Is there such a thing as pure evil in the world? How should we confront evil? Can evil ever be finally overcome? If the universe was created by a supremely good, supremely powerful, supremely loving deity, why is there evil in the world to begin with? On the other hand, if there is no god and everything is permitted, what distinguishes the truly evil from the purely good?
Why is there evil? Does the existence of God require there to be evil or vice versa? Evil seems to go beyond ordinary badness. Ken introduces the guest, Peter van Inwagen, professor at Notre Dame. John asks van Inwagen to reconcile the problem of evil with theism. Van Inwagen distinguishes two kinds of evil: radical evil and bad things. The problem of evil, as related to the existence of God, pertains to the latter. Some people argue that the existence of God implies there would be no evil. Why should we believe that is true?
Van Inwagen distinguishes between evil, the concept, and evils, particular bad things. He says the latter is what bothers most people. Van inwagen says that one of the hardest arguments for the existence of evil for the theist to deal with is the argument from God's omniscience. How do philosophers explain the existence of radical moral evil? Van Inwagen doubts philosophers have much to say about it although he thinks religious believers can explain it easily. Can atheists believe in evil? If God planned out the universe, why would he leave part of his plans in the hands of imperfect beings like us? Van Inwagen says that free will might be good in itself.
Osama bin Laden called the US evil and President Bush called bin Laden evil. Is calling someone or something “evil” more than a rhetorical device? It is often misused to sidestep the issue. Van Inwagen thinks it is also used correctly on some occasions. We don't need to understand the inner life of an evil person, but we can understand what they did. He thinks this is needed to use the word correctly.
- Amy Standen the Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 04:28): Amy Standen interviews Cliff Harris, a detective who has worked on crimes against children and homicide. She also interviews a psychologist about what evil is.
- Ian Shoales the Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 49:31): Ian Shoales gives the philosophical history of the problem of evil, from St. Augustine to Leibniz to Voltaire
Peter van Inwagen, John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- An overview of the problem of evil and links to several recent essays about it
- Another collection of essays, God and the Problem of Evil
- Peter van Inwagen's Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil
- Michael Peterson's introduction to the problem of evil, God and Evil: an Introduction to the Issues
- Alvin Plantinga's book on evil, God, Freedom, and Evil
- Leibniz's discussion of the problem of evil, Theodicy
- C.S. Lewis's take on the problem of evil, The Problem of Pain
- Claudia Card's The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil
- Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought
- Hannah Arendt's discussion of evil and the Holocaust, Eichmann in Jerusalem
- Voltaire's Candide which includes the character "Dr. Pangloss", a parody of Leibniz
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