The Problem of Evil in Philosophy

Explain the dreaming argument and the evil genius argument in Descartes’ Meditations I and II.

The dreaming argument that Descartes discusses in his Mediations is an example of one of his arguments that challenged the reliability of sense perception (Descartes and Moriarty 13). Descartes reasoned that being asleep and dreaming can provide a very believable imitation of real-life experiences, for example, a sense of heat from a fire. The argument stated that sensing fire did not necessarily mean he was not dreaming, and that if his senses could mislead him in a dream, they could deceive him in the waking life as well.

The evil genius argument evaluates the possibility that he may be under the influence of an evil being, which is “as clever and deceitful as he is powerful”(15), and which has been continuously misleading Descartes’ senses with an illusion of his body and an outside world.

In both of these arguments, Descartes positioned that the world around us could be fabricated and that a person could not rely on his or her senses to evaluate its existence. He acknowledged the possibility that a person itself could be a part of the fabrication, and then denied it, putting forward the idea that in both of these scenarios the existence of the “self,” the “cogito,” is beyond doubt. In his perspective, only a person who exists can question his existence and consider the possibilities, and the idea of an all-powerful deceiver itself requires a being to deceive. Both scenarios can only be valid under the condition that there exists a conscious observer to experience them (Newman par.103-118).

What is the problem of evil?

The problem of evil is a question in the philosophy of religion of how the existence of evil correlates with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely benevolent, as per religious doctrine. The argument positions that such a God has both the desire and the capacity to eliminate evil, the only reason evil can exist, is if one of the descriptors is false (Trakakis par.1-5).

One of the attempts to resolve this question is the free will defense. It postulates that free will, which was granted to us by God, is a very positive thing, and a universe with free will is better than the universe without it. However, free will means the freedom to make moral mistakes and occasionally do evil. To maintain the advantage of free will, God would have to permit some evil.

Australian philosopher J.L. Mackie, however, argued against the free will defense, contending that an omnipotent being, would be able to create a human that was both morally infallible and possessed free will (Mackie 200-12). This opinion was contested by Alvin Plantinga, who argued that free creatures who would never choose evil are not a possible concept and that God may have desired a world with some evil, to facilitate moral goodness by contrast (Beebe par. 59-72).

Why does Cory Juhl think that the existence of a finely-tuned universe does not by itself imply that there is a perfect God who designed this universe all at once?

In his research paper, Cory Juhl argued against the existence of a Divine Intelligence as the reason for the existence of a fine-tuned universe, and instead described such a universe with all the precise match components as unsurprising and expected.

According to him, intelligent observers would only be able to make observations about the nature of the universe in a cosmos that supported the existence of the observers in the first place. In other words, Cory Juhl positions the existence of the fine-tuned universe as an inevitable coincidence (273).

However, it has been discussed that this coincidence is indeed statistically extremely improbable and that by finding simpler ways to explain the existence of the universe, the opposition of the Intelligent Design theory have overcomplicated the issue, and that existence of a God is a simpler explanation than an impossible coincidence. Another theory circulating among researchers is the multiverse theory. This theory positions, that numerous other universes have different physical constants than ours, and that we inhabit this universe because it is the one that supports life as we know it. This theory has strong support because it positions a fine-tuned universe as inevitable in an infinite multiverse.

Works Cited

Beebe, James R. “Logical Problem of Evil.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

Descartes, René, and M. Moriarty. Meditations On First Philosophy: With Selections From The Objections And Replies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Juhl, C. “Fine-tuning Is Not Surprising.” Analysis. 66.4 (2006): 269-75. Web.

Mackie, J. L. “Evil And Omnipotence.” Mind. 64.254 (1955): 200-12. Web.

Newman, Lex. “Descartes’ Epistemology.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 2014. Web.

Trakakis, Nick. “The Evidential Problem of Evil.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.