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A trilemma is a difficult choice where there are three different options, and where each option looks unfavorable.

One of the earliest uses of the definition of trilemma is that of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who says there is no omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. David Hume summarized this trilemma as follows:[1]

  1. If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
  2. If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
  3. If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does it exist?

Although traditionally ascribed to Epicurus, it has been suggested that it may actually be the work of an early skeptic writer, possibly Carneades.[2]

In studies of philosophy, discussions and debates related to this trilemma are often referred to as being about the "problem of evil".

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779.
  2. Mark Joseph Larrimore, The Problem of Evil: a reader, Blackwell (2001), page xx.