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On Some Alleged Humean Insights and Oversights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Donald F. Henze
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, San Fernando Valley State College

Extract

The knockdown argument, the logically impregnable position are rarities in philosophy. Indeed, there are some who might argue (guardedly of course) that no philosophical argument or position is immune from damaging criticism: what seems utterly convincing to one generation of philosophers is 1iable to be held up as a classic blunder by the next. Nevertheless, Hume's presentation of the problem of evil and his allied criticisms of a Christian-type theism (in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, esp. Parts X and XI) have seemed conclusive to an impressive array of nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophers, and both his efforts, consequently, might be regarded as likely exceptions to the principle of philosophical fallibility. But now, in a fairly recent article, Professor Nelson Pike has seen fit to challenge even these supposedly reliable cornerstones of our philosophical heritage. More recently still, Pike has included this article, unchanged, in an anthology which he has edited, and he has backed it up with an introductory note which reaffirms his challenge to Hume on evil.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1970

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References

page 369 note 1 Hume on Evil’, The Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXII, No. 2, April 1963.Google Scholar

page 369 note 2 God and Evil: Readings on the Theological Problem of Evil, ed. Pike, Nelson for the Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy Series (Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964).Google Scholar Pike's ‘Hume on Evil’ is reprinted on pp. 85–102; his ‘Introduction’ appears on pp. 1–5. All page references to either piece by Pike will be to pages in this anthology.

page 370 note 1 Pike, following Hume, does not make much use of the term ‘evil’ in discussing the problem of evil. Instead, he uses ‘“suffering” as short for “suffering pain, superstition, wickedness, and so on’ (p. 86, fn. 2). I shall follow Pike's usage in this paper.

page 371 note 1 Penelhum, Terence, ‘Divine Goodness and the Problem of Evil’, Religious Studies, Vol. II, pp. 95107.Google Scholar

page 372 note 1 Cf. Antony Flew's argument in the symposium ‘Theology and Falsification’, New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. Flew, A. and Maclntyre, A. (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1955).Google Scholar

page 372 note 2 E.g. Dialogues, ed. Smith, Kemp (Library of Liberal Arts): Pt. II, pp. 142–3Google Scholar; Pt. III, pp. 156–7; Pt. IV, pp. 158–9; Pt. X, p. 199; Pt. XI, pp. 203, 211–12; Pt. XII, pp. 219, 227.

page 373 note 1 See, e.g. Summa Theologica: I, Q. 25, a. 3.

page 375 note 1 Dialogues, Pt. XI, p. 211. Quoted by Pike, p. 97.

page 376 note 1 This is a debatable point. Can one really divorce a person's moral attributes from other capacities and abilities of his such as intelligence and power? Could a being possess ‘a goodness like the human’ and still be omnipotent and omniscient? I leave these questions unanswered.

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