Monday, March 06, 2017

J. L. Mackie's Logical Argument from Evil Against God's Existence


For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.

1. "Evil" means gratuitous suffering (pointless suffering); viz., suffering that is not needed to bring about a greater good, or not needed to prevent a greater evil from happening.

2. Mackie believes "theism" is logically incoherent.

Two statements are logically incoherent in that both cannot be true at the same time, in any possible world.

For example:

a. John is a bachelor.
b. John's wife is Linda.

Or:

a. X is square.
b. X is circular.

3. Mackie's Triad

Mackie gives a "triad" of statements" which, he claims, cannot all be affirmed at the same time without contradiction. They are:

1. God is all-powerful.
2. God is all-good.
3. Evil exists.


He adds two assumptions to this, which are: a) an all-powerful being would be able to stop evil from happening; and 2) an all-good being would desire to stop evil from happening.


Mackie says there is no possible world where you could affirm all three statements at the same time. Therefore theism is incoherent.

4. Mackie's Possible Solutions

Mackie says we would have no "problem" of evil if just one of the three statements was false. 


If 1 is false, then 2 and 3 could logically be true, since God might desire to stop evil but could not do so since he would not be all-powerful. 

If 2 were false, then while God could stop any evil from occurring he would not desire to.

If 3 were false and evil did not even exist, then of course we are not left with a "problem of evil" any more than we have a "problem with unicorns." 

And who might deny that evil exists? Buddhism does, at least in its virgin, culturally unpolluted form. I'll next explain this idea to our students, which always proves to be head-twisting.