Archives For BYU


In this paper, I will first define the problem of evil and outline arguments against the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God from the problem of evil. I will then give a definition of a theodicy and outline Hick’s theodicy in defense of God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence. Following, I will present two salient Latter-day Saint (LDS) critiques of Hick’s theodicy. Finally, I will give an LDS theodicy, being a modified Hickean theodicy, based on the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which will answer the LDS objections to Hick’s theodicy. In laying out an LDS theodicy, I will anticipate and refute with reasons the two most salient Hickean objections to it.


The problem

The problem of evil is defined as the need for reconciliation between our imperfect world and God’s goodness. The problem is twofold. On the one hand, it begs the purely logical question of whether an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God could have created a world in which life is afflicted by pain and evil. This question is often answered by the free will defense, which argues that a tincture of evil allows for the possibility of greater good. On the other hand, it begs the more pressing question of whether one can reasonably presume divine workmanship from such an imperfect world. This was Hume’s argument against design in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (“Oxford” 123).

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How names refer to objects has been a perennial problem in the philosophy of language. The descriptivist account has long prevailed. But is it correct? Before Kripke came along and attacked it, many philosophers thought it was. Since Kripke, however, many philosophers have changed their minds and agree with Kripke, but not all of them. Some are die hard descriptivists. John R. Searle is one of these. Searle argues in Proper Names and Intentionality that Kripke failed to address the actual beliefs of descriptivists, accusing him of what can only be seen as straw man arguments. This is ironic, since Searle’s argument against Kripke is a straw man argument. I will argue against Searle in favor of Kripke. I will argue that Searle’s critique of Kripke is a straw man argument and that intentionality, though necessary, is not sufficient to give the meaning of a name. In fact, I will argue with Kripke, names do not have meanings, all they do is reference objects.



Frege, whose contribution to the philosophy of language was inspired by his work in logic and mathematics, and, ultimately, directed towards it, worked in the semantic tradition. That is, he attempted to explain how language works by appealing to properties of the symbols it uses. He was concerned with the epistemic issues of how language is cognitively significant, how it represents the thoughts of its users, and how it connects those thoughts to the world. Frege proposed a two-part theory to answer these questions, in which words and sentences have two semantic properties: (1) a sense, or mode of presentation, and (2) a reference. Words and sentences represent the thoughts of the user through the sense, while they connect to the world through reference. Frege’s theory of proper names is that they are shorthand for definite descriptions.

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Real Rape

Christopher Hurtado —  April 13, 2010

Susan Estrich argues in chapter six of “Real Rape” that “simple rape is real rape” (881). Simple rape is distinguished from aggravated rape in that aggravated rape is defined as committed through conscious coercion, whereas simple rape is defined as committed by negligence.

Estrich cites British rape case, Director of Public Prosecutions v Morgan, to demonstrate significant differences between American and British definitions of rape. The British look to the man’s mental state in committing rape, while America has almost completely dismissed the intent requirement. Morgan held that if a man believes that a woman has consented to sex, he cannot be convicted of rape, no matter how unreasonable his belief (875). Estrich argues that this is problematic on many levels. She argues that by dismissing the intent requirement, women, not men, will are on trial and the woman’s sexual history is called into question. She argues further that, the “issue to be determined is not whether the man is a rapist, but whether the woman was raped,” and that acquittal “signals that the prosecution has failed to prove the woman’s sexual violation—her innocence—beyond a reasonable doubt” (877). Finally, Estrich argues that without an intent requirement, the resistance requirement is generally used and that a woman’s resistance, or lack thereof, in a rape is no clear indication of whether she consents to sex since she may feel that resistance is futile.

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Law and Morality

Christopher Hurtado —  April 6, 2010


What is the proper relationship between law and morality? This is a political question. In order to answer it, we must first answer the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical questions underlying it: What is law? What is morality? How do we know? Ethics is the central branch of philosophy and its raison d’être. It tells us what is right for us to do. But in order to know what is right for us to do, we must first know what kind of beings we are. The purpose of the science of ethics is to discover and define a code of values to guide our choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of our life.1 Ethics tells us how we should treat one another, giving rise to politics, the branch of philosophy that defines the principles of a proper social system.2 The key political issue of our time is freedom versus statism.3 This, I will argue, is the issue at stake in the question of the proper relationship between law and morality and freedom is the only rational choice.


If we are in what Rand called a “malevolent universe,”4 then by our very nature we are “helpless and doomed … success, happiness and achievement are impossible to [us] …emergencies, disasters, catastrophes are the norm of [our] life … and [our] primary goal is to combat them.”5 In this case, it hardly matters what we do. Regardless, the universe will conspire against us to defeat our purposes. If, on the other hand, we are in what Rand called a “benevolent universe,” 6 then “ideas matter . . . . That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters.”7 In this case, there are objective answers to the above questions and the answers are knowable.

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If two people commit burglary together, and one intentionally kills the owner, should the other burglar be found guilty of felony murder if this other burglar did not know that the killer was armed? Why or why not?


If the law states that anyone who is an accomplice to someone who commits murder during the course of a burglary, then the burglar who was an accomplice in the burglary to the killer should be found guilty of felony murder, regardless of whether he knew the killer was armed. 7. Suppose that a truck driver runs over a cardboard box in the middle of the road, just because it is too much trouble to avoid it. Unfortunately, a child is playing in the box, and the child is killed. Should the truck driver be found guilty of murder or manslaughter? What if the truck was stolen or contained illegal cargo, so the truck driver was committing a felony at the time? Then should the driver have been found guilty of murder or manslaughter? Why or why not?

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(1) Why was the death penalty upheld in McCleskey, but not in Furman? (just for your information, note what Furman did: p.779, question #1)

In McClesky, under Georgia law, the jury could consider the death penalty if it found beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was accompanied by one of the statutory aggravating circumstances. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was accompanied by two statutory aggravating circumstances: (1) McCleskey committed the murder during the course of an armed robbery and (2) McCleskey murdered a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties. As McCleskey offered no mitigating evidence, the jury recommended the death penalty on the murder charge and the court sentenced McCleskey to death.


McCleskey’s claim that Georgia’s capital punishment statute violates the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause based on racial discrimination against his color, which he based on statistical evidence of the overall application of the death penalty in Georgia was rejected by the Court on the grounds that he could not prove discrimination in his case. The Court also held that discretion is essential to the criminal justice process. The Court also rejected McCleskey’s further claim that the State had acted with a discriminatory purpose on the grounds that there was no evidence to that effect either.

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Van Den Haag

Christopher Hurtado —  March 23, 2010


Is the death penalty constitutional, useful, and morally justifiable?

I. The Constitutional Question

The Fifth Amendment implies a “due process of law” to deprive someone of life. The Eight Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment,” but does not supersede the Fifth Amendment, as both were simultaneously enacted. The Fourteenth Amendment reasserts and makes explicit the previously implied authority to “deprive of life…” by “due process of law.” Therefore, for the death penalty to now be unconstitutional, it must now be seen as “cruel and unusual.” However, there is no moral consensus to this effect.

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Some politicians support a recent proposal popularly known as “three strikes and you’re out.” In one form, anyone convicted of three felonies (or three violent felonies or three felonies of the same kind) would receive a sentence of life in prison without chance of parole. Would act utilitarians support this proposal? Would rule utilitarians? Would you? Why or why not?

Act and rule utilitarians alike would likely see the “three strikes and you’re out” proposal as increasing overall utility and therefore support it. Anyone convicted of three felonies is likely to commit more. Therefore, there would seem to be greater overall utility in sentencing him to life in prison without a chance of parole, thereby eliminating the threat to society that he poses. Furthermore, both act and rule utilitarians would agree that the threat of life imprisonment without the chance of parole serves as a deterrent to those who have already committed two felonies. Sentencing anyone convicted of three felonies to life in prison without the chance of parole sends a clear message to anyone who has already committed two felonies that he had better rehabilitate. Act and rule utilitarians alike would also agree that whether the result of this threat is the rehabilitation of the felon after two felonies or life imprisonment after three, overall utility would increase, as the threat to society the felon poses is eliminated either way. However, this general assessment of the act and rule utilitarian approach to dealing with punishment overlooks the possibility of rehabilitation.

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Brigham Young, who often spoke of philosophy, declared that we must believe correctly (metaphysics), think correctly (epistemology) and act correctly (ethics).[2] But what is to be the metaphysical foundation of correct belief with regard to God? Joseph Smith said, “it is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God.”[3] What is the character of God? Is He absolute, or is reality? Is He infinite or finite? Which has primacy in Mormon metaphysics, consciousness or existence? If God is infinite, then how does one account for the problem of evil? If God is finite, then how does one account for His, omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience? The answer, I will argue, is that reality is absolute; existence has primacy over consciousness, God (the person) is finite and the Holy Spirit (a divine substance) accounts for the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of God.

I. Axioms Are the Basis of Knowledge.

Axioms are the basis of knowledge. Any further knowledge necessarily rests upon this base. This is true whether one recognizes it or not. Any attempt to refute axiomatic principles will necessarily depend on the acceptance and use of the axioms themselves in the process.[4] Ayn Rand identified three axioms. The first axiom, existence exists, implies the other two; consciousness exists and existence is identity. Our knowledge is based on our consciousness of existence. To be conscious without anything to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. Existence without consciousness, on the other hand, cannot produce knowledge. Knowledge is the identification by a consciousness of existents. Existence is identity. To exist (i.e., to be) is to be something (as opposed to nothing) and to be something is to possess a certain set of characteristics. These three axioms are inescapable. They apply to all thought and action.[5] Joseph Smith identified the same three axioms in the Lectures on Faith. “Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God, unto life and salvation: First, the idea that he actually exists [the existence axiom]; second, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes [the identity axiom]; and third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his [God’s] will [the consciousness axiom].”[6]

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Two Native American’s working as counselors at a private drug rehabilitation facility used peyote (a hallucinogen) as part of their religious ceremonies as members of the Native American Church. They were fired from their jobs for this behavior and subsequently filed a claim for unemployment compensation. They were denied benefits by the government on work-related “misconduct” grounds. They lost in state court, but the Supreme Court vacated the Oregon Supreme Court’s judgement and returned the case to the Oregon courts to determine whether religious use of illegal drugs violated state law (485 U.S. 660 (1988)). The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that religious use of illegal drugs did violated the law, but that the law violated the free exercise clause. The case was then returned to the Supreme Court.


Can a state deny unemployment benefits to workers fired for using illegal drugs for religious purposes? Continue Reading…