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Analysis Of J.L. Mackie's, Evil And Omnipotence

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Analysis of J.L. Mackie's, Evil and Omnipotence

The question of the existence of God has been brought up endlessly time and time again throughout the history of the world. Countless discussions take place daily by people of all religious beliefs in regards to the existence of a God and if a God did exist, then why is there so much evil in the world we live in. J.L. Mackie in his argument from "Evil and Omnipotence", brings forth the discussion problem that 1) God is omnipotent; 2) God is wholly good; 3) Yet evil exists (Mackie). The word omnipotence is defined as a God/deity that is all-powerful, and/or has infinite power ( Mackie states that an omnipotent god would not allow evil to exist because an omnipotent god would ensure that evil was eliminated, and since an omnipotent god has no limits on their powers evil could not exist, PERIOD. His view is that these three propositions cannot exist together without one of them having to be false.

Mackie claims that the problem of evil is only a problem for those who believe in the existence of God and that God is omnipotent and wholly good. He states that theologian beliefs and doctrines are inconsistent with each other and that all they do is lead to further unanswerable questions that have no logical solutions regarding the existence of God and why evil is so prevalent in our world. This paper attempts to breakdown Mackie's argument in regards to his view of the three propositions, then comes to this writer's conclusion that God is not infinitely powerful and that evil can exist in our world and that God does not have control over it.

Mackie has laid some ground rules to establish his assumptions from. These are "good is opposed to evil", "good always eliminates evil", and "an omnipotent thing has no limits to what it can do. He attempts to analyze the problem by using two approaches. He has classified these approaches as "Adequate Solutions" and "Fallacious Solutions".

Adequate Solutions

Mackie's approach to Adequate Solutions is based upon giving up on or modifying one of the propositions. If you limit or modify the meaning of one of the propositions, then the question of evil can be addressed. If you look at omnipotent as not having "all power", but having limited power then you could reason that the limitation of power allows evil to exist. That being said, what other limitations might exist. Those that have this view will imply that even though God's omnipotence may have certain limitations, in other cases it may not. This creates an inconsistent solution. It allows one to overcome the initial objection only to imply or ascertain these beliefs back into the system at a later point. By the fact that the proposition is only modified on a temporary basis creates the problem to this approach.

Fallacious Solutions

Fallacious Solutions maintain all of the propositions but imply the rejection of one or more of them during the explanation of the problem of evil (Mackie). Fallacious Solutions have a tendency to play with what is meant by "good" and "evil" or how good and evil are opposed (or interact). Mackie lists several examples where fallacious solutions are used to solve the problem of evil, each having its own set of issues.

"Good cannot exist without evil"

This is based upon a line of thinking that states if there were no evil, there would be no good, and that is why evil exists. Several issues exist within this thinking. Mackie points out that by saying that God can't create good without having evil, then this would mean he has a limitation in his power and therefore no longer be able to be viewed as omnipotent or limited in some fashion. The counter response to this has been that it is not logical to have the existence of good without the existence of evil. Therefore the definition of the power associated with omnipotent doesn't impact the logical impossibility. This creates a problem, as most theists believe that God can create miracles thus defying logic.

Another issue that arises out of this line of thinking deals with Mackie's assumptions regarding good opposing evil. If good cannot exist without evil, then good can never completely conquer evil or it would eliminate good from existing as well. He tries to draw a correlation that good and evil may then be related like great and small. Great cannot exist without small. You have to have one to reference the other. This would then say if there was no evil everything would be good, but we would not know it. An argument could be made that only enough evil is here to allow good to exist, but most theists do not accept that the "evil" seen in the world is a necessary amount.

"Evil s necessary as a means to good"

In this solution, evil is necessary for good as a means not as a counterpart (Mackie). This solution would have you believe that it is better to have some evil in the world then if there was none. This implies that God is limited to "casual laws" (Mackie). You cannot have a certain end without a certain means. God would have to allow evil to allow good. This would be a severe limitation on the powers of God and would truly be redefining what omnipotent is. There also are conflicts with the view that God creates casual laws. If he is limited to them, how can he create them?

"The universe is better with some evil in it"

This solution is based upon evil contributing to the goodness of the whole (Mackie). The example that Mackie used, related that the whole of the universe is better as it is, with some evil in it, then it would be if there were no evil. He looked at two ways to view this, "aesthetic analogy" and through the "idea of progress". The aesthetic analogy looks at something being heightened by being compared to something that is very contrasting. An example if this would be a picture of a beautiful woman surrounded by dark weather worn men. The beauty in the woman would be much more apparent by creating a contrasting effect. The idea of progress looks at the universe as always being in motion. Good is gradually but continually overcoming evil, which can be viewed as a better thing than having the ultimate good always.

When looking at this solution it doesn't matter which view is used as both typically start from the premise of physical evil, something like pain. With pain comes sympathy. If



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