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The Soul-Making Theodicy:
A Response to Dore

4. Conclusion

Book cover: God and Philosophy by Antony Flew

In this essay, I considered two major criticisms of the soul-making theodicy and Dore's attempt to answer these objections. I began by looking at the objection that on a utilitarian calculus the disvalue of an instance of suffering outweighs the value of the virtuous act that it evokes. In response, Dore argued that the loss of the value of the virtuous response to suffering is more than compensated by the value of the virtuous act of relieving the suffering. I pointed out that Dore's equation fails to take into account the high value begot from long periods of courageous bearing of suffering and what this entails about our obligations to prolong them.

Thinking through the implications of high numbers of people suffering for overall utility and the uncharitable motivations of some for their obligations to help led Dore to abandon this approach for a solution based on deontological duties. I argued that the resulting bifurcation between God's obligations and human obligations based on differences in power seems contrived and leads to highly counterintuitive moral judgements. Dore's questioning of utilitarianism in his defence of his deontological obligations also runs counter to the consequentialist underpinnings of his soul-making theodicy.

Dore's later attempt to defend his theodicy based on a resort to the uncertainty of religious faith was also found wanting. Although Dore successfully showed belief in God to be logically consistent with the belief that evil exists, he had failed the theodicists' primary task of demonstrating the consistency of his beliefs within an acceptable normative framework. I argued that, in effect, Dore had abandoned the theodicists' enterprise.

The second major objection I examined in this essay was the proposal that there is a possible world in which morally virtuous characters are developed, but also in which gratuitous suffering does not exist. This world, it is argued, is more morally desirable than our own and would have been chosen by God. Dore responded that in this imagined world, human agents are not free because God removes the opportunity to cause suffering. I argued that, taken in both a compatibilist sense and a libertarian sense, Dore's analysis fails to capture the logic of free will and of the counterfactual conditional descriptions of this world. Reviewing all of Dore's responses to these two key objections, I conclude that his attempt to rescue the soul-making theodicy from serious criticism has failed.

Copyright © 2015

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