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Stump, Eleonore, , . Knowledge, Freedom, and the Problem of Evil
1983, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 14(1): 49-58
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Introduction: The free-will defense successfully rebuts the claim that the presence of evil in the world is logically incompatible with God’s existence. But many people, theists as well as atheists, feel that the free-will defense leaves some of the most important questions about evil unanswered. If there is a God, the nature and quantity of evil in the world still remain a puzzle; and even if they do not support a conclusive argument, they still seem to provide strong evidence against the probability of God’s existence. In particular, natural evils such as diseases, congenital defects, earthquakes, and droughts, need to be given some plausible explanation which shows their existence to be compatible with God’s goodness. It is the problem of evil in this sense which Swinburne addresses in Chapter 11 of The Existence of God. In what follows, I will describe Swinburne’s solution and give reasons for thinking it unacceptable.

Comment: This paper is a great way to motivate the ‘what about natural evils?’ response to the problem of evil. It does this by responding to Swinburne, so it could be good to first set Swinburne’s chapter and then see whether can students can organically anticipate some of Stump’s lines of argument.

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Zagzebski, Linda, , . Omnisubjectivity
2008, Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.) Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Vol. 1.
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Summary: Zagzebski argues that traditional omniscience ought to be revised into ‘omnisubjectivity’, whereby God has ‘perfect total empathy’ with all conscious beings. She elaborates on what is meant by this, and makes the important qualification that when God has perfect total empathy, God is aware that God’s empathetic state is a ‘copy’. Zagzebski is motivated by conceiving of God as a personal being, who knows everything about God’s creatures – including their conscious states. An analogy is drawn to Jackson’s Mary the Colour Scientist – Mary’s does not know ‘what it is like’ to see in colour when confined to her black and white room, in spite of knowing all propositional facts about colour science and seeing in colour. Similarly, with classical omniscience, God knows the truth value of every proposition, but does not know ‘what it is like’ to be each of God’s creatures. Omnisubjectivity alleges to thus build on classical omniscience, whilst avoiding the worry that God (mistakenly) thinks that God actually is each conscious creature.

Comment: Very useful for teaching about classical vs non-classical conceptions of God (omnisubjectivity being a ‘non-classical’ version of omniscience).

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