The problem of evil and the suffering of creeping things
Even philosophers of religion working on the problem of non-human animal suffering have ignored the suffering of creatures like insects. Sensible as this seems, it’s mistaken. I am not sure whether creatures like these can suffer, but it is plausible, on both commonsensical and scientific and philosophical grounds, that many of them can. If they do, their suffering makes the problem of evil much worse: their vast numbers mean the amount of evil in the world will almost certainly be increased by many, many orders of magnitude, the fact that disproportionately many of them live lives which are nasty, brutish, and short means that the proportion of good to evil in the world will be drastically worsened, and their relative lack of cognitive sophistication means that many theodicies, including many specifically designed to address animal suffering, would apply to their suffering only with much greater difficulty, if at all. Philosophers of religion should therefore more seriously investigate whether these beings can suffer and what, if anything, could justify God in allowing as much.
KeywordsProblem of evil Animal suffering Well-being Philosophy of mind Value theory
For feedback on this paper, I am grateful to Rebecca Chan, Michael Rabenberg, and attendees at the 2015 Eastern Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, especially Alex Jech, Laura Francis Callahan, and Paul Draper. I am also grateful to Oscar Horta, Brian Tomasik, and others who have drawn attention to the moral significance of wild animal suffering; it was thanks to work like theirs that I became aware of the possibility that the suffering of creeping things may be tremendously terrible in the aggregate.
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