Sunday, June 01, 2008

Is the logical argument from evil a dead parrot?

Or just pining for the fjords. An essay by Dave Armstrong.


Clayton Littlejohn said...

I haven't read it all. One mistake to note is this one:
Noted atheist philosopher Graham Oppy elaborates similarly on the current consensus about this particular version of the atheological argument from evil

In Arguing about Gods, Oppy says that he's defending agnosticism and speaks as if this is the position he's adopted.

I also think it's unhelpful to talk about _the_ logical argument from evil. There's Mackie's argument, of course, but there are other arguments from evil that purport to show that you cannot consistently maintain that God and evil exist.

I was pleased to see that David Lewis was on the side of those who thought that a version of the logical argument from evil was conclusive. He's no slouch.

Anonymous said...

Since Dave references something i wrote, in the comments section I said this:

Dave, thanks for this detailed and educated response. Very well done. I've gotten a lot of negative responses to what I wrote at a discussion board. So you are in good company. I may be the odd man out on this one.

Two things. 1) Check the dates of the quotes from people who say that the Logical Problem of Evil (LPOE) is dead against the new articles and books that defend it, and you'll see it isn't dead. Those who say it is dead mostly wrote before the year 2000.

After Kant it was said that the ontological argument was dead, too. But it revives itself every once in-a-while, especially with Malcolhm, Hartshorne, and Plantinga.

2) You quoted the scholars who admitted that their versions don't provide insurmountable problems for theists, as if they didn't present LPOE at all. They did. And you know it. So it appears to me you think it's not considered a LPOE unless it decisively refutes theism. That's an impossible standard for any Logical argument, for at this point these scholars are speaking about what convinces others that they are right. For an argument to be convincing is quite another thing than for it to be sound.

The Ontological argument, for instance, may be sound. But even if it is, it doesn't convince skeptics, for even if one cannot show why it is wrong, the skeptic can merely say it is based upon a premise others don't accept. It's based upon Occidental, not Oriental conceptions of God, so even if the reasoning is correct, it also proves oriental conceptions of God exist, and also that an evil supreme Being exists.

Ilíon said...

"Is the logical argument from evil a dead parrot? Or just pining for the fjords."

Might it not be both: a dead parrot pining for the fjords?

Anonymous said...

It's demonstrably false to say that the logical problem of evil is dead. Only the ignorant will say that it is. This is propoganda plain and simple. The only thing that can probably be said is that Mackie's argument fails and that Plantinga answered it. Is Mackie's argument the only one out there? No. Q.E.D.

I'd say that if Christians are to be the honest people God calls them to be then they ought to stop lying in support of the gospel. Or, be better informed.

Ilíon said...


If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, did it make a sound?

If someone who makes it his Life's Work to be intellectually dishonest (*) makes an assertion, has anything been said?

(*) That would be Mr Loftus, for the uninformed.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

Dear John,
Forgive Ilíon. He's somehow missed the memo that ad hominem arguments are fallacious and thinks that we ought instead to heap abuse upon those with whom we disagree. As Jesus would have.

Anonymous said...

For my part, I'm not even sure that Plantinga has undercut the version of the logical problem of evil he addressed. It's interesting that if you ask an apologetically-minded Christian about Plantinga's notion of transworld depravity, they get it wrong. There was a post on Prosblogion a few years back when even Christian professional philosophers were trying to get clear on what Plantinga meant here.

Ilíon said...

Dear Reader,
Please forgive Clayton: he simply doesn't understand what "ad hominem argument" means. And, perhaps he doesn't understand that an 'ad hominem' isn't *necessarily* fallacious.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

I'll let others ask Ilíon to clarify what the contingently fallacious argument amounts to. I think anon is right, btw, about Plantinga's "refutation" of the logical argument from evil. A nice place to start might be John Hawthorne and Daniel Howard-Snyder's, "Transworld sanctity and Plantinga's Free Will Defense", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (1998): 1-21. For Plantinga's refutation to succeed, it seems you have to think that any free creature God could have actualized is such that in any world in which that creature exists, it performs (at least) one evil action of its own free will. If you don't buy that (and I can't think of any reason to buy into that), you won't find his refutation all that impressive.

Anonymous said...

It is OBVIOUS that that the Logical Problem of Evil fails.

There is not even a LOGICAL proof that the world is round.

You need EVIDENCE for that.

If you can't even logically prove that the world is round, then what hope is there in the logical problem of evil?


Edwardtbabinski said...


Granting an infinite number of possible worlds with absolutely "free" creatures in them, I guess anything can or can't happen.

Plantinga proves nothing, disproves nothing, no matter how many worlds he multiplies and no matter how absolutely he dreams that each soul is "free."

And after all of his philosophizing gut questions remain.

We are to believe that all the daily stress, strains (including mind-numbing repetitious labor and soul sucking boredom or even depair) as well as all the pains of mind and body (including our deaths and living through the deaths of close friends and lovers) don't add up to anything compared with the infinite pains of hell (or so we have been told by theologians for centuries). So it's out of the frying pan (of this vail of tears and ignorance and reeling pains and emotions) and into the eternal fire. That's what Plantinga and other theologians are attempting to defend. They might as well defend Auschwitz. And of course some major Catholic and Calvinist theologians HAVE defended hell even to the extent of teaching that the sight of the damneded's punishment will make the saints in heaven shout for joy.

And people call that "religion."

Ilíon said...

Your thinking has been distorted and corrupted by the sort of tendentious logical positivism and scientism that Mr Loftus and Mr Babinski, for examples, are always pushing.

That you may not employ this deficient thinking to advocate atheism is quite beside the point.

Hans: "There is not even a LOGICAL proof that the world is round.

You need EVIDENCE for that.

This is evidence of *very* faulty reasoning.

*ALL* proofs are logical ... the question is whether the reasoning employed is both sound and valid.

There is NO SUCH THING as "evidence" sans logic and reasoning; there are no facts or evidence which "speak for themselves." All evidence aquires its meaning (and frequently, even its recognition even *as* evidence) from the matrix-of-reasoning by which it is interpreted and related to other evidence.

Unknown said...


I'll ask again: are you Steven Carr?

Ilíon said...

Perhaps I'm confusing Steven Carr with someone else, but isn't he a particularly obnoxious (and highly illogical/irrational, that being the primary source of his obnoxiousness) atheistic apologist?

"Hans" doesn't seem like that to me.

Anonymous said...

Ilion seems to forget that there is a logical problem of evil and an evidential problem of evil.

So the logical problem of evil obviously fails, because there is not even a logical proof that the world is round.

He has also misunderstood Plantinga.

God knows everything.

He knows which worlds you will choose good in.

He knows which worlds you will choose evil in.

He can create any world where you can choose evil.

But he cannot create a single world where he knows you will choose good, because that would take away your freedom to choose between good and evil.

If God created a world where he knows that everybody will choose good, we would all just be robots, programmed to do good.

Anonymous said...

Clayton doesn't think it true that every being God creates has to choose evil in a world that is actualised.

Who ever claimed that it was true? Plantinga certainly has never claimed that it is true.

It isn't true.

But it is possible that it is true and that is all that is needed to refute the Logical Problem of Evil.

Suppose somebody claimed that he had a logical proof that Obama had to win.

All you have to do to refute this is show that Hilary could have won.

You don't have to claim it is true that Hilary DID win.

But if it was possible for Hilary to win, then there is no logical proof that Obama had to win.

It doesn't matter whether it is true that Hilary won or lost to refute a claim that there is a logical proof that Obama had to win.

Same with the Logical Problem of Evil.

God can create beings that are always good.

But it is possible that God might not be able to do that.

It doesn't matter whether or not it is true that God can only create evil beings.

Everybody agrees it is false.

But that is irrelevant to the fact that it refutes the Logical Problem of Evil.

Unknown said...


No, I think we're referring to the same Steven Carr. I'm waiting for "Hans" to deny it.

Anonymous said...

As can be seen from 'steven Carr's' comments on Dave Armstrong blog, I would not be so idiotic as him.

Ilíon said...

And if "Hans" were to ignore the question/accusation?

Unknown said...

Then I'd have to drop the subject, for the moment at least. It's not my place to police VR's blog for sock puppets. I asked because I was curious, and I still am, seeing as that last comment by Hans doesn't exactly count as a denial.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

This thread is, I think, dead like the parrot. Hans' view is that the following claim is false, but could have been true:

(T) Any free creature God could have actualized is such that in any world in which that creature exists, it performs (at least) one evil action of its own free will.

Moreover, he thinks that if (T) is false but only contingently so this suffices for Plantinga's purposes.

I'm not sure that's right. We can rewrite (T) as follows:
(1) [](God creates C --> C performs an evil action).

If you say (1) is false, you get:
(2) ~[](God creates C --> C performs an evil action).

This entails:
(3) <>~(God creates C --> C performs an evil action).

But, Plantinga seems to say that God gots off of the hook by creating a world in which C exists and does evil because there's no world in which C exists and doesn't do evil. So, Plantinga denies (3). As (3) is a consequence of (1), _he_ cannot say that (1) is false--contingently or otherwise.

Victor Reppert said...

What actually has to be done on this issue is to get an account of what it would take to have a logical as opposed to a merely evidential argument from evil. I have struggled with exactly how you draw that distinction. I accept Howard-Snyder's gloss on that issue, an LAE is one in which the premises are known to be true and logically entail atheism.

Anonymous said...

lantinga's notion of transworld depravity properly spelled out in terms of straight metaphysical possibility, or in terms of a more restricted set of worlds -- in particular, is it spelled out in terms of counterfactuals? Bergmann's paper, as well as Plantinga's old review of Mackie's The Miracle of Theism (see "Is Theism Really A MIracle?"), make me think the latter.

Anonymous said...

Victor is quite right.

The Logical Problem of Evil is dead.

There is not even a logical proof that the world is round.

You need evidence for that.

There is no more a logical disproof of God than there is a logical disproof of the world being flat.

If atheists want an Evidential Problem of Evil, they should say so, and stop using logic.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Hans. If only Plantinga had your insight here, it would have saved him lots of time and effort writing his section on the LPOE in The Nature of Necessity (and his subsequent God, Freedom, and Evil).

Your critique is a real tour de force -- thanks.

Anonymous said...

Plantinga simply filled in the gaps in my argument.

He showed that it was possible that God cannot create good beings with free will.

That is not true.

God can make good beings.

But it only has to be possible to be true. It doesn't have to actually be true.

And the LPOE become a dead parrot.

How the atheists rage against that!