On Behalf of Demea: Hume’s Problem of Evil

Pain Pauls blogEpicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered.” Said Philo, David Hume’s skeptical character, in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”(D 10.25)

In part 10 and 11 of the Dialogues, Hume explored the traditional problem of evil. He, quo Philo, argued that given the occurrence of pain and suffering, an omnicompetent Deity, believed by Cleanthes and Demea, cannot exist. The existence of instances of pain and suffering is logically incompatible with the existence of such a Deity.

Philo expounded more,

Why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive; except we assert, that these subjects exceed all human capacity, and that our common measures of truth and falsehood are not applicable to them (D 10.34)

Demea, Hume’s unbending and inflexible standard orthodox-theist character, offered a response to meet Epicurus’ old questions. This article explored Demea’s response and argued that it does shake the solidity of the classical problem of evil. Continue reading