“If God exists, whence comes evil; and if God does not exist, whence comes good?” (Boethius). This course will consider the theological problem of evil, starting with the Book of Job. We will next investigate the problem from the perspectives of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, for whom evil was the major, stumbling block in the proof of God’s existence. At issue will be the question of whether the view of evil initiated by Augustine as the “privation of good” represents an adequate explanation of evil. This pursuit will lead into the problem of theodicy: can—or should—God’s ways be justified to human beings? We will look at theodicy in selections from the works of Hume, Bayle, Voltaire, Leibniz, and Kant. We will then study several fictional treatments of the problem of evil, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Melville’s Billy Budd, and the Coen Brothers’ movie No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.
This course fulfills an elective requirement and counts toward the Ethics and Leadership concentration and certificate.
Stephen Meredith is a Professor in Pathology and the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. Meredith never abandoned his passion for literature during his academic training in the biological sciences. His familiarity with James Joyce, Thomas Aquinas, and Fyodor Dostoevsky would later merge with his scientific teaching career at Chicago. Meredith developed an undergraduate course on literary and philosophical reflections on disease.