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International Phenomenological Society Axiology, Realism, and the Problem of Evil Author(s): Thomas L. Carson Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 75, No. 2 (Sep., 2007), pp. 349-368 Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40041112 . Accessed: 02/01/2014 17:59 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JST
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   nternational Phenomenological Society Axiology, Realism, and the Problem of EvilAuthor(s): Thomas L. CarsonSource: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 75, No. 2 (Sep., 2007), pp. 349-368Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40041112 . Accessed: 02/01/2014 17:59 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  .  International Phenomenological Society  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 132.248.9.8 on Thu, 2 Jan 2014 17:59:13 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Axiology, ealism, nd the Problem f Evil* THOMAS L. CARSON Loyola University f Chicago Philosophy nd Phenomenological esearch Vol. LXXV No. 2, September 007 © 2007 International henomenological ociety Discussions of the problem f evil presuppose nd appeal to axiological nd meta- ethical assumptions, ut seldom pay adequate attention o those assumptions. I argue that certain heories f value are consistent with theistic nswers to the argument rom vil and that several other well-known heories f value, such as hedonism, re difficult, f not mpossible, o reconcile with heism. Although moral realism s the subject f lively ebate n contemporary hilosophy, lmost ll stan- dard discussions of the problem of evil presuppose the truth f moral realism. I explain the mplications f several nonrealist heories f value for he problem f evil and argue that, f nonrealism s true, hen we need to rethink nd re-frame he entire iscussion bout the problem f evil. 1. Introduction The traditional roblem of evil asks whether he existence f a God who is omniscient, mnipotent, nd perfectly ood is compatible with (or is probable given) the existence f so much evil and suffering n the world. Any answers we give to this question presuppose some particular heory of value. The plausibility f proposed answers to the problem of evil depends on the plausibility f the standards of value they presuppose or employ. This is an obvious point, but it hasn't been sufficiently oted or appreciated n the literature n the problem of evil. I sketch some standard theistic eplies to the argu- ment from evil and argue that all of these replies are inconsistent with he hedonistic heory f value (HTV). The HTV cannot be recon- ciled with any plausible solutions o the problem of evil. I also argue that Moore's theory of value and certain versions of perfectionism are inconsistent with standard theistic eplies to the argument rom * I am very ndebted o the ate Phil Quinn for his helpful omments nd correspon- dence on this paper; he will be greatly missed. Thanks also to Charles Taliaferro, Ken Thompson, Jason Kawall, Joe Mendola, Paul Moser, and Bill Tolhurst for helpful riticisms nd suggestions n earlier ersions f this paper. AXIOLOGY, REALISM, AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL 349 This content downloaded from 132.248.9.8 on Thu, 2 Jan 2014 17:59:13 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  evil. W. D. Ross, by contrast, has a theory f value that makes it very easy, arguably too easy, to reconcile he existence f evil with the existence f a perfect God. Almost all discussions f the problem of evil presuppose the truth of moral realism, .e., the view that value judgments moral judg- ments) are objectively rue or false (correct or incorrect) ndepen- dently of what rational beings believe or desire (and independently of what rational beings would believe or desire under ideal condi- tions). Since many philosophers reject moral realism (and because the truth f moral realism s open to serious question), t is impor- tant to consider the implications f nonrealist moral theories for the problem of evil. I consider three such theories the rational desire- satisfaction heory of value, emotivism, nd the divine preference theory f value. The problem of evil appears very differently n light of these theories. The rational desire-satisfaction heory f value and emotivism commit us to relativism about the problem of evil (by this I mean that these theories ommit us to the view that the statement the existence of a God who is omniscient, mnipotent, and perfectly ood is (in)compatible with the existence of so much evil and suffering n the world is neither bjectively rue nor false). I also argue that emotivism ommits us to a kind of voluntarism about the problem of evil. (If emotivism s true, then it is rational to accept standards of value that make it possible to justify the actions of an omnipotent God who chose to create a world with so much suffering nd evil. Emotivism lso implies that t is rational to accept standards of value that make it difficult r impossible o jus- tify he actions of an omnipotent God who chose to create a world with so much suffering nd evil). I examine three versions of the divine preference heory f value. Given the first wo versions f the divine preference heory, t is impossible o raise the problem of evil and the problem disappears. According to these theories, God's will is the ultimate tandard of good and bad, and no conceivable facts about the extent of suffering n this world could count as evidence against God's goodness. I take this to be a reductio d absurdum f those two theories. The third version of the divine-preference heory avoids this objection. 2. The Argument rom Evil Some versions of the argument rom evil attempt o show that the existence of any evil anywhere n the universe s incompatible with the existence f a perfect God. These are not the strongest ersions 350 THOMAS L. CARSON This content downloaded from 132.248.9.8 on Thu, 2 Jan 2014 17:59:13 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  of the argument. he existence f a perfect God might be compatible with the existence of some evil, but still be incompatible with the amount nd distribution f suffering nd evil in the world. Many peo- ple claim that much of the suffering hat exists s gratuitous r point- less. A stronger ersion of the argument rom evil can be stated as follows: 1. If God were omniscient nd perfectly ood, then God would try to prevent or eliminate ll of the gratuitous r pointless evil that exists n the universe. Gratuitous vil is evil whose badness is not outweighed or counterbalanced by the good- ness of the other things for which its existence s somehow necessary.]1 2. If God were omnipotent, od could do anything hat God tried to do. Therefore, 3. If there were an omniscient, mnipotent nd perfectly ood God, there would not be any gratuitous vil n the universe. But, 4. Gratuitous vil exists. Some of the great evils that exist are not necessary or the existence ny of greater oods (or counterbal- ancing goods). Therefore, 5. There does not exist an omniscient, mnipotent, nd perfectly good God. 1 Cf. Nelson Pike, Hume on Evil, in The Problem of Evil, Marilyn Adams and Robert Adams, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University ress, 1990), pp. 38-52. Pike claims that n order o solve the problem f evil we need to be able to ustify he claim that God has morally ufficient easons for llowing he evils that exist. take it that a necessary ondition f X's being morally ufficient eason for evil E is that the goodness of X outweighs r counterbalances he badness of E. AXIOLOGY, REALISM, AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL 3M This content downloaded from 132.248.9.8 on Thu, 2 Jan 2014 17:59:13 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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