Eighth in a series of essays on the existence/non-existence
donated by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys.
An alternative view of Edward Feser's
discussion of Theodicy in his
"Five Proofs of the Existence of God."
I reached the end of Feser’s book, 1 and discovered that he addressed this issue of Theodicy in two more places. I think he must realize that this issue is the one that undermines all his arguments, but he isn’t willing or able or ready to concede defeat.
In Page 299, he states that it isn’t the scope of this book to provide a theodicy:
"And it is unnecessary for the present purpose, which is merely to provide a defense of theism against the objection from evil."
A "defense of theism" tries to prove that God’s existence is logically possible. A theodicy tries to make the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good God consistent with the existence of evil on Earth and in the rest of the universe, and a framework that shows God’s existence is also plausible.
Proving that the existence of God is logically possible, in spite of the existence of evil, still doesn’t solve the problems the existence of evil raises: the contradictions raised by the claims made about God’s characteristics.
Logical arguments can be constructed in such ways that the basic logic holds. They can still fail however if any of the premises they are based on are faulty, or if there are contradictions between different parts of the arguments. These are a big problem with Feser’s arguments.
Page 294 discusses: "The appeal to the ‘problem of evil’ is ... one of the classic objections to theism."
"Contemporary philosophers of religion commonly distinguish between two aspects of the problem.
First, is the existence of suffering and other kinds of evil logically consistent with the existence of God?
Second, if it is consistent, what is the reason why God allows suffering and other kinds of evil to exist?
Feser claims to answer this question by putting forward a theodicy. To answer the first question is simply to defend theism. I don’t think one can honestly separate the two.
There is a problem with the expression of the argument this way. I understand that the argument is more correctly stated that the problem of Theodicy arises over the claims that God is good, omniscient, omnipotent, intelligent, all powerful, perfect in every way and intervenes in the affairs of the world.
The existence of suffering and other kinds of evil are logically consistent with the Deists' conception of God as one who created the world, set it going, left, and no longer intervenes in the affairs of the world. There is therefore no reason to demand a reason for why God allows suffering and other kinds of evil to exist.
There is a third problem with his statement: suffering is not the same as Evil though he equates the two. On Page 295 he gives the example:
"If a child finds it extremely unpleasant to do his homework, a parent could easily remedy this unpleasantness by telling the child that he needn't bother doing it. But a good parent will not do so, because to eliminate the unpleasantness of doing homework would also be to prevent the child from learning and to lead him to disobey the reasonable instructions of his teacher. And it is good for a child to learn and to obey his teacher’s reasonable instructions."
It is unpleasant for me to change the litter in my cats litter box. BUT to claim that causes suffering trivializes the very concept of suffering just as Feser’s above example trivializes the concept.
He follows with the standard arguments, that I have already pointed out fail because a God with the characteristics/qualities Feser ascribes to God would have the awareness, intelligence, the compassion, the wisdom, and the power to find ways to teach some recalcitrant schmuck the life lessons that she/he needs to learn without starving children to death, or blowing them or their parents to bits in civil wars.
The failure of Feser to grasp the distinction between unpleasantness, and true suffering and evil seems to me to be the most serious flaw with his arguments.
There is no way for him to get around the problem of Theodicy, that Theism creates by claiming that God is omniscient, omnipotent, intelligent, all good and perfect in every way.
This is the end of my look at Feser’s "Five Proofs of the Existence of God." 1 In my opinion, he not only fails to prove that God of the Theists exists, but he also undercuts his own arguments with arguments that contradict each other while proving that the God of the Theists doesn’t exist. I hope everyone who has read these essays will decide for themselves whether Feser failed or succeeded in making his case for the existence of God.
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