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the evil mind

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 22, 2010

Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion has won a $1.7 million grant for a project to look into “the problem of evil in modern and contemporary thought.

By “modern and contemporary” in this context, I assume that we’re talking about the period since the Fall. The nasty problem of evil has been bothering thinkers ever since that time. You might find the question addressed in the Book of Job, the Nicomachean Ethics, St. Augustine’s Confessions, the Summa, and the Divine Comedy, just to mention a few likely sources of inspiration. Collect all those books, hire a handful of learned scholars to discuss them, and you’ll still have something left over from your $1.7 million investment.

To be fair, though, the Notre Dame project has a narrower focus. Atheists often argue that a benevolent God would not allow the existence of evil in the world. This project is designed to answer that argument. The project marks the 300th anniversary of the publication of the rationalist philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s Théodicée, a milestone effort to explain God’s toleration of evil.

Interesting. Of all the philosophers who have reflected on evil, would Leibniz have come first to your mind? If the Notre Dame Magazine story is any indication, he’s certainly on somebody’s mind:

… the project will underwrite new and more accessible translations of works by philosophers like Leibniz…

…scholars will analyze major contributions from thinkers such as Leibniz…

Much of the historically based research will revisit the work of Leibniz….

But it’s not easy to score a $1.7 million grant just to talk about Liebniz. The nice thing about studying the problem of evil is that you’re never likely to run out of material.  

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  • Posted by: pschloss4164 - Nov. 01, 2010 7:10 AM ET USA

    $1.7 million over years is $425k per year. Probably more 30% goes tow the university to keep the lights on. At roughly $100k per faculty per year and maybe $60k per graduate student per year, the remainder goes pretty fast. If Catholics want a seat at the table of modern ideas, we have to play the game of the secularists and put things into a modern perspective. Considering it's Mr. Templeton's money, we should be happy, lose the anti-academy bias, and pray that Catholic answers result

  • Posted by: Hal - Oct. 26, 2010 4:26 PM ET USA

    They could put that money to good use by distributing the Catechism on campus and calling a moving van for the President of the University and his enablers on the Board.

  • Posted by: Defender - Oct. 25, 2010 5:16 PM ET USA

    I'd be happy to answer the question for a lot less money and without the interference of the non-Catholic university in question.

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