terrain in which humanity has to probe its creativity, to actualize its potential—nature itself is God’s ordeal, the terrain in which He has to disclose Himself, to put His creativity to the test. (Zizek, 1996, 21)
In The Ages of the World, it is this act that creates time it also creates the past and eternity. Before this action Schelling says that God is “a pure nothingness which enjoys its non-being” (1996, 206). Infinite unity and bliss is also infinite boredom and meaninglessness. The abyss of freedom precedes the vortex of the real. It is the light of freedom that breaks the chain of natural necessity, breaks out of the vicious circle of natural drives and illuminates the obscure ground of being. It is only if necessity is not the original fact of the universe that this is possible. Necessity results from the contraction of the primordial abyss of freedom. Time
begins with decision on the part of God to become a person. One can only be a person in relation to other persons. Unlike traditional theists, Schelling rejects creation as creation ex nilhilo because it separates God from creation in a timeless eternity. The created world has added to God, and in a significant way it has created God through God’s creation of the world. The mistake arises in seeing the no-thing of creativity (Ungrund) as nothing. As a result of the misconstrual of this concept, the notion of a creation ex nihilo could arise. All finite beings have been created out of nonbeing yet not out of nothing. The ouk on is no more a nothing than the me pheinomena of the New Testament; it is only the nonsubjective, the Nonbeing, yet precisely therefore Being itself. (Schelling 1996, 209)
The finite is no longer a simple fall or descent from God but is seen as an ascent toward personhood. It is the process through which God and humanity finds Him/Herself in another. Thus the fall is not a fall but a Beginning. Part of the appeal of Dostoevsky's Underground Man is that he stands out from his world. In fact he seeks emphatically to do so. His selfassertion makes him standout from the world but it also is what threatens his destruction. Egoism is the basis of the vortex in which the underground man finds himself. He tells us at the beginning, “What does a decent chap talk about with the greatest possible pleasure? . . . himself. Very well, so I will talk about myself” (Dostoevsky 1968, 65). But the underground man as an egoist, a man of intensified consciousness or rather intensified self-consciousness, is cut off from the rest of the world. He has retired into his hole in the floor, as a man of acute consciousness must, becoming a complete egoist and moral solipsist. But the egoism of the Underground Man leads to disintegration and chaos not to his full development as a person. The importance of humanity as the image of God permeates most everything that Dostoevsky writes. Even his most humiliated, debased, and unsympathetic characters have something lovable and divine about them. The image of God is in all humans unless they destroy it themselves but in doing so they destroy themselves. The Underground Man destroys himself when he rejects the love offered him by Lisa. He disintegrates into chaos as if he returns to the unground incapable of decision. Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment commits a murder in order to prove he is an “exceptional” human being. He suffers because he has destroyed another person in the image of God. He is saved by what he thinks is his “weakness”: he feels guilt for having killed another. His name comes from the Russian word “Raskol” that literally means split or dissenter. He is split from humanity by his idea that he is superior to other persons, and he is also split in his soul because he can’t make the final decision between becoming a “superior” man who can kill without remorse when
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
necessary and a human being who feels sympathy for others. Raskolnikov thinks that it is only his weakness, his basic compassion that prevents him from being the superior man. For Dostoevsky this “weakness” is his salvation (Dostoevsky 2012, 11381 [Kindle]). Had he succeeded in his plan he would be like the Underground Man or Nicolas Stavrogin in Devils, who becomes a monster because he becomes completely self-sufficient, completely indifferent to the world around him. He can do good or evil acts with equal satisfaction and boredom. However this temptation to egoism is necessary to real goodness. THE GRAND INQUISITOR AND GOD’S CHOICE In traditional theology Omni-benevolence is one of the metaphysical attributes of God. God could not do evil. Both Schelling and Dostoevsky seem differ from the tradition on this point. Goodness is ethical not metaphysical. God is a person and God’s character is such that God would not do evil. At first this does not sound like that big a distinction, but it makes all the difference to Schelling and also to Dostoevsky. The power of the Grand Inquisitor’s charge against Christ was that Christ could not sin and so the temptations were not real. Schelling’s and Dostoevsky’s contention is that Christ or God could sin but would not. What makes Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor so powerful is that the Grand Inquisitor attacks Christ’s difference from us. Christ as God possesses a freedom and power of will qualitatively different than humans so he turns down the temptations of bread, power, and security: all actions that, the Grand Inquisitor believes, no human is capable. It is God’s “holy will” that Ivan attacks in the story. The Inquisitor asks Christ how can a God, for whom temptation is hardly real because he is so strong, demand the free response from humans who are not powerful enough to resist the temptations of bread, security, and power. If one is naturally good and has no understanding, beyond an abstract one, of alienation, fear, and the temptation to despair can we say that He/She really understands the other person and can demand moral goodness of them. Eighty years later in The Rebel Albert Camus returns to the same story asserting that Ivan was right. Dostoevsky’s religious solution is a betrayal of solidarity with humanity. He cites the fact that Dostoevsky was able to write “Pro and Contra” that includes the famous chapters “Rebellion” and the “Grand Inquisitor” in a few days they flowed from his pen in a torrent. It took him weeks to try to come up with a response in “The Russian Monk.” Camus thought that Dostoevsky had come up with such a compelling character in Ivan Karamazov that he could not, try as he might, overcome him (Camus 1991b, 56). Given the fact that the great majority of readers meet Dostoevsky through “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” we might think Camus is right. Ivan argues against Augustine, Leibniz, and
the whole theodical tradition that point of view of the eternity all may be well but for the humiliated little girl in outhouse, shaking her fist at God all is not well. We must remain with the suffering creatures in the dark part of God’s beautiful painting; never surveying finite misery from the point of view of infinite and eternal harmony. But it is to miss Dostoevsky’s point that against traditional theodicy Ivan is right. Future harmony does not justify the suffering of billions of creatures, human and animal. If God is to be good in any sense of the term that we can understand, God has to have experienced temptation and despair and overcome them. Goodness is a matter of will and not being. 2 For Ivan both the defenders of God and the atheist dreamers of the future utopia are wrong. Both look at the world from God’s point of view. The future utopians like Hegel, Marx, Comte, and the Russian Nihilists seem to think that the future happiness somehow affects the billions of dead victims who don’t get to participate in it. 3 Both theists and atheist believers, changing beings in inevitable process, view the world from of point of divine indifference. Ivan returns this ticket as well: the world is not just if the future happiness of billions is built on the unatoned misery of one tortured child. For both Schelling and Dostoevsky, it is just this fact that Ivan can and does rebel against God that indicates God’s greatness and humanity. God has brought about a being free enough that it could rebel against God. “It is the beholding itself in complete freedom, no longer the tool of the universal will operating in nature, but above and outside nature” (Schelling 2003, 40). We can say “no.” Later both Schelling and Dostoevsky will talk about the possibility of saying “yes” (Schelling, 2003 40). It is this yes that is ultimately creative. In God and humanity, desire and passion relate to freedom and selfhood. In the Freedom essay Schelling says that no one claims that the instinct for self-preservation is something that was added later to the already finished creature (Schelling 2003, 53). Schelling claims that self-preservation is a basic characteristic of each individual. His claims must be a basic principle of all natural science. This leads eventually to selfhood and individuality. Schelling says that there are in nature “premonitions of evil alongside pre-established moral relationships” (2003, 43); he means that the will for survival, for self-preservation, can overcome our relation to any other being. This will be the source of evil. This is easy to see in people like the Underground Man who intellectually sets himself apart from all other persons, but also in Father Karamazov who sees others as only means to satisfy his pleasure. But it is also in Ivan’s story of “The Grand Inquisitor.” On the surface the Grand Inquisitor seems to be acting out of love for humanity, yet he sees them as little children at best and probably as pets at worst. He has isolated himself from them, does not respect them as even potential equals, and kills them when they get out of line, all for their happiness. This dark desire that is at the source of our individuality is also the ground of the possibility of egoism and evil. Jason Wirth notes this partic-
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
ular Schellingian notion is illustrated in Ivan’s remarks about “artistic cruelty” in Brothers Karamazov (Wirth 2003, 176–176; Schelling 2003, 49). The dark principle is indeed effective in animals but it has not come into the light as it has in human beings. Animals do not really have the ability to leave the unity this is only possible to consciousnesses who can freely will to separate themselves from the unity, who can creatively will a false unity of their own. Humans, like God, are creative and they can create from the imagination a false unity, a world for their own amusement. Indeed, people speak sometimes about the “animal” cruelty of man, but this is terrible unjust and offensive to the animals, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel. A tiger simply gnaws and tears, that is all he can do. It would never occur to him to nail people by their ears overnight, even if he were able to do it. (Dostoevsky 1990, 238)
ACTIVE EVIL: FROM THE BESTIAL TO THE DEMONIC This self-isolation from humanity is the great danger and distinguishes Dostoevsky’s sinful and damaged characters from the demonic exceptional characters. Bestial characters like Father Karamazov and Dmitri in The Brothers Karamazov. Persons possessed by insane ideas, like Shatov and Kirilov in Devils and Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov and any of the lesser bestial or possessed characters who inhabit Dostoevsky’s fiction, are still sympathetic. They are still human and the possibility of salvation is always there for them. Dmitri’s heart is good and, when he avoids murdering his father through a miracle, his salvation begins. For the more intelligent and resourceful characters the danger is greater. For them rebellion leads to the possibility of the demonic. But there is also a possibility of salvation. Some of Dostoevsky’s most interesting characters fall into two types: those like Kirilov, Raskolnikov, and Ivan Karamazov who are on the cusp of the decision whether to complete their rebellion against God/humanity/creation and become demonic, and those like the Underground Man and Nicolas Stavrogin who have completed the journey to the dark side. Again Schelling provides the theoretical tools for understanding these Dostoevskian characters. For Schelling the source of evil is a rebellion, a self-assertion. But this is a fortunate fall because, as we have seen, it is only the will to the basis that revelation and the higher unity are possible. Evil is raised to selfconsciousness only through the presence of its opposite, light. “This evil, though it is entirely independent of freedom with respect to present empirical life, was at its source man’s own deed and hence the only original sin” (Schelling 2003, 66). But here we can make a distinction between the “original sin” by which humanity becomes individual, and capable of relation and love and demonic evil. Demonic evil is what Schelling has
termed a disease: the contagion that spreads after the initial corruption. Though Schelling does not use these terms, it might be possible to call these evil1 and evil2. This seems to be at the basis of Ivan’s claim that we are “artistically cruel.” We have a will to self-preservation and assertion, but we can carry this so far as to create a fantasy world in with us at its center. In The Brothers Karamazov we encounter this most clearly in Liza’s temptation toward the demonic in Book XI, chapter 3, “A Little Demon.” Liza says “I just don’t want to do good, I want to do evil, and illness has nothing to do with it.” When Allyosha asks why she wants to do evil, She replies: “So there will be nothing left anywhere, Ah, how good it would be if there were nothing left” (Dostoevsky 1990, 582). Thus the beginning of evil is going from true being to non-being, light to darkness, truth to falsehood in order to become himself the creative basis of his being and to rule over all things with himself as the center. Even he who has moved out of the center retains within him the feeling that he has been all things when in and with God. There is a desire to return to this condition. This is the birth of the hunger of selfishness. As one deserts the center, one becomes ever needier, ever hungrier to the point of being ravenous and poisonous (Schelling 2003, 69–70). In evil there is that contradiction which devours and always negates itself, which just while striving to become creature destroys the nexus of creation and, in its ambition to be everything, falls into non-being. Moreover, manifest sin, unlike mere weakness or impotence, does not fill us with pity but with fear and horror, a feeling which can only be explained by the fact that sin strives to break with the world, to touch the basis of creation and profane the mystery. Schelling refers to this as a false imagination. The Underground Man and Raskolnikov imagine themselves exceptional men the masters of their worlds but this is a world of fancy. Stavrogin becomes an exceptional man but he is a monster. THE TWO WILLS AND THE IMAGE OF CHRIST In his famous letter to Mme Fonvizina just after his being released from prison camp Dostoevsky wrote, “If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth, and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth”(Frank 1986, 298–299). Dostoevsky was not a fideist who would sacrifice all his reason to fundamental doctrines, rather for him Christ represented “the ideal of man in the flesh” (Frank 1986, 298), the freely loving individual. In context the lines are written against the nihilists like N.G. Chernychevsky, the champion of enlightened self-interest. Dostoevsky asserts freedom, autonomy, and love are still more important than egoism even if it can be shown that we always pursue our self-interest and the world is a dark, cold, meaningless place where only the strong survive and only by
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
looking out for themselves. Dostoevsky is committed to the message of love and self-sacrifice that Christ brought into the world. Christ’s significance for Dostoevsky is as the divine annunciator of this morality. He is the most human, the “ideal man in the flesh” (Frank 1986, 299). In many ways The Idiot and Devils represent failed efforts by Dostoevsky to give us the figure of Christ. Not that the novels themselves are failures but that the Christ figures in the novels fail as Christ figures. Schelling and later Berdyaev talk about two wills or two freedoms that are necessary to the person. The will of the basis is a will to self-assertion and preservation, the will to love is to enter into community with others. It is as if the Schellingian concepts of the two wills, the will to love and the will of the basis were personified in the two characters: Prince Myshkin and Nicolas Stavrogin. Each becomes one of the wills and each fails. Stavrogin possesses all the characteristics of a great hero but he is the great egoist and demon of the Dostoevskian corpus. On the other hand Prince Myshkin, in The Idiot, through kindness and self-abnegation brings about the disaster that befalls all the main characters at the end of the novel. Neither being is complete. Goodness without selfhood is ineffective. Can we really say that someone is good who has never been tempted? In the Grand Inquisitor’s reading of the story of the temptations, Jesus was not hungry when Satan offered him food, not tempted by power, or by the desire to force the world to goodness. Could he have been good without feeling the temptation toward egoism? Can someone like that tell us that we should be good? For Dostoevsky Christ had the possibility for egoism within him but chose against it. Schelling thinks it is quite right to say dialectically that Good and evil are the same, only regarded from different aspects; or evil in itself, that is regarded at the root of its identity, is goodness; just as goodness, on the other hand, regarded in its division or non-identity, is evil. For this reason the statement is also quite correct that whoever has no material or force for evil in himself is also impotent for good. (Schelling 2003, 80)
The “material or force for evil” is similar to what Dostoevsky calls the sensual power of the Karamazovs. Dmitri sings a peon to the sticky green leaf. Alyosha’s admits the Karamazov propensity for carnality and egoism is also in him. The contrast between Alyosha and Myshkin is apparent the Karamazov animality completes Alyosha’s goodness. Schelling claims that God is only fully revealed in humanity because it is only in humanity that the depths of freedom are plumbed. Human beings contain both the darkness of self-will or egoism and the power to love. Schelling says that the self-will and the universal will reflect the duality of persons. In them are the deepest abyss and the highest heaven. The desire for self-assertion, enjoyment, and individuality pull us into ourselves; while the force of light, reason, and love pulls us toward rela-
tion to others. This is the apparent paradox Dmitri speaks of to Alyosha in “Confession of an Ardent Heart. In Verse” when he says human beings contain both the ideal of Sodom and the ideal of the Madonna (Dostoevsky 1990, 107–8). Schelling describes both possibilities. This elevation of the most abyssal center into light occurs in no creatures visible to us except in man. In man there exists the whole power of the principle of darkness and in him too, the whole force of light. In him there are both centers—the deepest pit and the highest heaven. Man’s will is the seed—concealed in eternal longing—of God, present as yet only in the depths—the divine light of life locked in the deeps which God divined when he determined to will nature. Only in him (in man) did God love the world—and it was the very image of God which was grasped in its center by longing when it opposed itself to light. (Schelling 2003, 38)
But it is because of the possibility of rejection that love can happen. It is only here to that the fullness of God can be revealed because God is love. Human will is the seed that enclosed in the will of God, only in humanity is the word, the will of God completely articulated. The unity, indissoluble in God, between self-will or individuality and love of the unity, is dissolvable in human persons. This idea is what makes possible of the emergence of spirit. Spirit represents the creative movement toward order. Spirit represents the living unity of both principles. In God, the principles are held in harmony. If the identity of both principles were just as indissoluble in man’s spirit as in God, then there would be no difference, that is, God as spirit would not be revealed. The unity that is indivisible in God must therefore be divisible in humanity—and this is the possibility of good and evil. Evil is possible in human beings because of the conflict between self-will (will of the basis) and universal will (will to love). For Schelling and Dostoevsky, Spirit is above the light principle. The unity or the dark (chaos, self will) and the light (order, morality) are more important than the light principle of order alone. Myshkin and Stavrogin are woefully unbalanced characters. The goodly Prince Myshkin is only light as he lacks the power of an ego, of a body, while Stavrogin is pure ego. Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov comes closer to the unity of life and order. But such a unity is difficult arrive at. The more powerful the possibility for being in the image of God the more possibility for corrupting the image Schelling repudiates the notion that evil is a lack of being it is a corruption of the will. Evil is not simply privation, it is active and positive destruction. For example, Stavrogin like Milton’s Lucifer, is not one of the most limited creatures but rather one of the most gifted. It is just that he is so talented that makes him dangerous. Imperfection is not the common character of evil. Evil is worse when it manifests itself in a
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
person of incredible gifts. This is akin to Immanuel Kant’s beginning to The Groundwork of a Metaphysics of Morals. There is nothing that one can call without qualification good except a good will. Talents and abilities can always be considered evil if they belong to one with an evil will (Kant 2009, 55). In fact for that very reason the person is worse if his talents are perverted by his evil will than if he had not had them. His evil will perverts his talents. Stavrogin possesses the greatest talents but his will is driven by his insatiable egoism. Characters like Stavrogin and the Underground Man have no other, Raskolnikov sits and the point of the choice between egoism and relation. But as the Underground Man rejects Lisa, and Stavrogin everyone who reaches out to him, Raskolnikov finds, through Sonya, the possibility of a way out of his egoism. Love requires the self-hood of the other that it loves. This means that what we love in the other person is not just their qualities like good looks, intelligence, wit, but their personhood what makes them an individual; their independence, their freedom. Thus love cannot overcome the will to selfhood or it would cease to be love for the other—it would just be an extension of the us or God. (It is often the case when we fall in love that we fall in love with an image we have projected on the other person. To really love is to love the other in their otherness as well as their sameness to us.) Love requires distance and otherness, though, at the same time and in another sense, love represents the overcoming of all otherness. This is the miracle of love that two beings could become one thing and yet remain two. What this means is that opposites depend on each other for their being. Schelling writes: For the basis [selfhood, independence, individuality] must function that love may be, and must operate independently of love so that the latter may exist in reality. Thus if love wished to break the will in the depths, it would be in conflict with itself, it would be in disunion with itself and would no longer be love. (Schelling, 2003, 52)
Schelling’s point is that love cannot be forced. He repeatedly calls the will to the basis as the will for self-revelation. In concrete psychological terms it is the human desire to create a space for itself, to express itself. This is necessary to be a self but it carries with it its own temptations toward egoism and self-isolation. In The Brothers Karamazov Grushenka tells a Russian story about an onion and how the peasant’s mother falls back into hell/chaos because she refuses to allow the others in hell to be lifted out of Hell with “her” onion. She refuses her relation to other and falls into hell which is the eternal battle of each against all where each blames the others for her being there (Dostoevsky, 1990). Schelling continues explaining that both God and humanity only come to know themselves through their relation to others, through love.
Chapter 8 The will to love and the will of the basis thus become one, just through the fact that they are divided and that from the very beginning each function for itself. Therefore the will of the basis excites the self-will of the creature from the first creation, so that when the spirit then arises as the will of love it may find an opponent in which it can realize itself. (Schelling 2003, 52)
The best example of how all relationships degenerate into duels of power through isolation caused fascination with the self occurs in what the Underground Man calls “the man of intensified consciousness.” For such a self all relations are power duels between separate egos. This shows up in his affair with the prostitute Lisa. The Underground Man is infuriated by her indifference for him when he first begins to speak with her, but when his preaching finally arouses her interest and begins to strike at her heart, the game changes and he begins to manipulate her. He leaves her after expounding his noble ideas and actually touches her. She responds by showing him a love letter from a medical student to show that she is loved and is not merely an object. As he enters the street the Underground Man is struck by the “terrible truth” of what he has been doing, manipulating her as he has done in all his other relationships with human beings. Later, when she comes to see him, he treats her with contempt and tells her that he only wished to humiliate and manipulate her. But she sees through him, sensing the extreme pain of his isolation and for a moment, by her love, breaks through the vortex. The Underground Man’s heart fails him and forgetting his aims, begins to sob as he never had before in his life. But when the Underground Man realizes that the hysterical fit cannot go on forever, he feels ashamed and the thought comes to him that their roles have been reversed. Lisa was now the heroine; she was saving him, not he her. All I know is that I was ashamed. It also occurred to me just then, overwrought as I was, that our parts were now completely changed, that she was the heroine now, while I was exactly the same crushed and humiliated creature as she had appeared to be that night—four days before. . . . I cannot live without feeling that I have someone completely in my power, that I am free to tyrannize over some human being. But--you can’t explain anything by reasoning and consequently it is useless to reason. (Dostoevsky 1968, 372)
The Underground Man quickly recovers himself, falling back into the vortex of his own intensified consciousness, his own egoism. He rejects the love that she has offered him and insults her by using her as a prostitute. After she leaves he runs after her, but this is only a pretense. He is still acting as he had done when he first met her; he knows this and knows he doesn’t really wish to find her. He then justifies the insult because, as he tells us, an insult is a sort of purification, the most painful sort of consciousness that will live with her the rest of her life. After a few
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
closing remarks the Underground Man continues his notes, Dostoevsky tells us that he goes on and on though the novel stops here. The Underground Man must go on because he is trapped in the vortex of his own acute consciousness and he cannot make an end because he must constantly contradict what he has just said. The Underground Man represents the madness of hyperconsciousness that will be seen again in characters like Ivan Karamazov, Svidrigalov, Raskolnikov, and its demonic affirmation of the abyss in Nicolai Stavrogin. But Dostoevsky leaves to his other novels developing the alternative to madness: love. In a letter to his brother, Michael, Dostoevsky complained that the tenth chapter of The Notes was mutilated by the censor. Dostoevsky indicated that the censor had cut out a statement by the Underground Man that the only chance to be freed from the vortex of acute consciousness was through faith in Christ (Motchoulski 1963, 213). In the novel this is intimated in the final scene with Lisa. FROM ACTIVE EVIL TO ACTIVE LOVE: CHRIST What Christ represents for Dostoevsky is the second movement from the egoism of autonomy to the loving relation with the other. He does not see Christ in terms of any of the traditional theories of atonement but as the “ideal man in the flesh.” Christ represents for Dostoevsky the movement from the egoism of autonomy to the loving relation with the other, but this paradoxically does not simply dissolve the ego instead affirming it in the highest sense. One becomes truly oneself through loving the other. Christ alone could love man as himself, but Christ was a perpetual eternal ideal to which man strives and, according to the law of nature should strive. Meanwhile, since the appearance of Christ as the ideal of man in the flesh, it has become as clear as day that the highest final development of the personality must arrive at this (at the very end of the development, the final attainment of the goal): that man finds, knows, and is convinced, with the full force of nature, that the highest use a man can make of his personality, of the full development of his Ego– is, as it were, to annihilate that Ego, to give it totally and to everyone undividedly and unselfishly. In this way, the law of the Ego fuses with the law of humanism, and in this fusion both the Ego and the all (apparently two extreme opposites) mutually annihilate themselves one for the other, and at the same time each attains separately and to the highest degree, their own individual development. (Quoted in Frank 1986, 298–299)
This ideal is once again close to Schelling. Love can only exist where there is some passion, some relation to another, some need of one person for another. The unity of love is not the loss of individuality but rather its
preservation in a higher unity. Not a unity of being but an ethical, willed unity between persons. This is how one becomes a full person. For there is love neither in indifference nor where antitheses are combined which require the combination in order to be but rather (to repeat a word which has already been spoken) this is the secret of love, that it unites such beings as could each exist in itself and nonetheless neither is nor can be without the other. (Schelling 2003, 89; author’s emphasis)
In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov is called out of his egoism and back into humanity by the love of the saintly prostitute Sonya. In The Brothers Karamazov Dmitri is saved by love for another fallen angel, the somewhat less saintly Grushenka. He overcomes his bestial egoism and becomes human in relation to her but he is first drawn to her for other reasons. He tells Alyosha in “A Hymn and a Secret” about Grushenka. I revere her, Alexei, I revere her. . . . Before was nothing! Before it was just her infernal curves that fretted me, but now I’ve taken her whole soul into my soul, and through her I’ve become a man. (Dostoevsky 1990, 588)
He has moved past the purely egoistic desire for her body to really loving her. Now life has finally become serious because of relation to another person. For Schelling this really happens with God as well. Since there is a tendency working against the revelation there must be a predominance of love and goodness in order for there to be a revelation. “[A]nd it is this decision which alone really completes the concept of revelation as a conscious and morally free act”(Schelling 2003, 76). God and humanity overcome evil through a conscious decision toward communication, revelation and creation as opposed to the will of darkness and closure. This is a movement from madness to relation. It is in relation to another in love that we really become persons. NOTES 1. Although opinions vary on Boehme’s importance and place in the history of Western thought, he earned the acclaim of some of his most important successors. Hegel claimed he was the founder of German Idealism (1955, 188). In his study on Boehme, Alexandre Koyré also calls attention to his influence on Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel as well as the second philosophy of Schelling and Boehme’s disciple Franz von Baader (1968, 506-508). Koyré also points out that Boehme was read by such divergent minds as Newton, Comenius, Milton, Leibniz, Oetinger, and Blake. See also Jones (2009) and Bailey (1964). Nicholas Berdyaev points to the importance of Boehme’s influence (via Schelling) on the Slavophiles and says that the metaphor of sophia is found in the second generation of Russian philosophers beginning with Soloviev and including Bulgakov, Frank, the Symbolist poets Blok, Beyli, and Ivanov. He also acknowledges his own debt to Boehme (Berdyaev 1945, 39). 2. Hegel saw this in his critique of Kant’s idea of a holy will. It is neither holy nor a will. In a “perfect” being that is untroubled by bodily impulses the moral struggle vanishes and with it all real goodness. Hegel like Schelling introduces potential for
Mystic Terror and Metaphysical Rebels
evil into the absolute itself. But unfortunately, like Spinoza and the theodicists, Hegel still likes to take the “long view of things” and from Ivan’s view still misses one of the main points that future harmony does not compensate present misery. The pure moral being, on the other hand, because it is above struggle with Nature and sense, does not stand in a negative relation to them. . . But a pure morality that was completely separated from reality, and so likewise was without any positive relation to it, would be an unconscious, unreal abstraction in which the concept of morality, which involves thinking of pure duty, willing, and doing it, would be done away with. Such a purely moral being is therefore again a dissemblance of the facts, and has to be given up. (Hegel 1977, 383) 3. This became an important issue for many Russian thinkers. Dostoevsky’s young friend Vladimir Solovyov emphasized the resurrection as the only possible solution to the problem of evil. Nicolai Feodorov and later the Bolshevik Lunacharsky both also argued for the moral necessity of resurrection as the great human project though these later were not theists.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Abrams, M. H. 1973. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. New York: W. W. Norton. Bailey, M. L. 1964. Milton and Jacob Boehme: A Study in German Mysticism in XVII Century England. New York: Haskell House. Berdyaev, Nicolas. 1934. Dostoevsky: An Interpretation. Translated by Donald Attwater. New York: Sheed and Ward. Berdyaev, Nicolas. 1945. “Deux études sur Jacob Boehme.” In Jacob Boehme, Mystérium Magnum, Tome I. Paris: Aubier. Berdyaev, Nicolas. 1951. Dream and Reality: An Essay in Autobiography. New York: Macmillan. Camus, Albert. 1991a. The Plague. New York: Random House. Camus, Albert. 1991b. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. New York: Random House. Chernychevsky, N. G. 1960. What Is to Be Done? New York: Vintage Books. Chernychevsky, N. G. 1965. “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy.” In Russian Philosophy, Vol. II, edited by James Edie, James P. Schanlan, Mary Barbara Zelden. Chicago: Quadrangle Books. David, Zdenek V. 1962. “The Influence of Jacob Boehme on Russian Religious Thought” Slavic Review 21: 43–64. Dostoevsky, Feodor. 1968. “Notes From the Underground.” In Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett, 261–378. New York: Harper and Row. Dostoevsky, Feodor. 1990. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage. Dostoevsky, Feodor. 1992. Devils. Translated by Michael Katz. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dostoevsky, Feodor. 2012. Crime and Punishment (Kindle Edition). Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage. Fackenheim, Emil L. 1982. To Mend the World: Foundations of Future Jewish Thought. New York: Schocken Books. Frank, Joseph. 1976. Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821–1849. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Frank, Joseph. 1986. Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Frank, Joseph. 1987. Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hegel, G.W.F. 1955. Lectures on the History of Philosophy, vol. III. Translated by E.S. Haldane. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Hegel, G. W. F. 1977. The Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jones, Rufus. 2009. Spiritual Reformers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Boston: Beacon Press. Kant, Immanuel. 2009. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Translated by H.J. Paton. San Francisco: Harper. Koyré, Alexandre. 1968. La philosophie de Jacob Boehme. New York: Burt Franklin. Masterson, Patrick. 1971. Atheism and Alienation: A Study of the Philosophical Sources of Contemporary Atheism. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Motchoulski, Constanin. 1963. Dostoevski: L’homme et l’oeuvre. Paris: Payout. Schelling, F.W.J. 1994. “Stuttgart Seminars.” In Idealism and the Endgame of Theory, translated and edited by Thomas Pfau, 195–243. Albany: State University of New York Press. Schelling, F.W.J. 2003. Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom. Translated by James Guttmann. Chicago: Open Court. Solovyov, Vladimir. 1995. Lectures on Divine Humanity. Translated by Peter Zouboff. Lindisfarne Books. Terras, Victor. 1991. A History of Russian Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press. Terras, Victor. 1998. “Schellingianism,” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward Craig. New York: Routledge. Wirth, Jason. 2003. The Conspiracy of Life: Meditations on Schelling and His Time. Albany: State University of New York Press. Zizek, Slavoj. 1996. The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters. London: Verso.
NINE Redemptive Suffering Neal Judisch
A religion worth its salt illuminates suffering and death—it gives an understanding of these things, and also a way of preparing for and soldiering through them. I don’t intend this as a bold or a profound statement, still less as an “analysis” of religion. It is an observation. This is something religions do, and something they need to do. Religions provide for us a framework in which sense can be made of suffering and death, and in which hope or serenity might persist in their presence. This is uncontroversially true of the Christian religion, in which Jesus’ suffering and death (along with His resurrection) are central to all else. On a Christian interpretive scheme, these events give meaning and purpose to our own suffering and death, as well as grounds for our own hope. How? Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection were not pointless but redemptive. And because of this, death has “lost its sting” and suffering is (or can be) salutary, even occasion for joy. Again, how? Because: our own suffering and death is (or can be) somehow linked to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, so as to render them not pointless but redemptive as well. This answer is given by wide swaths of philosophers and theologians within the Christian tradition, and it raises questions. Among them, and central to my discussion here, is the nature of the “link” between our suffering and death and those of Christ, and the manner in which this link invests our suffering and death with redemptive value. Attempting to categorize and explain ways in which we might thus participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering is not an exercise in theodicy as such, because it need not have theistic defense or any “justification of 161
God” in its sights; soteriological or Christological questions may motivate the try instead. But the problems of evil and the aims of theodicy can serve as useful touchstones in any analysis of redemptive suffering, and it is evident that renewed interest in this topic amongst Christian philosophers has been fueled by its perceived theodical payoffs. In particular, the theme of redemptive suffering stands front-and-center within the contemporary Christian Understanding (or Christian Explanation) projects, which began in earnest a few decades ago and have steadily picked up steam since. By “Christian Understanding (or Explanation) projects” I mean those approaches to the problem of evil that plumb the depths of Christian theological tradition specifically, and which are written by Christians for Christians—as opposed to approaches the resources and theoretical parameters of which are set by an in-common Abrahamic vision of God, or by a philosophical theism more general than that. 1 This isn’t to say Christians (on this approach) cannot avail themselves of any God-justifying explanation of evil non-Christians could as well endorse, nor that redemptive suffering may be experienced by professing Christians only. It is to underscore that those engaged in Christian Understanding projects view the distinctly Christian shape of their contributions as satisfying something between a criterion of adequacy and a strong presumptive desideratum. If the “Christ Event” is foundational to Christianity, and if this event constitutes God’s last and clearest word to humanity, then we should expect that—to the extent human sin, suffering and death can be made intelligible at all—Christ’s passion and death are key to understanding how. “Through Christ and in Christ, light is shed on the riddle of sorrow and death. Apart from His Gospel, it overwhelms us” (Gaudium et Spes 1965, §22). With this in mind, I want to consider some recent Christian meditations on redemptive suffering, focusing principally on the analyses given by Alvin Plantinga and Marilyn McCord Adams. My evaluation of their accounts takes as read their intention to deliver theodicies or explanations fit for consumption by Christian theists, who wish to understand the purpose of suffering and death from a Christian point of view. 2 I shall argue that their presentations, though suggestive and helpful, fall short of that objective. In the final section I will outline the work remaining to be done in order to fill out a Christian theory of redemptive suffering. I begin with a few brief remarks on suffering and redemption to aid in what follows. SUFFERING AND REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING—PRELIMINARIES Forgoing any serious treatment of redemption as a religious category, or of its role within Christian theology, we can at least say redemption is a
process whereby some person, group or thing is raised from a sub-optimal condition to an optimal or better one. 3 The locus of redemption for Christians is of course Christ’s atoning work “for us men and for our salvation,” by which the rescue of His people (from their sin) and the world (from its curse) is gained. “Redemption” in this tradition therefore frequently names an outward-focused soteriological act, enacted by a redeemer on behalf of others. However, it refers as well to the effect of this act on its recipients, just as the allied concept of atonement designates variously the act of offering atonement or the state of at-one-ment it brings. But here it is important to mark that the “active” and “passive” (or cause/effect) senses of “redemption” should not be rigidly dichotomized. It was, for example, through Christ’s redemptive efforts for us that He Himself “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb 5.8) and was “made perfect through suffering” (Heb 2.10). So an act of redemption, alongside its outward looking purpose, may also produce changes in the agent of redemption. (The changes or improvements in Christ—learning obedience, being perfected—do not imply an anterior sinful defect on His part according to tradition. But this just means redemptive activity need not in all its dimensions involve change from a categorically bad condition to a state of relative sinless purity.) Now, two upshots: if we too may suffer redemptively, by actively participating in Christ’s work, then this suffering redounds to our salvific benefit. Moreover, our participatory redemptive suffering (like Christ’s suffering) may be both inwardly and outwardly directed. That is, if we participate in Christ’s suffering there is conceptual space for the venerable idea that even our own suffering can work to the benefit of others, by “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” for their sake (Col 1.24). I’ll return to these points below. Turn now to suffering. This is a wide category, inclusive of physical and mental anguish, of death or dying, and also of sinfulness. With respect to the last, I agree with Eleonore Stump (2010) that a person might suffer objectively (by dint of disorder in mind, heart or will) without subjectively experiencing his disorder as an instance of suffering (ch. 1). It is however difficult to see how suffering-as-sinfulness could be of redemptive value—in contrast (say) to battling through the temptation or despair such disorder brings in its wake. 4 Rather, sin or sinfulness is something from and for which we need redemption, whereas suffering of other kinds may be (necessary) means to it. Suffering sans an experiential or broadly epistemic component is therefore not how I wish to view it here. On the other hand, I do not wish to strengthen the experiential/epistemic component to such a pitch that all suffering is in Adams’ (1999) sense “horrific,” or as providing prima facie reason to believe that one’s life could not be a great good to one on the whole. For one thing, I am unsure how prima facie reasons function in this context—Job, Judas and Jesus each in their own ways participated in
horrors; that they might have evaluated the apparent worth or integrity of their lives similarly, in light of these events, seems questionable. More to the point, room must give way to lower-grade forms of suffering as potentially redemptive, and this Adams would not wish to deny. So for the present, let’s say (a) suffering of potentially redemptive value excludes the “objective suffering” that just is sinfulness or moral disorder—though these things do give occasion to redemptive suffering—and (b) it includes suffering not severe enough even prima facie to void one’s life of positive meaning, as well as including Adams’ “horrors.” This is a vague description, but it will serve. My aim in this paper is to understand how our suffering (so described) can stand in a participatory relation to Christ’s, so that it is geared toward a salvific end or endowed with redemptive significance. REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING IN PLANTINGA’S FELIX CULPA THEODICY In “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa’,” Alvin Plantinga (2004) rehabilitates and defends an explanation of evil that he commends as a “successful theodicy,” one that at least approximates to the actual reasons for which God ordained the patterns of sin, suffering and death exhibited through history (12). In outline, his theodicy says that the divine decree to save (some of) us through the atoning death of Christ, the Incarnate Son, logically precedes God’s ordination of the Fall and its consequences. The latter are directed toward God’s prior intention to redeem (some of) us, in that they provide the intelligible grounds for incarnation and atonement—goods of such enormous value that all actual evil and suffering, sin and death, is outbalanced by them and worth their cost. Plantinga’s theodicy has been searchingly critiqued by others; here I review just two aspects of it, both related to his portrayal of redemptive suffering. The first of these is that Plantinga treats incarnation and atonement as a unit, or as a kind of singular extended event. The second is that the value he assigns this event is so overwhelming that it swamps the collective disvalue of all actual evil and suffering, without regard to its effects. Take the second point first. According to Plantinga, the incarnation and atonement is an unrivaled and indeed unsurpassable display of divine goodness and love. In His condescending assumption of human nature, in His willingness to suffer excruciating pain and sorrow—even to the death—God sets forth His glory and loving-kindness to the fullest possible extent. To be sure, God’s character is what it is irrespective of His contingent choice to create a world in which He thus reveals it, so the divine reality is no more valuable in fact than it would have been had He created nothing at all. But the expression of His goodness in creation, incarnation and atonement
magnifies and reflects His glory, which is itself a magnificent good. Plantinga therefore maintains that worlds including incarnation and atonement are better, more valuable, than any possible world absent this feature. I believe this value assignment flows primarily from the religiously commendable impulse to give all glory, laud and honor to God. But it has the unfortunate effect of sidelining what may have moved a loving God to secure our redemption, and this in a couple ways. Consider a world in which God forges a path to salvation and beatific intimacy via incarnation and atonement, but in which no one takes up the offer. If the manifestation of divinity through incarnation and atonement is of such value as to render the good of its influence on creatures nigh on negligible, then there is a straightforward sense in which such a world is just as valuable as ours. 5 And that seems wrong. Kevin Diller (2008) makes vivid the oddness of this result when he notes, “the traditional interpretation of the atonement is that it is the means to accomplish the end of our redemption,” whereas Plantinga’s theodicy reverses the end and the means: The fall now becomes the means to the ultimate end of the display of God’s love in the suffering of the atonement. What makes the world great on the Felix Culpa view is the towering good of the costliness of God’s loving action, not primarily what is accomplished by that action. . . . If God’s purpose in atonement is to restore relationship with us, then it is proper to think that close relationship with creation is to God of greater value than the cost of the atonement. Restoring relationship is worth the sacrifice. The Felix Culpa approach swaps cost and value in the equation such that the value of the sacrifice of atonement is considered worth the cost of breaking relationship with creation. (92–3)
Whether Plantinga ignores the (secondary?) value of restored or augmented relationship will be addressed below, but it is fair to say the language and tenor of his presentation exacerbate the complaint that he does. It’s strewn with descriptions of the “display,” the “demonstration,” the “manifestation” and “enactment” of God’s goodness before our watching eyes, in the incarnation-and-atonement event; but the age-old theme that God glorifies Himself by diffusion—an inherently relational notion—is comparatively neglected throughout. Further aggravating this worry is his reply to the “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy” objection—an objection to which he devotes considerable time—which says that God on this picture is rather like a guardian who throws those under his care into grave predicaments, only to swoop in and save the day to the applause of all. Plantinga doesn’t exactly seek to dispel the aptness of the comparison; but he does insist God’s decisions are overall for the best, and that the epistemic distance between God and us should give judgment pause. Perhaps (he says), if we were
perfectly apprised of the reasons God ordained sin and suffering, and if our wills were perfectly attuned to His, we would voluntarily serve as (sinful and suffering) means to His end—the depiction of His glory— even if we weren’t in fact consulted on the matter. So perhaps the judgment that God is an uncaring, utilitarian calculator on the Felix Culpa line owes simply to our sin or ignorance. All that’s as may be. The point is his reply gives traction to those who’d charge him with ignoring the value of incarnation and atonement for us, in favor of the admirable qualities of divinity it parades. Now in my view, if Plantinga may be accused of imbalance in emphasis—as the supralapsarian cast of his theodicy pretty well ensures—he doesn’t bypass the good of incarnation and atonement for creatures altogether. He says (for instance) that incarnation and atonement is the vehicle through which we attain an otherwise impossible degree of union with God—an incommensurate good for us—and that our sin and suffering are ordered to it: it is “by virtue of our fall and subsequent redemption,” he says, that “we can achieve a level of intimacy with God that can’t be achieved any other way; by virtue of suffering we are invited to join the charmed circle of the Trinity itself” (2004, 19). Here the disparate categories of sin and suffering, redemption and participation, make contact in Plantinga’s theory. The idea is that sin gives rise to atonement, which itself calls for incarnation and divine suffering, with the result that human suffering and sin become avenues for participation in God’s eternal life. But all this needs scrutiny. I mentioned above that Plantinga treats incarnation and atonement as a package, and now I can refine this claim. Atonement is clearly bound up with sin in Plantinga’s estimation: this is why he transitions to the purpose of suffering as a further question (17ff). 6 So he distinguishes conceptually the reason why God ordains sin from the reason why we suffer—and he certainly does not commend being sinful as a way of growing close to God! Nevertheless, the value of suffering as a vital bridge to divine intimacy is something left mysterious. And the mystery only deepens when we reflect that incarnation is metaphysically as well as conceptually distinct from atonement, and looks motivationally distinguishable too. 7 The good that is the hypostatic union by itself exhibits God’s humiliating love, and itself paves way for humanity’s inclusion in His life. What’s suffering got to do with that? How does it enter the redemptive equation? Plantinga is not without reply. Beyond noting with approval Hick’s contention that suffering is instrumental to character development, and nodding toward a natural law theodicy, he cites a few Biblical texts 8 from which he draws these conclusions: (i) “sharing in the suffering of Christ is a means to attain . . . salvation”; (ii) sharing in Christ’s sufferings “is a means of fellowship with him at a very profound level” and a way “to achieve a certain kind of solidarity with him”; (iii) by sharing His suffer-
ing, we “come to resemble Christ . . . thus displaying more fully the image of God” (18). It is therefore possible to participate in Christ’s sufferings to redemptive effect, according to Plantinga. But for purposes of Christian Understanding we want to know how this “works”—to understand the “mechanics” or form of participation, to see why suffering is the optimal or necessary path to salvation, solidarity and the rest. Yet here Plantinga pulls back: I say that our fellowship and solidarity in Christ’s suffering and our resembling him in suffering are good states of affairs; I do not say that we can clearly see that they are indeed good states of affairs. My reason for saying that they are in fact good is not that it is simply obvious and apparent to us that they are good states of affairs, in the way in which it is simply apparent that severe suffering is intrinsically a bad thing. . . . So I don’t say this because it is evident to us, but rather because we learn from Scripture that these are good states of affairs. . . . Someone might object that in a theodicy, one cannot appeal to goods we can’t ourselves recognize to be goods; but why think a thing like that? A theodicy will of course make reference to states of affairs that are known to be good. . . . How this information is acquired is neither here nor there. (19)
But to know that something is so does not disclose understanding of why it is so, and this is just where (as I think) understanding is required. Granted, my focus is not Plantinga’s, and what’s central to my interests are perhaps orthogonal to his. But if the promissory note of Christian Understanding theodicy can be cashed—if a unique and uniquely potent explanation of suffering is there in the Christian religion—then we must pick up the thread where Plantinga leaves off. REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING IN ADAMS’ CHRISTOLOGICAL “THEODICY” Like Plantinga, Marilyn McCord Adams (1999) draws from the well of Christian tradition in her treatment of sin and suffering: with respect to these, she too holds “the central doctrines of Christian theology—Christology and the Trinity—have considerable explanatory power”(164). However, her approach is different and more demanding in orientation than Plantinga’s. If Plantinga explains sin and suffering by connecting them to God’s ultimate end—actualizing a world in which He magnifies His greatness—and this end outweighs in value the intrinsic badness of its prerequisite conditions, Adams insists sin and suffering be “defeated” within the context of each individual life (not just “outweighed” by an aggregate, global good). It isn’t true, according to Adams, that God’s justice obligates Him to ensure such an outcome for each of us; it is rather
God’s love that moves Him to secure the good for His creatures, through the suffering they undergo. 9 So there is between Plantinga and Adams a reversal of explanatory direction—suffering is related organically with some great good for us, and God enters into our sufferings that this good for us may be vouched safe. The tremendous breadth and richness of Adams’ writings on this topic make it impossible to summarize her contribution to Christian Understanding in such limited space. Still, as before, we may gainfully review her work with an eye toward the nature of participatory redemptive suffering as she develops it. Central to her concern is horrendous suffering—suffering so profound as potentially to destroy the meaning or worth of life for those who participate in it. Since suffering of this order works to erode meaning, the defeat of suffering is meaning-restorative: it lays bare the significance of horrendous suffering such that participants can retrospectively affirm the value of their lives, despite (even in) the horrors they’ve endured. It is important to emphasize that the “meaningfulness” of horrendous suffering is in principle subjectively recognizable as meaningful, as well as really or objectively purposive. For despite the corrigibility of our judgments about the value of a life lived, one essential component of a life worthwhile on the whole is the individual’s estimation that it is (see 1999: 27, 81, 145–6). But it is only too evident that those who suffer horrendously sometimes judge their lives a loss, regardless of the piecemeal goods they’ve met with in their earthly careers. It follows, according to Adams, that no aggregate of finite or creaturely goods could guarantee for all a subjective assessment of life’s worth, and that a loving God must therefore stand ready “to preserve them in life after death, to place them . . . in new and nourishing environments where they can profit from Divine instruction on how to integrate their participation in horrors into wholes with positive meanings” (84). Three aspects of this eschatological conclusion need noting, if we are to appreciate the meaningfulness (thus the “defeat”) of suffering as she conceives it. First, the postmortem reality she envisions is no mere continuation of the “vale of soul-making” experienced here below. Rather, it is tied to the incommensurate good of beatific vision, existential union with the Triune God, which engulfs and absorbs all the minuses of life so as to ensure positive assessment of its great worth. Second, the retrospectively recognized meaningfulness of suffering consists chiefly in awareness that participation in horrors was in each case a point of contact with God, who threw in His lot and suffered there with us. Third, it is precisely in the suffering of God Incarnate that this identification occurs: “It is God’s becoming a human being, experiencing the human condition from the inside, from the viewpoint of a finite consciousness, that integrates the experience into an incommensurately valuable relationship” (168). Postmortem revelation that God-in-Christ met us there, in and through suffer-
ing, fixes it so that no episodes of horrendous suffering would be wished away by any who had experienced them. Given this admittedly skeletal gloss of her theory, we can begin to evaluate the extent to which it enhances understanding of suffering’s redemptive power. Unquestionably she ventures beyond Plantinga’s theodicy in lots of ways; yet I worry a basic lacuna we saw in his theory reemerges in hers—namely, that the redemptive purpose of suffering itself remains tantalizingly obscure. We have seen her distinguish two senses in which horrendous suffering is “meaningful,” by pointing up an objective or metaphysical purpose to suffering (in facilitating real contact with God) and an epistemic sense, in which suffering is later recognized to be an occasion of divine/human identification. To this we may add a further disambiguation of “meaningfulness,” which signals our ability to see how such identification is effected in suffering, and why suffering should be the specific framework for it. It is in this last sense (I think) that the meaningfulness of suffering in Adams’ theory is not fully clear. What I mean is her requirements for the defeat of suffering in context of a person’s life are not equivalent to the requirements for Christian Understanding of suffering. For the Christian may well take on faith (or with reason!) that the puzzle of horrendous suffering will eventually dissolve into beatific bliss, without seeing in the meantime how Christian Faith divulges the redemptive value of suffering as it’s been advertised to do. Indeed, even the privileged afterlife perspective doesn’t look to ensure “recognition” of suffering’s redemptive value—as opposed to incentivizing affirmation that some (perhaps unknowable) redemptive purpose was there at work within it. Several considerations underwrite this conclusion, from my viewpoint. Notice first that Adams’ soteriological universalism (concerning which I have no present quarrel) entails that all will experience beatific intimacy in the end, whether they participated in horrors or not. Now on one hand, her universalism seemingly extends the reach of redemptive suffering even to those whose lives are not marred by “horrors,” which is by my lights a desirable result. For there is no reason to suppose a person cannot identify with Christ in his suffering, unless he is tempted by the thought that he’s better off dead. But this result is also double-edged, because it tends to detach horrendous suffering from its promised organic relation to the good of beatific union. On this score, Adams writes: [My] view does not make participation in horrors necessary for the individual’s incommensurate good. A horror-free life that ended in beatific intimacy with God would also be one in which the individual enjoyed incommensurate good. My contention is rather that by virtue of endowing horrors with a good aspect, Divine identification makes the victim’s experience of horrors so meaningful that one would not retrospectively wish it away. . . . As a point of identification with God it is partially constitutive of the relationship that makes one’s life over-
Chapter 9 whelmingly worth living and, so, is meaningful apart from any putative causal . . . consequences. (167)
But then the meaningfulness of horrendous suffering is not intelligible through its organic relation to beatitude, which would anyway occur without it. My point is not that the lower-tier suffering of souls who escape horror participation shouldn’t “partially constitute” meaningful identification with God—I think it should. It is that the obscurity of horrendous suffering’s relation to the beatific outcome frustrates Christian understanding of suffering tout court. Any affliction of life—horrific or not— appears as nothing when compared to the eternal weight of glory, awaiting us all. Thus all suffering (horrific or not) will inevitably be judged in some way to just not matter. I hope so. But this does not illuminate why suffering and death (whether human or divine, horrific or pedestrian) is redemptively significant in the end, nor why any of it was introduced to start with. Note, here, that Adams considers (and rejects) process theology’s contention that a world of suffering is metaphysically inevitable, and that God’s suffering-with-the world is a metaphysical inevitability too. Against this she maintains it is God’s free choice to create, and divine suffering is a function of His loving-care: neither of these things simply had to be. 10 Now I agree with her here. But this posture only sharpens the problem of suffering, since the contingency of suffering (both creaturely and divine) only escalates explanatory standards. That is: God’s unconstrained willingness to suffer and (in Christ) to die alongside us does inspire conviction that Wisdom weaves these things into creation for good and satisfying reasons; but that this course was freely chosen, as opposed to strictly unavoidable, just heightens expectation that suffering should be teleologically and redemptively intelligible from a Christian point of view. I think Adams would agree. 11 Her primary problem with process theism isn’t really that it makes divine and creaturely suffering metaphysically inevitable, but more that it sidesteps the incarnation—and with it the “considerable explanatory power” of Christology—in its account. Under this heading, she argues that (i) God’s love for creation culminates in His assumption of a particular human nature as His own; that (ii) the suffering of God-as-man “cancels the curse of human vulnerability to horrors,” because “the very horrors, participation in which threatened to undo the positive value of created personality, now become secure points of identification with the crucified God;” and that (iii) this “shifts metaphysical frameworks” by locating divine participation in horrors squarely in “God’s assumed human nature” (165–8). I believe this Christological focus is what we need to make good on the promise of Christian Understanding. But we must ask what these
Christological affirmations have bought us, in comparison with the alternate theistic approaches to suffering she pits them against. Notice that Adams, like Hartshorne and Rolt (and, for that matter, Plantinga), affirms passibility in the divine nature itself (see 1999, 168ff). From this it follows that God’s emotive and sympathetic investment in creaturely suffering is independent of divine incarnation, at least to a significant degree. Thus the value of identifying with God in suffering can plausibly be had without His entering the human condition literally. Moreover, if God shows love’s meaning through solidarity with us, and invites us to join Him in His redemptive mission, we may find purpose in suffering (even in martyrdom) as acts of service to and identification with God. Adams is of course aware of all this, but considers the points inapposite. None of the proposals “is exclusively Christian,” she says, since such points “would constitute satisfactory responses within Judaism” (1999, 164) (and to this we can add at least Shi’a Islam) 12 —whereas Christianity should, if true, shed more light on suffering and death than non-Christian religions are able to do. What remains to be seen, then, is how God’s suffering in Christ lets us move past empathic solidarity with God—together with a dash of soulmaking and the promise of heavenly reward—to participation in His redemptive victory, through our voluntary submission to suffering and death. I explore these themes next. REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING AND SELF-SACRIFICE— CHRISTOLOGY REVISITED At this point it is sensible to pause and ask whether I’m expecting too much of “Christian Understanding,” and whether my expectations have led me to pass too lightly over the Christological elements integral to Adams’ view. In answer, I deny it is asking too much for Christian Understanding to further the teleological intelligibility of suffering and death within a Christian framework. 13 Such intelligibility does not as I see it require disclosure of a morally sufficient reason for God’s ordination of suffering (by which He is “justified”), so I’m not holding Adams’ theory to a standard she rejects. Nonetheless, the forward-looking promise that suffering will be considered meaningful retrospectively, as she develops this claim, seems to me insufficient for purposes of understanding it at last—even while the breathtaking vision of God’s suffering in Christ looms large. At the same time, I believe the Christological and traditional theological themes she canvasses 14 can be appropriated and pressed into further service. In this final section, then, I propose an approach to human death and suffering through the categories of sacrifice and participation, with the hope of framing the Christian context of participatory redemptive
suffering. In outline, the frame is this: (i) death is intended by God to be an occasion for the complete gift of self back to God; (ii) Christ’s sacrificial death purifies and elevates the sacrificial gift of death for those who participate in it; and (iii) suffering (exclusive of death) should be understood as a prolepsis or advance extension of death itself, through which it acquires its meaning and redemptive significance. 15 Begin with the first element. Death is commonly viewed as a curse, introduced through sin and disobedience. Since sin did not have to be, it seems that death did not have to be either—that it is an alien and unintended end for us, from the God’s-eye view. It’s also natural to see the resurrection of Jesus as signifying the reversal of this curse, brought about (in soteriologically ironic fashion) by Christ’s own obedience unto death. Now I don’t deny any of this. However, I want to temper the claim that death is a curse, a punishment of sin simpliciter, by considering what in Christ’s death was pleasing to God and why it constituted the paradigmatically “acceptable” sacrifice. Clearly, Christ’s demonstrated willingness to offer Himself up without sin and spite made His death a singular token, and indeed an exemplar, of martyrdom. But the dispositional willingness to lay down His life in this way could have been recognized by God without needing actually to see His willingness executed in act. So Christ’s love for and commitment to the Father, while powerfully expressed in the passion, does not look to have been metaphysically grounded in it. Yet there must for all that be something in the going through with it that rendered His submission to death such an extraordinary act of God-ward love—even apart from its soteriological consequences for others. I think it is that “This is My Body, given for you,” “this is the Blood of the New Covenant, shed for you”—the words that designate Christ’s giving to us His life, pick up their sacrificial significance in that they are quite as properly addressed to the Father as to us. There is a tradition according to which Adam failed at precisely this point: in his unwillingness to lock horns with the serpent, which represented mortal danger, for the sake of God and his bride. The Second Adam is tempted in the same way, but (in familiar typological reversal) succeeds where the First had failed. Working backward from the victory of Christ, my suggestion is God gave Adam (therefore in some way all of us) the opportunity to give body and blood as the only fitting gift to the Creator—the gift of this life for this life. Our failure to do so willingly, and the implicit knowledge that nothing less will really do, then resulted in repetitious blood sacrifices as propitiating substitutes for the lives we find so hard voluntarily to give. I’m suggesting God wants those lives, and wants them freely given. What the sacrificial gift of God Himself (in the person of Christ) accomplishes, at least in this connection, is the pos-
sibility of transforming death into the perfect gift of self that God intends it to be. There is some indication this line of thought was present to the minds of early Christian martyrs (or their hagiographers), for whom the idea of martyrdom as sacramentally-informed participation in Christ’s sacrifice was evidently vivid. Thus St Paul foresees his life poured out as a libation (see Philippians 2.17; 2 Timothy, 4.6); Ignatius looks with notorious enthusiasm to the day his flesh will be “ground fine by the lion’s teeth, to be made purest bread for Christ” (Roberts and Donaldson 1999, 74); Polycarp’s immolation gives off the aroma of baking bread (Roberts and Donaldson 1999, 42); and so forth. The Eucharistic overtones, lying on the surface in such descriptions, push Christian martyrdom past “witnessbearing” and solidarity with divine aims into the territory of participation in the life and death of God-as-man. But if so, there are attendant implications for a Christian view of death generally—not only the elite and spectacular death of the martyr, but anyone’s death may be elevated into pure and undefiled gift of self, when united to the offering of Christ. That is, the meaningfulness of a person’s death lies in its quality as a perfect gift of love, irrespective of the conditions in which it occurs; and the purpose of death is the making of this gift. But how exactly does Christ’s sacrifice “elevate,” “transform” our own deaths into perfect gifts of love? I remarked previously that we’d need to understand the “mechanics” or form of participation—what mystico-metaphysical union with Christ amounts to, and how it comes to be effected—in order to fill out a Christian theory of redemptive suffering. I find I don’t know how to do this, in a way that (a) can be reasonably articulated and (b) does not reduce to psychological identification or empathetic solidarity, for example; so an essential element of my proposal remains underdeveloped. But I stand by the claim. I think it is tolerably clear that penal substitution theories of atonement leave the purpose of human death hanging, while participatory accounts hold promise of something more. But the payoff of such theories for Christian Understanding awaits an analysis of “participation in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1.4) that I am presently unable to provide. I do however wish to say something about suffering in life, in contrast to the suffering that is death. My strategy so far has been to relate the sacrificial death of the martyr to “the good death” generally, by arguing that participation in Christ’s redemptive death can sanctify both. What I want now to suggest is that suffering in general may be viewed as an extension of death, and can pick up its redemptive significance through the same route. A number of philosophers have argued that vulnerability to physical and psychological harm is unavoidable for material creatures, and I see no reason to contest this. If the benefit of creating a regular, natural order in which living beings can thrive comes at this cost, it is perhaps worth it
on the whole. But the thought that living things are prone to suffer by virtue of finite power and physical frame draws attention to their essential mortality, or inevitable disintegration of the physical and mental capacities vital to creaturely persistence. The bodily and mental suffering of this life is therefore at no great conceptual remove from the fact of death: both arise from the conditions of material, created being. So, if death gives opportunity for the gift of oneself back to God, and if suffering is a kind of proleptic harbinger of death’s eventuality, then suffering may serve by extension as a gift of created life given back to its Author. Perhaps, reaching back again to St Paul, our suffering is a way to fulfill the (Rom 12.1) injunction to “offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” as a “proper act of worship.” It is platitudinous to say we are born to die, that the process of dying begins concomitantly with life. But there is a metaphysical point to the platitude, which Christian Understanding would do well to mine. The proposed approach I’ve put forward in this section is sketchy and programmatic. Each element of it requires clarification, elaboration, and support. And I’m under no illusion that seeing to the bottom of these things will be any the easier for us than it is for the angels, who long to look in on them. But my hunch is that Christian Understanding of redemptive suffering can still labor on, before it runs up against the impregnable wall of divine mystery; and I hope the avenues of exploration I have identified here will be found to shoulder some of that load. NOTES 1. A generic philosophical theism may support theodicy along the periphery, but will be anemic in comparison with the riches afforded by the western theistic religions in all their robust particularity. On the other hand, as Stump (1985) points out with respect to these religions, there is the danger of embarrassment by this abundance if “attempted solutions to the problem of evil based solely on a few theistic assumptions common to the major monotheisms are likely themselves to be incompatible with Jewish or Christian or Islamic beliefs” when spelled out in detail (398). But beyond these considerations lies the Christian conviction that God’s assumption of human nature in Christ alters the field entirely, and that a Christian theodicy done well will highlight and explain why this is so. 2. Thus Plantinga (2004) contends that it is time for Christian philosophers to move beyond defense “to a different task: that of understanding the evil our word displays from a Christian perspective. Granted, the atheological arguments are unsuccessful; but how should Christians think about evil?” (5). Adams (1999) argues in the same vein that Christians should write from within the framework of a Christian value system (as opposed to a system neutral as between secularism and Christianity), and should draw from the store of their particular array of religious beliefs, in order the better to explain how God’s love is consistent with participation in horrific evil. 3. Forensic or debt-repayment etymological connotations of “redemption” are not hereby ignored, since to go from being a debtor to being debtless is a terrific way of moving from a sub-optimal to a better condition. Or so I can imagine. 4. Adams (1999) has argued that a person may identify with Christ even in the commission of horrific evil, since Christ was ritually accursed on the cross and thus
(symbolically) made a “perpetrator” of evil Himself. I am not altogether sure I understand her suggestion, though I applaud the motivation behind it. If she means at a minimum that acting sinfully or “being in sin” might catalyze profound sorrow-leading-to-repentance, then what I say here supports her claim. 5. See Plantinga (2004): “the value of incarnation and atonement cannot be matched by any aggregate of creaturely goods. . . . And no matter how much evil, how much sin and suffering, a world contains, the aggregated badness would be outweighed by the goodness of incarnation and atonement, outweighed in such a way that the world in question is very good. In this sense, therefore, any world with incarnation and atonement is of infinite value by virtue of containing two goods of infinite value: the existence of God, and the incarnation and atonement” (10). 6. More accurately, he distinguishes the purpose of sin from the further question why suffering to the extent and in the ways it actually occurs is needful. That sin inevitably brings some measure of suffering with it seems very plausible, but this does not shed light on the “why so much?” question or the question of suffering’s telos. 7. See Diller (2008) and Adams (2008) for discussion. 8. See 2 Cor. 4.10–11, 14, 17; Philippians 3.10–11; Heb 12.10–11. 9. To be more precise, she assumes “that small- or medium-scale evils—such as a childhood case of measles or not getting into the best graduate school—might simply be overbalanced by a good life. Unless horrendous evils, which call into question whether one’s life can be worth living, are defeated, however, evil’s victories will be too large” (43 n.14). Nonetheless, the thrust of her approach to suffering remains teleological or prospective, and her solution to the problem of horrors is of course relevant to how suffering of lower orders may be of redemptive significance as well. For example, universalism falls out of her criterion that God be good to every created person. In her gloss on this she states that God wouldn’t create creatures with “such radical vulnerability to horrors, unless Divine power stood able, and Divine love willing, to redeem” (156). The beatific end that renders horrendous suffering meaningful is thus evidently the end for each creature, and there is reason to suppose that God weaves every life into positively meaningful wholes thereby. 10. See her appraisal of Hartshorne and Rolt (159ff.). Her affirmation of divine freedom in creation and the contingency of suffering is qualified by her claim that human nature is independent of God’s will, and that the creation of humanity in the natural order inevitably renders us vulnerable to horrendous suffering (171). My point is that (freely) creating a natural order in which suffering is inevitable calls legitimately for a kind of explanation process theism does not have to provide. 11. For example, she notes (1986) that Christian mysticism has frequently portrayed suffering as a vision into God’s inner-life, which somehow reveals creaturely suffering as connected logically to beatific vision (264). However, this limited affirmation is qualified by her remarks, recorded in note 13 below. 12. On redemptive suffering in Shi’ism see Mahmoud Ayoub (1978). 13. I do not mean that we should be able to entirely close the epistemic gap between God’s reasons and our own ability to apprehend them. Adams may be right that we should not “envision postmortem cries of ‘felix culpa!’” or imagine “participants in horrors would ever think it reasonable to have consented to them in advance as constituent and/or instrumental means to the goods God brings from them” (1999, 203). But if there are no instrumental or constitutive goods to suffering and death then I do not see that we can be said to have understood or explained their purpose from a Christian perspective. 14. Especially in her (2006). 15. To clarify: (i) does not entail that God “intends” death; rather, in my view, God intends that there be corruptible (mortal) beings, for whom death is an inevitability. Thanks to Mark Murphy for pressing me on this point.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1986. “Redemptive Suffering.” In Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment, edited by William Wainwright and Robert Audi, 248–67. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1999. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Adams, Marilyn McCord. 2006. Christ and Horrors: the Coherence of Christology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Adams, Marilyn McCord. 2008. “Plantinga on ‘Felix Culpa’: Analysis and Critique” Faith and Philosophy 25(2): 123–140. Ayoub, Mahmoud M. 1978. Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of Ashura in Twelver Shi’ism. The Hague: De Gruyter. Diller, Kevin. 2008. “Are Sin and Evil Necessary for a Really Good World? Questions for Alvin Plantinga’s Felix Culpa Theodicy” Faith and Philosophy 25(1): 87–101. Gaudium et Spes. 1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/ documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html Plantinga, Alvin. 2004. “Supralapsarianism, Or ‘O Felix Culpa’.” In Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, edited by Peter van Inwagen, 1–25. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson, eds. 1999. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, 2nd ed. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Stump, Eleonore. 1985. “The Problem of Evil” Faith and Philosophy 2(4): 392–420. Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
TEN Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil among Anglo-American Philosophers of Religion Nathan Loewen
I imagine that you are likely familiar with the topic of this volume; or, at the very least, you have a strong hunch of what the parameters of the discussion will be when you read a title such as The Problem of Evil: New Philosophical Directions. To a non-specialist, this title might seem lofty or even esoteric. Any reader with a passing familiarity with philosophy will likely know that the title marks out well-known topical territory that ranges from Socratic dilemmas to earthquakes in eighteenth-century Spain on past the horrific events of the twentieth century up until present contexts. I think it safe to assume that most readers readily accept that these are the borders of the general philosophical discourse on evil. In fact, it is by acknowledging the themes within these borders that may allow authors within this volume to propose variations on the typical approaches to evil. This chapter is no different. There is an indicator that narrows the discursive territory under consideration in this volume. The title is in English. My mention of this fact may well tip off readers to the traditional focus of this chapter. Recent English-language philosophical discussions of evil are less concerned with the philosophy of the classics, the Enlightenment, or events on the European continent. Instead the discussion revolves around specific questions related to whether or not “evil” justifies theistic belief. Over the last 60 years, a discourse has evolved with increasingly clear borders on the topic of the “problem of evil.” The focus of the problem is derived primarily by focusing upon a particular abstraction of Christian doctrine 177
into the premises of theism. 1 These premises are put into the form of an argument whose validity is tested by questions that may be posed in their general form: does there exist a contradiction whose resolution requires the exclusion of a premise? Is there an event whose evidence requires the exclusion of a premise? Is it more probable that the actual world’s state of its affairs requires the exclusion of a premise? All three of these questions are “critical” in the narrow sense. They are aimed at a particular set of premises which comprise the basis of theism. If one of these premises is rejected then all the others are correlatively invalidated. The objective here is not critique or criticism. Rather, the point of these arguments is to “cut off” (krinein) the grounds for an argument that would support the existence of an actual entity whose attributes correspond to the premises of theism. My objective in this chapter is to propose a critique of this discourse by outlining some major figures whose arguments served to establish and sustain the particular shape of this approach to philosophically considering evil. I do this in order to highlight a problematic with the discourse, based on the following points: (1) the arguments deployed by the major participants share a commitment to a binary, where either atheism or theism exclusively obtains, and (2) the binary structuring of the discourse, through repeated performances of its arguments, effectively circumscribes the object of study for philosophers of religion to arguments about theism. None of this is necessarily new in a general sense, but it is worth repeating where considerations of philosophical approaches to evil are concerned. The ways of making discourses evident is much simpler with the advent of digital databases and Internet-based media platforms and their search tools. A search using the hashtag such as “#problemofevil” on Twitter may deliver thousands of results that confirm the basic outline of the discourse. A more specialized method to confirm the discourse would be to review contents of introductions to the philosophy of religion using a website such as Amazon.com or books.google.com. Undoubtedly, the most specialized method would use an algorithm to crawl through vast amounts of recorded media to produce analytics about content patterns in the world’s major research libraries. Not too long ago, this sort of work was done manually to create data such as the following: between 1960 and 1991, Barry Whitney (1998) determined that scholars produced just over 4,237 writings related to the problem of evil. Few other topics falling within the English-language philosophy of religion have obtained this amount of attention. The major figures and topics in the discourse largely emerged within the period overviewed by Whitney’s bibliographic review. The parameters were set by philosophers of religion attacking the acceptability of arguments for the existence of an entity—God—set forth by the premises of theism. Nelson Pike’s (1958) “God and Evil: a Reconsideration” set the stage, where he proposed a revised, concise version of David Hume’s
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
arguments to determine the existence of a logical contradiction between the premises of theism and the premise that there is evil. In 1979 there was a shift in the attack, where William L. Rowe’s “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” concerned a rational, rather than strictly logical, contradiction between the purported existence of God according to theism and the evidence that there are evils without any utility. A decade later, Paul Draper (1989) proposed a significant twist on evidential arguments of the sort offered by Rowe. In his “Pain and Pleasure: an Evidential Problem for Theists,” Draper is less concerned with an outright logical and rational exclusion of theism’s premises, rather, he seeks to establish the stronger probability that theism should be ignored, given the evidence of certain evils. I take these three authors to be primary figures in the development of the English-language philosophy of religion discourse on the problem of evil. Not everyone involved in the discourse necessarily cites these three, but their arguments encapsulate the basic elements of the discourse and most philosophers of religion will have encountered their work. The other “half” of the discourse involves responses to arguments of the sort proposed by Rowe, Pike, and Draper. These three begin their arguments by taking issue with theism, and the outcome of their interventions is to entrench the discursive parameters of English philosophy of religion within the limits of theism alone. I take their attacks as the novel markers for where to begin seeing the formation of a discourse. Defenses largely accept their attacker’s original premises such that what follows is largely a back-and-forth on recurring discursive grounds. These circular returns to each other’s premises for the purposes of defeating each other reinforces and sustains particular approaches to evil. In order to explain the problematic elements of this discourse, I will explore the emergence of these three figures and their arguments. WHAT IS A PROBLEM? As a general method, problem-posing is a means of “calling out” another. Much like open letters in the media, problems are formulated and sent out with the hopes of a response. And while it is unreasonable to presume knowledge of what someone “really means,” it is safe to say that problem-posing is not a neutral or benign activity. Setting out a problem has the potential to stimulate after-effects that mark out a space for exchanges, wherein a sufficient degree of family resemblance among the effects establishes a common idiom. It is people who pose problems through language within contexts that are particular to them. Nothing in and of itself is a problem a priori or sui generis. In order for there to be a problem, there must be someone who sets it into discursive motion. And, in so doing, that act of posing a
problem attaches particular significance to things by naming and categorizing them as problematic. “Evil” is one such taxon by which things are named and arranged. If someone claims that evils exist a priori, my next question is to ask, “Who told you this?” For example, William Rowe’s evidential argument is what sets into discursive motion a cute little fawn which gets caught in a forest fire. One taxon or category has the potential to pose a problem by having it set into discursive proximity with another taxon or category. Placing “evil” alongside the premise “theism” has this problem-posing potential. Dewi Z. Phillips (2005) once remarked that the problem of evil is “our problematic inheritance” (5). The first-person plural possessive stated by Phillips locates those who participate in the English-language philosophy of religion. The problem of evil is a formative inheritance because it purports to evaluate religion in general by addressing theism in particular. This is in no small part because “philosophy of religion in the Englishspeaking world is practiced under conditions that have been shaped by the history of Western philosophy” (Quinn and Taliaferro 1997, 1–2). There exists no English-language philosophy of religion textbook that does not dedicate a substantial section to this discussion and its key figures. Any statement of a problem will necessarily consider some data, exclude other data and have restricted considerations for the sake of parsimony. The particular exercise of these conditions about the problem of evil leads to the argument that if “theism” is compatible with “evil,” then religious beliefs related to theism can be assured of their validity. Although such problems posed using “theism” need not concern Christian theological claims, their formulations are specifically concerned with what is entailed by the attributes of the all-perfect entity. And, of course, should a restricted version of belief in God, such as theism, fail to be valid, then the implication is that general and theologically confessional versions of such beliefs must also fail to be rationally acceptable (Martin 1990, 341). These are the stakes of this particular discourse. Each iteration of the problem poses these stakes in a slightly different way. THE LOGICAL VERSION Nelson Pike poses a logical problem of evil that consolidates a starting point for the discourse in question. Pike’s argument formalizes the basic dilemma. The first two premises are attributes of a being: absolute goodness and unconditional capacity for action. The third premise is a claim that an evil—or some evils—exists. The problem posed is that of incoherence among the premises. 2 Pike’s claim is that this creates a problem. The predicates of goodness and omnipotence are logically essential to theism (1970, 21). Since the theistic God has no contingent attributes, the existence of evil poses a problem of compossibility: one of the three premises,
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
Pike insists, must be entirely excluded to resolve the proposed incoherence. If one of the two claims about God cannot be conjoined to that about evil, due to some contradiction among them on the order of a logical impossibility, then this entails rejecting the validity of the theistic premises. The logical problem works by tracing out the entailments from essential predicates of theism in order to arrive at a contradiction. “Logic” in this problem is the analytical investigation into the grammar of a given proposition to determine what can and cannot be said (Phillips 2005, 7). The simplicity of this argument makes it persuasive; it deals with logical necessities rather than contingent, that is, factual and empirical matters. By working through an issue of logical coherence based on whether the premises in question are able to “stand up to the canons of logic” (Howard-Snyder 1996, xii), philosophers of religion may be persuaded that, “no valid solution of the problem which does not modify at least one of the constituent propositions in a way which would seriously affect the essential core of the theistic position” (Mackie 1990, 36–7). The pertinent member of the canons of logic here is contradiction. Contradictions must be solved by the determination of a disjunction. But this is not a clear-cut deduction of either P or ~P. Instead, the key working element that might establish a contradiction to be deployed by the logical problem of evil is an enthymeme: an omnipotent being who is wholly good, must, on account of these two predicates, actively and positively deny the existence of evil. The logical problem of evil presents a wide-ranging version of this enthymeme: any evil establishes a contradiction with the premises of theism. PREDATORY GOODNESS VERSUS EVIL I call this the “predatory goodness” enthymeme. Such a powerful and good being should not tolerate any evils. As Pike (1958) argues, “by consulting the logic (or usage rules) of the terms “omniscient,” “all-powerful,” “good person” and “evil,” [ . . . ] an omniscient and all-powerful being could prevent evil and create nothing but good, while a perfectly good person would prevent evil and create nothing but good” (116). There is a normative claim from folk morality at work here that articulates an expectation: a good person with the power to prevent evils ought to do so. Where evils are the doppelgängers to supererogatory acts, maximally good beings—much like comic superheroes—should entirely dedicate themselves to eradicating all evils. The being described by theism should, according to this line of thinking, exercise predatory goodness. Quite some time after Pike’s (1958) article, J.L. Mackie elaborates further upon the expectation at work in this enthymeme. Mackie (1990) claims a logical entailment towards “additional premises, or perhaps
some quasi-logical rules connecting the terms “good,” “evil,”, and “omnipotent” (26) all of which he understands to be conjoined into “principles” (26) that ought to be necessary for theism. The point being that if these rules and necessities are logically true, then theism “can be disproved” (25). The idea of predatory goodness, in sum, is that, “a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely” (26). It is worth noting that defenses against the logical problem of evil do not challenge these folk expectations. Instead, it is generally accepted that the being described by the attributes of theism always eliminates evil insofar as it can (Weisberger 1999, 24). To my knowledge, no arguments from within the problem of evil discourse under consideration challenge the expectation of predatory goodness. 3 Defensive counter-arguments instead choose to carry through nearly all elements of the logical problem in order to suspend its conclusion with a deferral: for all we know, there are morally sufficient reasons for evils. As a result, the basic outline of the logical argument places an expectation of predatory goodness that goes unchallenged. The defenses of deferral are deployed because they interrupt deductive conclusions that would suit the “canons of logic” (Pargetter 1976, 242). By demanding a morally sufficient reason for each evil, defenders of theism construct “an eternal task” (Adams 1999, 17) of connecting every local evil in a piecemeal fashion to an ultimately global transcendent good. Namely, “it would seem to require something like omniscience on our part before we could lay claim to knowing that there is no greater good connected to the fawn’s suffering” (Rowe 1979, 337). The outcome of this defense creates far from satisfying philosophical conditions. It neither buttresses theism nor compels atheism to find that morally sufficient reason(s) for evil(s). The logical argument from evil could only establish itself if there were logically deduced evils which lack both logical necessity and sufficient reason (Martin 1978, 429). That, however, is not possible. Philosophical logic can establish conditions for what may or may not be stated, but much like mathematics, that mode of inquiry does not have any normative purchase on empirical conditions. 4 As Mackie (1990) notes, the logical problem of evil, “is not a scientific problem that might be solved by further observations, or a practical problem that might be solved by a decision or an action” (25). Two formative outcomes for philosophers of religion result from the logical problem of evil. One is that the entity described by theism is governed by an obligation to rule out evils. “Goodness” as an attribute carries with it not only the contradiction with “evil,” but also an expectation that the being to which goodness is attributed should predate upon evil to the fullest extent of its potential. The other outcome for the discourse is an expectation of a moral calculus, a morally sufficient reason, to consider what evils might escape predatory goodness. “For the argument from evil to succeed, it must be shown that it is unreasonable to
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
believe that any good is such that it morally justifies the evil which exists” (Weisberger 1999, 28). These outcomes serve to demarcate the borders of the discourse by virtue of the impossibility of their satisfaction. They preserve the potential to pose the problem of evil, but the problem is posed only with respect to the premises of theism. And the success of the attack on theism finds itself limited by its own tools. 5 THE EVIDENTIAL VERSION The goalposts for the pseudo-duel of this discourse sustain themselves because of their stark contrast: either theism or not-theism. Each iteration of the discourse reproduces and sustains that disjunction as the gold standard for offering a successful argument. These iterations also repeat the expectation of predatory goodness. The evidential problem of evil retains these thematic boundaries while shifting from a global to local focus; the shift is from evil as a concept logically contradictory to good towards the consideration of a specific kind of localized evil which might upset the premises of theism. The evil posing the evidential problem is a minimal one whose predicates are purposeless, gratuitous, and entirely natural—the diminutive opposite to the ambitious omni-predicates of theism. William L. Rowe’s (1979) article, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” is the paradigmatic evidential problem of evil. Rowe poses the problem of a fawn, which may have canonical status in the problem of evil discourse. 6 Rowe explains a plausible scenario where, after several days of suffering, a fawn dies of burns inflicted by a forestfire that was ignited by lightning. He surmises that “[a]n omnipotent, omniscient being could have easily prevented the fawn from being horribly burned, or, given the burning, could have spared the fawn the intense suffering by quickly ending its life” (337). If this scenario has happened at least once in the world, then there is evidence of an evil, which serves no higher good or purpose, which could have been ruled out by the being described by theism (337). And while the evidence in this argument rests upon single fallibility 7—whereby were evidence were to arise to the contrary, the inference against God’s existence would be abandoned—Rowe has shaped the problem of evil discourse in such a way that he would continue to restate and “fine-tune” the problem (2006b, 312). The evidential problem of evil establishes a discourse of agreement about the general empirical facts of the world, where some evils come to pass that do not prevent any humanly known global or local goods from coming to pass. While this version of the problem is meant to remove the deferral invoked by defenses against the logical problem of evil, the routine patterns of the discourse are further reinforced. The lines of pro-
posed inference reiterate predatory goodness and affirm the baseline status of theism for philosophers of religion. Humans ought to be capable of knowing the intense animal suffering occurring in their world. They should be able to understand what goods do exist and to imagine what goods might come about from what exists. They are thereby capable of making judgments as to what an omnipotent being can and cannot do; including the capacity to reasonably expect what a wholly-good being could do with respect to good and evil (Rowe 1990, 1612). By hinging itself upon inference to such plausibility, Rowe’s argument obtains epistemic persuasiveness. Rowe seeks to affirm that goodness is predatory while doing away with the plausibility of evils as justified by moral sufficiency. If such a fawn’s demise never happened, then a more quantitatively and qualitatively good world would obtain, and a good omnipotent thing should completely eliminate such basic evils. However, Rowe’s argument does not consider the plausibility of not knowing anything deductively certain about the fawn. Evils, in Rowe’s argument, are occasional, contingent, and finite. Each instance of evil is not epistemically accessible. The difficulty, as Susan Neimen (2002) puts it, is the following: “Data are what you have when you have scientific procedures based on causal analyses and inductive evidence. None of this is present for events that happen only once. There everything rests upon speculation” (158). When pressed about “which exact fawn,” there is no specific answer. The defense against the evidential problem of evil continues the discursive pattern of rejoinders to the logical problem of evil. Stephen Wykstra’s (1984) skeptical defense affirms all the basic premises and movements of Rowe’s argument, only to undermine its epistemological certainty: for all we know, there might actually be a justificatory explanation for every evil that comes to pass. Wykstra’s strategy not merely repeats, but amplifies the good-eliminates-evil binary of predatory goodness. The argument may also be summarized as: for all we know, we may expect that a powerful and good entity will ultimately rule out all evil. By relativizing the self-evidence of Rowe’s evidential claims, Wykstra attenuates the rhetorical force of the attack but does not entirely refute to the problem posed by Rowe. The conclusion of a single fallibility argument teeters provisionally on the possibility of further evidence, which Wykstra amplifies with a principle of “CORNEA”: the condition of reasonable epistemic access (1984). To contend that there is an inordinately strong requirement for the appearance of divine determination of the world’s affairs towards empirically observable events that qualify as goods. The purpose for seemingly inscrutable suffering is reasonably limited, given human epistemological conditions. Thus claims about evils in the world are true observations, but any judgment upon the balance of good and evil in the world must be suspended, pending a further possible observation of outweighing goods in the future.
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
THE PROBABILISTIC VERSION The most recent development in the discourse on the problem of evil appeared not long after Rowe’s evidential argument from evil. Bruce Reichenbach (1980) introduced what he called the “inductive argument from evil” because he found Rowe missing a knock-down argument: “merely presenting instances of pointless suffering will not establish that there are instances of evil which God could have prevented such that no overriding good would have been negatively affected by their prevention” (227). Lacking a sound means to decisively invalidate theism vis-àvis evils, evidential arguments can at least provide inductive reasons to deny the probability that theism is improbable. Reichenbach introduced Bayes’ theorem of probability, which determines the odds between contemporaneous probabilities in ratios of likelihood to establish what a reasonable person should be expected to believe. 8 Affirming the expectation of predatory goodness, he states, “We rely on good people to remove, prevent or alleviate the natural evils which we encounter and which they are capable of affecting [. . .] how much more can one expect that there would be less natural evil in the presence of a perfectly good and omnipotent personal deity than if the natural laws were simply allowed to run their course with respect to the furniture of the world” (1980, 223). Paul Draper (1989) refines reformed Reichenbach’s work into what may be called the probabilistic problem of evil. The objective is to circumvent the defensive deferrals against the logical and evidential versions. Draper asks “whether or not any serious hypothesis that is logically inconsistent with theism explains some significant set of facts about evil or about good and evil much better than theism does” (332). From an “indifferent” stance, given theism and atheism as two options of a wager, towards which option is it most likely reasonable to abandon that neutrality. As such, the probabilistic problem of evil shifts the criteria for “victory” in the discourse: “In general, the more specific and hence riskier an existential claim like theism is, the less probable that claim is intrinsically but the more probable its denial is intrinsically. This is why we assume both in science and in everyday reasoning that existential claims, especially specific ones, require stronger evidence to be justified than their denials do” (2004, 47). Draper’s probabilistic argument asks for what defenders against the problem of evil are not in the position to offer, namely, that the already grant “omni”-type premises of theism buttress themselves with even stronger wagers that obtain even higher probabilities of belief. 9 Draper’s strategy presents a bind by asking defenders of theism to further amplify the expectation of predatory goodness. The existing borders of the discourse are correlatively reinforced by raising the stakes of the “evil game” in this manner, because the putatively indifferent hypothesis is
formulated explicitly with regard to theism. Draper’s approach thereby serves to limit questions from arising within the discourse, such as how or why in the first place only certain options obtain consideration for the analysis of their probability. Indeed, this question is absent from the discourse on the problem of evil. Draper does briefly consider what options are eligible “relative to our epistemic situation” (1989, 190n.18) but without substantive elaboration in order to highlight that potential to expand the range of possible considerations by those participating in the discourse (1989, 181). Presumably this applies to any hypothesis with which theism’s premises must compete for probability. According to Draper’s shaping of the discussion, however, to analyze the discrete processes and operations of judgment is unnecessary: “The crucial point is that, as long as one makes the correct abstraction, the background knowledge that should affect the crucial probabilities will affect them, and the background knowledge that should not affect them won’t. There is no need to list all of our beliefs or all of the propositions we know, subtract some, and then conditionalize on the ones that are left. That would be a truly hopeless procedure” (2004, 54). At this stage in the development of the discourse, the boundary for what is admitted and granted for consideration is in its third round of reiteration and reinforcement. The point being made by Draper, against the logical and epistemological deferrals of various defenses, is that there are limits to what considerations should be made when considering options for philosophical reflections on evil. The correct abstractions that “we” should make are being quite accurately represented here by Draper on behalf of the other participants in the discourse. The correct abstractions are the ones that engage the premises of theism with an eye towards presuming that good logically contradicts evil, and therefore good should predatorily rule out evil. The scope of the discourse, what “we” consider, is not all background knowledge or beliefs. What would be hopeless for Draper is the rather simple task of considering all the viable options for approaching evil within the orbit of theism. Substantially far more hopeless, then, would be the task of philosophically approaching evil in such a way that would critically question the presumptions of what are the correct abstractions, background knowledge, crucial probabilities, as well as the propositions and beliefs possibly known by other “we’s.” In this way, the current state of the discourse on the problem of evil purports to facilitate the exercise of judgment toward a determinate decision, but the fundamental data and basic assumptions at work in the discourse, however, are not scrutinized. Draper does reflect upon the possibility that the available antecedent probabilities may indeed vary: “from person to person and from time to time, since different persons can be in different epistemic situations at the same time and the same person can be in different epistemic situations at different times” (1989, 14). But I think it reasonable to expect that Draper
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
is not asking anyone to consider the epistemological variations outside the borders of the current discourse on the problem of evil. Were it the case, then a host of background data and epistemological starting points would be considered beyond choosing between theism and atheism. CONCLUSION While one must always start somewhere, all three paradigmatic iterations of the problems of evil—the logical, evidential and probabilistic—introduce and sustain a rather restricted set of considerations for philosophers of religion who wish to approach the topic of evil. The borderlines of this discourse are reinforced by the defenses’ counterarguments to each version of the problem of evil. David O’Connor (1987) correctly surmises that the nature of the discourse is “less a duel than a mime, for the weapons yielded on each side are incapable of inflicting any wounds” (441). Despite voluminous publications and a status quo of détente, participants in this discourse share the expectation that one side or the other must ultimately be correct, and, that goodness is necessarily predatory. Perhaps the participants in this discourse cannot be faulted for this state of affairs. The discovery and resolution of any apparent contradiction is, according to most philosophers, a fundamental element of undertaking studies in the discipline and the canons of logic are something taken to provide conditions for their practice. If a philosophical approach cannot resolve a contradiction, then its mission has likely failed. For the problem of evil, however, the possibility of contradiction is not a logical a priori condition of theism or any religion for that matter. The problem is posed by people in specific contexts by linguistically putting concepts or categories into relations with one another. In the case of this specific discourse, the problem requires the formulation of a third element, an enthymeme, which brings into relief a putative contradiction between good and evil. To my knowledge the participants in the discourse depicted in this chapter never question the basic folk belief of predatory goodness behind neither the enthymeme that animates the problem of evil nor the good-versus-evil binary that structures their arguments. As it stands, these are the basic elements of the so-called correct abstractions and background knowledge needed to participate in the discourse in order to pose a problem of evil. The same elements prevent the discourse from ever arriving at a decisive conclusion. After surveying the participants and arguments in the discourse on the problem of evil, an outcome foreign to their considerations can be stated by asking about the effect of this discourse. The formalizations and abstractions done in order to pose a clear-cut contradiction, where goodness is predatory upon evil, cumulatively work to exclude wider critical questions about the scope for doing philosophy of religion. Each paradig-
matic iteration of the problem effectively reinforces the borders of the discourse, and thereby deflects the potential for philosophers of religion to consider a wider assortment of data when approaching the topic of evil. This intractability is due to the logic and strategies employed by the so-called “sides” in the discourse: the grounds for the debate have been systematically narrowed, while the explanatory and probative power of each opponent has become increasingly idiosyncratic (O’Connor 1990, 73). To philosophically approach evil as a face-off between religion and reason, where the grounds of debate are between theism and atheism, sets out an expectation that to practice the philosophy of religion is to engage in a battle over the conceptual usurpation of religion via theism. As a result, this sub-field of philosophy has neither questioned its basic assumptions nor substantively engaged in alternative investigations on the topic of evil. NOTES 1. Neither Jewish nor Muslim figures nor the resources of their religions have a significant presence in the discourse. An analytic response would remark that, strictly speaking, the figures and resources of religions along with their diversity are unnecessary for working out the form, structure, and solutions to this specific problem. 2. The logical argument from evil is only a pseudo-problem because, as Terence Penelhum (1990) notes, “[t]heists do not see fewer evils in the world than atheists; they see more. It is a necessary truth that they see more [. . .]. Only if this [the atheists’ acceptance of the theological concept of ‘sin’ as a valid means of discussing evil] is accepted can the problem of evil be represented as a logical problem” (70). 3. For example, William P. Alston (1990) discusses, via meta-ethics, God’s moral obligation within divine command theory. 4. “First, even if he [the atheist] can refute n possible reasons for saying that God has a morally sufficient reason, there still may be an n + 1th reason, which hasn’t been refuted. Secondly, and more generally, the anti-theist is committed to the view that the statement, ‘an omnipotent and omniscient being cannot have a morally sufficient reason’ is a logical truth. However, the only evidence he can bring to bear against the statement is factual and inductive” (McMahon 1969, 84). 5. Paul Ricoeur (1984), while not a participant in this discourse, nicely summarizes the issue, “the fact that a finite understanding will be unable to reach the evidence for this guaranteeing calculation, only being able to gather together the few signs for the excess of perfections over imperfections in the balance of good and evil” (641). 6. For example, in his 2003 Gifford lecture, Peter van Inwagen (2006) refers to “Rowe’s fawn” (9). 7. Single fallibility is the hypothesis that, since human knowledge of the external world bases its reasons upon propositions whose certainty stands contingently upon experience of the world, that knowledge is the product of inference rather than deductive entailment. The truth of knowledge then rests upon confirmation of a proposition which renders the proposition probable. So long as the proposition is not overridden by a more probable proposition, it does not yet fail as knowledge. Single fallibility leads to reasoning by what Charles Sanders Pierce named “abduction,” “where we find some very curious circumstance, which would be explained by the supposition that it was a case of a certain general rule, and thereupon adopt that supposition” (Walton 2004, 4).
Predatory Goodness in the Discourse on Evil
8. Informally stated, Bayes’ theorem is that: “[. . .] if an experience is indirect evidence for h and neither h nor the denial of h is antecedently certain, then that experience makes h more probable, all things considered, than it would otherwise be. The greater the ratio of the antecedent probability of the experience occurring given h to the antecedent probability of the experience occurring given the denial of h, the stronger the evidence” (Draper 1992, 151). 9. See van Inwagen (1996, 155).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Marilyn McCord. 1999. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Alston, William P. 1990. “Some Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists.” In Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy, edited by Michael D. Beaty, 303–26. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Boutin, Maurice. 2005. “Effacing the Divine: Kai Nielsen’s Philosophical Achievements” ARC 33: 511–523. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Paper Machine. Translated by R. Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Draper, Paul. 1989. “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” Nous 23(3): 331–50. Draper, Paul. 1992. “God and Perceptual Evidence” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 32(3): 149–65. Draper, Paul. 2004. “More Pain and Pleasure: A Reply to Otte.” In Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, edited by Peter van Inwagen, 41–54. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Howard-Snyder, Daniel. 1996. Introduction to The Evidential Argument from Evil, xi–xx. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Larrimore, Mark, ed. 2001. The Problem of Evil. New York: Blackwell. Mackie, J. L. 1990. “Evil and Omnipotence.” In The Problem of Evil, edited by Robert Merrihew Adams and Marilyn McCord Adams, 25–37. New York: Oxford University Press. Martin, Michael M. 1978. “Is Evil Evidence Against the Existence of God?” Mind 87: 429-32. Martin, Michael M. 1990. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelpia, PA: Temple University Press. McMahon, William E. 1969. “The Problem of Evil and the Possibility of a Better World” Journal of Value Inquiry 3: 81–90. Neiman, Susan. 2002. Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. O’Connor, David. 1987. “On the Problem of Evil’s Not Being What it Seems” The Philosophical Quarterly 37(149): 441–47. O’Connor, David. 1990. “On the Problem of Evil’s Still Not Being What it Seems” The Philosophical Quarterly 40(158): 72–78. O’Connor, David. 1998. God and Inscrutable Evil: In Defense of Theism and Atheism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Pargetter, Robert. 1976. “Evil and Evidence against the Existence of God” Mind 85(338): 242–45. Penelhum, Terence. 1990. “Divine Goodness and the Problem of Evil.” In The Problem of Evil, edited by Robert Merrihew Adams and Marilyn McCord Adams, 69–82. New York: Oxford University Press. Phillips, Dewi Z. 2005. The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Pike, Nelson. 1958. “God and Evil: A Reconsideration” Ethics 68(2): 116–24. Pike, Nelson. 1970. God and Timelessness. London: Routledge & Keagan Paul.
Pike, Nelson. 1990. “Hume on Evil.” In The Problem of Evil, edited by Robert Merrihew Adams and Marilyn McCord Adams, 38–53. New York: Oxford University Press. Quinn, Phillip L. 1995. “Philosophy of Religion.” In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi, 607–11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Quinn, Phillip L and Charles Taliaferro, eds. 1997. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. New York: Blackwell Publishig. Reichenbach, Bruce R. 1980. “The Inductive Argument from Evil” American Philosophical Quarterly 17(3): 221–27. Ricoeur, Paul. 1984. “Evil, A Challenge to Philosophy and Theology” Tranlated by D. Pellauer. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 53(4): 635–48. Rowe, William L. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism” American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335–41. Rowe, William L. 1990. “Evil and the Theistic Hypothesis: A Response to Wykstra.” In The Problem of Evil, edited by Robert Merrihew Adams and Marilyn McCord Adams, 161–7. New York: Oxford University Press. Rowe, William L. 2006a. “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look.” In The Improbability of God, edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, 275–301. Amherst: Prometheus. Rowe, William L. 2006b. “Skeptical Theism: A Response to Bergmann.” In The Improbability of God, edited by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, 311–8. Amherst: Prometheus. van Inwagen, Peter. 1996. “The Problem of Evil, Air and Silence.” In The Evidential Argument from Evil, edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder, 151–74. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. van Inwagen, Peter. 2004. Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. van Inwagen, Peter. 2006. The Problem of Evil: The Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of St. Andrews in 2003. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Walton, Douglas N. 2004. Relevance in Argumentation. Mahwah: L. Erlbaum. Weisberger, A. M. 1999. Suffering Belief. New York: Peter Lang. Whitney, Barry L. 1998. Theodicy: An Annotated Bibliography on the Problem of Evil, 1960 – 1991, 2nd ed. Bowling Green: Philosophy Documentation Center, Bowling Green State University. Wykstra, Stephen J. 1984. “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of Appearance” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 16: 73–93.
Adams, Marilyn McCord, 5, 6, 7, 13, 16, 18n1, 18n4, 77, 79, 80, 81n4, 82n14, 82n18, 162, 163, 164, 167–171, 171, 174n2, 174n4, 175n7, 175n13, 182 Adams, Robert M., 95, 106 aesthetic theodicy,. See theodicy, aesthetic Alston, William P., 13, 18n1, 18n11, 188n3 ambivalence, 23, 24, 25 Anscombe, G. E. M., 30–31, 34 a priori, 24, 92, 102, 134, 179, 187; argument against theism. See theism, a priori argument against Aquinas, Saint Thomas, 2, 28, 89, 134 Arendt, Hannah, 4, 19, 51–54, 57–58, 59, 62, 63, 65, 66n9 atheology, 127–128, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139 Augustine, Saint, 2, 13, 18n4, 19n15, 28, 34, 38, 42, 70–71, 72–73, 73–81, 81n3, 81n4, 82n13, 82n16, 82n22, 143, 149 Auschwitz, 17 Bayes’ Theorem, 85, 185, 189n8 Beatific Vision, 103–105, 168, 169, 175n11 beauty, 70, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 81n4, 82n13, 82n16, 111, 142 being, 1, 2, 18n3, 28, 38, 39, 39–40, 40–45, 45, 46, 46n1, 46n5, 46n6, 47n9, 47n10, 47n18, 48n20, 48n27, 48n28, 55, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 157; Great Chain of, 71, 72, 73, 74, 77, 78, 80, 81n2; univocity of, 35–38, 38, 39, 47n12 binary, 178, 184, 187 Blumenthal, David, 16 Boehme, Jakob, 143–144, 144, 146, 158n1
Brient, Elizabeth, 37, 48n19 Buddhism, 10, 139n1 Camus, Albert, 18, 141–142, 142, 146, 149 character, 13, 28, 111, 116, 117, 118, 119, 119–120, 121, 122, 123, 124n7, 132; development, 13, 110, 116, 117, 120, 122, 124n7, 166; traits, 116 Christianity, 16, 34, 70, 81, 132, 133, 135, 138, 140n4, 162, 170, 174n2 Christology, 167, 170, 171 compatibilism, 12, 75 confidence, 120, 121 conscience, 27, 31, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 63, 66 conscious(ness), 28, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 65n4, 65n6, 79, 95, 146, 148, 150, 151, 156, 157, 158, 158n2, 168 CORNEA, 184 creativity, 145, 146, 147 Davies, Brian, 2, 7, 15, 139n2 defeat, 16, 80, 86, 93, 94, 132, 167, 168, 169, 175n9 Defense (response to problem of evil), 9, 11, 16, 114, 114–115, 116, 123, 141, 161, 174n2, 179, 182, 183, 184, 186, 187; greater good, 12, 69, 74, 93, 128, 182; robust, 114–115 detachment, 36, 37, 38, 41, 44, 45, 47n10, 49n36, 49n37, 50, 118 Devil, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 125, 129, 130, 138, 140n4, 153 dialectic(al), 35, 39–46, 46n5, 46n6, 47n12, 47n18 discourse, 17, 177–179, 180, 182, 183, 185–186, 187, 188n1, 188n5 divine hiddenness, 4–5, 18n7, 109–119, 120–123, 124n3, 124n7 191
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 69, 70, 81, 83, 141, 142–144, 145–146, 148–151, 152–153, 154, 155, 156–157, 158, 159n3 Dougherty, Trent, 14, 117, 118 Draper, Paul, 18n1, 18n11, 103, 178, 179, 185–186, 189n8 Eckhart, Meister, 35–46, 46n1, 46n2, 46n3, 46n4, 46n5, 46n6, 47n9, 47n10, 47n12, 47n15, 47n16, 47n18, 48n19, 48n20, 48n22, 48n27, 48n29, 48n30, 49n31, 49n32, 49n36, 49n38 Edwards, Jonathan, 111, 124n3, 137, 138 egoism, 29, 148, 150, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158 Eichmann, Adolf, 4, 51, 52–54, 57–58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65n3 enthymeme, 181, 187 Epictetus, 34n3 epistemic trust. See trust, epistemic eschatolog(y/ical), 44, 49n31 Evans, C. Stephen, 111 evil, 40, 43, 45, 46, 46n3, 46n5, 47n10, 47n12, 47n13, 47n14, 48n19, 48n28, 48n29, 49n31, 49n32, 51, 54, 55–56, 62, 72, 73, 75, 79, 81, 127–128, 132–133, 135, 136, 136–137, 138–139, 143, 144, 145, 149, 150, 153, 154, 158, 158n2, 159n3, 164, 174n2, 175n5, 175n9, 188n5; abstract, 9, 10, 12, 18n12, 82n18, 91–92; concrete, 9, 10, 12, 18n12, 82n18, 91–92, 97; demonic, 151; doers, 6, 51, 52, 53, 54, 57, 64, 65; epistemic, 110, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122, 123; gratuitous, 12, 13, 112; Hell, and. See Hell; horrendous, 5, 13, 16, 18n8, 19n16, 79–80, 92, 168–170, 174n4, 175n9, 175n10; incomprehensibility of, 23, 24, 25; intrinsic, 72, 93, 96, 167; moral, 3, 5, 23, 41, 73, 98, 103, 113, 119, 121; natural, 3, 5, 40, 43, 76, 113, 119, 185; nature of, 1–6, 38; origin(s) of, 23, 24–25, 75, 77, 150, 152; of perspective, 128, 129, 130; privation theory of, 2, 11, 18n2, 38, 41, 42, 70–72, 73, 76, 77, 81, 82n6, 103, 129, 134–135, 136, 143, 146, 154;
problem of; problem of evil; of proportion, 129, 130; pure (impure), 25–33, 130; relational, 72; religious, 5; social, 4 faith, 14, 16, 76, 81, 82n12, 109, 110, 115, 116, 119–123, 124n4, 124n6, 124n7, 132, 134, 135, 157, 169; bad, 51, 55, 59–61, 62–63, 65 felix cupla, 164–167, 175n13 freedom, 11, 54, 59–60, 61, 62, 63, 65n5, 72–76, 79, 107n4, 114, 117, 143–145, 146–147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 175n10 free will, 11–13, 70, 72, 73, 77, 82n9, 107n1, 117, 132, 134, 135; defense, 11–12, 77, 81, 92, 113–114, 117, 122; libertarian, 73, 74–75; theodicy, 11–12, 19n15, 73, 76, 135 Freud, Sigmund, 23, 28 Garcia, Laura L., 117–118, 118 Gleeson, Andrew, 15, 19n18 God, 4, 5, 6–7, 8–9, 11–12, 13–14, 15, 16, 16–17, 23, 24, 35–36, 37–38, 38–46, 46n1, 46n4, 46n6, 47n9, 47n10, 47n14, 47n15, 47n17, 48n21, 48n24, 48n25, 48n26, 48n27, 48n30, 49n31, 49n32, 49n34, 49n36, 49n37, 65n3, 69–77, 78–81, 81n4, 82n12, 82n19, 85–86, 88, 90, 92, 93–94, 95, 96, 97–98, 99, 100, 100–101, 102, 103, 103–106, 107n1, 107n4, 109–111, 112, 113, 114–115, 116–118, 119, 120–122, 123, 124n7, 127–137, 137–139, 141–143, 145, 146–148, 148–150, 151, 152, 153–155, 155, 158, 161–162, 164–166, 167, 168–169, 169–171, 171–173, 173, 174n1, 175n5, 175n9, 175n10, 175n11, 175n13, 175n15, 178, 180, 183, 185, 188n3, 188n4; goodness of (omnibenevolence), 6, 7, 10, 16, 41, 48n21, 48n24, 75, 81n4, 86, 88, 92, 101, 112, 134, 136, 138, 149, 165, 166; knowledge of (omniscience), 6, 7, 80, 88, 109, 112, 132, 136; love of, 7, 47n10, 75, 109, 115, 119, 135, 154, 167, 170, 174n2; necessary existence of, 86, 101, 106;
Index power of (omnipotence), 6, 7, 10, 73, 86, 88, 109, 112, 135–136, 142 Godhead, 39–46, 46n6, 47n10, 47n14, 47n15, 49n32, 49n34 goodness, 2, 10, 15, 16, 18, 31, 41, 48n21, 48n25, 56, 70, 72, 73, 75, 76, 77, 81n4, 88, 93, 101, 103, 107n4, 133–137, 138–139, 141, 148, 149, 153, 158, 158n2, 164, 165, 175n5, 180, 181–182, 183, 183–185, 185, 187 Gregory of Nyssa, 28 Griffin, David R., 10 Hartshorne, Charles, 10, 170, 175n10 Hell, 4, 18n6, 51, 60, 79, 80, 128, 129–131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137–138, 138, 140n3, 155 heresy (heretical), 35, 45, 46n2, 46n5, 48n29, 49n31 Hick, John, 7, 13, 19n16, 80, 82n14, 109–110, 114, 115–117, 118, 119, 122, 139n2, 166 Howard-Snyder, Daniel, 7, 117, 118, 181 Hume, David, 7, 95, 178 immanence, 44, 48n26 Islam, 130, 132, 133, 139n1, 139n2, 170, 174n1 Jesus, 7, 16, 45, 48n27, 82n12, 129, 132, 153, 161, 163, 172 Jews, 6, 17, 53, 55, 57, 60, 61 Jonas, Hans, 34n2 Judaism, 130, 133, 170 Kant, Immanuel, 23, 24–25, 54, 95, 104, 107n3, 154, 158n2 Keller, James A., 10, 124n2 Kierkegaard, Soren, 31, 34n5, 111, 124n6 Kirilov, 151 Kodaj, Daniel, 5 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 11, 134, 147, 149, 158n1 Levinas, Emmanuel, 17 Mackie, J. L., 8, 9, 141, 181, 182
malevolence, perfect, 85–106 Manichaeism, 28, 34n2, 138, 140n4 Martin, Michael, 5, 180, 182 Mill, John Stuart, 10 Milton, John, 28, 130, 154, 158n1 monotheism, 131, 133, 139, 174n1 Montaigne, Michel de, 29, 31 Moore, G. E., 86, 93–95, 96 morally vacuous, 51, 54, 58, 63 Moser, Paul, 111 multitude, 40–41, 43–44, 48n28 Murray, Michael J., 18n1, 117, 118 mystic(al/ism), 35, 37, 38, 39, 41, 46n2, 47n9, 47n10, 47n11, 47n12, 49n31, 49n33, 117, 173, 175n11; philosophical, 38, 46n3, 47n9; speculative, 35, 44, 46, 49n31; terror, 143, 145 naturalism, 128, 129 Nazi, 5, 6, 17, 54, 55, 58, 59, 60–61; ideology of, 55–57, 63, 65n2 Neo-Classical Theism. See Process Theism Neoplaton(ism/ic), 71, 77 nobody, 62, 63 nothing(ness), 35, 36–37, 38, 39–40, 40–41, 44–45, 46, 47n9, 48n20, 61, 148 O’Connor, David, 139n1, 187 omnibenevolence. See God, goodness of omnipotence. See God, power of: paradox of, 86 omniscience. See God, knowledge of Optimism, 11, 13 pankalia , 70, 77–79, 79, 81, 82n21 paradise, 131–133, 135, 136, 138 Phillips, D. Z., 15, 17, 180, 181 Pike, Nelson, 18n1, 178, 179, 180, 181 Plantinga, Alvin, 7, 9, 11, 16, 18n11, 73, 82n14, 85–86, 91–92, 101, 102, 103, 106, 112, 114, 139n2, 141, 162, 164–167, 167, 168, 169, 170, 174n2, 175n5 Plotinus, 34n3, 71, 82n5, 134 Poston, Ted, 4, 117, 118
prestige, 28 problem of evil, 6–18, 37, 69–70, 73, 85–106, 109–110, 112–115, 116–119, 122, 123, 124n3, 127, 128, 132, 137, 141–142, 146–148, 161–162, 174n1, 177–187; evidential, 8, 18n10, 18n11, 85–106, 183–184; existential, 16; logical, 8, 9, 180–181, 182, 188n2; probabilistic, 8, 18n11, 185–186; theodicy as, 17 Process Theism, 10, 170, 175n10 protest theodicy. See theodicy, protest Raskolnikov, 148, 151, 152, 154, 157, 158 redemption, 45, 162–163, 165, 166, 174n3 reflection, 63, 66n9 Reichenbach, Bruce, 185 reliance, 86, 120, 121, 123 remorse, 24, 31, 60, 65, 148 retaliation, 26–28, 56 Roth, John, 16 Rowe, William L., 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 18n1, 85, 91, 92, 93, 96, 97, 98, 103, 106, 139n1, 178, 179, 182, 183–185, 188n6 Russell, Bruce, 13 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 51, 55–56, 59–60, 61, 62–63, 65, 65n4, 65n5, 65n6, 65n7, 65n8, 66n9 Satan. See Devil Schellenberg, J. L., 4, 12, 18n7, 109–111, 111–112, 112, 115, 116, 121–122, 123, 124n3 Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, 142, 143–144, 145–148, 149–152, 153–156, 157–158, 158n1, 158n2 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 29, 34n4, 145 Shatov, 151 skeptical theism, 13–14, 122 soul making, 13, 109, 110, 114, 115, 116–117, 118–119, 122, 168; epistemic, 119, 122 Spinoza (Spinozism), 11, 13, 158n2 Stavrogin, 143, 148, 151, 152, 153, 154, 157 Stoicism, 34n3, 128, 129, 130
Stump, Eleonore, 7, 82n14, 107n2, 163, 174n1 suffering, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18n1, 29, 37, 49n38, 52, 78, 79, 80, 95–96, 97, 106, 107n1, 118, 127, 129, 132, 134, 136, 137, 138, 142, 149, 182, 183, 184, 185; redemptive, 16, 19n17, 161–164, 165, 165–171, 173–174, 175n5, 175n6, 175n9, 175n10, 175n11, 175n12, 175n13 Symmetry Principle, 86, 99, 102, 103 temptation, 23, 24, 25, 130, 148, 149, 151, 153, 155, 163 theism, 6, 8–9, 10–11, 13–14, 15, 16, 18n8, 18n9, 19n16, 95, 96, 101, 106, 110, 127, 128, 129, 131, 141, 162, 174n1, 177–178, 178–179, 179–183, 185–186, 187; a priori argument against, 88–91 theodicy, 9, 11, 13, 46n2, 72, 74, 76, 79, 81, 114–115, 127–128, 128, 131, 133, 133–134, 135–137, 138, 139n1, 139n2, 149, 161, 164–171, 174n1; aesthetic, 70, 77–79, 80; protest, 16; soul making. See soul making theology, 2, 6, 10, 28, 38, 46n2, 48n27, 48n29, 71, 75, 127, 130, 131, 132, 136, 139, 149, 162, 167 thinking, 54, 63, 66n9 Tilley, Terrence W., 17 Tooley, Michael, 14, 18n1, 18n12, 85–106 transcendence, 48n26, 62 trust, 27, 107n1, 119–122, 123, 124n7; epistemic, 120, 124n5; and faith, 110, 119, 120–122, 123, 124n4 typolog (ical/y), 172 understanding, Christian, 161–162, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 173, 174 Ungrund, 143–144, 145, 147 universalism, 169, 175n9 van Inwagen, Peter, 1, 2, 7, 13, 18n1, 18n12, 113, 114, 118, 119, 124n3, 188n6 Wainwright, William J., 111, 124n3
Index Whitehead, Alfred North, 11 Whitney, Barry, 178 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 15, 47n9 Wykstra, Stephen, 13, 18n1, 184
Žižek, Slavoj, 147 Zoroastrianism, 130, 138
About the Contributors
Jennifer M.S. ANG is the author of Sartre and the Moral Limits of War and Terrorism (2009), “Fighting the Humanitarian War: Justifications and Limitations” in Routledge Handbook on Ethics and War: Just War in the 21st Century (2013), and “Contradictions of Race Struggles: The Case of the Uyghurs” in Philosophy of Race: Introductory Readings (forthcoming). She has published articles that examine Sartre’s philosophy with Kant, Hegel, and Arendt on various issues on ethics, war, revolutions and history in Peace Review, Sartre Studies International, Philosophy Today, and Cosmos and History. Robert Arp works as a research analyst for the US Army. He has published in many philosophical areas, including philosophy of religion, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of mind. His work in philosophy of religion has appeared in Religious Studies, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Journal of Philosophical Research, International Philosophical Quarterly, and American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. He is editor of Revisiting Aquinas' Proofs for the Existence of God and co-editor of The Concept of Hell with Ben McCraw. See robertarp.com. A.G. Holdier is the teacher and program director for southern Idaho’s Minidoka Christian Education Association, as well as an instructor for Colorado Technical University. His research interests lie at the intersection of theology, phenomenology, and art, with a particular focus on the function of stories as a cultural artifact. He has presented at conferences sponsored by the Society of Christian Philosophers and Gonzaga University’s Faith and Reason Institute, as well as at the annual Northwest Philosophy Conference. He holds an MA in the philosophy of religion from Denver Seminary. Neal Judisch received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Texas, Austin, where he focused in metaphysics, philosophy of mind and action, and philosophy of religion. He is currently associate professor of philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. His current areas of research focus on the overlap of metaphysics (especially human agency) and philosophical theology. Nathan Loewen is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. He has two primary areas of research and publication. One focuses on globalizing discourses within the philosophy of religion, and the other analyzes the emerging confluence between Religious Studies and Development Studies. A third area of 197
About the Contributors
interest for him is collaborative online learning—how the emphasis on technology in higher education can be directed towards strategies for networked learning. Edward N. Martin is co-chair and professor of philosophy at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, and teaches in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and history of modern philosophy. His essays have been included in several chapters of books, including in the editors’ recent book Revisiting Aquinas’ Proofs for the Existence of God, eds. Robert Arp and Benjamin McCraw (Brill/Rodopi, 2015), as well as various articles and reviews. He is currently doing research in Kant and Hume on teleological judgments. He resides with his wife and two teenage children in Lynchburg, Virginia. Benjamin W. McCraw is an instructor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina Upstate. His research focuses primarily on epistemology and philosophy of religion—especially their intersection in religious epistemology. He’s published articles in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Social Epistemology, and Logos and Episteme as well as having co-edited collections in philosophy of religion that are forthcoming from Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan. James McLachlan is professor of philosophy and religion at Western Carolina University. He is an assisting professor in the Levinas Summer Seminars, past co-chair of the Mormon Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion, member of the board of the Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought, and organizer of the Personalist Seminar. His research interests include twentieth-century Continental thought, especially Levinas, Sartre, and Berdyaev. He also publishes on American and European Personalism, Process Theology, Romanticism and idealism, and Mormon Theology. At the University of Georgia, where Gregory S. Moss received his PhD in 2014, he completed a dissertation on Hegel’s Science of Logic under distinguished research professor, Dr. Richard Dien Winfield. During the 2013–2014 academic year, Dr. Moss completed a Fulbright Research Fellowship at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn under Markus Gabriel. Since the Fall of 2014, Dr. Moss has been working as a lecturer in philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Clemson University. Dr. Moss has published in various international journals, such as the Journal for the British Society for Phenomenology, and has recently published his first monograph on Ernst Cassirer, entitled Ernst Cassirer and the Autonomy of Language, published by Lexington Books. John R. Shook teaches philosophy at Bowie State University in Maryland, and also teaches philosophy of science and science education for the University at Buffalo's online EdM program in Science and the Public. From 2000 to 2006 he was a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. He has also been the director of education for two national
About the Contributors
secular organizations, the Center for Inquiry and the American Humanist Association. Among his recent books are The Future of Naturalism (coedited, 2009), The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists, Believers, and Everyone in Between (2010), The Essential William James (edited, 2011), Dewey’s Social Philosophy: Democracy as Education (2014), and the Oxford Handbook of Secularism (co-edited, forthcoming). Hugo Strandberg is lecturer in philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His two most recent monographs are Self-Knowledge and Self-Deception (2015) and Love of a God of Love: Towards a Transformation of the Philosophy of Religion (2011).