Swinburne’s free-will defence (of God’s allowing of evil) assumes that it is a great good that we can make free and responsible choices; and that the possibility of making such choices requires the possibility of evil. Regarding “free,” Swinburne (1996: 101) thinks that “in order to have a choice between good and evil, agents need already a certain depravity,” but what sort of choice is better made in depravity? Surely not one with important consequences! Regarding “responsible,” our ability to choose is supposed to be a great good only because we are thereby able to cause great suffering to others, but surely whatever value is added to a choice by its being freely made is independent of whether or not its consequences actually occur. Although making free and responsible choices when we have to can be a good thing, is that a reason to allow evil? Surely evil is the opposite of good, not an intrinsic part of it, as this defence seems to require it to be.
......Consider a saint (whose possible existence is supposed to justify the possibility of evil) who devotes her life to loving God, saving the depraved souls around her from sin (for which they later martyr her) and assuaging the suffering of the innocents. She is made this offer: All those sinners and sufferers (and also herself) could have died painlessly as babies and gone straight to Heaven instead, where they would all have chosen (in a well-informed way) to enjoy loving God forever. Wouldn’t a saint put their collective well-being ahead of her own glorious sainthood, and so choose (with all her saintly wisdom) to take up that offer? Or consider the heroic rescue of some people from some horrible situation—that is surely a good thing; but would we judge as good someone who arranged (or even just allowed) for the careless making of consequential choices just so that (in such a situation) she could display her own (or some friends’) heroism?
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery - *Introduction* *Opening Passages:* From Douglass's *Narrative*: I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot c...
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