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Pragmatic Pluralism and the Problem of God$
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Sami Pihlstrom

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823251582

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823251582.001.0001

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The Problem of Evil and the Limits of Philosophy

The Problem of Evil and the Limits of Philosophy

(p.129) Five The Problem of Evil and the Limits of Philosophy
Pragmatic Pluralism and the Problem of God

Sami Pihlström

Fordham University Press

A pragmatic treatment of “negative” ethico-religious concepts, such as evil and suffering, is necessary; arguably, some versions of pragmatism (e.g., James’s) may be better equipped to deal with the religious dimension of these features of human life than some others (e.g., Dewey’s). It is argued in chapter 5 that the problem of evil must be explored in a resolutely anti-theodicist manner, that is, without attempting in any way to justify or explain away the reality of evil (as in traditional “theodicies”, whether religious or secular). The pragmatic cash-value of religious beliefs can arguably be appreciated by focusing on suffering and related phenomena: religion may, though it also may not, offer (contextual, never absolute) security, help, consolation, spiritual salvation, etc., also leading up to what James called a “morally strenuous” attitude to life. It is suggested that religious metaphysics offering such consolation, as a response to problems arising from human practices and life-situations, may be pragmatically acceptable, given that it avoids justifying or explaining away evil in a “theodicist” manner. The problem of evil and suffering cannot, for ethical reasons, be regarded as theoretically solvable.

Keywords:   Evil, The problem of evil, Suffering, Theodicy, Theodicism vs. anti-theodicism, Metaphysics, Ethics, James, William, Pragmatism

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