Thursday, August 29, 2013

Disambiguating Evil (Series Index)

Depiction of the Lisbon Earthquake

As traditionally construed, the problem of evil proposes some incompatibility or tension between observed instances of suffering and evil, and the orthodox conception of God. The debate about this problem has trundled along for centuries, taking in many of the leading thinkers in Western philosophy. Though they all have their unique take on it, the debate has tended to settle around two distinct kinds of evil: moral and natural. The former arising from the misuse of free will; the latter from the lawful unfolding of natural events.

In the past month or so, I've been looking at a series of articles that try to go beyond the moral-natural divide. They typically do so by disambiguating evil into new or more precise categories. As a result, they perform a useful service: they move the debate into new territory and try to sidestep traditional responses to the problem.

Anyway, I thought it would be worth collating all these posts in one place. Who knows, I might add to it in the future. Does anyone know of other papers with similar themes? Please do share in the comments section.

1. The Problem of Natural Inequality (Mizrahi)
In these two posts, I looked at Moti Mizrahi's claim that the unequal distribution of natural properties (such as our genetic endowment) poses a particular problem for theists. The posts were based on his article "The Problem of Natural Equality: A New Problem of Evil".

2. The Problem of Social Evil (Poston)
In these two posts, I looked at Ted Poston's claim that there is a distinct category of evil - social evil - that cannot be reduced to moral or natural kinds, and that poses a unique set of challenges to the theist. I must say, of all the papers I looked at, this was the most interesting to me as it integrated game theory, classical theology, and the problem of evil in a highly illuminating manner. The posts were based on Poston's article "Social Evil".

3. The Problem of Evil and God's Authority (Maring)
In these two posts, I looked at Luke Maring's claim that God, qua authority, was specially obligated to prevent certain kinds of evil (namely: evils that fall within the jurisdiction of his authority, and which impact negatively on those subject to his authority). The posts were based on Maring's article "A New Problem of Evil: Authority and the Duty of Interference", which was an interesting fusion between political and religious philosophy.

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