I just came across an interesting post from David Hunter at Prosblogion. A while back I talked about the argument from evil and the resulting theodicies that try to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the existence of God. Hunter argues that these theodicies will only work “if something like consequentialism/utilitarianism is true.”
To give a crude example suppose the free will theodicy is being used as a global response to the argument from evil. Often at least some of the benefits of the existence of free will will accrue to those who suffer from the negatives of the existence of free will. But this will not always be the case, nor will the distribution of these benefits be comparative to the harms, sometimes some will benefit very little but be harmed very much.
Given this then a proponent of the free will theodicy as a global response to the argument from evil must also endorse this unequal distribution, and claim that sometimes the harms to one are justified because of the benefits to others.
I claim (though I won’t defend it here) that most other theodicies face the same problems, and that there are at least some evils which cannot be explained except by reference to benefits to others.
Take for example the rape and murder of a small child.
I have heard of responses to theodicies that cite the fact that God (by allowing certain evils) seems to be using people as a means to other ends (often thought of as immoral)…but this post seems to cite the more general assumption upon which “using people as means” seems to be justified on: the acts are justified so long as it results in overall benefit. And, as Hunter goes on to point out, utlitarianism is itself quite controversial, and if many theodicies depend upon this principle to justify their claims, then they need to either state this as an assumption or, better yet, defend this principle.