Cleanthes, Philo and Demea describe God as having “infinite benevolence, conjoined with infinite power and infinite wisdom” (Hume, 66). Even so, these characteristics pose a problem for Philo regarding evil and suffering. The belief in God and what he embodies is clear to the three conversing and no one disputes God’s existence or characteristics. Yet, with the existence of the presence of suffering and evil therein lies the problem. Philo contends that evil “is not, by any means, what we expect from infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness” (Hume, 65-6) Philo quickly continues by asking “why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the Deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning” (Hume, 66). Each of these question and answer pairs prepares Philo, Cleathes and Demea for the conclusion drawn on evil and God’s existence. Philo’s overarching argument is to assert that what Demea has said about God and evil is somewhat incorrect. Therefore, Philo wrestles with the idea of evil and God’s presence in the same world.
At the start of his argument, Philo questions God’s characteristics before anything else. He knows God is benevolent, perfect and omnipotent, but Philo does not understand how evil can contingently exist if this description of an all-powerful creator is true. Therefore, Philo asks, “is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Hume, 63)Philo sees God’s characteristics, and also is aware of the existence of evil. Each of these questions are essential to understanding the basis of Philo’s conclusion on evil and God’s presence on earth. Philo and Demea alike have asserted different facts on God and on evil and suffering, all which exist in some form on earth. However, there are serious inconsistences between the two sets of facts for Philo and theists alike. This brings up the idea of an “inconsistent triad.” Nelson Pike presents an interesting view on this argument through his interpretation of the text. The “inconsistent triad” of facts presents the three facts