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The problem of Evil and the best of all possible worlds

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In philosophy, more specifically in theology, the problem of Evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of an omniscient, omnipotent, and good God.

Presentation of the problem

Two forms of the problem of evil can be distinguished: the logical problem and the probative problem.

The logical problem or a priori version seeks to demonstrate that it is logically impossible for God and evil to coexist. It assumes that theists accept the following propositions:

  1. God exists
  2. God is omniscient
  3. God is omnipotent
  4. God is good
  5. Evil exists

For the proponents of the logical problem, the first four premises that reflect the traditional view of God are incompatible with the fifth.

The probative problem or a posteriori version considers that although God and evil can logically coexist, the apparent contradiction constitutes an argument against theism.

Theodicies

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, portrait by Christoph Bernhard Francke(The term “theodicy” was introduced by the German philosopher, mathematician, and scholar Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in his Essays of Theodicy (Portrait by Christoph Bernhard Francke))

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz tried to prove, to solve the problem, that we live in the best of all possible worlds. His argument can be summarized as follows:

  1. God is omnipotent, omniscient, good and free creator of the world (by definition)
  2. Things could have been different, in other words there are other possible worlds
  3. Suppose this world is not the best of all possible worlds (in other words, the world could be better)
  4. If this world is not the best, one of the following is true:
    • God is not powerful enough to create a better world
    • God did not know how this world would evolve after its creation
    • God did not want to create the best world
    • God did not create the world
    • There are no other possible worlds
  5. But, all the proposed cases are contradictory with the premises 1 or 2
  6. So, this world is the best of all possible worlds.

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