Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: The Problem of Evil

Instructor: Herb Berg

hear speak see no evil image

In this course we will examine the various conceptions of, and explanations for, evil and suffering. The course will begin with a survey of various philosophers and philosophical schools, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, and Existentialists, who define and/or explain evil. Special attention will be given to the "problem of evil," that is, the problem the existence of evil presents for those who believe in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity. This will be followed by a similar survey of what various religions, past and present, from around the world have said about the existence and nature of evil. The course will conclude with an examination of the Christian fascination with evil, Satan, and naming the Antichrist.

Written requirements will include a series of one to two page responses related to the assigned readings. The major written assignment will consist of a longer 2000-2500 word essay, possible topics for which include the following:

  1. The problem of evil poses an insoluble problem for those who hold the traditional Western view of God.
  2. The problem of evil is not a problem for those who hold the traditional Western view of God.
  3. Evil exists. (Or, some things are inherently evil).
  4. Evil does not exist. (Or, nothing is inherently evil).
  5. Good and evil are dictated by God's commands and prohibitions, respectively.
  6. Good and evil are ontological categories.
  7. Satan exists.
  8. Satan does not exist.

Whatever the topic of your longer essay, the argument, ideas, and their presentation, as well as style and grammar will be evaluated (but NOT the postion taken).

Required texts:

(These texts may not be the texts for the current course offering. Check with the instructor before buying texts.)

  • Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert M. Adams, eds., The Problem of Evil
  • Fyodor Dostoesvsky, The Grand Inquisitor
  • Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
  • Jacob Neusner, ed., Evil and Suffering

Last Update: January 11, 2012