On The Impossibility Of Omnimalevolence: Plantinga On Tooley’s New Evidential Argument From Evil -- By: Edward N. Martin

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 10:3 (Feb 2013)
Article: On The Impossibility Of Omnimalevolence: Plantinga On Tooley’s New Evidential Argument From Evil
Author: Edward N. Martin


On The Impossibility Of Omnimalevolence: Plantinga On Tooley’s New Evidential Argument From Evil

Edward N. Martin

Philosophy Department

Liberty University

I. Introduction

In the recently published book, Knowledge of God, co-authors Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga are something more than mere sparring partners as they attempt to sort out the questions, “How can we know about God?”, and “Can we know, or justifiedly have grounds for, the non-existence of God?” After surveying many of the traditional reasons drawn from analytic philosophy of religion for thinking that God doesn’t exist, including the claim that the concept of God is incoherent, unsurprisingly Tooley offers an evidential argument from evil. And it is a doozy: of Tooley’s positive presentation for the justification of the belief in the non-existence of God, Tooley’s new evidential argument from evil takes up about 53-54 pages (pp. 97-150 or so). Perhaps this is a sort of touché to Plantinga’s 1979 “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil,” weighing in at about 53 pages (pp. 1-53). Nonetheless, Tooley had developed the first iteration of this argument in 1991 (In Philosophical Perspective 5: Philosophy of Religion), and now he presents a more advanced version of the argument from evil that hinges much more explicitly upon a certain interpretation of inductive logic. Tooley declares that William Rowe’s modified non-Bayesian version of the evidential argument from evil from 1991 is not successful, and he tries to show why he thinks that, as well as to give his own version that supposedly goes beyond Rowe’s and corrects it or avoids some of its pitfalls.

There simply are too many points in Tooley’s main presentation (stretching over some 70 pages) of his atheological arguments to lay out and critique here. So, I will focus on Tooley’s new evidential argument from evil, and especially on a central key aspect of it. One main component of Tooley’s multi-layered, complex argument is Tooley’s reliance upon a principle he calls Symmetry Principle with respect to Unknown, Rightmaking and Wrongmaking Properties (p. 129). I intend to summarize Tooley’s argument, show that Plantinga’s quickly dispatched “agnostic” probability assignment to Tooley’s principle (p. 173) is probably sufficient to dispel Tooley’s argument. However, I go further here to offer two (brief) critiques against Tooley’s argument. Tooley speaks of rightmaking and wrongmaking properties counterbalancing each other. This argument seems to ignore the conclusion that Chisholm taught us long ago, viz., that the issue of how good, evil or neutral states of affairs might come together to justify God’s allowance of some evil is a matter of defeat, that is, of the total value of an organic whole is not necessari...

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