Please note that this essay is due in class Thursday, 10/28; as per the syllabus, it is worth 175 points.
Contrast the following two tidy little arguments, one of which has vexed philosophers and theologians for thousands of years, while the other has not:
If God were willing to prevent evil, but unable to do so, then He would be impotent. If He were able to prevent evil, but unwilling to do so, then He would be malevolent. Evil can exist in the world only if God is either unwilling or unable to prevent it. Surely there is evil in the world. Yet if God exists, then He is neither impotent nor malevolent. Therefore, God does not exist. [W,A,I,M,E,G]
If God were unable to prevent evil, then He would be impotent. If He were unwilling to prevent evil, then He would be malevolent. Evil can exist in the world only if God is either unwilling or unable to prevent it. Surely there is evil in the world. Yet if God exists, then He is neither impotent nor malevolent. Therefore, God does not exist. [A,I,W,M,E,G]
That is, one of these arguments is truth-tropic, or valid, while the other is not! Given our work in the class so far, you now possess the analytical skills to determine which is which.
Using the sentence letters in their recommended order, respectively, i) translate Argument I and Argument II into the Propositional Calculus (PC) and ii) test each argument by the Method of Analytic Tableaux to determine which one is valid and which one is not. For the valid argument, indicate that it is so by clearly indicating how each and every branch dies. For the invalid argument, clearly indicate the still-living branch or branches.
Since one of these arguments is valid, it follows that we have demonstrated that God does not exist if the argument is also sound--that is, if it also has all true premises.
Given the incredibly strong feelings one might have that, say, God exists ("This is BULLSHIT!!!") or, conversely, that God does not exist ("FINALLY, proof!"), one of the challenges this argument presents us is how to evaluate it dispassionately, in an unbiased and rational manner. Indeed, one might argue that philosophical inquiry troubles us so precisely because it has the capacity to show us that our most cherished beliefs are neither more nor less plausible just because of our commitment to them. As Plato argues, the consternation, aporia, and even apoplexia philosophical inquiry can cause in us led to Socrates' execution.
Write an essay of not less than 500 words and not more than 1000 words (as per the instructions) in which you conduct a dispassionate, judicial analysis of the premises of the valid argument by
- Explaining and carefully and clearly justifying each premise (if it helps, pretend you are an atheist eager to defend each premise);
- Evaluating each premise by spelling out the best criticisms you can construct (if it helps, pretend you are a theist eager to show that one or more of the premises are false so as to demonstrate that the argument is unsound); and,
- Premise by premise, judging whether or not the justifications for the premises outweigh the possible criticisms of them, explaining your judgments as you go.
To be sure, this is your first foray into genuinely philosophical analysis. You're not merely explaining concepts we've discussed in class as you have on the last two essays so much as embarking on an exploration of reasoned analysis yourself. I strongly recommend you spend time in discussion with one or more of your classmates to clarify your ideas before writing the essay, noting that what you may find obvious may not be so obvious to others. Above all, however, do not wait till the night before it is due for a GroupMe library meet-up and gripe-session imagining you'll construct a mature, well-considered, polished response.
This perplexing and challenging argument deserves your time and consideration, don't you think?