The Birth and Development of Theodicy: Plato and His Successors

Convener: Viktor Ilievski (IRH-ICUB, University of Bucharest)

The main purpose of this seminar is to provide a forum where the convener and the prospective participants would discuss one of the rare underrepresented areas of Platonic studies, that is, Plato’s contribution to the development of the great theodicean strategies, which take very prominent place not only in the writings of the early and late Christian thinkers, but also in the systems of some Hellenistic and Late Antiquity schools. The thesis which will be promulgated is that Plato did take theodicy seriously (pace Carlos Steel, Sarah Broadie, etc.). What is more, he actually invented and introduced some of the most prominent ways of justifying God’s goodness in the face of the omnipresent evil that we still work with today – but recognize them as contributions of, e.g., Plotinus or St. Augustine – as well as some that have gone out of fashion and are not being considered seriously by theologian and philosophers of religion. To these two groups belong Plato’s Freedom of choice defense, the Principle of plenitude, the Aesthetic theme, and the Rival substance defense, respectively. Thus, the real problem with Plato’s theodicy is not that it is non-existent or meager, but that its exposition is unsystematic, while the ideas and the solutions are fragmentary and dispersed throughout the dialogues.

The proposed plan of the seminar is as follows. We have six, maximum seven fortnightly meetings at our disposal, and the first one is conceived as a reminder of the theologico-philosophical significance of the problem of evil and the meaning of the concept of theodicy. The second meeting will be dedicated to the Republic II, and Plato’s first grapples with the seeming contradiction of the simultaneous existence of evil on the one hand and omnibenevolent divinities on the other. During the third, Plato’s theodicy in the Myth of Er will be explored, which sets the scene for the advent of the famous Free Will defense. The fourth one will be dedicated to the theodicy in the Timaeus, while the fifth to the same subject as portrayed in the Laws X. The final one (or two) meetings will be reserved for the exploration of the influences of Plato’s theodicy on the Stoics, Plotinus, and St. Augustine.

Contact: Viktor Ilievski, filotey(at)gmail.com

Schedule (the meetings are supposed to be held from 18:00, at IRH-ICUB, 1 Dimitrie Brândză St.):

Monday, 23.10.2017: Peter van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil, ch. I.

Monday, 6.11.2017: Plato, Republic (377b-380c)

Monday, 20.11.2017: Plato, Republic (614b-621d)

Monday, 4.12.2017: Plato, Timaeus (27c-30d; 39e-40a; 41a-44c; 47e-53c)

Monday, 18.12.2018: Plato, Laws (901c-905d)

Monday, 15.01.2018: “Stoic Influences on Plotinus’ Theodicy?”, research paper

Monday, 29.01.2018: John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, chs. III and IV (optional).

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