Harris, George W.
September 2002
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Sep2002, Vol. 5 Issue 3, p271
Academic Journal
The problem of pessimism is the secular analogue to the evidential problem of evil facing traditional theism. The traditional theist must argue two things: that the evidence shows that this is on balance a good world and that it is the best possible world. Though the secular optimist who advocates any form of secular moral theory need not argue that the current and future world will likely be the best possible world, she nonetheless must argue that were there a 'clean solution' to the problem of current and future suffering in which all sentient life could be instantly and painlessly eliminated, we would have reasons not to employ the clean solution because the future promises to bring on balance a good world in which the evil of human and animal suffering is outweighed by whatever is good in the world. Pessimism is the view that the evidence argues against secular optimism. It is argued here that it is anything but clear that secular optimism is warranted when viewed from an impersonal point of view. The problem is then evaluated from the personal point of view in which a form of personal optimism is defended even in the face of impersonal pessimism.


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