Surprised by suffering: Hume, Draper, and the Bayesian argument from evil

David Wood, Fordham University


In Part 11 of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume presented an argument against Theism that would now be loosely classified as Bayesian. More recently, Paul Draper has formalized and expanded upon Hume's reasoning, giving us what some philosophers regard as the most sophisticated version of the Problem from Evil. Through comparison with the Logical and Inductive forms of the Argument from Evil, careful analysis of Hume's Dialogues and Draper's writings, and considerable discussion of previous responses to Draper's case, this dissertation examines the philosophical relevance and persuasive power of the Bayesian Argument from Evil. Due to the argument's use of controversial principles of inference, its treatment of Theism as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, its reliance on a Bayesian fallacy, and its susceptibility to refutation by defenses, theodicies, counterbalancing evidence, and different views of Theism, this dissertation concludes that the Bayesian Argument from Evil fails on multiple levels. When the flawed elements of Draper's argument are stripped away, we are left with an appeal to a weak form of Evidentialism, which is neither novel nor interesting.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Wood, David, "Surprised by suffering: Hume, Draper, and the Bayesian argument from evil" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3630193.