Instructions: Answers must be 1300 words minimum; include word count. Please PROOFREAD your final version before handing it in. Essays may be turned in at Olney 102 or emailed to me:


Explain the Plenitude Solution to the Problem of Evil: how does it attempt to explain the existence of evil in the world? Pick any two objections from the following list that you find most compelling as a critique of the Plenitude Solution (you may choose more than two if you like). Explain each one fully and then critique the objections: how do they undermine the Plenitude Solution? Are they successful objections? Indicate whether you think the Plenitude Solution is ultimately a successful answer to the Problem of Evil.  Make sure to address the Pastoral question: does it provide the kind of justification that you could provide to someone who is suffering?


1. The world is not in fact a plenitude; there are too many gaps (possible beings that are absent), and too many unnecessary, excessive beings (e.g. 400,000 species of beetles).

2. The world is clearly not the best possible world; it could easily have been made much better by eliminating some (or even much) of the evil that we see, while still preserving great variety and diversity. Make reference to at least one episode in Candide to support this objection.

3. There is no scale by which to say that different creatures are better or worse by any single measure. The world is full of variety, but not on a single scale of being. Different things are just different. Consider Stephen Jay Gould’s example of different breeds of dogs, which cannot be ranked according to any single criterion of superiority.

4. The Plenitude Solution says that the lowest level of being in the world is matter. But this conflicts with the traditional religious idea that sin is the worst evil in the world, and thus that Satan is the being furthest from God.

5. Plenitude comes at too high a price. All of the suffering in the world cannot be justified merely by the value of plenitude. Or, the world is so unfair to some individuals that the world cannot be justified by plenitude alone. Hence Plenitude is unsatisfactory from the pastoral perspective. Make reference to an episode in Candide to support this objection.