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Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Evil

3. Theodicy and Free Will

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about one of the most famous responses to problem of evil: the free-will defence. In particular, we look at the original formulation of the defence in the writings of Augustine, before turning some of the counter-arguments (and counter-counter-arguments) that have been used since then.


In this course, Professor John Cottingham (University of Reading) explores of the key issues in the philosophy of religion: the problem of evil. We begin by thinking about the attributes of god and the logical problem of evil. Is it logically possible for evil to exist with an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God? After that, we turn to the evidential problem of evil. Even if it were logically possible for evil to exist with an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God, should we infer from amount of evil that exists in the world that such a God in fact exists? In the third and fourth modules, we think two of the most well-known responses to the problem of evil – the free-will defence the ‘vale of soul-making’ defence – before turning in the fifth module to the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and the concept of metaphysical evil.


John Cottingham is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford. He has published thirty books — thirteen as sole author, a further nine editions and translations, plus (either as single or join editor) eight edited collections — together with over 115 articles or chapters in journals or books. His books include Descartes, The Rationalists, Philosophy and the Good Life, On the Meaning of Life, The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge, 2005), Cartesian Reflections (Oxford, 2008), Why Believe? (Continuum 2009) and Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach (Cambridge, 2014). He is co-editor and translator of the three-volume standard Cambridge edition of The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. From 1993-2012 he was editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy. The Moral Life, a Festschrift honouring his work on moral psychology, ethics and religion, was published in 2008.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cottingham, J. (2018, August 15). Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Evil - Theodicy and Free Will [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cottingham, J. "Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Evil – Theodicy and Free Will." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,