The experiential problem of evil and theodicy
December 31, 2012 — 5:23

Author: Helen De Cruz  Category: Existence of God  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 53

[this is cross-posted from NewApps] These reflections are prompted by Mike Almeida’s interesting post on the question of whether theodicy can ever be successful, and if so what success conditions a theodicy must meet. I want consider ta related, yet distinct question: can theodicies be convincing in the light of specific instances of evil, and the immediate sense this provokes: “God, if he exists, would not have allowed this”? In the wake of the tragic shooting incident at Newtown, I have been thinking a lot about the problem of evil and classical theodicies and defenses, such as John Hick’s soul building theodicy and various forms of free will theodicies/defenses (e.g., Plantinga’s; Augustine’s).
One way to approach the problem of evil is to look at it as an abstract puzzle to be solved. Wielding modal logic and other tools that analytic philosophy offers, we can argue that evil is unavoidable even for a loving, powerful and omniscient God, if he wishes specific goods like free will to obtain. A different option is to focus on concrete, vivid examples. William Rowe presented the case of a fawn, trapped in a forest fire that was caused by lightning, the fawn suffers horrible burns, and lies in dreadful agony for days until its death. A pointless instance of suffering that, Rowe argues, God could have prevented. Now for cases like Newtown we could invoke the free will defense, since – unlike the forest fire in Rowe’s example – the incident was caused by a human agent, exercising his free will, and it was made possible by other instances of free will, such as American policies on gun ownership. But it still seems to me quite a different thing to argue in the face of particular, vivid instances like this that suffering is outweighed by the greater good of the unbridled exercise of free will by moral agents. When confronted with concrete evil like this, theodicy, or indeed any theistic response to the problem of evil, becomes a formidable task indeed.


Job in Religious Epistemology at Oxford University
November 26, 2012 — 5:33

Author: Dani Rabinowitz  Category: News  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 0

Applications are invited for a full-time Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work on the Project New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology hosted by the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford. The post is fixed-term for the period 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2015.
The Project, valued at £1.3million and directed by Professor John Hawthorne, has been made possible by the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation. It aims to bring recent developments in epistemology to bear on topics in the philosophy of religion in a way that will open up new channels of research in religious epistemology. The project is centred around, but not limited to, interesting and novel applications developing out of six main topics: (i) contextualism and pragmatic encroachment; (ii) safety and knowledge; (iii) epistemic defeat; (iv) testimony; (v) formal epistemology; and (vi) etiology of belief.
You must demonstrate expertise in epistemology and/or philosophy of religion, with evidence of the ability to undertake significant research in philosophy which will contribute to the aims of the project. It is expected that the successful candidates will author several publications as a direct consequence of their involvement with the project. You must hold a Bachelor/Master’s degree and be close to the completion of a PhD.
You will work under the guidance of the Director of the Project, and will also be expected to work in collaboration with other members of the Project’s team and with external collaborators.
Applications for this vacancy are to be made online, no later than noon on Thursday 31 January 2013.To apply for this role and for further details, including a job description and selection criteria, please click on the link below:

Job and Skeptical Theism
December 17, 2010 — 18:19

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Christian Theology Problem of Evil  Tags: , ,   Comments: 23

There are several people who hang around here who resist skeptical theism, that is the view that we should consider our conceptual resources and factual knowledge insufficient to render a judgment about whether God could be justified in allowing the evils apparent in the world.
I suspect most of these people accept the book of Job as divine revelation. Yet it seems to me that the point of the book of Job (or at least one of its main points) is something very close to what skeptical theists want to assert, namely that we aren’t in the sort of position to make judgments about why God must have done or allowed various things that happen.
I’m curious, therefore, how those who resist skeptical theism see the book of Job if it does not in fact make that point.

TT Job at U St. Thomas (MN)
January 27, 2010 — 10:27

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: General News Teaching  Tags:   Comments: Off

The University of St. Thomas Philosophy Department was just approved to run a tenure-track search this Spring, for a job starting next fall (2010). The text for the ad is below. The ad will appear on the JFP within 48 hours. Our application site hasn’t yet added this position, but within 48 hours we should be up and receiving applications. The job ad is now up on the UST website, so we can now receive applications
Philosophy position at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
The University of St. Thomas Philosophy Department invites applications for at least one tenure-track position to begin Sept. 2010, at the rank of assistant professor or instructor. AOS and AOC are open, but we seek individuals with strengths and interests that complement those of the current department members (we have 23 tenured/tenure-track lines). Applicants should have outstanding reasoning, teaching, and writing skills, and the virtues of collegiality. Ph.D. prior to appointment is preferred but not required. The department is committed to sustaining and developing the Catholic intellectual tradition; in this we are guided by the principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and Fides et Ratio. We seek candidates who share these commitments. The teaching load is six courses per year (semester system); there are standard non-teaching duties.
Established in 1885, the University of St. Thomas is located in the major metropolitan area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and is Minnesota’s largest private university. Its 11,000 students pursue degrees in a wide range of liberal arts, professional, and graduate programs.
Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good, and seeks to develop individuals who combine career competency with cultural awareness and intellectual curiosity. The successful candidate will possess a commitment to the ideals of this mission.
The University of St. Thomas has a strong commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion, to equal opportunity policies and practices, and to the principles and goals of affirmative action. In that spirit, the University welcomes nominations and applications from a broad and diverse applicant pool.
Applications should be submitted online at, and include 1) a cover letter that includes discussion of the candidate’s commitment to sustaining and developing the Catholic intellectual tradition, 2) a curriculum vitae, 3) a sample of philosophical writing, 4) evidence of teaching effectiveness, including data from student evaluations of recent courses if available, and 5) transcripts (unofficial versions are acceptable). In addition, candidates should arrange to have at least three letters of recommendation sent, either by email to (pdf format preferred) or by mail to: Philosophy Dept. Chair – JRC 241; University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave.; St. Paul, MN 55105-1096. To be guaranteed full consideration all application materials should be received by February 11. We expect to bring finalists to campus in early March. Review of applications will continue until the position is filled. Please direct any questions to