, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 36–44 | Cite as

On natural evil's being necessary for free will

  • David O'Connor


Asbestosis Moral Evil Verbal Knowledge Natural Evil Foregoing Argument 


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  1. 1.
    (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979). The argument of his that I will describe below is on pp. 204–214 of this book. No further page references for it will be given.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a fuller account of the logical geography of these points see my ‘Theism, Evil, and the Onus of Proof’,Religious Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2, (1983), pp. 241–247.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This definition's being traditional is established, I think, by the following considerations: InSumma Contra Gentiles, 2, VII, and following, Aquinas offers a similar account, an account which, on his own admission, is not original to him. For a similar kind of understanding of natural evil in contemporary literature in the philosophy of religion see, for instance, George N. Schlesinger'sReligion and Scientific Method (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1977) and his several papers on the problem of evil. Many contemporary thinkers in the philosophy of religion, however, equate natural evil with pain and suffering. See, for example, Nelson Pike's famous ‘Hume on Evil’,The PhilosophicaL Review., LXII, No. 2, (19 63), J. L. Mackie's writings and those of Richard Swinburne himself. A point about Swinburne's understanding of natural evil: his official position (seeThe Existence of God, pp. 200 and 201 for instance) is that ‘natural evil’ refers only to pain and suffering. However, in that same book, he includes within the reference range of the term the following also; loss of life, loss of health, and disease, for example asbestosis, p. 208. It seems to me that the equation of natural evil with pain and suffering is too narrow, that it is out of step with an important, more comprehensive, richer account available in the traditional literature, and that this traditional understanding provides withinits scope room for pain and suffering as referents of the term.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See my ‘Swinburne on Natural Evil’,Religious Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, (1983), pp. 65–73.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A slight qualification is needed here. At one point in his argument, seeop. cit. ‘Swinburne on Natural Evil’,Religious Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, (1983), p. 212, Swinburne maintains that, under the condition of our actually knowing the good, we would be incapable of choosing to do evil. But there is no entailment here. Indeed, the idea is contrary to a point that Swinburne's argument on the wider issue needs, namely: the possibility of informed choice of evil. For a fuller account of these matters see my ‘Swinburne on Natural Evil’.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    In order to avoid our becoming diverted from the significant question at issue here in regard to the possible falsity of (15), let us set aside the separate and, in the present context, wholly irrelevant matter of our causing pain or damage accidentally.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    I am indebted to my colleague G. J. Dalcourt, to William P. Alston, and to Professor Swinburne for useful criticisms.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer SBM B.V. 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • David O'Connor
    • 1
  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversityU.S.A.

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