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David Hume Scottish. 1711-1776 CE. Empiricist. Skeptic.
The Believing Newcomer How would someone who had never experienced life on earth but was convinced that all creation was created by an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent god explain the existence of suffering in the world? (71) Limited intelligence. Ignorance. “Many solutions of those phenomena which will forever escape his comprehension.” (71)
The Non-Believing Resident How would someone who had experience of life on earth be challenged to find evidence that all creation was created by an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent god? (71)
Bad Design = Bad Designer “If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always without entering into any detail, condemn the architect.” (71)
How “Great” is God? “Conjectures, especially where infinity is excluded from the Divine attributes, may perhaps be sufficient to prove a consistency, but can never be foundations for any inference.” (72) Why not?
1st Justification of Suffering: Survival Value No pain; no gain. Motivation by the stick. What’s the weakness of this argument, according to Hume? “Men pursue pleasure as eagerly as they avoid pain; at least, they might have been so constituted.” The first circumstance which introduces evil is that contrivance or economy of the animal creation by which pains, as well as pleasures, are employed to excite all creatures to action, and make them vigilant the great work of self-preservation.” (72)
2nd Justification: General Laws Life would be impossible to navigate if every situation were a new one. What’s the weakness Hume finds in this claim? “A being, therefore, who knows the secret springs of the universe might easily, by particular volitions, turn all these accidents to the good of mankind and render the whole world happy.” “It is true, if everything were conducted by particular volitions, the course of nature would be perpetually broken, and non man could employ his reason in the conduct of life.” (72)
3rd Justification: We’re Limited by Design People have limited powers and abilities. “Every animal has the requisite endowments, but these endowments are bestowed with so scrupulous an economy that any considerable diminution must entirely destroy the creature.” (73) Increase in one power, decreases another. We can’t hack it and do bad things in desperation. What’s the problem with this argument, according to Hume? “A builder is never esteemed prudent who undertakes a plan beyond what his stock will enable him to finish?” (73) “The Author of nature is inconceivably powerful; his force is supposed great, if not altogether inexhaustible, nor is there any reason, as far as we can judge, to make him observe this strict frugality in his dealings with his creatures.” (73)
4th Justification: The “Machine” of Nature Malfunctions “Thus the winds are requisite to convey the vapours along the surface of the globe, and to assist men in navigation, but how often, rising up to tempests and hurricanes, do they become pernicious.” (74) Rain becomes a flood, heat brings drought, love leads some to murder, etc.
So…. • Is God willing to prevent evil but unable to do so? • Then he is not omnipotent. • Is God able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so? • Then he is malevolent (or at least not omnibenevolent). • If God is both willing and able to prevent evil then why is there evil in the world?