Evil And Omnipotence In his article “Evil and Omnipotence” J.L Mackie discusses the challenge to religious belief known as the problem of evil. What is this problem? According to Mackie “[p]erhaps the most important proposed solution to the problem of evil is that evil is not to be ascribed to God at all, but to the independent actions of human beings, supposed to have been endowed by God with freedom of the will”(Mackie, 93). Explain how the existence of free will is thought by many theists to solve the problem of evil. Mackie raises several objections against the free will solution. We also examined some related objections in class (Couldnt we all have been made a bit more in Mother Theresas mold? Couldnt God have arranged things so that humans find evil less tempting than they currently do? If it is possible to imagine a heaven in which people do no do evil, doesnt this show that there can be free will without anyones doing evil?). Pick the one (or two) objection(s) that you believe is (are) the most effective objection(s).
How might a theist reply? Would Mackie, or any other non-theist, have a convincing counter-reply? Explain your answers The quest to find out who we are, where we came from, where we will go after we die and what, if anything, controls our world has fascinated mankind throughout the centuries. Famous philosophers have devoted their whole lives to developing theories, and yet the closest any have come to success has been to not have their theories disproved. One of such theories is the challenge to religious belief known as evil. J.L. Mackie was one of the major philosophical opponents of religion in the twentieth century. Mackie claims that theism is logically inconsistent, thus irrational, in the combining of these three judgments: 1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is wholly good. 3. Evil exists. “The problem of Evil, in the sense in which I shall be using the phrase, is a problem only for someone who believes that there is a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good.”(Mackie pg. 90) If God were truly omnipotent, he could prevent all and every evil.
If he were wholly good, hed prevent all and every evil that he could prevent. So if God was omnipotent and wholly good, hed prevent every evil, hence thered be no evil. But in reality, evil does exist. So does this mean that no omnipotent-God exists, which would then cross the lines of religion. The problem that we are faced with is not either a scientific problem nor a practical problem, but it is a logical problem. Logically there is a God, and he is both omnipotent and wholly good, in which technically there should be no evil.
Some theists feel the existence of free will; can solve the problem of evil. If free will were allowed, there would be decisions and actions in which God could not know due to the persons choice. This would limit Gods omnipotence, which is unacceptable to some. Free will is the minds ability to choose with intelligence. That doesnt mean that our choice has all the freedom in the world.
Our choices cannot and obviously should not be totally free from our knowledge, values and perceptions of everyday life and the things around us. Our choices are not free from past thoughts and decisions or from outside influences. The freedom in freewill is not the dismissal of these influencing factors: our self-awareness, our imagination, our ability to seek out knowledge and project the future, and our awareness of and observing our own thinking. This is our source of freedom. The proper understanding of free will is that choices are not free from influences, but free to make intelligent choices. Free will is a measure of self-determination that people feel themselves to possess and by which they make moral judgments.
Mackie raises many objections to the free will solution. Some theists also state Evil results from the abuse or our free will, but its better to have free will and sometimes act wrong, than to be robots and act right all the time. Mackie replies that a good God would allow our free good choices but stop our free bad choices. Mackie also states, “Humans always freely do the right thing” which is logically possible and so an omnipotent God could bring it about that humans always freely do the right thing. “Perhaps the most important proposed solution of the problem of evil is that evil is not to be ascribed to God at all, but to the independent actions of human beings, supposed to have been endowed by God with freedom of the will”(Mackie pg 95) This solution is combined with the theory, “The universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil.” Certain evils lead to higher goods, an example would be pain a first order evil, that leads to sympathy which is a second order evil.
This is a logical example of a world with some evil in it; certain evils are highly unjustified such as cruelty. Cruelty, second order evil, has no third order good to lean upon, so it is proven unnecessary and unjustified. Mackie also says the notion of free will is incoherent. If it is possible to imagine a heaven in which people do not do evil, doesnt this show that there can be free will without anyones doing evil? I strongly agree with this objection, if one can visualize a place where no evil exit then there should be a place with any evil. But this place that we have found can only be reached after death.
We are talking about Heaven, and you can only go to heaven after you die. So such a place may exist but not in your lifetime, only your afterlife. A theist would reply to this objection, that if there is heaven then there must be a God. In which God does exist, and there is a place where you can go and there is no evil. But to achieve this you must live your life wholly good.
Mackie see that the more common theistic view is that God cannot do what is logically impossible. But in reality there is evil, some theists say, lower evils such as pain and suffering are required to achieve higher-order goods such as sympathy and heroic benevolence.