This is the second part of a presentation of a philosophy paper by Peter van Inwagen. You can find the first part here.
In the first part, I presented van Inwagen’s specific reaction to a certain specific argument. This argument presents the claim that the pain of the world gives a prima facie case for the hypothesis that the ultimate source of the world is indifferent to it. Van Inwagen replies simply by showing that the case fails because the premises do not entail the conclusion. However, this discussion is unsatisfactory as it stands because it is too dry. It doesn’t really grapple with the problem of pain. It grapples only with the structure of a certain logical (or illogical) argument.
[Image credit: C. Henze/NASA Ames Research Center]
The announcement of gravitational wave detection has made me decide to postpone the second part of the presentation of Peter van Inwagen’s paper that I began in my previous post.
I was very pleased and excited to hear the news from LIGO last week: the first direct detection of gravitational waves. These waves are sometimes called waves in spacetime itself, though one can equally well regard them as waves in a gravity field which extends throughout spacetime. However you see it, their detection opens up a new era in astronomy. In a loose comparison, it is as if up to now we have been able to see the universe, and now we are beginning to be able to hear it too.
I have been reading a paper by Peter van Inwagen, called “The problem of evil, the problem of air, and the problem of silence”. It is published in Philosophical Perspectives 5: 135-165 (1991) and you can find a copy at the following site, which gives a useful collection of van Inwagen’s papers:
Peter van Inwagen wrote the paper in response to Paul Draper, Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists, Nous 23, 331-50 (1989). It considers the argument that the nature of the world, with all its pain and suffering, indicates that the source of the world is indifferent to it, or, at least, that this is more likely than that such a source cares about the world.