Ernest Nagel criticizes the argument that

the things called evil are evil only because they are viewed in isolation; they are not evil when viewed in proper perspective and in relation to the rest of the universe. …

it is unsupported speculation…

For the argument can be turned around: what we judge to be a good is a good only because it is viewed in isolation; when it is viewed in its proper perspective, and in relation to the entire scheme of things, it is an evil. This is in fact a standard form of the argument for a universal pessimism. Is it any worse than the similar argument for a universal optimism? (Critiques of God, 13-4)

Yes, but the point is that as long as it is merely possible, even if unknown and unproven, that all partial evil contributes to the universal greatest good, the attack on theism by the problem of evil is to an extent blunted. I already pointed out that, contra Nagel, atheism dissolves rather than solves the problem of evil, as an atheist is willy-nilly forced to contend that there is no such thing as evil at all. At the same time, the theological problem of evil posits a logical contradiction between the goodness and perfection of the Creator and the sorry state of the creation. Since our author does not demonstrate that this is not the best possible world, his refutation of this particular defense fails.


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