Assumptions in Arguments from Evil

1.) There is certainly a difference between an evil justified now, and that will be justified. This “will be” ranges widely: perhaps in the next life, perhaps at the end of history, etc. AFE’s assume either that history will not come to an end or be fulfilled or that, even if it does, that this could not reverse all evil.

2.) Rowe’s fawn assumes that animal pain is sufficiently like our own suffering to trigger an argument from evil. (Presumably, Rowe does not see the same trigger in the trees that get burned). He is either right or not. If not, the argument clearly fails, but if so, then why does the fawn not also have something sufficiently like our virtues of courage, forbearance, hope, etc. that allow it to give meaning to its own suffering? If, as far as the fawn is concerned, his pain is neither meaningful nor meaningless, how can the actual suffering of the fawn be “gratuitous”? We can raise the question of how it has meaning in some larger context than this, but this larger context raises the question of what role suffering as such plays in this larger context.

3.) The AFE is always in danger of conflating our natural aversion to explaining to someone else’s suffering with a natural aversion to explain suffering.  If you’ve lost your own child, it’s in bad taste to tell you it all will work out in the end, or that it is some affect of sin. But it is just as much in bad taste to tell the parents that they themselves are wrong when they see this sort of evil as part of a divine plan that God will make right in the end.

The suffering is essentially personal. It poses a question addressed to the one suffering that he must answer for himself. This does not mean that every answer is correct, only that we sense that the answer must be given by the one suffering. I might fall silent in the face of the Holocaust, but I am not forced to be just as silent if I am living in the camp.  If St. Therese vacillates between temptations to suicide and love of Jesus while she is choking to death from tuberculosis, who am I to question either response?

The AFE challenges us to find meanings to sufferings. This cannot be satisfactorily done, but this is because we cannot declare the meaning of someone else’s suffering but only our own.

4.) Assuming that there is one morality for all intelligent or personal beings is like assuming that there is one appropriate way of acting for all sentient beings or animals: as though lions, lemmings, and black widow spiders all shared some common and meaningful stock of appropriate actions. Nonsense. Male black widows would be offended and utterly humiliated to the point of a lawsuit if their mates refused to eat them; lionesses would question the virility of a lion who didn’t eat a cub or two; lemmings would feel nothing but contempt for the one that didn’t rush off the cliff.


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