> At 11:49 PM 03/05/1999 -0600, Bill Payne wrote:
> >I received this from a high school senior, and thought the edu's might
> >want to get a heads up on what's coming. :-)
> I'm one of those philosophy professors, and I do this sort
> of thing in the
> classroom all the time. Only I'm an orthodox Christian, not an atheist,
> and I'm fairly brazen about it. (I'm extremely fortunate to work in a
> public institution that honors my Christian commitment, and recognizes its
> centrality to my teaching and research). Such things as the Problem of
> Evil are serious philosophical issues, provoked by genuine human
> and the reflection that accompanies that experience. Most of my students
> don't need me to rub their noses in the anomalies of evil; they are well
> acquainted with sin and pain and death, and come with their own religious
> doubts and perplexities. So send these glib and gifted students right
> along to my class. Their classmates will engage them in quite a sober
> <snipping much interesting dialogue>
> >("The Christian" says): "Wrong again, sir. You see, immorality is merely
> the absence of morality.
> >Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of
> >justice. Is there such a thing as evil?" The Christian pauses. "Isn't
> >evil the absence of good?"
> This is, of course, the argument first made by Augustine, who wanted to
> show that evil was no real thing, but simply a privation (Being = good,
> Non-Being = evil). But this argument, clever though it is, can't lay a
> glove on the Problem of Evil. Why would God -- all-good, all-knowing,
> all-powerful -- create a world so rich in privation? And if evil is just
> an absence, we can phrase the question in its familiar form: why would God
> create a world so rich in evil?
> >"You are working on the premise of duality," the Christian explains.
> >"That, for example, there is life and then there's death; a good God and
> >a bad God.
> Fair enough. It's not clear that the hypothetical professor has actually
> articulated any kind of dualist position, but perhaps he is working from
> "the premise of duality."
> >The Christian continues. "If there is evil in the world, professor, and
> >we all agree there is, then God, if he exists, must be accomplishing a
> >work through the agency of evil. What is that work, God is accomplishing?
> >The Bible tells us it is to see if each one of us will, of our own free
> >will, choose good over evil."
> Now here's duality for you. The universe is divided into "good" and
> "evil," and we must choose either one or the other. This is a reprise of
> the ancient heresy of Manicheism, against which Augustine (among others)
> fought tooth and nail. It was, in fact, in writing in opposition to this
> point of view that Augustine develops his notion of evil as
> privation. How
> can "The Christian" in this little dialogue hold that evil is simply a
> privation, an absence, not a really existing thing, and at the same time
> claim that evil does exist and that we choose between it and good? "The
> Christian" here has subverted his own position. Where does "the
> Bible tell
> us" such self-refuting heresy?
> I suspect that students are frequently better off listening to their
> Tom Pearson
> Thomas D. Pearson
> Department of History & Philosophy
> The University of Texas-Pan American
> Edinburg, Texas
> e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org