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Evil, Omnipotence, and Compatibility

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Brent Loth


Evil, Omnipotence, and Compatibility

Mackie's definition of the problem of evil is that God is omnipotent, God is wholly good, and yet evil still exists. He argues that in order for all of these three premises to be held true, contradictions certainly arise. Mackie argues to think contrary to these premises; ones perceptions would be theologically unorthodox and therefor irrelevant to his case. Mackie then introduces his quasi-logical principles, or elements in relation to one another to make connection. These two elements being that good is opposed to evil and omnipotence is without limitation. Given these logical principles in addition to the problem of evil, Mackie argues that in order for no contradictions to occur, God could only exist if he is not omnipotent or not perfectly good. These arguments are not fundamentally sound since this "imperfect god" would not be worthy of worship. In order for there to be a true God, one must "compatibility" or eliminate one of the three key elements; God is omnipotent, God is wholly good, and yet evil still exists.

Mackie supports his argument for the problem of evil with examples of fallacious solutions. He disproves them even though they maintain the constituent propositions that God is good and omnipotent while evil still exist. For his first example, he attacks the fallacious argument that "evil seemingly is necessary as a counterpart for good." In other words, evil is necessary in order to appreciate goodness. Mackie argues that this logic already discredits God's omnipotence because it would necessarily require God to create good as well as evil. Furthermore, because he "must" have both, it questions if God is bound to his own logic or if he creates logic. A more obvious flaw in the argument is that; if evil is necessary for there to be good, then we cannot say that good helps to abolish evil. This is because if we conquer over evil with good, then eventually only good would exist. Then the original argument becomes flawed because evil is stated as a requirement for there to be good.

Mackie then rejects the claim that any quality must have a real opposite. He uses an example that redness can exist only if nonredness could occur. Even though both are options, everything could still just be red. So if God is omnipotent, he could have made everything good; even if we do not notice it. If this is true, then the original argument that evil is necessary to counteract good seems invalid. If nonredness (evil) were mandatory to occur in order for redness (good) to exist, Mackie claims only a smallest dose of nonredness (or evil) would be sufficient. If God were wholly good, then he would not allow so much evil in the world if only a minimal amount was necessary.

Mackie's then finds flaws in a separate; second fallacious argument, disproving that "evil is necessary as a means to good." Mackie states that this severely restricts Gods power. If evil was necessary for good, God is bound in his logic to create both. Some argue that he could remain omnipotent because of his detached choice to follow his own logic. However, when he chooses to bind himself to his own created logic, he still will become bounded by it and thus not omnipotent.

Mackie then confront a third fallacious argument that "the universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there was no evil." He believes this could be interpreted in two ways, one being an aesthetic analogy. For example, sometimes discords are required to contrast in a song in order to make it beautiful. The second being, the organization of the universe should not be static, but progressive. This means overcoming evil is better then a complete supremeness of good because it provides moral progress. In other words, choosing to do good is a better act then automatically performing good because the discipline it requires. The choice to do good then becomes a more powerful act. Mackie explains that perhaps this explanation is efficient in describing evils such as pain because pain is required for someone to acquire sympathy or patience. However, he believes it is not effective because we could acquire sympathy and patience with just the experience of pain. So why are other evils such as jealousy or wickedness present in our world?

Mackie then addresses his objections with the last fallacious argument with the most depth. This argument is that "evil is due to free will." Mackie claims this is the most important proposed solution. In order for this argument to work, God's allowance of freewill would mean that the man, who should act freely, is the preferred design of God rather then a wholly determined and innocent man. By not obeying out of necessity, free beings actions would be deemed more moral, even if they frequently misuse their free will. This is because their decisions would require a more complex process of moral consideration, discipline, and responsibility. If men were truly designed in this manner, then this puts blame on the man's action and not God.

Mackie, however, shows some issues that arise with free will. If it is possible for people to freely choose to do what is right on one occasion, then it's possible for them to freely choose to do what is right on every occasion. To say that this is wrong, Mackie argues, is to imply that one is required to do evil every once in a while. Thus, free will would have to be redefined because of this restriction. In order for free will to exist, then God must not be in control of man's will. This leads to the Paradox of Omnipotence, which raises the question if God can create things he cannot control. If he can, then he will not be able to control his creation and therefore become omnipotent. If he cannot create such a circumstance, then that becomes



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