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The Doctrine of Hell and Moral Philosophy

  • Keith E. Yandell (a1)


The doctrine of hell, stated with a little care, entails that some persons never achieve their greatest good, fail to really flourish and never reach the end for which they were created. If that doctrine is true, and it is tragic that persons never achieve their greatest good, then there are tragic states of affairs whose tragedy is never overcome.



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1 For example, see Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:23; II Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:18; 20:13, 14. Cf. John 3:16–18, 36; Romans 1:11–16; 5:9.

2 Aquinas, St Thomas, Compendium of Theology (St Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1947), tr. Cyril Vollert, S.J., S.T.D., chs. 172–84; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Three, ch. 25, ‘The Last Resurrection’.

3 Psalm, 139:8.

4 Cf. Matthew, 25:32.

5 Lewis, C. S., The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946).

6 That is, one could understand, respectively, Comte's Course of Positive Philosophy (1830–42), Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), and Language, Truth, and Logic (1936), but could make nothing of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (reputedly edited posthumously by Aristotle–s son; Aristotle died in 322 B.C.), Aquinas' Commentary on the Nichomachean Ethics (1263–72) or Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Metaphysics of Morals (1797).

7 Smart, J. J. C. and Williams, Bernard, Utilitarianism: For and Against (London: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 92, 93.

8 Lewis, C. S., ed., George MacDonald: An Anthology (New York: Macmillan, 1948), p. 85.

9 Two discussions of hell that relate to the present discussion are Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain (London: Geoffrey Bles Ltd, 1940), ch. VIII andvon Hugel, Baron Friedrich, Essays and Addresses on the Philosophy of Religion (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd, 1901), ch. 7.

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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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