The Secular Problem of Evil: An Essay in Analytic Existentialism

Religious Studies 57 (1):101-119 (2021)
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The existence of evil is often held to pose philosophical problems only for theists. I argue that the existence of evil gives rise to a philosophical problem which confronts theist and atheist alike. The problem is constituted by the following claims: (1) Successful human beings (i.e., those meeting their basic prudential interests) are committed to a good-enough world; (2) the actual world is not a good-enough world (i.e., sufficient evil exists). It follows that human beings must either (3a) maintain a state of epistemic ignorance regarding the nature of the actual world or (3b) abandon their basic prudential interests. Theists resolve this problem by rejecting (2), only to confront the problem of evil as it is traditionally understood. Successful atheists also reject (2), but without adequate grounds for doing so.

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Warden Prescott
New York University


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