[Atheism is] the view that there are no gods. A widely used sensedenotes merely not believing in god and is consistent with agnosticism[in the psychological sense]. A stricter sense denotes a belief thatthere is no god; this use has become standard. (Pojman 2015,emphasis added)
Notice the obvious relevance of this argument to agnosticism.According to one prominent member of the agnosticism family, we haveno good reason to believe that God exists and no good reason tobelieve that God does not exist. Clearly, if the first premise of thisargument is true, then this version of agnosticism must be false.
The author is grateful to the students in his Fall 2016 seminar onatheism and agnosticism: John Absher, Matthew Fritz, AlžbetaHájková, Vincent Jacobson, Daniel Linford, Adam Nuske,Bianca Oprea, and Luke Wilson. They contributed in a variety of waysto making this entry much better than it would otherwise have been.The author is also grateful to Jeanine Diller and Jeffery Lowder forvery helpful comments.
Agnostics as well as theists should answer evidential arguments from evil, at least when confronted with them. In this paper, I answer such an argument by appealing to sceptical agnosticism. A sceptical agnostic is not only undecided about the existence of a perfectly good and omnipotent God, but also believes that we cannot make any judgement about whether or not seemingly gratuitous evil probably is gratuitous. I argue that such agnosticism has several advantages compared with sceptical theism.
In this paper, I focus on sceptical agnosticism as a response to evidential arguments from evil. A sceptical agnostic is not only undecided about the existence of a perfectly good and omnipotent God, but also believes that we cannot make any judgement about whether or not seemingly gratuitous evil really is, or probably is, gratuitous. Such judgements are present at least in Rowe-style evidential arguments from evil. I argue that sceptical agnosticism has several advantages when compared with sceptical theism. That is to say, all else equal, endorsing the scepticism that both views include, agnosticism rather than theism is the rational choice.
Having the sceptical component in common, both sceptical theism and sceptical agnosticism can defeat the above and similar arguments from evil. The real difference between the two is the second theistic and agnostic component. Starting with sceptical theism, the sceptical component is, as already mentioned, just theism, broadly understood as the belief that there exists at least one god (see Oppy 2018: 5). However, since sceptical theism is developed to object to Rowe-style arguments from evil against the God of omni-theism I will qualify the theistic component as follows:
Turning to sceptical agnosticism, I follow Graham Oppy (2018) and define agnosticism, or in this case the agnostic component, as the considered attitude of not believing in any gods while also withholding judgement about the existence of at least one of them. Besides not believing in gods, an agnostic would thus either (a) withhold judgement about the existence of one particular god, (b) withhold judgement about the existence of some particular gods or (c) withhold judgement about all gods. As I focus on the God of omni-theism, I will qualify the agnostic component as follows:
Some might argue that it would be even better (more of an advantage) to endorse sceptical atheism. If we deny the existence of God and commit to the sceptical component, then global scepticism is completely off the table. However, the problem is that the sceptical component still undermines one of the strongest arguments for atheism, namely the argument from evil.13 That is to say, even if sceptical atheism is an option, without Rowe-style arguments from evil the evidential support for agnosticism might be stronger than the support for atheism.
To conclude: arguments from evil need to be answered not only by theists, but by agnostics as well. In this paper I answered a Rowe-style argument from evil by appealing to sceptical agnosticism. A sceptical agnostic is not only undecided about the existence of a perfectly good and omnipotent God, but also believes that we cannot make any judgement about whether or not seemingly gratuitous evil probably is gratuitous. I argued that such agnosticism has several advantages when compared with sceptical theism. According to the first advantage, the scepticism endorsed by both sceptical agnostics and sceptical theists defeats evidential arguments from evil, but also inductive a posteriori arguments that try to show that a good God has created the world. That is to say, all else being equal, endorsing the scepticism that is central to both views makes agnosticism a more rational choice than theism. According to the second advantage, sceptical agnosticism finds it easier to address objections purporting to show that the scepticism inherent to both views implies global scepticism. I also considered a number of objections. In particular, I pointed out that since theism is a worldview, while agnosticism is not, sceptical theism might have the advantage of being a more comprehensive view than sceptical agnosticism. I explained this by stating that theism provides answers to a range of worldview-related questions. In order to have answers to such questions, the sceptical agnostic must either adopt a secular worldview or commit to theism in a non-doxastic manner.
Still, given the severity of in particular the second advantage, sceptical agnosticism seems to be the rational choice. However, I want to end by stressing that I have not made an all things considered assessment here. Thus, this conclusion is only tentative. There might be further reasons not considered in this particular paper that suggests that theism or perhaps atheism is the rational choice for those who endorse the scepticism often associated with sceptical theism. Also, exactly which particular worldview agnostics rationally can commit to, in what way they can commit to it, and whether it is compatible with their scepticism, remains an open question for further investigation.
When defining agnosticism, one usually needs to define what qualifies as being a god. However, since my focus here is on the God of omni-theism it is not necessary to deal with that question in this particular paper. Everyone would agree that the God of omni-theism is at least a serious candidate for being a God. 59ce067264