Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Sciences


John C. Robertson, Jr.


The dissertation is a study and critical assessment of certain fundamental issues which are involved in Hartshorne's theodicy. Such a study is important due to the dire lack of serious critical attention not only to "process theodicy" in general but to Hartshorne's "process theodiey" in particular. (Hartshorne's metaphysics has not been distinguished -- until most recently from Whitehead's, and his theodicy has not yet been appreciated for its uniqueness).

Hartshorne's approach to theodicy generally is understood to involve his revised conception of Anselm's ontological proof for God's existence, and the subsequent claim that if God can be shown to exist necessarily, then no empirical fact (e.g., evil) can count as evidence against that existence. This may, perhaps, be granted -- provided the ontological proof is valid; yet, Hartshorne's theodicy involves more than this thesis, and it is this "more" with which the dissertation is concerned. Specifically, Hartshorne's theodicy may be considered as an attempt to show how God as omnibeneficent (all-powerful and all-good) may be reconciled with the fact of evil, and with creaturely freedom and moral responsibility. Hartshorne's revised, "neoclassical" theism conceives God as "dipolar" (i.e., as having both necessary and contingent aspects), and such that He does not seem solely responsible for creaturely agency (as Hartshorne believes the classical Christian conception of God implies).

It is Hartshorne's contention, furthermore, that God functions in the world by (i) presenting ideal aims to creatures and persuading creatures to accept those possibilities, and by (ii) experiencing and eternally valuing the actualizations achieved by creatures. The dissertation suggests that the former relates especially (though not exclusively) to divine power and, as such, the issue which arises concerns the viability of Hartshorne's attempt to show how this divine power is reconciled with creaturely freedom. The latter relates especially (though, again, not exclusively) to divine benevolence and, as such, the issue here concerns Hartshorne's attempt to show how this divine benevolence is reconciled with the fact of evil: its source, nature, function, and overcoming. It is argued that Hartshorne's theodicy may be reconstructed and critically assessed by considering these two basic issues.

With respect to the first issue, Hartshorne's contention is that creatures have a certain undeniable freedom (based on a defence of psychicalism and a doctrine of "relative determinism", whereby materialistic dualism and pure determinism or indeterminism, respectively, are attacked), and that this freedom is coherent with a divine power which acts solely persuasively. The dissertation argues, however, that Hartshorne has not fully explicated the nature of the divine persuasive influence, and that a full analysis of this divine agency reveals a varying range of its effectiveness, some of which approaches a coerciveness. This thesis is vital to Hartshorne's theodicy since only by acknowledging it can he hold (as he wishes) that divine power, as causal agency in the world, permits creaturely freedom only to the extent that creatures do not use that freedom to create an overabundance of evil and disorder: divine power must ensure that freedom is kept within suitable limits, and this implies an aspect of coerciveness.

Hartshorne's understanding of how divine benevolence is reconciled with evil -- the second basic issue -- reaches much the same conclusion; that is, while God is not solely responsible for evil (since all beings have some range freedom or spontaneity), He overcomes evil to the extent that it never predominates over the good and the order in the world. Evil, furthermore, is understood as an aesthetic principle, with certain positive functions, and explained as unavoidable privation and loss.

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