The Problem of Evil as the Problem of Pain

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Virginia Tech


The problem of evil arises from the argument that the existence of suffering is incompatible with (or else renders improbable) the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God (and that, since the former surely exists, the latter must not). Philosophers working on the problem, however, rarely make profitable use of the distinction between mental and physical suffering. Accordingly, in this thesis I develop a version of the problem that focuses specifically on the phenomenal experience of physical pain. After providing (in the first chapter) a detailed analysis of (i) both logical and evidential (or probabilistic) formulations of the problem, and (ii) the usefulness of this logical/evidential distinction, I discuss some of the most promising theistic responses to the problem, and conclude that these theistic responses fail. In the second chapter I lay out my argument, and I attempt to show that there is no plausible way for the theist to respond when the problem is formulated in this manner. I conclude the chapter by arguing that my argument demonstrates the incompatibility of theism with both epiphenomenalism and zombies-informed dualism. In the third chapter I begin with a discussion of mental supervenience in order to defend a commonsense modal intuition necessary for the success of my argument. I then proceed to address possible objections, including most notably the effort to cast doubt on the reliability of the inference from conceivability to possibility. Finally, I consider empirical findings that substantiate my argument's most contentious premise.



evil, pain, conceivability, possibility, God