Hume on Trial: Can Evil and Suffering be Justified?

Muhammad U. Faruque

For many contemporary philosophers, the presence of “horrendous evils” in this world seems highly incompatible with a warranted belief in the existence of a God who is good, just, and omnipotent. Against such suppositions which can be traced back to Pierre Bayle and David Hume and which find their modern, stronger formulations in William Rowe and Paul Draper, I argue that it is erroneous to consider that the goal of creation is a custom-made heaven and the imperfect human. Rather, the telos of creation is the human being’s spiritual development and ultimate perfection for which evil and suffering in life can be a way to actualize one’s latent spiritual and ethical flourishing. This position also explains why, in the Islamic tradition, there is a view which maintains that those closest to God are the ones who suffer the most.

About the Presenter

Muhammad U. Faruque (PI) is the Inayat Malik Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati. His research lies at the intersection of religion, science, philosophy, and literature, especially in relation to the Islamic intellectual tradition. He earned his PhD (with distinction) from the University of California, Berkeley, and served as Exchange Scholar at Harvard University and as George Ames Postdoctoral Fellow at Fordham University. His highly acclaimed book Sculpting the Self (University of Michigan Press, 2021) addresses “what it means to be human” in a secular, post-Enlightenment world by exploring notions of selfhood and subjectivity in Islamic and non-Islamic literatures including modern philosophy and neuroscience. Dr. Faruque’s work has been supported by Templeton Foundation, the Ames Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Bestway Foundation, among others and has appeared in a number of peer-reviewed journals such as Philosophy East and West, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy (Cambridge), Brill Journal of Sufi Studies, Religious Studies (Cambridge), and Ancient Philosophy. He is also the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including a Templeton Foundation Global Philosophy of Religion Project grant.

While his past research has explored modern and premodern conceptions of selfhood and identity and their bearing on ethics, religion, science, and culture, his current project investigates whether or not Sufi philosophy and practice---as articulated in the School of Ibn ʿArabī---support and foster an active engagement toward the planet's well-being and an ecologically viable way of life and vision. He is also at work on a book on A.I. and the ethical challenges of information technology.

His interests and expertise encompass history and theory of subjectivity, Qur’anic studies, Perso-Arabic mystical literature, religion and climate change, gender hermeneutics, Islamic philosophy and ethics, and Graeco-Arabica. He teaches courses on Islam, Islamic humanities, religion and climate change, as well as on selfhood and identity in Islamic and contemporary thought. He is also affiliated with the department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the program in Religious Certificate.