Sami Pihlström

 pihlstrom-s Sami Pihlström Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Professor of Philosophy of Religion (University of Helsinki)
The Problem of Evil and Mediated Recognition

My project within the CoE focuses on the problem of evil, seeking to critically integrate two main discourses on evil: (1) the traditional problem of evil in theology and philosophy of religion, focusing on the question of theodicy (“how could an omnipotent and benevolent God allow evil and suffering?”), and (2) the secular approach to evil in ethics, politics, and historiography, supplemented by, e.g., psychopathological accounts (“how can evil actions be explained?”). This integration will be achieved by means of the notion of mediated pragmatic recognition that to be developed within the context of pragmatist philosophy of religion.

I argue that the current approaches are too narrow to deal with evil in its full complexity. The project articulates both the unity of the problem of evil and the differences-in-unity that need to be appreciated. The new approach to the concept of evil resulting from the integration will be extended from the philosophy of religion to other areas philosophy, especially ethics and metaphysics. Pragmatist philosophy of religion will be the key methodological resource for developing the notion of mediated pragmatic recognition, as pragmatism enables us to evaluate philosophical views on evil in terms of their ability to ethically acknowledge suffering and its victims.

Furthermore, evil offers a case study of how religious and non-religious views on vital ethical and existential problems may (or may fail to) mutually recognize each other. Hence, the project deals with a classical topic but opens up fundamentally new perspectives on it by synthesizing and overcoming approaches that do not habitually recognize each other, or do so only in a limited way.