How does Philo use the notion of underdetermination by the evidence to argue against the argument from design?

How does Philo use the problem of evil to argue against empirical theism? Philo uses the problem of evil in an atypical way. Instead of using it to argue that there is an inconsistency in the traditional conception of God, he uses it to show that we cannot infer God's moral attributes from the natural world. The world around us appears to be far less perfect than it could be. It is filled with evil and misery. It might well be the case, he admits, that the world is actually as perfect as it could possibly be, or that there is some reason why it needs to be the way it is. But the fact remains that when we look at the world with all its evil and misery, we have absolutely no grounds on which to conclude that God is supremely good, powerful, and wise. If he is supremely good then he would not want there to be evil. If he is supremely powerful then it would be within his power to will evil away. And if he were supremely wise he would know how the make the world perfect for its inhabitants. Looking at the world, then, we cannot reasonably conclude that he is all three of these things. Suggested Essay Topics

Which of the three characters, if any, do you believe speaks for Hume? Why? What do you make of the last sentence of the book?

Explain Philo's arguments for the claim that the argument from design is not a real argument by analogy.

Philo claims that the argument from design is not a good explanation of order in the universe. Why not? How does he answer Cleanthes' objections?

According to Hume, what are the four sources of misery in the world? What is their relevance to the larger argument of the Dialogues?

Which cosmogonic system does Philo express the most sympathy for? What do you think this reveals about Hume's real opinion on theology?

Cleanthes tries to argue in part VI that the world cannot be eternal. What is his argument? What is Philo's response?

Who do you think won the argument between the three characters? Did anyone? Why do you think this?

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