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The Problem of Evil – Part 1

February 15, 2010

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Hey y’all Cruz here, in some of the more recent posts the problem of evil has been brought up in the discussion. I told Knockgoats that I would put up some posts for discussion on this issue and others. Here is the first post.

The problem of evil is an argument that tries to show that classical theism is incoherent. It is generally taken to be the most effective positive argument against the theist’s position. In the rest of this post I will just outline the problem and I will give different replies to the problem in following posts.

The argument holds that the three big ‘omni’ properties that God has are incompatible with the existence of evil in the world. In other words the belief that there is a being that is omni-benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent being is incompatible with there being a world with evil in it.

It should be noted that just listing these three properties does not yield a valid argument against God’s existence. All we have so far is something like this:

(1)  God is omnipotent, omniscient and omni-benevolent.

(2)  Evil exists.

(3)  Therefore absurdity.

What we need is some way to move from the properties listed in (1) to the following proposition:

(C1) If God exists, then evil would not exist.

From there we can take (2) and by modus tollens deduce that God does not exist.

Simply asserting (C1) does not seem to do much for the strength of the argument. Since it seems that most theists already hold that God exists and that evil exists, we need some further premises that theists already hold to be true to show that because they are committed to the truth (1) they must also be committed to the truth of (C1). So in order to get (C1) we must add the following three premises:

(a)   If God is omni-benevolent then He would do whatever He could to prevent any evil from occurring.

(b)  If God is omniscient then He would know when evil exists and every way in which evil would come into existence.

And;

(c)   If God is omnipotent then He has the power to prevent evil from coming into existence.

(1)  combined with these three premises entails (C1). Then we can, as I said earlier take (C1) and (2) to get:

(C2) God does not exist.

This is not the only version of this problem, so if you guys want I can post the up another version of it that is pretty much the same but is an argument from probabilistic premises to the conclusion that God probably does not exist. But for now lets focus on this for now.

Do you guys think this argument could be made stronger? Are there less assumptions that can be made to get to the same conclusion? Another thing I would like to discuss is what you guys think may be plausible replies that the theist can give in response to this argument, and then think about why some would be more plausible than others, they may (though doubtfully) be all plausible responses or they may all just be total crap. As I post I am going to try to make the weakest replies seem to be as plausible as I can make them. I personally think that there is one route to go for the classical theist in making a response to the problem of evil. But I just want to let you know in advance that for the sake of discussion, I will be trying to argue for positions that I do not personally hold.

Let the discussion begin!

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93 Comments leave one →
  1. Johann permalink
    February 16, 2010 4:02 pm

    Do we have a working definition of evil to start with? After all, the standard cop-out on this question is “It’s not evil, it’s a challenge!”

  2. February 16, 2010 4:38 pm

    I’ve actually never heard that response. I’ve heard ones similar. I’m assuming evil here can be defined in various ways all of which would still make the argument go through. Is there any particular account of evil you would would like to suggest Johann? Let me think about that some more and I’ll try to give a general and hopefully less contentious account of evil for you here soon.

  3. Knockgoats permalink
    February 16, 2010 6:12 pm

    You could simplify be folding “omniscience” into “omnipotence”: the latter implies the former as an omnipotent being could know anything it wanted.

    You could also save a lot of time by going straight to what you think is the strongest argument on the theist side. What is the point of going through all the ones you consider weaker first?

    I don’t claim a formal contradiction exists between:

    1) God is omnipotent.
    2) God is omnibenevolent.
    3) There is evil.

    because the necessary additional premise:
    4) An omnibenevolent being would prevent all the evil it could.
    is not, or at least has not been shown to be, a necessary truth. For non-omnipotent beings, it is not even convincing: we (even if omnibenevolent) might have to do evil in order to avoid (what we judge to be) a greater evil, or bring about a greater good.

    However, for an omnipotent being, contemplating whether or not to create the universe, the situation is different. All evil can be avoided simply by not doing so, so the only justification for creating a universe that will contain evil, would be that some good is thereby obtained, sufficient to justify every single bit of the evil. But, sufficient to justify it from whose point of view? Surely, it must be from the point of view of each and every one of those suffering the evil. So I think this is the task of the believer in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god: show that it is plausible that every single creature that has suffered because of that being’s decision to create the universe would judge it worthwhile. I claim that this is, in fact, completely implausible: literally trillions of creatures have undoubtedly suffered the most frightful agonies over the past half a billion years, and most of them could not make such a judgement. Of those that could (to be found among human beings and perhaps intelligent aliens), many would surely not do so.

    J’accuse!

  4. February 17, 2010 1:44 am

    Knockgoats,

    “You could simplify be folding “omniscience” into “omnipotence”: the latter implies the former as an omnipotent being could know anything it wanted.” – You

    So, the reason that I did not do this is because there is a question about whether the latter actually does imply the former. This is usually taken as contentious because it seems to rely on how one defines omnipotence. Here is one example of how Alexander Pruss has defined the term:

    “A being x is omnipotent provided that in every possible world, x’s free choices are collectively the ultimate explainers of the rest of contingent reality.”

    It is not obvious to me that having omniscience is implied by having omnipotence, if this is how omnipotence is to be understood. It seems anyway that you would need to have some further premise added into the argument or modify (c) in such a way that it would includes God being able to know any way in which evil would occur. I’m fine with doing that. But I wanted to have stated clearly the basic structure that the argument takes and make clear each of the assumptions it makes.

    I don’t find this to be the main point of interest though. But I am glad that you pointed out the option of collapsing omniscience into omnipotence.

    “You could also save a lot of time by going straight to what you think is the strongest argument on the theist side. What is the point of going through all the ones you consider weaker first?” – You

    Honestly, I don’t want to save time by just telling you what I think is best. This is a discussion on the problem of evil in general, not on just what I think about it. It is a deep and complex problem, so I find it important to discuss all the replies to the argument and variations of the argument.

    It is also important to be able to articulate positions you don’t agree with in a way that makes them the least vulnerable to objections, so that we can avoid making straw men.

    Further in going through each of the replies we can get a better idea of how pressing of a problem the problem of evil actually is.

    “[T]he necessary additional premise:

    (4) An omnibenevolent being would prevent all the evil it could.

    is not, or at least has not been shown to be, a necessary truth. For non-omnipotent beings, it is not even convincing: we (even if omnibenevolent) might have to do evil in order to avoid (what we judge to be) a greater evil, or bring about a greater good.” – You (**Sorry about the additions it’s just a compulsive thing**)

    Okay, so this is a good place to attack, but the premise can be modified to:

    (4*) If a being X is omnibenevolent then X would prevent all evil from occurring if it had the power to prevent all evil.

    Or

    (4**) If a being X is omnibenevolent then X would prevent as much evil as it could unless the evil would bring about some greater good (or prevent some greater evil)

    You can reformulate the argument accordingly to each of these premises and arrive at the same place. For example we would take (2) and modify it to:

    (2**) Evil exists in the world that does not bring about a greater good (or prevent greater evils)

    And make similar adjustments to the other premises. It seems you actually have a similar tactic, you say:

    “However, for an omnipotent being, contemplating whether or not to create the universe, the situation is different. All evil can be avoided simply by not doing so, so the only justification for creating a universe that will contain evil, would be that some good is thereby obtained, sufficient to justify every single bit of the evil.”

    Which would seem to yeild:

    (4***) If a being is omnibenevolent, then if it could prevent all evil, either it would prevent all evil or make a world in which some good (or goods maybe?) obtains that is sufficient to justify every single instance of evil in the world.

    Then you could make (2):

    (2***) There is evil in the world such that it is implausible/couldn’t be the case that there be some good that sufficiently justifies every single instance of evil.

    I offered the ‘implausible/couldn’t be the case that’ option to show how it can be made into either a probabilistic or logical problem. I want to say that you are probably right in taking the probabilistic route with the ‘implausible’ option, since it assumes less, it makes your argument stronger.

    So, onto the last bit:

    “Surely, it must be from the point of view of each and every one of those suffering the evil. So I think this is the task of the believer in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god: show that it is plausible that every single creature that has suffered because of that being’s decision to create the universe would judge it worthwhile. I claim that this is, in fact, completely implausible: literally trillions of creatures have undoubtedly suffered the most frightful agonies over the past half a billion years, and most of them could not make such a judgement. Of those that could (to be found among human beings and perhaps intelligent aliens), many would surely not do so.”

    I am a bit confused by this:

    “I claim that this is, in fact, completely implausible: literally trillions of creatures have undoubtedly suffered the most frightful agonies over the past half a billion years, and most of them could not make such a judgement.”

    Are you asking for something incoherent? Saying that if a rat suffered it must be able to judge that whatever good is brought about by its suffering sufficiently justifies its suffering, so haha theist you’re fucked!?

    The way I see this, you are either making some outstandingly implausible claim (one that I cannot imagine my pretheoretic intuitions even thinking of in any way plausibly true) or this collapses into just saying that God shouldn’t create, or you may be claiming something weaker. I assume you mean something weaker but I am confused as to what that could be. So, if you could clarify that point that would be great.

    You also claim:

    “Surely, it must be from the point of view of each and every one of those suffering the evil.”

    What is the ‘surely’ operator doing in this sentence. Is it the same as ‘it is obvious that’ or ‘it must be the case that’ or ‘clearly’ or ‘certainly’, etc.? Because, surely this must be false. It can easily be imagined that there is a world in which a group of people suffer evil that brings about a good that more than justifies their suffering but no one judges that this is the case. Take for example a child who looses their mother to breast cancer, and then because of this (we can stipulate that is causal, if it wouldn’t have happened they wouldn’t have otherwise) they became a doctor who finds a cure to breast cancer and saves thousands lives that wouldn’t have been saved had this event not occurred. Even if the doctor does not find this to be a good that sufficiently justifies his or her suffering it still seems that the reasonable thing to think is that that good does or can sufficiently justify his or her suffering. So I don’t think that the principle you gave (that the sufferers must judge their suffering to be outweighed or justified by a greater good is reasonable to hold at all. If you can offer a compelling argument for it, I would be quite happy to hear it, but it does not seem to me to be true in the least bit.

  5. Knockgoats permalink
    February 17, 2010 4:48 am

    Saying that if a rat suffered it must be able to judge that whatever good is brought about by its suffering sufficiently justifies its suffering, so haha theist you’re fucked!?

    Without the sarcasm, pretty much. At least, I’m asking for a justification for an omnipotent being using the suffering of any being that could not (or would not) judge that suffering to be worthwhile, as a means to an end. I consider that, since I am not claiming that OOO+evil gives rise to a logical contradiction, only that it is prima facie highly implausible, the onus is on the theist to provide a plausible justification.

    So in your example of the doctor, I do not consider that it is for anyone other than the sufferer to overrule their judgement as to whether the suffering was worthwhile. As non-omnipotent beings, we may have no choice than to proceed in despite of their judgement, but an omnipotent being does appear to have that choice, if only by not creating.

  6. Knockgoats permalink
    February 17, 2010 4:53 am

    To amplify a little: in judging the actions of non-omnipotent beings, we ask what the options open to them were. To be fair, we must do the same with regard to an omnipotent being. Since the “commonsense” understanding of omnipotence is the ability to do anything that is logically possible, the theist’s justification must at least make it plausible that there was no logically possible and morally preferable alternative, or show why this criterion is too strict.

  7. Ash permalink
    February 17, 2010 9:07 am

    I’m very confused with this post Cruz; this

    …so that we can avoid making straw men.

    with this

    But I just want to let you know in advance that for the sake of discussion, I will be trying to argue for positions that I do not personally hold.

    seems at best incongruous, at worst disingenuous. I obviously do not understand the purpose of this post, so would you please ellaborate?

  8. February 17, 2010 10:25 am

    Ash,

    It’s quite simple really. I am going to argue for all of the positions that I do not hold (1) for the sake of discussion, and (2) so we can avoid making straw men arguments against those positions. I also personally would find it useful to myself to go back over the replies to the problem of evil, and it would be fun to see what responses, y’all have to them. It’s not disingenuous, since I will either just be playing devil’s advocate, or just simply be wrestling and engaging with the reasoning that is needed to maintain the positions. If we don’t find the positions telling, at least this will be a useful exercise.

  9. Ash permalink
    February 17, 2010 1:05 pm

    Cruz, fairy ’nuff, I’m gonna hold back on commentating further ’til there’s something concrete to engage with tho.

  10. February 17, 2010 3:07 pm

    Knockgoats,

    “At least, I’m asking for a justification for an omnipotent being using the suffering of any being that could not (or would not) judge that suffering to be worthwhile, as a means to an end.” – You

    So a being X is omnipotent and creates world W* which is a world in which creatures suffer evil, but uses this evil as a means to an ends for some incommensurable good? Even though this good greatly outweighs any type of evil that occurs in the world? It seems to be a hefty assumption to rule out a consequentialist God from the get-go. Sure a consequentialist God would know that the evil’s would not occur if He did not create, but this does not mean that the incommensurable good that it wishes to achieve by creating the world in some sense rules out his omnibenevolence.

    I would rather not make this assumption, I and plenty others find consequentialist theories of ethics to be quite plausible (not to say I have a definite stance on the issue), but if you do want to make this assumption, I would say that it would not do much in strengthening your argument, so maybe instead you should claim that it is not plausible that there is not plausibly some incommensurable good that could outweigh the evil we have in this world.

    In the responses I plan on giving there will be both those that seem to assume some form of consequentialism and those that don’t.

    “I consider that, since I am not claiming that OOO+evil gives rise to a logical contradiction, only that it is prima facie highly implausible, the onus is on the theist to provide a plausible justification.” – You

    One may think that there are two kinds of replies that a theist can give the problem of evil, whether it is in its logical form or its probabilistic one. The first kind is that they can make a defence that shows that the above argument doesn’t really make theistic belief implausible, this can be done without satisfying your demand for a theist to provide a plausible justification for evil. It can be done by one showing us how there can be a world with evil similar to ours that does not make Gods existence implausible. The other is to offer some sort of form of justification for why it is the case that God would allow such evil to occur in the world, and this would then try to take on the challenge of providing some sort of form of justification of why the evil exists in the world.

    Of course if one could give a justification for all the evil in the world this would be a much stronger response to the problem of evil, but I do not see why it would be necessary and offering some form of defense would not be sufficient for getting around the prima facie implausibility. So, I do agree the onus is on the theist to give some sort of reply to the prima facie difficulty, but I don’t see any reason why the reply demanded of the theist must include a full justification for the evil. I would be interested in seeing an argument for this stance though.

    “I do not consider that it is for anyone other than the sufferer to overrule their judgement as to whether the suffering was worthwhile.”

    Okay. That’s fine that you think that, but why should I think that? And further, why do you think that? If you have a reason why the thought experiment I gave you does not provide a counter-example, that would be great. But, it is still hard to find your stance to be a plausible one, especially if you demand that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile.

    This strong version of your principle is obviously false, since there are plenty of evils a rat must suffer that may be worthwhile either for it or for the greater good of the world and it in no way could judge this as either worthwhile or not. Even the weaker version of that principle that would suggest something along the lines of all sentient creatures capable of judging their suffering worthwhile must judge it so in order for it to be worthwhile, seems to me to be ridiculously implausible. I cannot come up with any reason why one would think it to be true.

    Further, it seems to face a weird priority problem. It seems that if Wyman judges his suffering made worthwhile he judges this because it was actually made worthwhile, whereas it seems to be a consequence of your view that Wyman’s suffering is made worthwhile because he judges it to be made worthwhile. This is problematic. It also follows from your view that no one can ever judge wrongly that their suffering has been made worthwhile, and that seems to be quite a strange consequence. This view just seems to be full of weird sorts of consequences, ones that make me feel like not only to I not have any good reason to accept the principle but that I have good reason to not accept your principle.

    “As non-omnipotent beings, we may have no choice than to proceed in despite of their judgement, but an omnipotent being does appear to have that choice, if only by not creating.”

    You continue with:

    “To amplify a little: in judging the actions of non-omnipotent beings, we ask what the options open to them were. To be fair, we must do the same with regard to an omnipotent being. Since the “commonsense” understanding of omnipotence is the ability to do anything that is logically possible, the theist’s justification must at least make it plausible that there was no logically possible and morally preferable alternative, or show why this criterion is too strict.”

    So I am trying to get a grasp on what your claim is here. Here are some options I see:

    (C) The theists reply must show that no other option for God was of any greater moral worth.

    (C*) The theists reply must show that there is no other option for God that is of the equally morally preferable.

    Or,

    (C**) The theists reply must show that there all logical options for God are of equal moral preference.

    Which one are you claiming or are you claiming something else? You may be able to build a unique argument against theism from just any of these themselves. But we can discuss that elsewhere.

    Looking forward to hearing your reply.

  11. February 17, 2010 3:17 pm

    Ash,

    “Cruz, fairy ’nuff, I’m gonna hold back on commentating further ’til there’s something concrete to engage with tho.”

    Thanks a lot. I will enjoy seeing what you have to say about the topic.

    Something that may be fun to do sometime is arguing for the other persons position (I would definitely like to do something like that).

    Otherwise, if you have anything to add, maybe a special case of the problem or some response that you find particularly bad (or good), I would enjoy hearing what you have to say about that too.

    Have a good’n!

  12. Knockgoats permalink
    February 17, 2010 4:15 pm

    Cruz,
    Even though this good greatly outweighs any type of evil that occurs in the world?
    By whose judgement? God’s? Then you are begging the question. Yours? Would you create in the circumstances where trillions of beings suffer terrible agony as a result? I wouldn’t – and I’m a consequentialist, where non-omnipotent beings like ourselves are concerned. But we don’t have the options an omnipotent being would have.

    I don’t see any reason why the reply demanded of the theist must include a full justification for the evil.
    I didn’t demand that, but a plausible justification for an omnipotent being creating other beings, that it knows will suffer terrible agony, as means to an end.

    That’s fine that you think that, but why should I think that?
    Because they are the one that suffers. If we take the opposite viewpoint, I cannot see how to avoid the conclusion that we are morally entitled to subject an innocent party to any degree of suffering, if we judge that the result will be a net benefit. Do you want to go there?

    But, it is still hard to find your stance to be a plausible one, especially if you demand that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile.
    “I don’t find it plausible” is not an argument.

    It seems that if Wyman judges his suffering made worthwhile he judges this because it was actually made worthwhile, whereas it seems to be a consequence of your view that Wyman’s suffering is made worthwhile because he judges it to be made worthwhile. This is problematic.
    1) Why?
    2) The phrase “actually made worthwhile” assumes that there is some objective point from which a definitive judgement on this can be made. There isn’t. That does not mean we cannot rationally debate the question – we can – but Wyman has the only privileged position in this debate, because he’s the one who suffered.

    It also follows from your view that no one can ever judge wrongly that their suffering has been made worthwhile
    No, because they could have been falsely informed that their suffering has had such-and-such a result (either good or bad). This could cause them to make a judgement different from that they would have made if in possession of all the relevant facts. I should have made that explicit in my original statement, though I think it is implicit there.

    Incidentally, but perhaps relevantly, it’s not as impossible as you might think to get a rat to make a “judgement” about whether a degree of suffering is worthwhile to gain its goal, and this kind of thing is done experimentally in assessing the welfare of domestic animals. I’m not familiar with the most recent development, but the work of Marian Stamp Dawkins (ex-wife of the demon atheist himself) was at the forefront 20 years ago.

    Of your options, I intended (C); and would stress that the possibility of not creating must be among the alternatives considered.

  13. Andrew permalink
    February 17, 2010 5:26 pm

    The problem of evil is an argument that tries to show that classical theism is incoherent. It is generally taken to be the most effective positive argument against the theist’s position.

    Arguably, the most effective argument isn’t the logical problem of evil (“why does evil exist”) but the evidential problem of evil (“why does so much evil exist”). There’s also the distinction between arguments from human evils and argument from natural evil.

    The evidential problem of evil is quite likely the one most often cited by atheists as their primary reason for disbelief (it crops up a lot in “50 Voices of Disbelief” for example). I should note, though, that it’s not my own primary reason for atheism.

    I do quite like Stephen Law’s approach to the problem, which is to turn it on its head: suppose there is an evil god, and the challenge is to explain why there is so much good in the world? If any argument for a good god’s existence despite the observed quantities of evil can be turned around as an argument for an evil god’s existence despite the observed quantities of good, then clearly these arguments are worthless (as any argument which claims to prove two incompatible conclusions from the same evidence is clearly false).

  14. Knockgoats permalink
    February 17, 2010 5:43 pm

    Andrew,
    I’ve used the “argument from good” myself as evidence against the existence of an omnipotent and omnimalevolent god, but I don’t think it follows that counterarguments are worthless: “There could (consistently with the empirical evidence) be an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god” and “There could (consistently with the empirical evidence) be an omnipotent and omnimalevolent god” are not incompatible. However, it does seem worthwhile to see whether arguments on both sides of the “problem of evil” can be inverted to apply to the “problem of good”. If they can, it would seem that theists’ preference for an omnibenevolent god is simply wishful thinking.

  15. Philip permalink
    February 17, 2010 6:18 pm

    Knockgoats,

    1. It is always up to the one who is going to suffer whether some action A which is to bring about the suffeing is appropriate.

    If this is what you’re claiming, then we have no obligations. For example, a person is walking by a swimming pool where they notice someone drowning. Normally we think this person has an obligation to help the person in so far as they judge themself able to do so. But according to you, if their opinion is that the effort it would take would not be worth it, then there is no obligation to help the drowning person.

    The same would be true of any action of ours that would require any degree of suffering. We always have a justification to not do it, so long as we don’t want to go through that suffering.

    Of course, the odd thing is that from the point of view of the person drowning they do have an obligation to save them, since the person drowning does not think drowning is worth the person not trying to save them.

    So do they have the obligation or not? If they do and do not have the obligation according to your view, I’m pretty sure your view cannot be correct.

    But I don’t think we need to draw out the contradiction to see the view is false: you have an obligation to do certain things, even if it will be an expense to you, such as fulfilling your promises, paying your taxes, not breaking other people’s things even if you desire to, etc.

  16. Andrew permalink
    February 17, 2010 6:39 pm

    @Knockgoats – yes, inverting the argument shows more clearly the extent to which it is just an attempt to justify prior conclusions.

    To me, though, the problem of evil, while fairly important in itself, is just a sideshow to the main argument – “why doesn’t god do something about evil” is merely a special case of “why doesn’t god do anything at all”.

  17. February 17, 2010 10:54 pm

    Andrew,

    “Arguably, the most effective argument isn’t the logical problem of evil (“why does evil exist”) but the evidential problem of evil …”

    Yeah I think the conversation between Knockgoats and I has mostly been focused on the evidential (or probabilistic) argument. I am quite familiar with it. I’m trying to keep open which one is up for discussion so both can be discussed. Most of the discussion has focused on the probabilistic version. I posted the logical problem because it is just easy to see how the premises can be changed into its probabilistic counter-part. I said: “The problem of evil is an argument that tries to show that classical theism is incoherent.” Change the last word to ‘improbable’ if you like.

    “There’s also the distinction between arguments from human evils and argument from natural evil.”

    The argument I made I tried to make general enough that one can include both human evils and natural evils under the more general ‘evil’. If you would like to spell out for us the different versions taking on human evil and natural evil, that would be great.

    “I do quite like Stephen Law’s approach to the problem, which is to turn it on its head: suppose there is an evil god, and the challenge is to explain why there is so much good in the world?”

    This is an interesting exercise, I would like to hear more about it. I have not read the article yet, but I do plan on reading it here in the near future, but if you would like to expand on it more and put it into premise conclusion form, I would also like to see that idea expanded on.

  18. February 17, 2010 11:33 pm

    OK I like to think about this a little counterfactually. I think an omnibelevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God exists. But He doesn’t stop evil in many, many, many observable incidents. What if He did? Would he stop old ladies from being mugged? Would he prevent people from being murdered? Stop genocide? Stop earthquakes? Stop me from lying to my parents? Stop Bob from cheating on his girlfriend? Wife? You get the point, we have quite a slippery slope. I don’t know where the anti-theist who accuses a Good God of being guilty of letting bad things happen would expect the line to be drawn. Would this person prefer a world where we do not possess free will? A kind of epiphenominalism where we are only under the illusion that we are acting of our own volition and yet everything is perfect? A puppet master God? A world where we do have free will except when it comes to reallllly bad things? These are honest questions. It seems to me that if these terrible, evil things don’t happen, then good things are meaningless outside of hedonism. This could be the greater good that justifies all evil and suffering. Yeah, this is a cliche free will response to evil, but its all the previous questions I put to those who find my response distasteful. How could God exist and manage evil? is the question, better than He possibly already does.

  19. February 18, 2010 2:07 am

    Knockgoats,

    “Even though this good greatly outweighs any type of evil that occurs in the world?” – Me

    “By whose judgement? God’s? Then you are begging the question. Yours? Would you create in the circumstances where trillions of beings suffer terrible agony as a result? I wouldn’t – and I’m a consequentialist, where non-omnipotent beings like ourselves are concerned. But we don’t have the options an omnipotent being would have.” – You

    Claiming that the good outweighs the evil that occurs would be non-perspectival. It could be judged to be that the evil is outweighed by the good but this does not make it the case that its true that the good outweighs the evil, just as much as it does not make it false.

    Further, why would it be begging the question if it was from God’s judgment that the good outweighed the evil? And the question: would I create a world with this much suffering in it so long as I knew it was/is/would be sufficiently outweighed by some incommensurable good? I’m not sure if this is the right question. The better question is would I not (or better would it keep me from creating a world…) create the world as such knowing that it would be outweighed by some incommensurable good(s)? No, it wouldn’t keep me from creating. I may choose not to, but that doesn’t mean I would see any problem in doing so.

    You say: “I’m a consequentialist, where non-omnipotent beings like ourselves are concerned.” I’m not sure how this works out. It seems to be problematic that your view doesn’t apply normative facts across reality as a whole. You may be wanting to say that God can act in a way such that better consequences obtain, because of His omnipotence. But this still does not entail that God ought not create because the bad consequences won’t bring about good consequences that greatly outweigh the bad that occurs.

    This leaves me with a question: if consequentialism applies only to non-omnipotent beings, what sorts of normative rules or laws would apply to an omnipotent one? What take on ethics should God have? What good reason would we think that His ethics should be different than ours?

    “I don’t see any reason why the reply demanded of the theist must include a full justification for the evil.” – Me

    “I didn’t demand that, but a plausible justification for an omnipotent being creating other beings, that it knows will suffer terrible agony, as means to an end.” – You

    That’s fine, you just seemed to be making a much stronger claim earlier. The question here still though (one that will determine how strong of an assumption you are making) is what would make it plausible and what would not.

    “That’s fine that you think that, but why should I think that?” – Me

    “Because they are the one that suffers. If we take the opposite viewpoint, I cannot see how to avoid the conclusion that we are morally entitled to subject an innocent party to any degree of suffering, if we judge that the result will be a net benefit. Do you want to go there?” – You

    The intuition you seem to be pulling at here does not really seem to justify your claim: “I do not consider that it is for anyone other than the sufferer to overrule their judgement as to whether the suffering was worthwhile.”, what it really seems to be pulling at is the way in which we ought to think about acting, we can be wrong about what we judge when it comes to whether or not the benefit of some suffering outweighs the evil of the suffering. But if we assume that we are infallible when it comes to these sorts of judgments then I do not see why this is problematic, for we would infallibly judge that the good of the consequences would outweigh the evil of the suffering. The good does outweigh the evil, so what?

    “But, it is still hard to find your stance to be a plausible one, especially if you demand that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile.” – Me

    ‘“I don’t find it plausible” is not an argument.’ – You

    No, it is not an argument. You are correct, but neither is pointing it out as not being an argument an argument for your position. The point is your position is prima facie implausible, you should argue for it, instead of just asserting it. I don’t see any reason to find it to be true. You are trying to convince me of it, the burden of proof is thus on you. It is not some obvious truth about the world or morality and it in fact it is one thats negation (it is not the case that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile) is obviously false.

    “It seems that if Wyman judges his suffering made worthwhile he judges this because it was actually made worthwhile, whereas it seems to be a consequence of your view that Wyman’s suffering is made worthwhile because he judges it to be made worthwhile. This is problematic.” – Me

    “1) Why?
    2) The phrase “actually made worthwhile” assumes that there is some objective point from which a definitive judgement on this can be made. There isn’t. That does not mean we cannot rationally debate the question – we can – but Wyman has the only privileged position in this debate, because he’s the one who suffered.” – You

    1) Because you have the direction of fit wrong, we judge things to be good or bad because of the way the world is.

    2a) Note your complaint against me above: “There isn’t.” Is an assertion without argument.

    2b) I understand Wyman is the one who has suffered, but why think that this puts him in the privileged position? It seems just as reasonable to assume that his suffering has skewed his ability to assess the position.

    2c) The phrase “actually made worthwhile” simply implies that there is some fact in the world that makes it true that his suffering is worthwhile, independent of anyone’s perspective or judgment. Not that there is some position that involves an objective perspective we can make those judgments from.

    “It also follows from your view that no one can ever judge wrongly that their suffering has been made worthwhile” – Me

    “No, because they could have been falsely informed that their suffering has had such-and-such a result (either good or bad). This could cause them to make a judgement different from that they would have made if in possession of all the relevant facts. I should have made that explicit in my original statement, though I think it is implicit there.” – You

    I will concede this point. It makes sense. But let’s assume they do have the relevant facts about the result of their suffering. Is it possible that they do not understand that the suffering is overruled by the good? Could they not understand that it is? Could they know the consequences in advance but not rule that those would be worth the suffering prior to the action but would have ruled the suffering worthwhile after obtaining the good of the consequences? These all seem viable options that would not fit well with your view.

    “Incidentally, but perhaps relevantly, it’s not as impossible as you might think to get a rat to make a “judgement” about whether a degree of suffering is worthwhile to gain its goal, and this kind of thing is done experimentally in assessing the welfare of domestic animals. I’m not familiar with the most recent development, but the work of Marian Stamp Dawkins (ex-wife of the demon atheist himself) was at the forefront 20 years ago.” – You

    That’s an interesting fact! I’m glad to learn it! I’m not sure about it’s relevance like you said. You could just substitute any being incapable of making the judgment I’m talking about in there to get my point. But thanks for sharing that with me!

    My friend suggested looking at studies by Jaak Panksepp, on similar issues.

    “Of your options, I intended (C); and would stress that the possibility of not creating must be among the alternatives considered.” – You

    Good. I will keep this in mind and we will continue our discussion on my next post with whether or not (C) we have good reason to believe (C).

  20. February 18, 2010 2:18 am

    Phil,

    “1. It is always up to the one who is going to suffer whether some action A which is to bring about the suffeing is appropriate.

    If this is what you’re claiming, then we have no obligations. For example, a person is walking by a swimming pool where they notice someone drowning. Normally we think this person has an obligation to help the person in so far as they judge themself able to do so. But according to you, if their opinion is that the effort it would take would not be worth it, then there is no obligation to help the drowning person. ”

    I don’t think that Knockgoats view has this strong of a consequence, but I think you are onto something weird that is going on. I don’t think that it’s that we don’t have any obligations that follows but what seems to follow is that our suffering may not be worth our while in saving the person drowning if we judge that is not. This is not as bad as no moral obligations, but it surely seems problematic.

  21. Knockgoats permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:05 am

    Philip,

    As perhaps I did not make clear, my view that whether suffering is worthwhile can only be judged by the sufferer is intended to apply to a being’s whole life. It is abundantly clear that there have been trillions of beings that had an overwhelmingly agonising existence, and now exist no longer – unless the theist is going to claim that all beings capable of suffering get sufficient pie in the sky when they die to outweigh their suffering. That, I concede, would be a way around my argument, although it would still remain to make it plausible that there was no better alternative.

    Another issue, which I’m sure we’ll get into at some point, is the status of claims such as “X has an obligation to do Y”. These are only claims that can be true or false within some moral or legal framework. Some theists get around the problem of evil by defining whatever God wills (which is everything, if God is omnipotent) as good; and I cannot show by argument that they are wrong; I can only judge them as dangerous psychopaths. Nor can I argue the completely selfish person into caring for others. That does not mean I cannot judge them, or argue rationally about these judgements with others who share sufficient of my own moral stance. I agree with Cruz that something being “not worth it” from my point of view does not imply that I have no obligation to do it.

  22. Knockgoats permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:08 am

    Change the last word to ‘improbable’ if you like. – Cruz

    Just a note – I’ll answer your long comment when I’ve had time to consider it. I prefer not to use “probable”, “improbable” etc., outside situations where it makes sense to apply and calculate with numerical measures of probability. I’m not asking that anyone else conform to this, but I will always use clearly qualitative terms such as “plausible and “implausible”.

  23. February 18, 2010 10:17 am

    Knockgoats,

    “Just a note – I’ll answer your long comment when I’ve had time to consider it. I prefer not to use “probable”, “improbable” etc., outside situations where it makes sense to apply and calculate with numerical measures of probability. I’m not asking that anyone else conform to this, but I will always use clearly qualitative terms such as “plausible and “implausible”.”

    I get your worry. I have been using the terms loosely. If you read some of the papers on the evidential argument (by Paul Draper, Plantinga, and others) they do have some probabilistic equations which we can ‘fill in’ the numbers with our own levels of epistemic confidence. But I do agree with you, that it does seem that it would be extremely hard to find a way to go about this quatitative study rigorously. So, I’ll follow suite and try to stick with ‘plausible’ and ‘implausible’. 🙂

  24. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:29 am

    @Bo – this is why the argument from natural evil is important, since it bypasses a lot of argument about free will etc.

    To use Sir David Attenborough’s favourite example, right now in Africa , a microscopic parasitic nematode worm (Onchocercus volvulus) is reproducing itself inside thousands of innocent young people – who will eventually be painfully blinded by their body’s reaction to the worm (which can’t reproduce itself in any other way than by infecting humans). Over the past few thousand years, uncounted millions of people have been blinded this way; there is no natural cure or preventative measure, and no way to avoid it other than to keep well clear of clean fast-flowing rivers (I’m sure you can see the hazards involved in doing that, especially in Africa). Only in the past few decades has any sort of treatment become available.

    And this is just one parasite out of thousands…

    Notice also that the parasite doesn’t discriminate between believers and non-believers; it can’t be cured or prevented by prayer or belief or ritual, only by modern medicine. (And to those who regard modern medicine as a gift from god to deal with such problems, what about the hundreds of millions of people over tens or hundreds of thousands of years in the past?)

  25. Sean permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:47 am

    General Note: I have studied extremely little philosophy, and the majority of my understanding of the world comes from a view by which the scientific method is king (don’t worry, I am already well aware of this view’s shortcomings in describing and accounting for the world, as well as its subservience to logic and mathematics). Given this “expertise of viewing the world”, if you will, I feel like a fly entering the ring with heavyweights, so please do mind my misuse of words or “un-philisophical” prose. With that said . . .

    This is deviating significantly from the topic at hand (at least on the surface), and I’ll try to tie it in with why it matters to me given this whole discussion after.

    I want to ask (in general and ambiguously): what are we ultimately trying to get at?

    Sure, the topic is The Problem of Evil. So we’re trying to resolve our conflicts with The Problem of Evil, right? However, I would have a difficult time accepting that this is where Cruz and any of the other Christian’s here are ultimately trying to get at. I think its fair to say for a good number of non-theists or atheists, The Problem of Evil is one of many major blocks in the way of their acceptance of an OOO God existing. So let’s say we get to the point where all of the non-theists or atheists on the thread are able to resolve their major gripes with The Problem of Evil. So we’re one step closer to accepting the existence of an OOO God, right? However, I still have a difficult time accepting that this is where Cruz and any of the other Christian’s here are ultimately trying to get at. I think its fair to say for a good number of non-theists or atheists, the existence of an OOO God is one of many major blocks in the way of their acceptance of the tenants of Christianity. NOW I think we’re getting closer to what is the ultimate aim here.

    This is where I find myself thinking, “well what is the point of that?” Is merely accepting the existence of an OOO God, then accepting the truths set out by the tenants of Christianity worth ANYTHING to me? So what if they ARE true?

    For me, EVEN IF I were convinced of the validity of the existence of evil due to incommensurable goods that came of it, of the truths of an OOO God’s existence and of the truths of Christianity’s claims, (this is the point where I’m going to try to tie this back in with the topic at hand) there would still exist the irrefutable fact of suffering in the world.

    (Hopefully everyone has read/seen Watchmen, because the remainder of this paragraph draws on an analogy from Watchmen and contains a huge spoiler. Please skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to have it ruined for you. Read the comic, though, you’re wasting your time if you watch the movie 😛 ) I feel like Rorschach pleading with the remaining Watchmen that Ozymandias’ murdering of millions, albeit resulting in world peace, was evil and that the world needs to know the truth. Unlike Rorschach I could ACCEPT the notion of Ozymandias’ actions due to the peace it brought, and I could possibly still accept living in this world of peace, however I could NEVER personally respect or condone the actions which brought about this world of peace, EVEN if I benefited from it (I think the nobler thing to do would be to reject the whole world of peace, as Rorschach did, but I am unsure how noble I’d be in the same circumstances). I hope this draws a good analogy of why I need to understand “where we’re getting at”. If where we’re ultimately getting at is me accepting Christianity as truth, well I may be able to get there, yet that doesn’t mean I’d be able to respect God for it at all. However, I suspect we’re ultimately getting at something more along the lines of “[Loving] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”, which is something I can almost certainly never see myself being able to do while still keeping my integrity.

    I can accept that my above thinking may be WAY off. I am also open to the idea that my intuition that respecting, loving or worshiping God in conjunction with a solution to the Problem of Evil by which incommensurable goods account for evil and suffering in the world is also WAY off. However, (obviously) I do not feel that way, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. So please do feel free to explain where I am off.

    Additionally, I realize that there are solutions to the Problem of Evil by which the “incommensurable good argument” is not used. However I think that unless my above qualms are shown to be unsatisfactory, then my above qualms should be taken into account for any solution to the Problem of Evil presented.

    With that explained and ambiguity (hopefully) dispelled, I’ll ask again: what are we ultimately trying to get at?

  26. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:40 am

    @Cruz –

    Natural evils include parasitization (per previous comment), disease (including congenital and genetic disease), natural disaster (earthquakes, volcanoes, exploding lakes, tsunamis, meteorite impact, hurricanes and other extreme weather phenomena, etc.). The relevant facts that apply are:

    1) human activity is not a cause of the event

    2) (prior to the development of modern technology) there is no way for humans to prevent the disaster, or even in many cases to predict the possibility

    3) there is no discrimination in victims: the moral and immoral, the believer and unbeliever, and in many (not all) cases the strong and the weak, the wise and the foolish are all affected equally

    Factors (1) and (2) exclude “free will” as a consideration. Factor (3) excludes an interventionist benevolent god; why would such an entity ignore its followers and, in the case of the Christian god, violate its own scriptures?

  27. Ash permalink
    February 18, 2010 1:37 pm

    Cruz,

    Something that may be fun to do sometime is arguing for the other persons position (I would definitely like to do something like that).

    LOL, me and a friend often have discussions that religion comes into; as we’re both atheists but I’ve had more experience with the religious POV, I always end up having to play the theist.

    Sidenote: I always ‘lose’ the debate, maybe it’s coz my heart’s not in it…:)

  28. Ash permalink
    February 18, 2010 1:42 pm

    P.s. it might be an idea, when quoting large blocks of text, to use the blockquote HTML. Makes it easier to read. Before the text, use the less than arrow, type blockquote, then the greater than arrow. After the quoted text, use the less than arrow, backslash, type blockquote, then greater than arrow. Hope this helps.

  29. February 18, 2010 3:09 pm

    “P.s. it might be an idea, when quoting large blocks of text, to use the blockquote HTML. Makes it easier to read. Before the text, use the less than arrow, type blockquote, then the greater than arrow. After the quoted text, use the less than arrow, backslash, type blockquote, then greater than arrow. Hope this helps.”>/blockquote<

    Like this?

  30. February 18, 2010 3:11 pm

    “P.s. it might be an idea, when quoting large blocks of text, to use the blockquote HTML. Makes it easier to read. Before the text, use the less than arrow, type blockquote, then the greater than arrow. After the quoted text, use the less than arrow, backslash, type blockquote, then greater than arrow. Hope this helps.”

    I’m sorry I’m terrible with computers…

  31. February 18, 2010 3:13 pm

    One more try.

    P.s. it might be an idea, when quoting large blocks of text, to use the blockquote HTML. Makes it easier to read. Before the text, use the less than arrow, type blockquote, then the greater than arrow. After the quoted text, use the less than arrow, backslash, type blockquote, then greater than arrow. Hope this helps.

  32. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:14 pm

    You didn’t get the closing tag right – it’s <blockquote> … quoted stuff here … </blockquote>

  33. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:14 pm

    The second try looks better.

  34. February 18, 2010 3:17 pm

    Haha… awesome. Thanks Ash that helps a lot!

    as for:

    Sidenote: I always ‘lose’ the debate, maybe it’s coz my heart’s not in it…:)

    I think that’s why it is fun to take the others position, especially between an atheist and a theist, coz if you want it to be good you have to really work to put yourself in the other persons shoes.

  35. February 18, 2010 4:06 pm

    KG,

    Just a clarifying question and some comments if you don’t mind:

    Another issue, which I’m sure we’ll get into at some point, is the status of claims such as “X has an obligation to do Y”. These are only claims that can be true or false within some moral or legal framework.

    Do you mind cashing out what you mean by moral framework? Are you saying something trivial or are you making some claim about the application of morality such that it only applies in certain contexts?

    Some theists get around the problem of evil by defining whatever God wills (which is everything, if God is omnipotent) as good; and I cannot show by argument that they are wrong; I can only judge them as dangerous psychopaths.

    Just wanted to say, I won’t ever take this stance to solve the problem. I am not a fan of DCT in the least bit.

    Nor can I argue the completely selfish person into caring for others. That does not mean I cannot judge them, or argue rationally about these judgements with others who share sufficient of my own moral stance. I agree with Cruz that something being “not worth it” from my point of view does not imply that I have no obligation to do it.

    I guess the further question is, why should we think that what we ought do can so easily come apart from what is worthwhile for us to do? It seems that these ideas are very interrelated but your view cannot capture that phenomenon. Why is that okay?

  36. February 18, 2010 4:18 pm

    So while were doing the HTML lesson, how do I make things bold, italicized and indented?

  37. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:45 pm

    <b>bold</b>

    <i>italic</i>

    I’m not sure what other tags this blog supports offhand.

  38. February 18, 2010 5:05 pm

    Andrew,

    Natural evils include parasitization (per previous comment), disease (including congenital and genetic disease), natural disaster (earthquakes, volcanoes, exploding lakes, tsunamis, meteorite impact, hurricanes and other extreme weather phenomena, etc.). The relevant facts that apply are:

    1) human activity is not a cause of the event

    2) (prior to the development of modern technology) there is no way for humans to prevent the disaster, or even in many cases to predict the possibility

    3) there is no discrimination in victims: the moral and immoral, the believer and unbeliever, and in many (not all) cases the strong and the weak, the wise and the foolish are all affected equally

    Factors (1) and (2) exclude “free will” as a consideration. Factor (3) excludes an interventionist benevolent god; why would such an entity ignore its followers and, in the case of the Christian [G]od, violate its own scriptures?

    My first, question is are all of the natural evils, evil things in themselves or evil because of how they effect some other beings? Which is closely related to my second question: What beings are relevant to making these disasters, diseases, etc. evil? (Obviously your answer to the second relies on the former).

    Another question: How does (3) exclude an interventionist Christian God? I see how one might think that, but I am curious about the inferences that you are making to get to that conclusion. What are they? Why are they true (it may just be that they are obviously true or extremely plausible)? etc.

    (1) and (2) do exclude human F.W. but that does not entail that they would exclude all F.W. Not to say that including these other beings with F.W. would help out the problem, but I just wanted to point out that the inference does not strictly follow from the information given.

    Not sure what you mean by ‘violate its own scriptures’… could you expand on that? (I don’t want to turn this particular post into a scripture debate, but we can do that elsewhere if you would like).

    Looking forward to hearing back from you.

  39. February 18, 2010 5:08 pm

    Andrew,

    Thanks a ton. I have been frustrated by not knowing how to do that but wishing to be able to put that sort of emphasis in my comments. So that helps a lot!

  40. February 18, 2010 9:04 pm

    Sean, if you’re still here, this is for you. Cruz and Phil and other Christians who are concerned with heresy will have to forgive me (if theyre kind). I’ve found the God of process theology to be helpful in thinking about certain things, specifically the problem of evil. Process theology generally gives up the idea that got is omnipotent, and when that happens a lot of new possibilities open up. But anyway as ridiculous as it sounds a encourage you to give the article a shot, Robert Mesle is one of the foremost process philosopher/theologians. Cheers.

  41. February 18, 2010 9:04 pm

    “Power may evoke my fear and awe, but not my worship or love.” -from the Mesle article

  42. February 18, 2010 9:06 pm

    haha forgot the link…

    http://ow.ly/18RK4

  43. Andrew permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:15 pm

    My first, question is are all of the natural evils, evil things in themselves or evil because of how they effect some other beings? Which is closely related to my second question: What beings are relevant to making these disasters, diseases, etc. evil? (Obviously your answer to the second relies on the former).

    To a naturalist, none of them are “evils” since they are morally neutral; they are just facts about how the world works. If I’m crossing a bridge over a river and the bridge collapses due to being struck by a meteorite and I end up drowning, then it’s tough on me, but nobody can be regarded as responsible.

    The problem for the theist is how to account for them in the presence of a supposedly omnipotent and benevolent creator god, which is therefore morally responsible for its actions or lack of actions. In the bridge example, imagine any or all of the following additional entities:
    – someone who knows the bridge is about to collapse and doesn’t warn me about it
    – someone who designed the bridge knowing it would collapse under circumstances which he could forsee
    – someone who observed me falling in the river and drowning but who made no attempt at rescue
    In any of those cases, we are justified in evaluating the incident in moral termsand declaring it an “evil”.

    It’s worth noting that rarely do theists actually consider the full scale of the problem of natural evil. Some of the more interesting examples are cases such as genetic disorders that condemn a perfectly innocent victim to a lifetime of pain, or frontal-lobe brain tumors that rob the victim of the ability to behave morally.

    Another question: How does (3) exclude an interventionist Christian God? I see how one might think that, but I am curious about the inferences that you are making to get to that conclusion. What are they? Why are they true (it may just be that they are obviously true or extremely plausible)? etc.
    […]
    Not sure what you mean by ‘violate its own scriptures’… could you expand on that? (I don’t want to turn this particular post into a scripture debate, but we can do that elsewhere if you would like).

    All covered in the miracles thread way back when; the gospels are very specific on the subject of answers to prayer, and how many victims of disease, disaster, etc., do you think were praying for safety, or had previously done so?

  44. February 19, 2010 2:11 am

    Sean,

    Sorry it took this long to get this to you. For some reason wordpress wasn’t loading on my computer earlier today, but here you go.

    You have said some things that really hit the emotional center of the problem on the nerve, so I hope that you don’t find that I am not treating your contribution to the discussion carefully enough. I don’t think that there is anything I can do as far as reasoning goes to change your take on this problem, since it seems to be a fundamentally emotional one. But, maybe you could give me some insight as to how you think one can respond to this issue or work out its problems, let me know.

    I want to ask (in general and ambiguously): what are we ultimately trying to get at?

    Before we go into what you say after this, I want to point out that there are a few things that you could be asking for:

    (1) What are we ultimately trying to get at when dealing with this issue? In the proper sense I take this to be asking for what sort of ramifications this would have on our worldviews or our considerations of other worldviews. The answer to this is as you point out just whether or not a theist can hold in an intellectually responsible sense that God exists in a world like this, etc. – I take it that this is not what you are looking for.

    (2) What kind of considerations could could allow us to get at what we are ultimately trying to get at? I think what this is asking for is pretty straight forward but also not what you are getting at.

    (3) What are my and others motivations to try to deal with this problem? This seems to be much warmer. I think the answer you may be looking for is not there though, I honestly posted it up here for intellectual interests and because I promised KG that I would do so. I find this sort of discussion to be fun, and enjoy engaging the material. You may be looking for my answer to a further question.

    (4) Do I desire that others believe that others find that my God is a being worthy of worship and praise, etc.? Well sure I do. But, that does not mean that it factors into my motivation for having this discussion, nor does it mean that I think that this discussion can or will resolve this answer to the question ‘is God worthy of worship, etc?’ to others. I actually was not motivated by this desire to start this discussion nor was it the case that I think that if I resolved all of the difficulties put forth by the problem of evil, that others would find God to be worthy of worship, etc. I just simply wanted to keep my promise to KG and to go and really dig into this problem with other people who agree and disagree with me (I’m sure most people do both). I am looking for the answer to the question about whether or not it is plausible or reasonable to hold an OOO God exists in a world like this one given that there is so much evil and suffering.

    Sure, the topic is The Problem of Evil. So we’re trying to resolve our conflicts with The Problem of Evil, right? … I think its fair to say for a good number of non-theists or atheists, The Problem of Evil is one of many major blocks in the way of their acceptance of an OOO God existing. So let’s say we get to the point where all of the non-theists or atheists on the thread are able to resolve their major gripes with The Problem of Evil. So we’re one step closer to accepting the existence of an OOO God, right?

    Or you could say that you have one less reason to not believe that an OOO God does not exist. I am not sure if we should consider them equivalent or not. I feel like removing a positive reason for holding something to not be the case does not move us towards thinking that it is, or that it gives us a positive reason for why it is. I’m just unsure about the symmetry there.

    However, I still have a difficult time accepting that this is where Cruz and any of the other Christian’s here are ultimately trying to get at. I think its fair to say for a good number of non-theists or atheists, the existence of an OOO God is one of many major blocks in the way of their acceptance of the tenants of Christianity. NOW I think we’re getting closer to what is the ultimate aim here.

    So, true I believe in an OOO God, that is entailed from me being a theologically orthodox Christian, so the problem is interesting for me, because of what I mentioned above previously. Yes, coming up with an answer to the problem of evil is part of me rationally defending my beliefs. But it seems like you are saying I am doing more than that. This is what I hopefully answered above with (3) and (4). So, I hope that is helpful to your understanding of this discussion.

    If there is anything more that I am missing that you wanted me to address, just let me know.

  45. Richard Eis permalink
    February 19, 2010 8:33 am

    To me, though, the problem of evil, while fairly important in itself, is just a sideshow to the main argument – “why doesn’t god do something about evil” is merely a special case of “why doesn’t god do anything at all”.

    Indeed, either God is working in a way that resembles blind chance in an imperfect world or he isn’t doing anything with the material world.

    To be honest I never understood the “suffering = no god” premise. Nor it’s apparent power against the theist. It only exists as long as you think God has to be omni-benevolent. Since that contradicts the old testament and the actual state of the world it may as well be dumped in favour of the “free will” or “god has a plan” sentiment.

  46. Sean permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:00 pm

    Bo,

    Power may evoke my fear and awe, but not my worship or love.

    …Mesle then goes on in the same paragraph to describe two doctors: one with the power to save a child yet doesn’t, and one without the power yet who does everything they can to save the child yet fails. Mesle says when the child dies, its the latter doctor they embrace in mutual suffering.

    I think that’s a cute analogy and all, however I feel it is hardly applicable to The Problem of Evil, nor applies to how I view evil in the world. In the analogy, I’d be able to see the second doctor tending to the child, that is, physically see the doctor doing so, along with a plethora of other verifiable pieces of evidence that the second doctor is doing all they could: the distribution of medications and supplies, confirmation by nurses and hospital staff as to the whereabouts of the doctor, readouts of the child’s vitals and their response to actions performed by the doctor. All of these pieces of data would corroborate to confirm my hypothesis that the second doctor was tending to the child and doing everything within their power to help the child.

    When I look at the world, however, I see countless examples of senseless violence, natural disasters, etc. I see, as a specific example which I feel compliments Mesle’s analogy quite well, is the astounding decrease in maternal death during and shortly after childbirth attributed to the advancement of modern medicine in the 20th century. Into the 1800s the percentages of births resulting in maternal death could still be seen as high as 40% (although a more conservative estimate places a rate of 1 in 5 births resulting in maternal death, or 20%). Today, thanks to modern medicine, less than 1% of all maternal deaths are experienced in developed countries (in the United States down to 11 in 100,000), whereas 90% of maternal deaths take place in developing countries (which still experience a maternal death rate as high as 2,000 in 100,000, or 2%). My research did not take into account third-world countries or tribal cultures. I think it is safe to assume that cultures which do not employ any form of modern medicine would experience the same 20-40% maternal death rates, although arguably a smaller percent due to the passing down of medicinal memes through the culture.

    My point is that in a century’s time mankind, through research and education, has decreased the maternal death rate from as high as 40% (although more typically 20%) to 0.011% in the United States (and to 0% in Iceland in 2005). Conservative estimates place the emergence of our species at around 100,000 years ago. So did God want to reduce the maternal death rate? If so, God had 100,000 years to do what man was able to do in 100. From the evidence, I think it’s a far more reasonable hypothesis to postulate that God either did not want, did not care, or was not able to reduce the maternal death rate. I think it goes without saying that all parties in healthy relationships involved in a birth desire for a healthy birth for both the child and mother (including mother, family, and friends, although perhaps not necessarily the child, given that their cognitive faculties at the moment of birth are probably not developed enough yet to appreciate a desire for a healthy birth).

    So why wouldn’t God want the same thing? Surely God must want a healthy birth? Surly God would care about the well being of mother and child as well? Then are we to say, then, that God was not able to reduce maternal death rates? Is there some other option?

    If God was not able to reduce maternal death rates in 100,000 years, then why was man? Are we to hypothesize that God inspired man to reduce maternal death rates? If so, what evidence do we have that this occurred? Given Mesle’s analogy, the doctor does not empower me to tend to the child, but rather it is the doctor herself who tends to the child. This suggests that Mesle would not hypothesize that God inspired man to reduce maternal death rates.

    Therefore I feel that man’s activity to reduce maternal death rates via modern medicine is commendable to man, uninspired by God, even if God enabled the “raw materials” or “the platform” by which man exists, lives, learns, and advances. I additionally feel that Mesle’s analogy is entirely inadequate in describing man’s suffering and God’s role in sharing it.

  47. Andrew permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:16 pm

    @Bo – postulating a non-omnipotent god doesn’t solve the problem of evil.

    Here is an example from Daylight Atheism (warning, highly emotional content). The notable point of this example is how little action would be needed – a perfect opportunity for a benevolent god intent on concealing his existence to actually make a difference.

  48. Sean permalink
    February 19, 2010 4:55 pm

    Cruz,

    I appreciate that you addressed your interpretations of my original post, and I would say you fairly nailed what I was getting at (albeit far more eloquently than myself) with 3) and 4).

    I also appreciate that you outlined your motivations for the discussion. I do not mean to be disrespectful or annoying when I say that I still feel a little “edgy”, “distrustful”, or “guarded” in hearing that this thread was started because you are up keeping a promise to KG, because you enjoy engaging in these conversations, and nothing more. I admit and apologize that I have an under appreciation for conversations on these matters outside of the active attempt to persuade or convince others, which is likely why I find it hard to believe that mere conversation is the only aim here.

    If nothing else I am glad I was able to contribute my piece, and will gladly step back and attempt to gain philosophical insights into The Problem of Evil.

  49. February 19, 2010 5:05 pm

    Thanks for actually checkin out the article, Sean.

    Ok here’s the thing, and this touches on my first post. I totally get your point, if man can take certain preventative measure against death and suffering, why wouldnt an OOO God have done that a long time ago, since God knew how to lower the maternal death rate, wanted to lower it, and had the power to lower it. It appears God did nothing while technology advanced over 10,000 years and no finally we figured out how to do it. I get it. Again, however, I want to know what kind of God would adhere to your moral and ethical standards of a god. I am very sympathetic to your position, if someone could convince me that the Mormon God is the “real” God, or the Muslim God is the real deal, I doubt I would worship them because they seem like assholes that don’t adhere to my personal minimum standards of morality. So imagine God did lower the maternal death rates supernaturally 10,000 years ago. Why wouldn’t he just eliminate maternal death? So what if God did eliminate this problem? It’s a slippery slope, does God then eliminate all evil resulting from nature, such as other diseases (why not nix malaria or aids?), natural disasters, etc.? And if we then did live in this perfect natural world, where Lion and Lamb lay side by side, does God then remove our free will so that bad people don’t do bad things to good people? Or good people accidentally do bad things to other good people? I’m trying to get a sense for what you think the world should look like or how it should operate if the claims of the Bible about God are true. To me, Christianity is so attractive because it is based on hope, hope that the world will be put to rights, there will be healing, there will be the restitution of all things (Acts 3:20-21). That the ills of the world in its current state are not the last word. To me, this God who promises to make things better by winning over the world with self-sacrificial love, not withholding free will, is the greatest conceivable being. So im sure you dont agree with my little hopeful digression at the end there, but please try to articulate what you expect from a responsible, OOO God.

    As far as the natural evil stuff, I’ve found the work and arguments of Greg Boyd quite helpful. Basically that, like the Bible says, Satan is the temporary ruler of this world and the ‘good’ creation has been corrupted at the deepest levels.
    He concludes (after making 7 arguments):

    “If I and the early church fathers are correct, we don’t need to search for good divine purposes behind “natural” evil any more than we need to search for them behind evil that humans inflict on one another. All evil, “natural” or otherwise, is ultimately due to wills other than God.”

    Again, could a good God disallow wills other than his own? I’m not so sure. For there to be real love, and apparently God is love (I hope at least), there must be a subject and an object, an I and a thou. I don’t think love is possible in a universe where God, even a good God, exercises his unilateral will unceasingly. Evil may be the cost of love, and it does take a little hopeful faith, admittedly, to believe it’s worth it. It’s a much easier pill to swallow if you believe this short life isn’t all there is, that no tragic death is in vain, and God will make all things right. Back to the hope thing.

  50. February 19, 2010 5:09 pm

    I’m bad at remembering to include links. Sorry. Here’s greg Boyd on the corruption of nature.

    http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/apologetics/problem-of-evil/satan-and-the-corruption-of-nature-seven-arguments/

  51. Andrew permalink
    February 19, 2010 8:19 pm

    Again, however, I want to know what kind of God would adhere to your moral and ethical standards of a god.

    For one thing, no lying to the followers. A good start would be something along these lines as a replacement for Genesis:

    Behold, I have created a universe for you, and lo, it is filled with many wonders which you will have to figure out for yourself, for I the LORD wish you to gain real knowledge rather than just look up the answers in a book. The planet I have supplied you with is broadly suitable for you to live on, though some parts are more dangerous than others. Everything on it, from the great beasts to creatures so small you can’t see them until you invent the electron microscope, from the fury of the storms and floods that will occasionally happen to the gentle rain that waters plants and feeds rivers, from the plants that are good for you to eat to the other plants that will kill you stone dead, all behaves according to its own nature that has nothing to do with how I feel about your actions; I won’t intervene to assist you if you suffer accidents as a result of these natural hazards. (Oh, and I apologize for the childbirth thing, it’s an unfortunate side effect of the way I let natural selection do all the hard work of creating you lot; just be glad you’re not spotted hyenas, because boy, did those things draw the short straw or what.)

    I could go on in similar vein, but I think you get the idea.

  52. Andrew permalink
    February 19, 2010 8:26 pm

    To me, Christianity is so attractive because it is based on hope, hope that the world will be put to rights, there will be healing, there will be the restitution of all things (Acts 3:20-21).

    That’s not just a false hope, it’s a dangerous false hope, since it encourages people to neglect those aspects of the world that are subject to human control or decision-making.

    There are no other nearby planets with good prospects for supporting human life; if we mess up the one we do have, nobody’s going to bail us out.

  53. February 19, 2010 8:51 pm

    Andrew you think I believe a lot of things I don’t at all. Problem of the medium of message board. I’m totally with you about the “dangerous false hope” if I meant what you think. This isn’t a hands off hope. This isn’t sit around and do nothing until God gets home to take care of it. I think that we are literally co-laborers with God in taking care of creation and bringing about a better world. You’re right- sometimes it does encourage neglect of those things we do have control over, like the environment. I say that kind of thinking is inexcusable. To be a Christian, I believe, is to follow the example of Jesus in bringing healing and peace to the world to the greatest extent our means allow. The beauty of it, and the scary part, is that we do have responsibility, one of the first things God told us to do, to use your example, was take care of this planet (God presumably knew there were no other suitable ones laying around). So at worst, we should have a bunch of crazy people running around who believe in a non-existent God but nonetheless are working harder than anyone to restore creation to the way things were meant to be. Unfortunately this doesn’t correspond to reality and Christians are often primarily concerned with other worldly, ethereal things and making sure they get themselves into heaven. Quite a selfish endeavor. I think they may be surprised to find out that Heaven is nothing more than where Earth’s future resides. It’s not about escaping earth, it’s about fixing it. So I think you’re dead on, if we screw this up we’re done. It’s of the highest importance that we get these issues that are under our control straightened out. Hopefully that clarifies things.

    As for your revised Genesis, I see what youre getting at and sympathize, but when it comes to God lying to us, that’s a tough sell as it’s largely going to depend on your interpretation. If we’re talkin Old Testament, it’s hard because God is interacting with a specific group of people who he was in covenant with, and they werent us. Don’t get me wrong, I get frustrated as hell with God when things don’t happen the way I feel they should. But because certain things haven’t come to fruition doesn’t mean they won’t, the charge of false promises may be correct, but not easily proved or disproved.

  54. Andrew permalink
    February 19, 2010 9:10 pm

    As for your revised Genesis, I see what youre getting at and sympathize, but when it comes to God lying to us, that’s a tough sell as it’s largely going to depend on your interpretation. If we’re talkin Old Testament, it’s hard because God is interacting with a specific group of people who he was in covenant with, and they werent us.

    And that’s another ethical no-no for an even halfway decent god; none of this “chosen people” crap.

  55. Johann permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:00 am

    It’s a slippery slope, does God then eliminate all evil resulting from nature, such as other diseases (why not nix malaria or aids?), natural disasters, etc.? And if we then did live in this perfect natural world, where Lion and Lamb lay side by side, does God then remove our free will so that bad people don’t do bad things to good people? Or good people accidentally do bad things to other good people?

    This is one of those bits that I still don’t get. How is human free will supposed to be a good thing from the perspective of the god creating it? The only thing it does is allow us to deviate from his perfect plan and fall away from him. And he’s none too happy about that – consider the Flood.

    All the explanations of this that I’ve seen so far basically boil down to vanity. He gave us free will because it tickles him pink when we use it to turn back to him. We are “His children” and it’s his way of showing respect for us even if it means he’ll be roasting the majority of us after we die.

    It’s interesting, too, how you seem to assume we’d agree that free will is an unequivocally good thing to have. In the framework of Christian theology, with hell in the equation, I wouldn’t be so sure.

    So at worst, we should have a bunch of crazy people running around who believe in a non-existent God but nonetheless are working harder than anyone to restore creation to the way things were meant to be. Unfortunately this doesn’t correspond to reality and Christians are often primarily concerned with other worldly, ethereal things and making sure they get themselves into heaven.

    I think you need to revise your worst-case scenario somewhat. -_-

    “We don’t need to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.”
    -James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under Reagan and the staunchest anti-environmentalist ever to hold that office

    Around 20% of American Christians believe that Christ will return in their lifetime – I don’t have numbers on their political affiliation, but consider which party they’d be most likely associated with to get a more accurate measure of the influence of those numbers. In 2001, Watt said that Bush’s energy policy – drilling and mining over conservation – basically followed his recommendations from twenty years prior, where he wanted every wilderness area opened for commercial development.

  56. Johann permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:02 am

    Yow. I don’t think I even had enough tags in that last post to mess it up to that extent, but apparently WordPress thinks otherwise. 😛

  57. Knockgoats permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:32 am

    COMMENT REDONE BELOW

  58. Knockgoats permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:34 am

    Oh dear! It looks like recursive blockquoting doesn’t work here. Sorry, I’ll reformat and repost. Please remove the previous comment.

  59. Knockgoats permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:43 am

    COMMENT REDONE BELOW

  60. Knockgoats permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:46 am

    Sorry again. One more try: you need a “review” facility here.

    Throughout what follows, I assume that an omnipotent and omniscient creator of the universe, “God”, exists.

    “Even though this good greatly outweighs any type of evil that occurs in the world?” – Cruz

    “By whose judgement? God’s? Then you are begging the question. Yours? Would you create in the circumstances where trillions of beings suffer terrible agony as a result? I wouldn’t – and I’m a consequentialist, where non-omnipotent beings like ourselves are concerned. But we don’t have the options an omnipotent being would have.

    Claiming that the good outweighs the evil that occurs would be non-perspectival. It could be judged to be that the evil is outweighed by the good but this does not make it the case that its true that the good outweighs the evil, just as much as it does not make it false. .

    I don’t know what you mean by “non-perspectival”.

    Further, why would it be begging the question if it was from God’s judgment that the good outweighed the evil?

    Because it is God that is responsible for the evil (and for all evil).One cannot legitimately be judge and jury as well as the accused, unless it is taken as given that one is morally perfect – hence it is question-begging.

    And the question: would I create a world with this much suffering in it so long as I knew it was/is/would be sufficiently outweighed by some incommensurable good? I’m not sure if this is the right question. The better question is would I not (or better would it keep me from creating a world…) create the world as such knowing that it would be outweighed by some incommensurable good(s)? No, it wouldn’t keep me from creating. I may choose not to, but that doesn’t mean I would see any problem in doing so.

    If you would see no problem in creating beings that you know will suffer agony, there is something severely wrong with your moral sense – as, apparently, there is with God’s.

    You say: “I’m a consequentialist, where non-omnipotent beings like ourselves are concerned.” I’m not sure how this works out. It seems to be problematic that your view doesn’t apply normative facts across reality as a whole. You may be wanting to say that God can act in a way such that better consequences obtain, because of His omnipotence. But this still does not entail that God ought not create because the bad consequences won’t bring about good consequences that greatly outweigh the bad that occurs.
    This leaves me with a question: if consequentialism applies only to non-omnipotent beings, what sorts of normative rules or laws would apply to an omnipotent one? What take on ethics should God have? What good reason would we think that His ethics should be different than ours?

    God, both as omnipotent and as the creator of the universe, is in a unique position, being able to choose whether to create at all, and knowing all the consequences. We find ourselves in a world we have not created, and can only try to estimate the consequences of alternative courses of action. This means it is not obvious how applying norms across reality as a whole can be done if there is an omnipotent being (I dispute that there are “normative facts” if I correctly understand that you mean by that, that it is true that, say, torturing people for fun is wrong in the same sense as it is true that the sun is larger than the earth). I should make clear that although I am a consequentialist, I am not a utilitarian: there is no “moral calculus” that can, even in principle, tell me what I should do in all circumstances. But creating beings who will suffer agony for some extrinsic purpose is such a revolting thing to do that I judge that not creating at all would be greatly preferably morally. I am prepared to listen to counter-arguments, but I cannot see how anyone who shares with me the basic value of humanitarianism can judge that doing so, for one’s own benefit, or for the benefit of others one will also create, can be judged anything other than evil.

    “That’s fine that you think that, but why should I think that?”

    Because they are the one that suffers. If we take the opposite viewpoint, I cannot see how to avoid the conclusion that we are morally entitled to subject an innocent party to any degree of suffering, if we judge that the result will be a net benefit. Do you want to go there?

    The intuition you seem to be pulling at here does not really seem to justify your claim: “I do not consider that it is for anyone other than the sufferer to overrule their judgement as to whether the suffering was worthwhile.”, what it really seems to be pulling at is the way in which we ought to think about acting, we can be wrong about what we judge when it comes to whether or not the benefit of some suffering outweighs the evil of the suffering. But if we assume that we are infallible when it comes to these sorts of judgments then I do not see why this is problematic, for we would infallibly judge that the good of the consequences would outweigh the evil of the suffering. The good does outweigh the evil, so what?

    Such judgements are not matters of fact, where there is a true and a false answer: they necessarily depend on the goals and preferences of the judge. Therefore there is no such thing as an infallible judgement here.

    “But, it is still hard to find your stance to be a plausible one, especially if you demand that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile.”

    ‘“I don’t find it plausible” is not an argument.’

    No, it is not an argument. You are correct, but neither is pointing it out as not being an argument an argument for your position. The point is your position is prima facie implausible, you should argue for it, instead of just asserting it. I don’t see any reason to find it to be true. You are trying to convince me of it, the burden of proof is thus on you. It is not some obvious truth about the world or morality and it in fact it is one thats negation (it is not the case that all beings that suffer must judge that their suffering was made worthwhile) is obviously false.

    You find my position implausible, but I deny that it is prima facie implausible.

    “It seems that if Wyman judges his suffering made worthwhile he judges this because it was actually made worthwhile, whereas it seems to be a consequence of your view that Wyman’s suffering is made worthwhile because he judges it to be made worthwhile. This is problematic.”

    1) Why?
    2) The phrase “actually made worthwhile” assumes that there is some objective point from which a definitive judgement on this can be made. There isn’t. That does not mean we cannot rationally debate the question – we can – but Wyman has the only privileged position in this debate, because he’s the one who suffered.

    1) Because you have the direction of fit wrong, we judge things to be good or bad because of the way the world is.

    I don’t understand what you are saying here.

    2a) Note your complaint against me above: “There isn’t.” Is an assertion without argument.
    2b) I understand Wyman is the one who has suffered, but why think that this puts him in the privileged position? It seems just as reasonable to assume that his suffering has skewed his ability to assess the position.
    2c) The phrase “actually made worthwhile” simply implies that there is some fact in the world that makes it true that his suffering is worthwhile, independent of anyone’s perspective or judgment. Not that there is some position that involves an objective perspective we can make those judgments from.

    That there could be some such fact is exactly what I am denying, because judgements of whether something is worthwhile are necessarily dependent on the goals and preferences of the judge. Wyman is in a privileged position because he is the one who has been made to suffer by another’s action: he is the victim. In the case of non-omnipotent beings, we may have to create victims of our decisions, but God did have an alternative: not creating anything.

    But let’s assume they do have the relevant facts about the result of their suffering. Is it possible that they do not understand that the suffering is overruled by the good? Could they not understand that it is? Could they know the consequences in advance but not rule that those would be worth the suffering prior to the action but would have ruled the suffering worthwhile after obtaining the good of the consequences? These all seem viable options that would not fit well with your view.

    If they are to obtain the good of the consequences, then that makes sense – although it would still remain to be shown plausible that there was no logically possible way the good could have been obtained at less cost. But if they suffer and do not obtain that good, as doctrinally orthodox Christianity holds of non-human animals, which will get no “heavenly reward” (I am aware there have been exceptions among Christians) then it does not. The same would hold a fortiori of humans who end up being eternally tormented. If there is a Hell, then God is guilty of creating beings knowing that some of them will suffer infinitely. It is hard to think of anything more plainly evil than that.
    **

    I guess the further question is, why should we think that what we ought do can so easily come apart from what is worthwhile for us to do? It seems that these ideas are very interrelated but your view cannot capture that phenomenon. Why is that okay?

    Why isn’t it? I see no conceptual problem there at all. “Worthwhile” can just mean that I enjoy it. If I were a psychopathic sadist, it would be “worthwhile” to me to torture people, but I ought not to.

  61. Knockgoats permalink
    February 20, 2010 10:55 am

    Cruz,

    You asked what I meant by saying normative statements (e.g. “It is wrong to torture people for fun”) are only true or false within some legal or moral framework. My answer is implicit in my last comment, but I’ll make it explicit. Suppose you come across someone who is purely selfish, considering only their own advantage; they regard normative statements as the empty flapping of mouths. There is no evidence, and there are no arguments, that can rationally oblige them to change this position. Of course you can point out that acting on this viewpoint may have bad consequences for them (in this world or your imaginary next world), but then you are simply appealing to their enlightened self-interest. Any supposed normative foundation (equity, utilitarianism, divine commandments, etc.) can simply be met with “So what? Why should I care about that if it doesn’t benefit me?”

  62. February 20, 2010 2:42 pm

    As for the chosen people “crap,” I don’t think you understand the purpose of having a chosen people. The Israelites were supposed to be a light to the world, live a culture counter to that of those around them. The chosen people were never meant to be an end, but a means to bringing life to the world. And whoever was quoting the guy who said 20% of Christians are just waiting for the second coming or whatever- seriously? OK great I’ll concede any argument to you if all you want to do is quote fundamentalists of any religion. Either side can create a stereotype or straw man and burn it down with ease. I agree with you! Those people are nuts!

    I still hold however, that if God had not given us free will, the ability to deviate from his perfect plan, it would be meaningless because we’d all be pawns in a cosmic game. I don’t see how there can be love without choice. A robot that you build and program to “love” you is doing no such thing. God is not an ego-maniac who wants to force his creation to worship him or tell him how great he is. The perfect plan involves people freely choosing to be with him. The world you imagine, one where we don’t have free will and everything is perfect, is ultimately without real meaning. We would all be slaves to unilateral divine will. The God of the Bible is one who accepts human challenges and even bargains with us, changes his mind (controversial open-theism statement), wrestles with us. The beauty of it is that this God seeks genuine relationship with us, therefore values our opinion and gives us real responsibility. This is praiseworthy, controlling puppets is not. A God who comes along side of us, chose one of the most meager existences as a human, can empathize with our suffering, has had the experiences we have. To me, it’s the greatest possible love story ever told. Not everyone sees it that way, we’ll have to still be friends and try to work together. Our purposes are the same nonetheless.

  63. February 20, 2010 3:07 pm

    Johann,

    It’s interesting, too, how you seem to assume we’d agree that free will is an unequivocally good thing to have. In the framework of Christian theology, with hell in the equation, I wouldn’t be so sure.

    I don’t think Bo made such an assumption. I’m sure he is a incompatibilist libertarian about free will, but in his post all he was trying to do is show that it is harder to figure out where our intuitions would have us draw the lines on what is okay and what isn’t.

  64. Richard Eis permalink
    February 20, 2010 3:07 pm

    To be a Christian, I believe, is to follow the example of Jesus in bringing healing and peace to the world to the greatest extent our means allow.

    Ok, but then what exactly IS God doing if we are doing all the work? I would expect a bit more from an ooogod (I love that term now) than a bit of motivational speaking every 2000 years or so.

    And why is it that scientific improvements that help the human human race continually rub up against christian doctrine if thats the way god is supposed to be pushing us? What does that say about the direction of the christian religion compared with science?

    And if you had to choose between hope and medicine…

  65. Knockgoats permalink
    February 21, 2010 6:01 am

    Bo,
    Your god is clearly not the god of Christianity (this is greatly to your credit, I should add), who we are told, in the New Testament as much as the Old, will punish us for not obeying him and believing the right things:

    Matthew 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
    10:15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

    Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Matthew 11:20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
    11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
    11:22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
    11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
    11:24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

    13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
    13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
    13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but He that believeth not shall be damned.

    Luke 3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
    3:17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

    Luke 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
    12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

    Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
    19:28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.

    John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

    How can there be love under threat?
    “Love God? You’re in an abusive relationship.”

  66. Knockgoats permalink
    February 21, 2010 6:08 am

    A God who comes along side of us, chose one of the most meager existences as a human, – Bo

    Actually, not. Assuming for a moment that the “Incarnation” took place, choosing to be born a free male was certainly not choosing “one of the most meagre existences as a human”. Nor do the hours of Jesus’s crucifixion, terrible though they undoubtedly were, begin to compare with the years of torment many have had to endure – let alone the eternal torment doctrinally orthodox Christianity says is in store for most of us.

    “Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.”

  67. Knockgoats permalink
    February 21, 2010 8:46 am

    The Israelites were supposed to be a light to the world, live a culture counter to that of those around them. – Bo

    Oh yeah? By committing genocide at God’s direct command?

  68. Sean permalink
    February 21, 2010 2:30 pm

    Bo,

    I’m trying to get a sense for what you think the world should look like or how it should operate if the claims of the Bible about God are true.

    I’ll try to keep this as short and simple as possible, as I personally feel you have more pertinent and important responses to make to Knockgoats, Richard, and Andrew. Additionally, I am about 3 years removed from the intensive and intentional Bible-study lifestyle I used to undertake, and therefore feel a little rusty to accurately address your expectation for me to communicate my expectations as to what the world should look like if the claims of the Bible about God are true. However, I will do my best to concisely state what I expect the world should look like if the claims of an OOO God are true:

    I would expect to find no reasonable objections to my observations of suffering (or just observations in general) in the world in light of my considerations of an OOO God’s existence.

    I italicized “reasonable” because I realize this is the word in my statement we will likely have the most contention on. I would like to expand on my definition at this time, however I do have to run and will expand on it in a later post if it is requested. However as an example, referencing a link Andrew posted earlier, I believe I have a reasonable objection in considering an OOO God exists with the observation that there are nearly 20 infant deaths in the United States alone caused by parents forgetfully leaving their infant in their vehicle on a hot day. That an OOO God does not simply cause a malfunction in the vehicle’s window mechanisms, leading the windows to roll down, and thus providing sufficient airflow within the vehicle to enable the infant to live rather than die in an overheated car to me is evidence of excessive suffering which I find unreasonable to exist when considering the existence of an OOO God. I hope that small example can help one to extrapolate what I mean by “reasonable”.

  69. Knockgoats permalink
    February 21, 2010 5:49 pm

    Taking up Bo’s point about free will (this may be jumping ahead, but since the issue has been raised):

    1) I am not aware that any coherent account of contra-causal free will has ever been given. I am a compatibilist, and will defend that stance if necessary; at this point I just want to note that any response to the problem of evil that depends on evoking free will requires a clear statement of what is meant by free will, and how, if at all, it can be made compatible with god’s omniscience.
    2) What is wrong with the idea of a universe in which enjoyment exists in varying degrees, but there is no suffering? All beings with any sort of awareness are capable of the former, and their choices may affect both their own and other beings’ hedonic tone, but this tone can never fall below neutral – e.g. as it approaches neutral, awareness fades. Of course this universe would be very different from ours, but if free will (in whatever sense) is an important good, it would seem to allow sufficient room for it to operate, and have significant consequences.

  70. Andrew permalink
    February 21, 2010 9:19 pm

    As for the chosen people “crap,” I don’t think you understand the purpose of having a chosen people. The Israelites were supposed to be a light to the world, live a culture counter to that of those around them.

    This argument doesn’t fly for a whole host of reasons.

    Firstly, it’s not proportionate; if the objective is for them to be a light to the world, then picking one tiny tribal nation in a back-country region of virtually no strategic significance, pretty much guaranteeing that nobody outside the immediate region will even hear about them, is not the way to go. How are the Israelites supposed to set an example for the Chinese, or the Mayans, or the Bantu, or the Maori?

    Secondly. if the Israelites were supposed to be an example, then you’d have expected them to be given commandments or instruction designed to make them a better people, rather than just bloodthirsty conquerors and rapists along with everybody else. Instead, they get a lot of commandments about religious ritual, and almost nothing about actual morality.

    Thirdly, the whole thing is ahistorical; the Israelites were not monotheistic until around the 7th century BC and the Torah as it exists now is the result of post-exilic redaction. We now know that the Israelites did not invade the region, and very likely did not come from Egypt at all; so what’s the point of the bloodthirsty origin myths?

  71. February 22, 2010 1:05 am

    All,

    I feel like we have gotten off topic. Let’s try to redirect the conversation back to the problem of evil, we can talk about redaction and the forming of the Torah and whatever else later.

    KG,

    I don’t know what you mean by “non-perspectival”.

    I meant that it is not true from or because of some judgers perspective or judging. It is not subject based but is dependent on the status of the value facts in the world independent of judgers.

    Because it is God that is responsible for the evil (and for all evil).One cannot legitimately be judge and jury as well as the accused, unless it is taken as given that one is morally perfect – hence it is question-begging.

    Actually it would only be question begging if I assumed some obviously false principle which you are strangely committed to. The problem is, you assume something that I deny to make your point, it’s bad argument style.

    If you would see no problem in creating beings that you know will suffer agony, there is something severely wrong with your moral sense – as, apparently, there is with God’s.

    Comments like this are not usually a great indicator of rational point. I’m assuming that we are trying to have some sort of rational debate here. If you want to discuss what it takes for one to have a good moral center rationally, then I would be down for that.

    Moreover, your point caricatures my position by making the following unqualified statement:

    “If you would see no problem in creating beings that you know will suffer agony…”

    It’s not that I hold the antecedent unqualifiedly true. What I do hold true is:

    (µ) There is no problem with creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad.

    It’s not even strictly that, there are variations of this principle that I have to choose from which I have not yet committed myself to a specific one of the many or any group of them.

    God, both as omnipotent and as the creator of the universe, is in a unique position, being able to choose whether to create at all, and knowing all the consequences. We find ourselves in a world we have not created, and can only try to estimate the consequences of alternative courses of action. This means it is not obvious how applying norms across reality as a whole can be done if there is an omnipotent being…

    I fail to see how Gods infallibility when it comes to knowing the outcomes of actions and His uncreatedness make it the case that different general moral facts hold true for God than for us. Or how our fallibility and our createdness makes it the case that the moral facts that hold true for us must be different from God’s. It might be the case that God would be in a position to be more blameworthy than us because of His power and knowledge, etc., but this has nothing to do with the need think God must adhere to a different set of moral principles.

    Further, even if He does, you have not shown what that must look like, how we are to understand it. So, you have yet to answer my question.

    (I dispute that there are “normative facts” if I correctly understand that you mean by that, that it is true that, say, torturing people for fun is wrong in the same sense as it is true that the sun is larger than the earth).

    Not at all sure what you mean by this. Are you pointing out how moral truths are necessary but these physical facts are not? Or are you trying to say that the truthmakers for moral truths are abstract while physical truths have concrete truthmakers? Or are you positing some weird mysterious way in which things can be true without corresponding to something in the world?

    The latter option would be a poor result for your theory, for in that sense propositions can’t be true in different ways. If a proposition is true it has a truthmaker, there is some corresponding fact in the world that makes it the case that that proposition is true, how else would it be true?

    Such judgements are not matters of fact, where there is a true and a false answer: they necessarily depend on the goals and preferences of the judge. Therefore there is no such thing as an infallible judgement here.

    Good, I was hoping that you would go here. The principle of bivalence is a good friend to most of us rational beings and it is one that is so firm at the foundations of rationality that if your position forces us to deny it then too bad for your position. The principle states:

    (ß) For any proposition P either P is true or P is false.

    And if your statement is taken at face value you have denied that bivalence holds for any propositions based on claims about whether or not something is worthwhile. This is bad for your position.

    But let me be a little more charitable and see if you can avoid this heavy accusation. So let us assume that the truth of such propositions is made true by the judgers judging. In order to avoid the conclusion the denial of bivalence you have to be committed to the belief that there is no situation where a judger does not judge that his or her suffering has been made worthwhile, but this seems to be implausible, for what about a suffering that results in the judgers death, where there would be no judger to make that judgement? Now it seems that we have three options, give up your position, give up on bivalence, or hold that judgers are able to judge after they die and they will judge whether or not the suffering has been made worthwhile. The last option seems to be a position that I would imagine you being strongly committed against, and giving up on bivalence isn’t a real option here since it is so fundamental to rationality, so it seems your only option is to give up on your position.

    You find my position implausible, but I deny that it is prima facie implausible.

    I fail to see how this amounts to any sort of retort. What I’m saying is your position is prima facie implausible. So instead of just denying what I say, try to convince me otherwise and do so by rationally engaging me.

    I don’t understand what you are saying here.

    I’m saying that you have the explanation backwards, we judge that things are the case because we are trying to get at the way that things are. When we judge that a situation is made worthwhile we judge this because we think that it is the case that the situation has been made worthwhile, instead of saying that when we judge that a situation is made worthwhile by our judging that it is.

    That there could be some such fact is exactly what I am denying, because judgements of whether something is worthwhile are necessarily dependent on the goals and preferences of the judge. Wyman is in a privileged position because he is the one who has been made to suffer by another’s action: he is the victim. In the case of non-omnipotent beings, we may have to create victims of our decisions, but God did have an alternative: not creating anything.

    Do you really want to avoid objective value facts? Because if there are not any objective values it does not seem like we have what is necessary for a morality. In other words if there are no value facts what are the truthmakers for moral propositions? Maybe it is the normative facts, but what about the normative facts that depend on value facts? You must be committed to those since you are a consequentialist which forces your deontology to rest entirely on your theory of value.

    If they are to obtain the good of the consequences, then that makes sense – although it would still remain to be shown plausible that there was no logically possible way the good could have been obtained at less cost. But if they suffer and do not obtain that good, as doctrinally orthodox Christianity holds of non-human animals, which will get no “heavenly reward” (I am aware there have been exceptions among Christians) then it does not. The same would hold a fortiori of humans who end up being eternally tormented. If there is a Hell, then God is guilty of creating beings knowing that some of them will suffer infinitely. It is hard to think of anything more plainly evil than that.

    I don’t think you understood my question. This is not what I was asking for. But, instead I was asking how someone who holds that the suffering is made worthwhile iff someone judges that it has been made worthwhile, would avoid the consequences of having to give a negative answer to each of these questions that it seems that we should give a positive answer to.

    I guess the further question is, why should we think that what we ought do can so easily come apart from what is worthwhile for us to do? It seems that these ideas are very interrelated but your view cannot capture that phenomenon. Why is that okay? – Me

    Why isn’t it? I see no conceptual problem there at all. “Worthwhile” can just mean that I enjoy it. If I were a psychopathic sadist, it would be “worthwhile” to me to torture people, but I ought not to. – You

    That’s fine if you want to go down that road, but at this point you stop talking about value facts and instead are only talking about preference facts, but this then doesn’t have any baring on the conversation anymore, since it is the value facts that factor into what we ought and ought not do. I am concerned about God being a perfectly moral being, which seemingly depends on whether or not the obtaining of the facts that give the world value outweigh or defeat the amount of of facts that devalue the world.

    Suppose you come across someone who is purely selfish, considering only their own advantage; they regard normative statements as the empty flapping of mouths. There is no evidence, and there are no arguments, that can rationally oblige them to change this position. Of course you can point out that acting on this viewpoint may have bad consequences for them (in this world or your imaginary next world), but then you are simply appealing to their enlightened self-interest. Any supposed normative foundation (equity, utilitarianism, divine commandments, etc.) can simply be met with “So what? Why should I care about that if it doesn’t benefit me?”

    I’m still confused by this. Are you espousing some sort of relativism?

    Further the answer to your amoralist is quite simple “Why should I care about that if it doesn’t benefit me?” what is he asking? It seems that there are two things that the amoralist could be asking:

    (1)Why should I act morally?

    or;

    (2)Why should I desire to act morally?

    (1) seems to have a trivial answer. What is it to act morally? Well it is to act in the way that you should. The question then can be interpreted as:

    (1*) Why should I act as I should act?

    They seem to be asking something incoherent at this point. Well you should act as you should act because that is how you ought to act!

    (2) is a little less trivial but not anymore so. It is asking a normative question. Why should I care about acting in the way that I should act? We have two options here: one is to admit that there is a normative fact expressing what we ought to desire, the other is to deny that there is any such fact. The former option seems highly implausible since it is obvious that there are facts about what things we ought to desire and not. There is something wrong with a person who desires to sexually abuse children. Whats wrong with him? Well its his desire. There is also something wrong with someone who desires to act immorally. Whats wrong with this person? Well the same as the last:his desire. This gives us plenty of reason to answer his question. ‘Why should I care to act morally?’ well because there is a normative fact that says you should desire this.

    1) I am not aware that any coherent account of contra-causal free will has ever been given. I am a compatibilist, and will defend that stance if necessary; at this point I just want to note that any response to the problem of evil that depends on evoking free will requires a clear statement of what is meant by free will, and how, if at all, it can be made compatible with god’s omniscience.

    I find this quite strange. I would like to see you battle for compatibilism, not because I am not a compatibilist (I’m a Calvinist I kind of have no other rational option), but because I would like to see you try to show that there is something inherently incoherent about liberterian incompatibilism.

    As for your second point about needing a definition for free will, I’m not sure if that is entirely necessary, but I don’t want to dispute that, since I have not yet completed the argument I have been working on for that position.

    I entirely agree that it needs to be shown how F.W. for the liberterian incompatibilist can be reconciled with omniscience, but what I believe may be even harder is reconciling it with a good account of divine providence and sovereignty.

    2) What is wrong with the idea of a universe in which enjoyment exists in varying degrees, but there is no suffering? All beings with any sort of awareness are capable of the former, and their choices may affect both their own and other beings’ hedonic tone, but this tone can never fall below neutral – e.g. as it approaches neutral, awareness fades. Of course this universe would be very different from ours, but if free will (in whatever sense) is an important good, it would seem to allow sufficient room for it to operate, and have significant consequences.

    I especially like this point KG. One may think that Christians like myself are in a sticky situation trying to justify this kind of a response since it seems that the afterlife is going to be a place without suffering.

  72. Knockgoats permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:58 am

    Cruz,

    I’ll just make one point at present – no time for more – because it is relevant to several of the questions you raise.

    Not at all sure what you mean by this. Are you pointing out how moral truths are necessary but these physical facts are not? Or are you trying to say that the truthmakers for moral truths are abstract while physical truths have concrete truthmakers? Or are you positing some weird mysterious way in which things can be true without corresponding to something in the world?

    The latter option would be a poor result for your theory, for in that sense propositions can’t be true in different ways. If a proposition is true it has a truthmaker, there is some corresponding fact in the world that makes it the case that that proposition is true, how else would it be true?

    and

    The latter option would be a poor result for your theory, for in that sense propositions can’t be true in different ways. If a proposition is true it has a truthmaker, there is some corresponding fact in the world that makes it the case that that proposition is true, how else would it be true?

    The above is false: propositions can be true in different ways. Let me give an example from an area not involving morality: mathematics: “The internal angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees”. This is true within Euclidean geometry. It is not true within spherical or hyperbolic geometry. I am saying that moral truths resemble mathematical ones more closely than facts about the world (they are by no means exactly the same): they are true within specific moral systems. If you want to call this relativism, OK, but it does not follow that the choice of moral system is arbitrary, any more than it is arbitrary that we use Euclidean geometry when making a chair, and spherical geometry when plotting airline routes. What moral system we select, and hence what we recognise as moral truths, makes a huge difference to other people and more generally, sentient beings. Moral truths are, as I say, by no means exactly the same as mathematical ones – I used the latter because their status as different from facts about the world is rather clear; moral truths may more closely resemble esthetic ones. Do you claim that “George Eliot was a better novelist than Dan Brown” (I’m assuming you agree that she was) is true in the same sense as “Napoleon was Emperor of France”?

  73. Sean permalink
    February 22, 2010 1:26 pm

    Cruz,

    (µ) There is no problem with creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad.

    To add emphasis, I’d like to reformulate your statement as:
    (µ*) There is no problem with knowingly creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad even if there is the alternative to create nothing at all.

    If we are agreed that (µ*) is an accurate representation of your statement, then I have to staunchly disagree with you that (µ*) is true. I’d again like to point out my handicap in having no formal philosophical training, so if I’m using the word “true” incorrectly here, please let me know. Ultimately, I want to say that I think there is a problem with (fill in the rest of (µ*) here).

    If you’ll allow me a more liberal use of the word “create” than I think we intend to use in (µ*), I’d like to make an example:
    Let’s say person P choose to “create” a human by combining a sperm and egg, in vitro fertilizing the zygote, and birthing the human. P goes on to raise this human with the prime intention of harvesting said human’s organs in order to save the life of the scientist on the brink of finding the cure for cancer. To me, it doesn’t matter if P has full knowledge of whether or not harvesting said human’s organs will save the scientist, or if P has full knowledge of whether or not these organ transplants will allow the scientist to go onto curing cancer and saving countless lives. To me, there IS a problem with P “creating” the human in the first place, knowing the human would suffer. Given P’s intentions, I may call them benevolent if they had full knowledge that the human’s organs would save the scientist and the scientist would go on to save countless lives with their cure, HOWEVER I certainly would not call P omnibenevolent by any standard I could understand.

  74. February 22, 2010 4:27 pm

    Knockgoats,

    As far as the aesthetic claim is concerned, yes it is true in the same way as the historical statement about Napoleon. They have different truth makers. Napoleon and the property of being an emperor and a fact that joins Napoleon with this property is the truth maker for the historical statement. The truth maker for the aesthetic proposition is the works of each authors and those works bearing varying degrees of aesthetic value.

    As far as mathematics is concerned. It is true that a euclidean triangle has such and such properties, yes. But there are plenty of ways to cash out how this claim is true:

    (a) It is true within euclidean space that triangles are such and so

    (b) It is true that euclidean geometry gives triangles such and so properties

    etc…

    This does not mean that we take an object a triangle and say what is true about it is relative to some schema. Instead what we do is recognize when someone asks us if triangles have such and so properties that we need to clarify about what kind of triangle we are talking about or what kind of space etc.

    Note though even if we are relativizing it to some certain mathermatical schema, what we have done is added a parameter that determines which mathematical framework a statement is picking out to what is required for a truth-maker for propositions about triangles. But this does not make mathematical statements true in a different way that historical statements. It just factors in this linguistic parameter into the truth-making for these propositions.

    Further why should one think of ethics this way? This would seem to be quite odd. If moral claims are taken as having some sort of parameter to pick out which schema we are talking about. Let’s say someone says it is wrong to torture puppies. This statement would then have to be put through some parameter that determines which moral schema we are working with and sometimes the claims will come up true and maybe they will come up false. But this is not what ethicists take themselves to be doing, the consequentialist takes it to be that their position determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework. Certain things are true if we assume classical logic that are not true for the dialethian but neither of these people are claiming that these frameworks do not apply absolutely to the whole of reality. All of reality operates on a classical schema. There are no possible dialethian worlds, and there are no obtainable dialethian states of affairs. Just as if consequentialism is true, a kantian schema is ruled out for the world.

    You mentioned that it is not arbitrary as to what sort of moral system we choose. Even if this view is true, what one do we use to understand God’s actions in the world? Why? This is a question that you have continuously neglected to answer. There are further questions, why choose one take on morality in one given context instead of another? How does one go about determining the appropriate uses of each schema? It seems that where it would be easy to answer these questions and that there is an answer to these questions when dealing with geometry, it is not clear how to answer these questions or that there is an answer to these questions when it comes to ethics. This leaves your views on ethics looking as if they are in a state of epistemic wanting.

    Here are some other options:

    Maybe you mean that these are human constructs, or just constructed from some sort of sentient beings interacting. But from here I feel like I loose sight of what is even going on in the problem of evil. Also if it is the latter, if it picks out how sentient beings interact, it seems that we will be committing the famed naturalistic fallacy.

    Maybe what you are thinking is that some moral claims are like demonstrative claims, like: ‘I am here now’, ‘you are there’, ‘he is tall but she is short’, etc. What these seem to do is factor in a context of utterance into the process for determining the truth requirements for such statements. But how would something like a context of utterance factor into the truth of moral claims? I’m not even sure what this would look like.

    Moving on from this you claim that mathematical truths do not pick out truths about the world. What about 2+2=4? Or that the number 7 is prime? Or that there is an even number between 3 and 5? Maybe you are claiming that there are no mathematical objects. It’s hard to see how this would be the case, but we can save that for a later discussion.

    One last thing. I do not feel like your contentious assertion has addressed all of my points that I have made against you. And the ones that it seems to address it addresses in a question begging way. Instead of saying what is wrong with my objections to your view, you give me a story of what your view would look like and then say it addresses my objections. Well how does it do this? It seems that it does so by you just reasserting your view. That is textbook question begging. Tackle my objections as they come. Don’t just reassert your view, or tell me a nice story how it works. That doesn’t answer any of my objections. I wrote up a response to your replies to my objections. Even if your story answers (which it probably doesn’t) them you still need to show how. So, do so, at least for the sake of the discussion.

  75. February 22, 2010 4:33 pm

    Sean,

    What standards do you have for P being just benevolent verses P being omnibenevolent? Do you think that God is doing the same thing as this organ harvester? Remember that the formulation µ is loose, it can be adjusted in many different ways. I used it to express a general commitment not a specific one.

  76. February 22, 2010 5:28 pm

    Knockgoats,

    I’ll just make one point at present – no time for more – because it is relevant to several of the questions you raise.

    I must have forgotten about this when I made my last comment. Please disregard it as I didn’t take into consideration the above quote that you prefaced your reply to. My apologies.

  77. February 22, 2010 5:29 pm

    That you prefaced your reply with.*

    Looks like today is not my day. 😛

    Looking forward to your reply KG.

  78. Sean permalink
    February 22, 2010 6:15 pm

    Cruz,

    What standards do you have for P being just benevolent verses P being omnibenevolent?

    I don’t feel I have “standards” so much as “definitions” by which P is just benevolent verses being omnibenevolent. My understanding of what benevolent means, and what I’ve just confirmed by a dictionary, is the quality of goodness in something or someone. Specifically Merriam-Websters puts it: “marked by or disposed to doing good”, which I agree with. So in “creating” the human with intentions of doing harm to the human, I think that P, by definition, is not being benevolent to the human (albeit P may arguably have an incommensurable benevolent reason for not being benevolent to the human). Additionally, I understand “omni” as all-encompassing. Merriam-Websters puts it: “all : universally”, which I agree with. Therefore I understand omnibenevolent as one that is entirely benevolent. I have already explained why I think P is not being benevolent to the human, therefore, again by definition, P is not omnibenevolent.

    Do you think that God is doing the same thing as this organ harvester?

    I think an OOO God, considering we are currently defining God to also be the creator of the universe, is like P in that God would have created the universe with full knowledge that (referencing once again the link Andrew added a while back) infants would die in vehicles after their parents forgetfully left them in the vehicle. The causality of infants dying to some incommensurable good is less obvious here than P harvesting the human’s organs to save the scientist; however my understanding at this time is that some would suggest that the suffering involved in the infants death is somehow tied to an incommensurable good; so in that sense the harvesting of the human’s organs to save the scientist analogy is preserved, however far less directly in the case of the infants death to some incommensurable good.

    Remember that the formulation µ is loose, it can be adjusted in many different ways. I used it to express a general commitment not a specific one.

    I appreciate you reminding me of this point. I feel that my qualm exists whether or not my emphasis is added. I specifically added the emphasis as I feel it tied together the discussion that has been continuing with you and KG, while also adding more “thrust” to why I disagree with µ being true.

  79. Knockgoats permalink
    February 22, 2010 6:34 pm

    Cruz,

    I’m responding to various points here, and may not have listed your points in the order you made them.

    The problem is, you assume something that I deny to make your point, it’s bad argument style.

    What do you claim I assume which you deny, to make my point? to make such a claim, and fail to specify this, is bad argument style. (As are your constant condescending asides.)

    (µ) There is no problem with creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad.

    This I reject completely, like Sean, and if you really meant what you appear to mean, I would indeed consider that there is something very wrong with your moral sense. You might argue that the problem is not an insuperable one, but to say there is no problem is utterly callous.

    I fail to see how Gods infallibility when it comes to knowing the outcomes of actions and His uncreatedness make it the case that different general moral facts hold true for God than for us. Or how our fallibility and our createdness makes it the case that the moral facts that hold true for us must be different from God’s. It might be the case that God would be in a position to be more blameworthy than us because of His power and knowledge, etc., but this has nothing to do with the need think God must adhere to a different set of moral principles.

    I didn’t say what you think I said. Read it again: “it is not obvious how applying norms across reality as a whole can be done if there is an omnipotent being”. I didn’t say the norms would be different, but that how to apply them to such different cases is not obvious.

    (ß) For any proposition P either P is true or P is false.

    And if your statement is taken at face value you have denied that bivalence holds for any propositions based on claims about whether or not something is worthwhile. This is bad for your position.

    Well in fact, the principle of bivalence does not hold, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with ethics – consider the sorites paradox, the ship of Theseus, and “This proposition is false”, for a start. As for “X is worthwhile”, this has no truth-value until you have specified who is making the judgement, anymore than “He is in prison” has a truth-value until you have specified who you are talking about.

    As for your second point about needing a definition for free will

    I didn’t say, or mean, a definition. I meant an explanation of what the person arguing that free will is a good that justifies the evil in the world, means by the term – how it fits into their view of how the physical world works, for example.

    Do you really want to avoid objective value facts? Because if there are not any objective values it does not seem like we have what is necessary for a morality. In other words if there are no value facts what are the truthmakers for moral propositions? Maybe it is the normative facts, but what about the normative facts that depend on value facts? You must be committed to those since you are a consequentialist which forces your deontology to rest entirely on your theory of value.

    It’s not a question of wanting to avoid “objective value facts” – there simply are not and could not be any such facts outside a particular ethical, esthetic or whatever framework of judgement. Moral propositions only have truth values within such a system. I doubt whether I have either a “deontology” or a “theory of value” in your terms, but I’d need you to spell out what you mean by these terms to be sure.

    The truth maker for the aesthetic proposition is the works of each authors and those works bearing varying degrees of aesthetic value.

    This is utterly ridiculous. Suppose we compare George Eliot and Tolstoy, or Titian and van Gogh, or Bach and Mozart. Are you really claiming that there is a right answer to which of each pair is esthetically superior? If so, on what grounds?

    Note though even if we are relativizing it to some certain mathermatical schema, what we have done is added a parameter that determines which mathematical framework a statement is picking out to what is required for a truth-maker for propositions about triangles.

    Indeed – somewhat as we do for ethical frameworks with regard to actions or precepts.

    This statement would then have to be put through some parameter that determines which moral schema we are working with and sometimes the claims will come up true and maybe they will come up false. But this is not what ethicists take themselves to be doing, the consequentialist takes it to be that their position determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.

    I’m a consequentialist and I do not have this weird illusion that my position “determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.” In fact, I’ve said so more than once. But let me take a different tack and see if you can grasp the point. When making a moral decision – say, who I should vote for in an election, or which charity to give money to, or whether to turn someone in to the police for a crime – I try to assess the likely outcomes for other people. But it can often be the case that the short-term and long-term (expected) consequences point in different directions. How should I weigh the two against each other? How should I weigh causing pain to one person (say by refusing them something it is my power to give) against more diffuse benefits for several others? Would it be right to boycott Chinese goods to put pressure on the government over human rights issues, even though this might harm the interests of innocent Chinese workers and their families? Most people are not naive enough to imagine there is an algorithm for determining a right answer in such cases.

    Even if this view is true, what one do we use to understand God’s actions in the world? Why? This is a question that you have continuously neglected to answer. There are further questions, why choose one take on morality in one given context instead of another? How does one go about determining the appropriate uses of each schema? It seems that where it would be easy to answer these questions and that there is an answer to these questions when dealing with geometry, it is not clear how to answer these questions or that there is an answer to these questions when it comes to ethics. This leaves your views on ethics looking as if they are in a state of epistemic wanting.

    Er, no, it’s not a state of “epistemic wanting”, because it is pointless to want what cannot exist – a foundation for morality. We have to use the moral standards and systems we ourselves hold, because there are no universal, objective moral (or esthetic) standards, and there could not be, because of any proposed standard, a critic can always say simply “I do not accept that standard. Here is my alternative.” If we disagree sufficiently, then we will not come to agreement, even if we have complete agreement on the relevant facts about the world. (Parenthetically, you are actually wrong in many cases about mathematics – there is no obvious answer to whether or when we should accept the axiom of choice, for example – but as I said, it is not by any means precisely the same as the ethical and esthetic cases, which are far more similar to each other.) With regard to the problem of evil, we agree (I think), that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong; so the question is, whether the existence and extent of suffering in the world is such that we can conclude that it is implausible that an OOO creator, if there is one, has not done so.

    I raised the point earlier that a completely selfish person, who rejects all moral obligations, cannot be logically obliged to accept any, whatever facts about the world we get them to accept. You clearly think otherwise, so what would be your line of argument? You think (and I deny) there are things called “value facts”, independent of any ethical or esthetic framework, but unless I have missed it (I may have done), you have given no examples. Please do so, or repeat those you have given.

    I do not feel like your contentious assertion has addressed all of my points that I have made against you. And the ones that it seems to address it addresses in a question begging way. Instead of saying what is wrong with my objections to your view, you give me a story of what your view would look like and then say it addresses my objections. Well how does it do this? It seems that it does so by you just reasserting your view. That is textbook question begging. Tackle my objections as they come. Don’t just reassert your view, or tell me a nice story how it works. That doesn’t answer any of my objections. I wrote up a response to your replies to my objections. Even if your story answers (which it probably doesn’t) them you still need to show how. So, do so, at least for the sake of the discussion.

    This is a fine example of your condescending asides. You are not a professor running an undergraduate seminar here, and I have no obligation to argue everything in your style, or on your terms – which are themselves highly contentious, although you present them as if they were not. Your views on “value facts”, for example, are far from the philosophical consensus one might think from the way you present them. Often, I cannot even make sense of your objections, and/or you appear to have missed my point – hence, I try to restate it in different terms.

  80. Knockgoats permalink
    February 24, 2010 5:08 pm

    A couple of clarifications to my last comment (incidentally, it would help if comments on a thread were numbered).

    1) In “With regard to the problem of evil, we agree (I think), that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong; so the question is, whether the existence and extent of suffering in the world is such that we can conclude that it is implausible that an OOO creator, if there is one, has not done so.”, “OOO” shuold be “OO” – clearly, an OOO creator cannot by definition have caused unnecessary suffering.
    2) With regard to the principle of bivalence, it occurs to me you may be distinguishing between statements and propositions – the former picking out classes of natural language utterances with the same sense (So “John kissed Mary” and “Mary was kissed by John” would make the same statement), the latter, abstract objects that divide the class of all possible worlds into two by a precise boundary – those where the proposition is true, and those where it is false. In that case, the principle of bivalence is true by definition, but many statements (and many natural language utterances) do not correspond to a single proposition, or even a well-defined set of propositions (so the move does not help your case as far as I can see). “This statement is false” would, presumably, correspond to no proposition – explaining why it lacks a truth-value, while “I saw a tall man near the park” would correspond to a “fuzzy set” or “rough set” of propositions (how tall? how near?). “Fred’s suffering was worthwhile” would, by my account, correspond to an infinite (and again, probably rough) set of propositions, differing in who was making the judgement, or on what criteria it was made. The case in which it is Fred making the judgement is surely a special case of some kind, even if you want to deny that he is in a privileged position to make such a judgement (and I see why you want to deny it, since it would blow your apologia for God apart).

  81. March 1, 2010 4:05 pm

    KG,

    The problem is, you assume something that I deny to make your point, it’s bad argument style.

    What do you claim I assume which you deny, to make my point? to make such a claim, and fail to specify this, is bad argument style. (As are your constant condescending asides.)

    The point that I am making here is that there is this ethical principle (something about the suffering being made worth it by the judger judging that the state of affairs that is its result makes the action so [or whatever variant of this claim you are making]) that you seem to be making most of your arguments off of, that I don’t only reject I have given plenty of arguments against it. To assume some principle to make these conclusions that you haven’t (1) provided any motivation for me to hold and (2) have either not addressed my arguments against or bitten bullets that I am by no means willing to bite.

    (µ) There is no problem with creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad.

    This I reject completely, like Sean, and if you really meant what you appear to mean, I would indeed consider that there is something very wrong with your moral sense. You might argue that the problem is not an insuperable one, but to say there is no problem is utterly callous.

    Saying ‘no problem’ is not something that should be read in any other sense then we aren’t faced with some question about the goodness of the being in question because of the action. Whether or not we should be sympathetic with the suffering beings is a whole other question. Answering ‘yes’ that we should feel pain for the afflicted party does not entail that we should call the culprits moral character into question. So, the above formulation is hardly callous, since it is not meant to address the other question, and is loose as it is, so should be taken it as a general idea.

    I fail to see how Gods infallibility when it comes to knowing the outcomes of actions and His uncreatedness make it the case that different general moral facts hold true for God than for us. Or how our fallibility and our createdness makes it the case that the moral facts that hold true for us must be different from God’s. It might be the case that God would be in a position to be more blameworthy than us because of His power and knowledge, etc., but this has nothing to do with the need think God must adhere to a different set of moral principles.

    I didn’t say what you think I said. Read it again: “it is not obvious how applying norms across reality as a whole can be done if there is an omnipotent being”. I didn’t say the norms would be different, but that how to apply them to such different cases is not obvious.

    How can it be the case that how the norms apply can be different? Give me a case of this.

    (ß) For any proposition P either P is true or P is false.
    And if your statement is taken at face value you have denied that bivalence holds for any propositions based on claims about whether or not something is worthwhile. This is bad for your position.

    Well in fact, the principle of bivalence does not hold, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with ethics – consider the sorites paradox, the ship of Theseus, and “This proposition is false”, for a start. As for “X is worthwhile”, this has no truth-value until you have specified who is making the judgement, anymore than “He is in prison” has a truth-value until you have specified who you are talking about.

    This really is quite a big bullet to bite. Whether or not those paradoxes are considered to be problems for bivalence or not, nearly nobody uses them as grounds for doing so. Intuitionists rejec the principle but for other reasons, and I am not sure they would think that it fails to apply when given moral truths. The liars paradox is a problem for all of the laws of logic, should we reject the law of non-contradiction too? I think not. Instead of philosophers accepting these paradoxes as reason to reject logical laws they think of them as forcing us to re-examine the way that we assess truth-values. You can reject bivalence if you want, but all that does is convince me that your position isn’t even one worth considering.

    As for your second point about needing a definition for free will

    I didn’t say, or mean, a definition. I meant an explanation of what the person arguing that free will is a good that justifies the evil in the world, means by the term – how it fits into their view of how the physical world works, for example.

    You didn’t say that either, you asked what was meant by free will. I took this to mean provide an account of what free will is i.e. is one a libertarian or compatibilist, etc. I was using the term definition loosely to mean something like this.

    Do you really want to avoid objective value facts? Because if there are not any objective values it does not seem like we have what is necessary for a morality. In other words if there are no value facts what are the truthmakers for moral propositions? Maybe it is the normative facts, but what about the normative facts that depend on value facts? You must be committed to those since you are a consequentialist which forces your deontology to rest entirely on your theory of value.

    It’s not a question of wanting to avoid “objective value facts” – there simply are not and could not be any such facts outside a particular ethical, esthetic or whatever framework of judgement. Moral propositions only have truth values within such a system. I doubt whether I have either a “deontology” or a “theory of value” in your terms, but I’d need you to spell out what you mean by these terms to be sure.

    My point is that if you want moral claims to be true show me how the truthmaking works. It seems like you do accept the existence of these given some of your statements on another post (which I was most pleased to see people put through the intellectual shredder), but they are constructed and not some abstracta like I prefer.
    A theory of value just tells you what kinds of things are good or bring value to the world, and a deontology just tells you what things you ought to do. They are sometimes called an evaluative and normative theory. The former being a descriptive theory about the world and the latter being prescriptive. The question normative ethics try to address is how the former relates to the latter.

    The truth maker for the aesthetic proposition is the works of each authors and those works bearing varying degrees of aesthetic value.

    This is utterly ridiculous. Suppose we compare George Eliot and Tolstoy, or Titian and van Gogh, or Bach and Mozart. Are you really claiming that there is a right answer to which of each pair is esthetically superior? If so, on what grounds?

    There are other ways to assess the truth of these claims, I am not personally committed to one of them but wanted to offer an idea of how an assessment could be made, or what factors into making such a proposition true. Though even if one wanted to take a completely subjective route on aesthetics it hardly follows that we should for ethics.

    Note though even if we are relativizing it to some certain mathermatical schema, what we have done is added a parameter that determines which mathematical framework a statement is picking out to what is required for a truth-maker for propositions about triangles.

    Indeed – somewhat as we do for ethical frameworks with regard to actions or precepts.

    I’m still not sure what reason or motivation we have for this view, how we can understand its application to God, how it even works in the sense of morality.

    This statement would then have to be put through some parameter that determines which moral schema we are working with and sometimes the claims will come up true and maybe they will come up false. But this is not what ethicists take themselves to be doing, the consequentialist takes it to be that their position determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.

    I’m a consequentialist and I do not have this weird illusion that my position “determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.” …

    Look, if you are a consequentialist you think that the rightness and wrongness of actions are determined by the goodness and badness of the consequences, full stop. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, the principle applies universally to all moral agents. So are you a consequentialist or are you not?

    (1) Parsimony also dictates that we should look for a system that has the least amount of moral principles. Or if we have two competing views one which posits one system of ethics the other posits a plurality we, all other things equal, we take the position where only one system is posited.

    (2) “weird illusion”? Give me a break, plenty (probably most) ethicists take one view on ethics and think this applies to all moral agents period, this is hardly indicative of a “weird illusion”.

    When making a moral decision – say, who I should vote for in an election, or which charity to give money to, or whether to turn someone in to the police for a crime – I try to assess the likely outcomes for other people. But it can often be the case that the short-term and long-term (expected) consequences point in different directions. How should I weigh the two against each other? How should I weigh causing pain to one person (say by refusing them something it is my power to give) against more diffuse benefits for several others? Would it be right to boycott Chinese goods to put pressure on the government over human rights issues, even though this might harm the interests of innocent Chinese workers and their families? Most people are not naive enough to imagine there is an algorithm for determining a right answer in such cases.

    Just because you are incapable of coming up with an answer to such questions gives you no warrant to think that there is no right and wrong answers to the questions. This seems to be the line of inference here. Some goods may be equal, some may be of higher quality than others, some may bring more of an amount of a lower quality of good, etc. There is no denying that these questions are tough, but people do have answers to them. Most ethicists do. And what do you mean by there being an algorithm to determine the right answer? Do you mean there is no principle to go by? Then you aren’t a consequentialist, because they do hold that there is a principle to determine what the right action or set of actions is to take. They all hold something roughly like:

    (ç)An action is right or wrong based on whether or not the consequences are good or bad.

    (ç) can be adapted to fit in however the consequentialist works out their theory of value. Note also that a consequence of (ç) is that actions under this view aren’t strictly right and wrong but can be more and less right and wrong.

    Even if this view is true, what one do we use to understand God’s actions in the world? Why? This is a question that you have continuously neglected to answer. There are further questions, why choose one take on morality in one given context instead of another? How does one go about determining the appropriate uses of each schema? It seems that where it would be easy to answer these questions and that there is an answer to these questions when dealing with geometry, it is not clear how to answer these questions or that there is an answer to these questions when it comes to ethics. This leaves your views on ethics looking as if they are in a state of epistemic wanting.

    Er, no, it’s not a state of “epistemic wanting”, because it is pointless to want what cannot exist – a foundation for morality. We have to use the moral standards and systems we ourselves hold, because there are no universal, objective moral (or esthetic) standards, and there could not be, because of any proposed standard, a critic can always say simply “I do not accept that standard. Here is my alternative.” If we disagree sufficiently, then we will not come to agreement, even if we have complete agreement on the relevant facts about the world.

    If you don’t agree about morality, then you don’t agree about all of the relevant facts about the world. Even if you did this does not warrant the conclusion that because you disagree there is not universal objective system, no more than it warrants that there is no objective truth about logic since logicians disagree, or about the location of my car when my girlfriend and I disagree.
    How is it not possible for it to be the case that there cannot be a foundation for morality? You have yet to tell us this. Maybe there is not one but this does not mean that there cannot be one.

    (Parenthetically, you are actually wrong in many cases about mathematics – there is no obvious answer to whether or when we should accept the axiom of choice, for example – but as I said, it is not by any means precisely the same as the ethical and esthetic cases, which are far more similar to each other.)

    Hardly, I made my point about geometry not set theory. And I have the feeling that linguists need the axiom of choice to model linguistic systems. But whether I’m wrong or not about this that is beside the point, because we do have systems for morality that do not force us into a state of epistemic wanting, this is an advantage to those views yours does not have. Even if there isn’t this in mathematics, if it were the case that some system didn’t leave us in this wanting, better for that math then the one that does.

    With regard to the problem of evil, we agree (I think), that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong…
    Does this universally hold?

    I raised the point earlier that a completely selfish person, who rejects all moral obligations, cannot be logically obliged to accept any, whatever facts about the world we get them to accept. You clearly think otherwise, so what would be your line of argument? You think (and I deny) there are things called “value facts”, independent of any ethical or esthetic framework, but unless I have missed it (I may have done), you have given no examples. Please do so, or repeat those you have given.

    I gestured at a way to deal with this problem above. As far as value facts are concerned any sort of fact that ascribes the value of “good” or “bad” to a state of affairs or anything of the like would count.

    This is a fine example of your condescending asides. You are not a professor running an undergraduate seminar here…

    No, I am not a professor nor am I pretending to be. It’s quite strange for you to be accusing me of being condescending, when it seems the majority of your posts have been made with that kind of attitude. I find this quite frustrating. Most of the time I am trying to find out what you are saying, or state some sort of methodological assertion that I think may be helpful to your argument. It is hard not to see this as some sort way to avoid dealing with the points I have made: Make a personal attack on me, point the attention away from the points being discussed and the reasoning going into them so the focus is not the strength of my arguments or objections, but instead on my personal character. It’s a nice trick but it’s all smoke and mirrors.

    …and I have no obligation to argue everything in your style, or on your terms – which are themselves highly contentious, although you present them as if they were not. Your views on “value facts”, for example, are far from the philosophical consensus one might think from the way you present them.

    There are a few views that are popular about morality, none of which seem to jive with your take on it. It’s hard to see if one is not a moral realist how the problem of evil is a problem anymore. If one is a moral realist then one must posit moral facts, its just the way these things work. For an interesting overview on the issues involved, check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    So, are there people who deny the existence of moral facts? Yes, there are anti-realists around but not in the same sense that it seems that you are. You could be a non-cognativist about morality and think that all we are doing when we say that things are good, or bad, or you ought do this and ought not to that, is just expressing some sort of personal approval of that action or state of affairs, etc., or expressing the fact that you like it. ‘Abortion is wrong’ becomes something like ‘abortion booo!’. If you take this view then it seems that there is no problem of evil when a Christian is telling you that God is good what they seem to be saying at that point is ‘God YAY!’ and when you call him malicious or something similar you are saying ‘God BOOO!’. This is a route you could take, but do you really want to?

    So sure there isn’t a consensus on this, but its important to keep in mind what is needed for your argument to fly. No value facts. No argument. There may be another argument to be made: God being all good requires value facts, there are no value facts, therefore God cannot be all good. I’m not sure how plausible this line of reasoning is though.

    But beyond that what other terms are you feeling like I am expecting you to argue on? It seems if I push on something you just bite the bullet and accept the concequences and go on with it. A prime example is your rejecting of bivalence. If you are willing to give up a law of logic for some extremely implausible moral principle, fine, but at that point it seems that the discussion has stopped being a rational one. This is no better than the theist who gives up the law of non-contradiction for omnipotence, or the incarnation.

    If you want to disagree with my methodology propose your own and give a reason why not. Otherwise I don’t see any basis for us to even continue the conversation.

    Often, I cannot even make sense of your objections, and/or you appear to have missed my point – hence, I try to restate it in different terms.

    If you can not make sense of my objections or points then you have the responsibility to (1) ask me to clarify and (2) explain where and why you are confused. I can’t know when you are confused, so if you want clarification ask me. And if you think I missed the point a similar thing applies (1) say you think I did, and (2) tell me why you think I missed the point. Otherwise I can’t have any idea that I am continuing on a faulty understanding of your thoughts.

    In “With regard to the problem of evil, we agree (I think), that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong; so the question is, whether the existence and extent of suffering in the world is such that we can conclude that it is implausible that an OOO creator, if there is one, has not done so.”, “OOO” shuold be “OO” – clearly, an OOO creator cannot by definition have caused unnecessary suffering.

    I am not entirely sure of whether or not I agree that causing unnecessary suffering is always wrong. Especially if one is a proximal and not immediate cause of this suffering. But, I have no problem conceding this for the sake of argument and especially holding it true in the case of God. And yes that does seem to be one of the major concerns, I can’t think of others off of the top of my head, but as we continue to deal with the problem I’m we will deal with them.

    With regard to the principle of bivalence, it occurs to me you may be distinguishing between statements and propositions – the former picking out classes of natural language utterances with the same sense (So “John kissed Mary” and “Mary was kissed by John” would make the same statement), the latter, abstract objects that divide the class of all possible worlds into two by a precise boundary – those where the proposition is true, and those where it is false. In that case, the principle of bivalence is true by definition, but many statements (and many natural language utterances) do not correspond to a single proposition, or even a well-defined set of propositions (so the move does not help your case as far as I can see). “This statement is false” would, presumably, correspond to no proposition – explaining why it lacks a truth-value, while “I saw a tall man near the park” would correspond to a “fuzzy set” or “rough set” of propositions (how tall? how near?). “Fred’s suffering was worthwhile” would, by my account, correspond to an infinite (and again, probably rough) set of propositions, differing in who was making the judgement, or on what criteria it was made. The case in which it is Fred making the judgement is surely a special case of some kind, even if you want to deny that he is in a privileged position to make such a judgement…

    Do you mean I was conflating statements and propositions? I may have been ambiguous, but I doubt I conflated the two. There are several ways to understand this, and the way I was taught is that the term ‘statement’ is ambiguous between ‘sentence’ and ‘proposition’.

    I am not entirely sure how your picture here of semantics works out, since I found some parts of your description (and use of it) confusing, but here is a rough outline of two views that seem to be relatively popular:

    (1) Statement is ambiguous between proposition and sentence. Sentences are groups of utterances or writings, etc. in natural language. There is a distinction between types and tokens there is the general sentence “I am here now” considered as the common feature between all utterances, etc. of this same kind when you say this sentence it is the same type as when I say it, but the tokens are different. The tokens each correspond to an individual proposition, which is the content of the sentence, these divide possible world up to true and false by whether or not the content of this proposition matches them.

    (2) Sentences are the same as above except individual sentence types correspond to a statement. A statement is the content of the sentence for example these three sentences all make the same statement:

    I am warm. (Said by X)

    You are warm. (Said by Y to X)

    He is warm. (Said by Z to Y about X)

    Then propositions pick out the ‘reference’ of the statement, which is either the true or the false. You could take this to be a function from statements to worlds or something else along similar lines.
    Dealing with (1) and (2) as far as those paradoxes are concerned is a different story. One way to deal with the liar paradox is to think that our languages don’t have what is called ‘semantic closure’, meaning that for any given language it does not assess the truth-value of sentences made within that language but has to step up to a meta-language to make these assessments. As far as the sorites paradox and the others there are other ways to deal with these supervaluationism is one. But I do not want to go into solving these paradoxes since they are not relevant to the discussion at hand. I am sure there are similar treatments to yours, but I am unclear on what something like a ‘fuzzy’ set would be.

    Okay, all that said, how does your view violate bivalence (it seems the above discussion is unimportant)? You seem hold that it is true a given consequence makes an occurrence of suffering worthwhile or not IFF the judger judges that the consequences have made the suffering worthwhile. Now there are cases where the suffering where the judger may not ever make such a judgment, given the above bi-conditional. In these worlds the proposition corresponding to propositions about a persons suffering being made worthwhile neither divide these worlds into ones in which the proposition is true or false.

    (and I see why you want to deny it, since it would blow your apologia for God apart).

    This accusation can go both ways. I have found it hard to think that you have any reason for holding the view you do other than you think it makes your argument go through. I reject it because it just seems to be completely ridiculous to me and falls prey to many counter-examples, some of which I have given above. But it hardly blows my ‘apologia’ apart. God very well could have created a world with any intense amount of suffering so that the beings in that world would receive a can of old beings for it and they would become aware of all of the relevant facts about their suffering and what all of the consequences would be but still all judge that the suffering was made worthwhile. And from what I can tell about your view this is sufficient to make their suffering count as being worthwhile (another weird consequence of such a view). So why think that we won’t all when time comes to a halt (so to speak) judge that our suffering was made worthwhile? It hardly seems like this is all too tough of a task for God to do. And why think that we have the ability to discern now that we will or won’t make such a judgment? It doesn’t seem that we have this ability.

  82. March 1, 2010 4:15 pm

    Sean,

    I don’t feel I have “standards” so much as “definitions” by which P is just benevolent verses being omnibenevolent. My understanding of what benevolent means, and what I’ve just confirmed by a dictionary, is the quality of goodness in something or someone. Specifically Merriam-Websters puts it: “marked by or disposed to doing good”, which I agree with. So in “creating” the human with intentions of doing harm to the human, I think that P, by definition, is not being benevolent to the human (albeit P may arguably have an incommensurable benevolent reason for not being benevolent to the human). Additionally, I understand “omni” as all-encompassing. Merriam-Websters puts it: “all : universally”, which I agree with. Therefore I understand omnibenevolent as one that is entirely benevolent. I have already explained why I think P is not being benevolent to the human, therefore, again by definition, P is not omnibenevolent.

    It’s important to note that there is a distinction to be made here in God creating a world He knows that a certain amount of suffering will occur, but it is still possible that he does not inflict or intend to inflict the suffering on the victims involved.

    I appreciate you reminding me of this point. I feel that my qualm exists whether or not my emphasis is added. I specifically added the emphasis as I feel it tied together the discussion that has been continuing with you and KG, while also adding more “thrust” to why I disagree with µ being true.

    Sorry I think I may have been unclear. You are right that the emphasis given does not change the value µ but what I am saying is there are other principles similar to µ that you may find less unattractive that help solve the problem. So what my claim was is that there are a variety of principles similar to the general one stated by µ and that µ was just supposed to identify the members of that set of principles that are similar to µ.

  83. Andrew permalink
    March 1, 2010 5:24 pm

    He knows that a certain amount of suffering will occur, but it is still possible that he does not inflict or intend to inflict the suffering on the victims involved.

    Is it even possible for an omniscient being to do something unintentionally?

  84. March 1, 2010 7:14 pm

    Andrew,

    It does not seem possible for an omniscient being to do anything unintentionally. But the point I was making is that though the world with suffering in it was made by God the inflicting of the suffering was not. Although there was an intention to create a world where there is suffering, God is not the one intending to afflict it. There is a distinction to be made there that I thought Sean was not making.

  85. March 1, 2010 8:46 pm

    If everybody is ready to move on to the next part of this topic I can post some stuff on (c) which states:

    (C) The theists reply to the problem of evil must show that no other option for God was of any greater moral worth.

    We will discuss whether or not this is a good requirement for a reply or not. Then theodicies and defenses.

  86. Knockgoats permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:25 pm

    Cruz,

    I’ve removed some of what seems to me unimportant from what follows, to keep its length down. Anything at “top level” is mine, anything at the next level down is yours, etc.:

    The point that I am making here is that there is this ethical principle (something about the suffering being made worth it by the judger judging that the state of affairs that is its result makes the action so [or whatever variant of this claim you are making]) that you seem to be making most of your arguments off of, that I don’t only reject I have given plenty of arguments against it. To assume some principle to make these conclusions that you haven’t (1) provided any motivation for me to hold and (2) have either not addressed my arguments against or bitten bullets that I am by no means willing to bite.

    Here’s what I originally said on this matter, in my first post on this thread:
    “for an omnipotent being, contemplating whether or not to create the universe… All evil can be avoided simply by not doing so, so the only justification for creating a universe that will contain evil, would be that some good is thereby obtained, sufficient to justify every single bit of the evil. But, sufficient to justify it from whose point of view? Surely, it must be from the point of view of each and every one of those suffering the evil.”

    Now implicit in this is was intended to be my view that “X is worthwhile”, without further specification, does not have a truth-value – it does not, if you like to put it that way, pick out a single proposition. It must be specified who is making the judgement, or on what criteria it is being made, for a proposition, or sufficiently narrow range of propositions, to be picked out to give it a truth-value. In something like the same way, “Pickled herring is good to eat” is incomplete, without specifying who is making the judgement, or what criteria are being used (e.g. that most Dutch people like it, or that it’s nutritious).

    (µ) There is no problem with creating something that will suffer so long as the good that comes of it outweighs the bad.

    This I reject completely, like Sean, and if you really meant what you appear to mean, I would indeed consider that there is something very wrong with your moral sense. You might argue that the problem is not an insuperable one, but to say there is no problem is utterly callous.

    Saying ‘no problem’ is not something that should be read in any other sense then we aren’t faced with some question about the goodness of the being in question because of the action. Whether or not we should be sympathetic with the suffering beings is a whole other question. Answering ‘yes’ that we should feel pain for the afflicted party does not entail that we should call the culprits moral character into question. So, the above formulation is hardly callous, since it is not meant to address the other question, and is loose as it is, so should be taken it as a general idea.

    I accept your reading as the one you intended, but disagree. It does call the culprit’s moral character into question, although the question remains to be answered. If we accept your view, it would seem to follow that no amount and intensity of suffering for those created would “call the culprit’s moral character into question”. If that’s your view, then I can indeed only view you as an utterly callous psychopath.

    I fail to see how Gods infallibility when it comes to knowing the outcomes of actions and His uncreatedness make it the case that different general moral facts hold true for God than for us. Or how our fallibility and our createdness makes it the case that the moral facts that hold true for us must be different from God’s. It might be the case that God would be in a position to be more blameworthy than us because of His power and knowledge, etc., but this has nothing to do with the need think God must adhere to a different set of moral principles.

    I didn’t say what you think I said. Read it again: “it is not obvious how applying norms across reality as a whole can be done if there is an omnipotent being”. I didn’t say the norms would be different, but that how to apply them to such different cases is not obvious.

    How can it be the case that how the norms apply can be different? Give me a case of this.

    When we judge an agent’s actions, we generally take account of their capabilities. If a young child hits another without provocation, we judge this as wrong, but we do not judge the child as harshly as we would a fully competent adult. Similarly, English law allows a plea of “manslaughter due to diminished responsibility” to a charge of murder, which someone with psychiatric problems may make. Again, we may judge that someone able to swim should have plunged in to save a drowning person, while someone who cannot swim has no such obligation.

    (ß) For any proposition P either P is true or P is false.
    And if your statement is taken at face value you have denied that bivalence holds for any propositions based on claims about whether or not something is worthwhile. This is bad for your position.

    Well in fact, the principle of bivalence does not hold, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with ethics – consider the sorites paradox, the ship of Theseus, and “This proposition is false”, for a start. As for “X is worthwhile”, this has no truth-value until you have specified who is making the judgement, anymore than “He is in prison” has a truth-value until you have specified who you are talking about.

    This really is quite a big bullet to bite. Whether or not those paradoxes are considered to be problems for bivalence or not, nearly nobody uses them as grounds for doing so. Intuitionists rejec the principle but for other reasons, and I am not sure they would think that it fails to apply when given moral truths. The liars paradox is a problem for all of the laws of logic, should we reject the law of non-contradiction too? I think not. Instead of philosophers accepting these paradoxes as reason to reject logical laws they think of them as forcing us to re-examine the way that we assess truth-values. You can reject bivalence if you want, but all that does is convince me that your position isn’t even one worth considering.

    Well first, see my first new response in this comment, repeated above: I deny that “X is worthwhile” picks out a proposition (something that has a truth-value) at all, without further specification of who is judging or what the criteria of judgement are.

    Second, there are a number of fallacies and errors in your response. (A) You seem to be implicitly using either the argument from authority or the argument ad populum (I’m not sure which) in your second sentence. Even if no-one used these paradoxes as grounds for rejecting the principle of bivalence, that would not show that they could not be so used. (B) At least according to wikipedia, “Such puzzles as the Sorites paradox have raised doubt as to the applicability of classical logic and the principle of bivalence to concepts that may be vague in their application.” (C) The liar’s paradox has no relevance to the law of non-contradiction, so your mention of the latter is otiose. (D) Again according to wikipedia: “Kripke proposes a solution in the following manner. If a statement’s truth value is ultimately tied up in some evaluable fact about the world, that statement is “grounded”. If not, that statement is “ungrounded”. Ungrounded statements do not have a truth value. Liar statements and liar-like statements are ungrounded, and therefore have no truth value.” (E) That rejection of bivalence convinces you that a position is not worth considering is not an argument: this is the “argument from personal incredulity”, which you are very prone to use.

    I return to this matter below, when discussing statements and propositions.

    Do you really want to avoid objective value facts? Because if there are not any objective values it does not seem like we have what is necessary for a morality. In other words if there are no value facts what are the truthmakers for moral propositions? Maybe it is the normative facts, but what about the normative facts that depend on value facts? You must be committed to those since you are a consequentialist which forces your deontology to rest entirely on your theory of value.

    It’s not a question of wanting to avoid “objective value facts” – there simply are not and could not be any such facts outside a particular ethical, esthetic or whatever framework of judgement. Moral propositions only have truth values within such a system. I doubt whether I have either a “deontology” or a “theory of value” in your terms, but I’d need you to spell out what you mean by these terms to be sure.

    My point is that if you want moral claims to be true show me how the truthmaking works. It seems like you do accept the existence of these given some of your statements on another post (which I was most pleased to see people put through the intellectual shredder), but they are constructed and not some abstracta like I prefer.
    A theory of value just tells you what kinds of things are good or bring value to the world, and a deontology just tells you what things you ought to do. They are sometimes called an evaluative and normative theory. The former being a descriptive theory about the world and the latter being prescriptive. The question normative ethics try to address is how the former relates to the latter.

    First, if you are going to refer to things I have said elsewhere, particularly if you are going to sneer at them, have the courtesy to identify them so I can check whether I agree with your interpretation. I don’t have either a theory of value or a deontology in your terms, if I understand you correctly: that is, if a “theory of value” purports to specify what is of value without specifying to whom or for what it is valuable, and if a “deontology” purports to provide an answer to every possible moral question.

    The truth maker for the aesthetic proposition is the works of each authors and those works bearing varying degrees of aesthetic value.

    This is utterly ridiculous. Suppose we compare George Eliot and Tolstoy, or Titian and van Gogh, or Bach and Mozart. Are you really claiming that there is a right answer to which of each pair is esthetically superior? If so, on what grounds?

    There are other ways to assess the truth of these claims, I am not personally committed to one of them but wanted to offer an idea of how an assessment could be made, or what factors into making such a proposition true. Though even if one wanted to take a completely subjective route on aesthetics it hardly follows that we should for ethics.

    You offered no idea whatever how an assessment could be made, or what factors would make such a proposition true, any more than referring to opium’s “dormative power” explains why it sends people to sleep. I do not take “a completely subjective route” on either esthetics or ethics. Rather, both esthetic and ethical judgments can be rationally criticised, either on the gounds of logical inconsistency (it cannot be the case that George Eliot is a better novelist than Conrad, Conrad than Dickens, and Dickens than Eliot, if we are using the same criteria for all three judgements), or on the grounds that relevant factors have been wrongly assessed, or not taken into account at all (I’ll come back to this). But I contend that nor is there an objective fact of the matter, without specifying who is making the judgment, or what criteria are being used. What sort of “fact” would this be? Necessary or contingent? Empirically discoverable or not? Simply to assert that there are such facts, without giving any idea how we might discover them (or if we can’t, why not, and why we should care about them) is on the same level as me asserting that there is an invisible and intangible dragon in my garage. You can’t prove there isn’t, but you have no reason at all to take me seriously.

    Now suppose two literary critics disagree on their relative evaluation of Eliot and Conrad. One way for them to try and reach agreement is to start by identifying what they look for in a great novelist. They may find they differ, at least in ranking their criteria, in which case they may come to partial agreement that (say) Eliot gives greater depth to her characters, while Conrad brings out moral dilemmas more clearly, while still disagreeing about who is the better novelist. Alternatively, they may disagree about (say) which gives greater depth to their characters. It is still possible that one will persuade the other, by pointing out aspects of the development of character in one writer’s novels that the other had not, until then, appreciated. So it is simply not the case that the only options are objective “value facts” on the one hand, and complete subjectivity on the other. A precisely parallel case can be constructed in ethics: ethical judgments, just like esthetic ones, can be rationally criticised and argued over, without any assumption that there are “objective value facts” that justify them.

    Note though even if we are relativizing it to some certain mathermatical schema, what we have done is added a parameter that determines which mathematical framework a statement is picking out to what is required for a truth-maker for propositions about triangles.

    Indeed – somewhat as we do for ethical frameworks with regard to actions or precepts.

    I’m still not sure what reason or motivation we have for this view, how we can understand its application to God, how it even works in the sense of morality.

    See above for the first and third points. For the second, once the criteria of judgement are specfied, we can at least try to apply them to God. We may find that there are problems with applying them – that we won’t, cannot be guaranteed in advance. If two or more of us are involved, we may find we can’t agree on the criteria at all, or can only do so partially.

    This statement would then have to be put through some parameter that determines which moral schema we are working with and sometimes the claims will come up true and maybe they will come up false. But this is not what ethicists take themselves to be doing, the consequentialist takes it to be that their position determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.

    I’m a consequentialist and I do not have this weird illusion that my position “determines for all morally relevant things an exhaustive account of how they should act in each in an absolute sense not just relative to their framework.” …

    Look, if you are a consequentialist you think that the rightness and wrongness of actions are determined by the goodness and badness of the consequences, full stop. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, the principle applies universally to all moral agents. So are you a consequentialist or are you not?

    There are of course numerous variants of consequentialism, and your statement above is therefore just silly: I’d be a consequentialist in some senses, and not in others, including the one you give. I am a consequentialist in the sense that I judge the rightness and wrongness of actions by their consequences, as far as these are reasonably predictable by the agent(s) concerned. However, I don’t suppose (see above) that these consequences have an objective “goodness” or “badness”, nor do I have an algorithm that can assign an order of preference to any set of possible consequences whatever; but once again, I can rationally argue, both with myself and with others, about which possible consequences are to be preferred.

    (1) Parsimony also dictates that we should look for a system that has the least amount of moral principles. Or if we have two competing views one which posits one system of ethics the other posits a plurality we, all other things equal, we take the position where only one system is posited.

    What grounds are there for asserting that parsimony is relevant here? It is your view that ethics should be based on some small set of principles that, among other things, I am contesting. Most people (as opposed to “ethicists”), do not approach moral judgements this way at all, nor is there any reason why they should. Rather, they start from the concrete, specific choices they are faced with and generalise and systematise later, if at all. See the thread on this blog, but copy-pasting from Steve Lutz’s blog, for more on how I see the real-world formation of ethical judgments.

    (2) “weird illusion”? Give me a break, plenty (probably most) ethicists take one view on ethics and think this applies to all moral agents period, this is hardly indicative of a “weird illusion”.

    Everyone suffers from weird illusions: the psychology of perception is full of them.

    When making a moral decision – say, who I should vote for in an election, or which charity to give money to, or whether to turn someone in to the police for a crime – I try to assess the likely outcomes for other people. But it can often be the case that the short-term and long-term (expected) consequences point in different directions. How should I weigh the two against each other? How should I weigh causing pain to one person (say by refusing them something it is my power to give) against more diffuse benefits for several others? Would it be right to boycott Chinese goods to put pressure on the government over human rights issues, even though this might harm the interests of innocent Chinese workers and their families? Most people are not naive enough to imagine there is an algorithm for determining a right answer in such cases.

    Just because you are incapable of coming up with an answer to such questions gives you no warrant to think that there is no right and wrong answers to the questions. This seems to be the line of inference here. Some goods may be equal, some may be of higher quality than others, some may bring more of an amount of a lower quality of good, etc. There is no denying that these questions are tough, but people do have answers to them. Most ethicists do.

    Isn’t it odd that they so often come up with different answers, though? My warrant for thinking there are no right or wrong answers (without a specific set of criteria) is that neither you, nor AFAIK anyone else, has been able to characterise these alleged objective answers in any way – all you have is bluster and arguments from authority or ad populum. I can as well say that just because you are unable to detect the invisible, intangible dragon in my garage doesn’t give you warrant to say it’s not there. You claim that these ghostly entities exist: let’s see some putative examples.

    And what do you mean by there being an algorithm to determine the right answer? Do you mean there is no principle to go by? Then you aren’t a consequentialist, because they do hold that there is a principle to determine what the right action or set of actions is to take. They all hold something roughly like:

    (ç)An action is right or wrong based on whether or not the consequences are good or bad.

    (ç) can be adapted to fit in however the consequentialist works out their theory of value. Note also that a consequence of (ç) is that actions under this view aren’t strictly right and wrong but can be more and less right and wrong.

    Even if this view is true, what one do we use to understand God’s actions in the world? Why? This is a question that you have continuously neglected to answer. There are further questions, why choose one take on morality in one given context instead of another? How does one go about determining the appropriate uses of each schema? It seems that where it would be easy to answer these questions and that there is an answer to these questions when dealing with geometry, it is not clear how to answer these questions or that there is an answer to these questions when it comes to ethics. This leaves your views on ethics looking as if they are in a state of epistemic wanting.

    I suggested that we apply the criterion that an omnibenevolent being would not cause unnecessary suffering. I can’t logically oblige you to accept this criterion; I can and will say that if God exists and does cause unnecessary suffering, I judge him as fundamentally morally flawed and hence unworthy of respect. I also judge anyone who worships a God they believe causes unnecessary suffering in the same way.

    Er, no, it’s not a state of “epistemic wanting”, because it is pointless to want what cannot exist – a foundation for morality. We have to use the moral standards and systems we ourselves hold, because there are no universal, objective moral (or esthetic) standards, and there could not be, because of any proposed standard, a critic can always say simply “I do not accept that standard. Here is my alternative.” If we disagree sufficiently, then we will not come to agreement, even if we have complete agreement on the relevant facts about the world.

    If you don’t agree about morality, then you don’t agree about all of the relevant facts about the world. Even if you did this does not warrant the conclusion that because you disagree there is not universal objective system, no more than it warrants that there is no objective truth about logic since logicians disagree, or about the location of my car when my girlfriend and I disagree.
    How is it not possible for it to be the case that there cannot be a foundation for morality? You have yet to tell us this. Maybe there is not one but this does not mean that there cannot be one.

    Morality does not consist of facts about the world, but if you prefer the formulation, then say “all the relevant non-normative or evaluative facts”. I have explained why I hold that there can be no foundation for morality, you just appear unable or unwilling to understand the point. Let me try just once more. Whatever such foundation is proposed, anyone confronted with it is at liberty to say: “No, I disagree that this provides an adequate basis for morality. I do not accept that X is supremely valuable; I consider that Y is more important.”, or even “Moral judgements are just meaningless noise; I shall do whatever I choose without regard to others.”; and the proponent of the alleged foundation of morality has no way of showing that they are mistaken, as they do (at least in principle) with regard to logical contradictions, or false statements about the natural world.

    (Parenthetically, you are actually wrong in many cases about mathematics – there is no obvious answer to whether or when we should accept the axiom of choice, for example – but as I said, it is not by any means precisely the same as the ethical and esthetic cases, which are far more similar to each other.)

    Hardly, I made my point about geometry not set theory. And I have the feeling that linguists need the axiom of choice to model linguistic systems. But whether I’m wrong or not about this that is beside the point, because we do have systems for morality that do not force us into a state of epistemic wanting, this is an advantage to those views yours does not have.

    No, we don’t. See above.

    Even if there isn’t this in mathematics, if it were the case that some system didn’t leave us in this wanting, better for that math then the one that does.

    Right, and four-sided triangles would be so much better than three-sided ones. Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem can be stated as:
    “For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths and also certain truths about formal provability, T includes a statement of its own consistency if and only if T is inconsistent.”

    With regard to the problem of evil, we agree (I think), that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong…

    Does this universally hold?

    I was proposing it as a point on which we could agree. Obviously, one who rejects all morality, and perhaps others, would not accept it.

    I raised the point earlier that a completely selfish person, who rejects all moral obligations, cannot be logically obliged to accept any, whatever facts about the world we get them to accept. You clearly think otherwise, so what would be your line of argument? You think (and I deny) there are things called “value facts”, independent of any ethical or esthetic framework, but unless I have missed it (I may have done), you have given no examples. Please do so, or repeat those you have given.

    I gestured at a way to deal with this problem above. As far as value facts are concerned any sort of fact that ascribes the value of “good” or “bad” to a state of affairs or anything of the like would count.

    Since you have not established that there are such things as “value facts” independent of some specific judge or set of criteria, your “gesture” is worthless.

    This is a fine example of your condescending asides. You are not a professor running an undergraduate seminar here…

    No, I am not a professor nor am I pretending to be. It’s quite strange for you to be accusing me of being condescending, when it seems the majority of your posts have been made with that kind of attitude. I find this quite frustrating. Most of the time I am trying to find out what you are saying, or state some sort of methodological assertion that I think may be helpful to your argument. It is hard not to see this as some sort way to avoid dealing with the points I have made: Make a personal attack on me, point the attention away from the points being discussed and the reasoning going into them so the focus is not the strength of my arguments or objections, but instead on my personal character. It’s a nice trick but it’s all smoke and mirrors.

    My remark was in response to what appeared to me an exceptionally condescending aside of yours. Often you try to claim that certain points are beyond dispute, where a cursory knowledge of the literature shows they are not. I have given examples above.

    …and I have no obligation to argue everything in your style, or on your terms – which are themselves highly contentious, although you present them as if they were not. Your views on “value facts”, for example, are far from the philosophical consensus one might think from the way you present them.

    There are a few views that are popular about morality, none of which seem to jive with your take on it. It’s hard to see if one is not a moral realist how the problem of evil is a problem anymore. If one is a moral realist then one must posit moral facts, its just the way these things work. For an interesting overview on the issues involved, check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    So, are there people who deny the existence of moral facts? Yes, there are anti-realists around but not in the same sense that it seems that you are. You could be a non-cognativist about morality and think that all we are doing when we say that things are good, or bad, or you ought do this and ought not to that, is just expressing some sort of personal approval of that action or state of affairs, etc., or expressing the fact that you like it. ‘Abortion is wrong’ becomes something like ‘abortion booo!’. If you take this view then it seems that there is no problem of evil when a Christian is telling you that God is good what they seem to be saying at that point is ‘God YAY!’ and when you call him malicious or something similar you are saying ‘God BOOO!’. This is a route you could take, but do you really want to?

    So sure there isn’t a consensus on this, but its important to keep in mind what is needed for your argument to fly. No value facts. No argument. There may be another argument to be made: God being all good requires value facts, there are no value facts, therefore God cannot be all good. I’m not sure how plausible this line of reasoning is though.

    Whether my views are classifiable as “moral realist” or “moral anti-realist”, and whether others hold them, have no relevance to their validity or otherwise. I will repeat yet once more that I view such utterances as “Abortion is wrong” as having no truth-value, without a specific set of criteria of what is meant by “wrong”. Once such criteria are specified (and the specification need not be complete, i.e. need not classify every possible act as either right or wrong), then that utterance can be assigned a truth-value.

    But beyond that what other terms are you feeling like I am expecting you to argue on? It seems if I push on something you just bite the bullet and accept the concequences and go on with it. A prime example is your rejecting of bivalence. If you are willing to give up a law of logic for some extremely implausible moral principle, fine, but at that point it seems that the discussion has stopped being a rational one. This is no better than the theist who gives up the law of non-contradiction for omnipotence, or the incarnation.

    On the contrary, it is you who are being irrational. As I showed above, the paradoxes I pointed out are considered by many to show that the principle of bivalence is at best problematic, your claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

    If you want to disagree with my methodology propose your own and give a reason why not. Otherwise I don’t see any basis for us to even continue the conversation.

    I suggest you stop trying to force my views into the narrow range of those you consider philosophically respectable, stop laying out reams of things I “might have meant” (if you don’t know what I meant, just ask) and stop making contentious claims while pretending they are universally accepted.

    Do you mean I was conflating statements and propositions? I may have been ambiguous, but I doubt I conflated the two. There are several ways to understand this, and the way I was taught is that the term ‘statement’ is ambiguous between ‘sentence’ and ‘proposition’..

    I am not entirely sure how your picture here of semantics works out, since I found some parts of your description (and use of it) confusing, but here is a rough outline of two views that seem to be relatively popular:

    There does not seem to be a generally agreed terminology, so what’s important is that we try and find one we can both use. Your (2) below will do, in which case I am saying that some (indeed, most) statements do not pick out a single proposition, and these statements include moral judgements.

    (2) Sentences are the same as above except individual sentence types correspond to a statement. A statement is the content of the sentence for example these three sentences all make the same statement:

    I am warm. (Said by X)

    You are warm. (Said by Y to X)

    He is warm. (Said by Z to Y about X)

    Then propositions pick out the ‘reference’ of the statement, which is either the true or the false. You could take this to be a function from statements to worlds or something else along similar lines.
    Dealing with (1) and (2) as far as those paradoxes are concerned is a different story. One way to deal with the liar paradox is to think that our languages don’t have what is called ‘semantic closure’, meaning that for any given language it does not assess the truth-value of sentences made within that language but has to step up to a meta-language to make these assessments. As far as the sorites paradox and the others there are other ways to deal with these supervaluationism is one. But I do not want to go into solving these paradoxes since they are not relevant to the discussion at hand. I am sure there are similar treatments to yours, but I am unclear on what something like a ‘fuzzy’ set would be.

    As I’ve shown above, it is by no means the consensus view that these approaches save the principle of bivalence.

    Okay, all that said, how does your view violate bivalence (it seems the above discussion is unimportant)? You seem hold that it is true a given consequence makes an occurrence of suffering worthwhile or not IFF the judger judges that the consequences have made the suffering worthwhile. Now there are cases where the suffering where the judger may not ever make such a judgment, given the above bi-conditional. In these worlds the proposition corresponding to propositions about a persons suffering being made worthwhile neither divide these worlds into ones in which the proposition is true or false.

    No, that’s not what I’ve been saying, but as I say, perhaps I have not been clear. What I’m saying is:
    (1) “X is worthwhile” does not pick out a single proposition, hence does not have a truth-value outside some specified frame of reference.
    (2) However, in the case of “Being B’s suffering was worthwhile”, B is in a unique position to make that judgement – being the one who has actually suffered. Specifically, all other judges should pay particular respect to B’s judgement, and should give it more weight in coming to their own judgement than that of any other judge, particularly if that other judge is responsible for the suffering.

    I have found it hard to think that you have any reason for holding the view you do other than you think it makes your argument go through.

    My reason is a judgement that it is morally problematic to cause suffering, even in pursuit of some good end; and that those to whom you cause suffering should at least have their judgment of the matter taken seriously – and no, “sympathy” doesn’t suffice: an acknowledgement that they have been wronged is the least that is required. So the innocent victims of the Allies’ bombs in world War II were wronged, even though it can reasonably be argued that the bombing was morally justified as a whole. As I’ve said before, as non-omnipotent beings, we may be obliged to create victims, to wrong others; an omnipotent creator is not, having had the option of not creating.

    I reject it because it just seems to be completely ridiculous to me and falls prey to many counter-examples, some of which I have given above. But it hardly blows my ‘apologia’ apart. God very well could have created a world with any intense amount of suffering so that the beings in that world would receive a can of old beings for it and they would become aware of all of the relevant facts about their suffering and what all of the consequences would be but still all judge that the suffering was made worthwhile.

    I question what “judging” could mean in such a world, but if you are right, this would clearly have been a better world than that of doctrinally orthodox Christianity, where non-human animals suffer without recompense, and according to most, many humans suffer infinitely and do not judge this worthwhile; hence God would be evil if your postulated world is indeed possible.

    And from what I can tell about your view this is sufficient to make their suffering count as being worthwhile (another weird consequence of such a view).

    No, only a consequence of your misunderstanding of my view, which may have resulted from my failure to be clear enough. If you wish to continue this argument, please address the views set out in this comment, and regard them as superceding all earlier statements.

    So why think that we won’t all when time comes to a halt (so to speak) judge that our suffering was made worthwhile? It hardly seems like this is all too tough of a task for God to do. And why think that we have the ability to discern now that we will or won’t make such a judgment? It doesn’t seem that we have this ability.

    It would still remain to show that the suffering involved was necessary: even if something is judged worthwhile, one can still judge (with knowledge of all the alternatives, and without external interference to force a particular “judgement”) that something else would have been better. However, an apokatastatic view certainly makes a much better case in God’s defence than doctrinally orthodox Christianity.

  87. Sean permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:17 am

    Cruz,

    I see you have a mammoth of a reply to make to KG, so certainly focus your efforts on that. However when you have the chance:

    It’s important to note that there is a distinction to be made here in God creating a world He knows that a certain amount of suffering will occur, but it is still possible that he does not inflict or intend to inflict the suffering on the victims involved.

    I have a really difficult time not seeing a contradiction in a OOO creator God not inflicting or not intending to inflict suffering, yet suffering existing.

    If we take my example back one further step. Keeping everything else the same, but first: OOO being Q creates being P. So now we have being Q with full knowledge of what creating P will cause: namely, the creation of a human with prime purpose of organ harvesting. I accept that Q does not personally inflict the suffering, it is P that inflicts the suffering (or whatever surgeons remove the organs from the human). However, does Q’s not personally inflicting the suffering on the human make Q “not responsible” for sharing at least part of the malevolence? I think that on this question you may be able to convince me into accepting the answer “yes, Q is not responsible for sharing the malevolence of P’s actions”, however at this point in time I reject that answer based on Q’s omnipotence/omniscience.

    I’ll explain by example: An engineer has done nothing but good their entire existence and is in the process of creating an AI for a self-replicating robot, as well as a planet-sized arena the robot will exist in. As the developer of the AI, the engineer knows fully well the capabilities and limitations of this robot (in this sense, I feel I have sufficiently defined the engineer as omniscient with respect to the capabilities of the robot). In understanding the software, the engineer is also fully knowledgeable that some generations into the robot’s self-replicating procedure, there will be a robot that will destroy the majority of robots on the planet-sized arena through torturous robot mutilation; this is something the engineer does not intend. (Granting you the idea of incommensurable goods) However, the engineer also knows that through this multitude of robot destruction, there will rise some incommensurable good (maybe via the SaveTheArenaAfterTorturousDeath software package the engineer programmed into the AI). Armed with this knowledge, the engineer has the power to flip the switch and turn on their first-ever AI robot, or keep the switch in the off position.

    Let’s say the engineer flips the switch on. Now I have issues:
    1) How can we say the engineer “did not intend” for the multitudes of torturous robot-deaths some generations down the line of the self-replicating procedure? The engineer had full knowledge that A) a robot would go on to destroy half of the robots and B) flipped the switch knowing A. I feel this is a self-evident contradiction in the engineer’s benevolence. Would this not be equivalent to person X not intending malevolence on person Y and having full knowledge that shooting Y would kill them (and for incommensurable good purposes) causing Y’s testament to come into effect where Y’s fortunes would go onto eliminating world hunger, and yet shooting Y anyway? I don’t think the example of X and Y requires X to create person A to carry out the deed of killing Y or not, as the full knowledge of inflicted malevolence is the same.

    2) Going off of what KG has touched on several times already: by not flipping the switch, the engineer retains their goodness and all of existence will continue to be good. By flipping the switch, the engineer is evidently introducing malevolence into existence (I use the word “evidently” in the sense of “obviously”; that now there will be evidence by the robot’s actions that malevolence now exists apart from the engineer’s existence). I recognize that now I am about to enter the realms of philosophy for which I have no training and in which I plan to have my ass readily handed to me ( 😛 ), but I don’t know how I feel about the idea that malevolence could be “created”, or just “come into existence”. I feel biased to the idea that there is no objective morality, and that only our relative judgments can decide on the malevolence/benevolence of actions. Regardless, I do feel at this time that the engineer’s actions to knowingly introduce malevolence into existence is, in-and-of-itself, a malevolent action. I think if that statement is unreasonable, that that would be incredibly important point to break me at.

    Until that time, I’d like to re-quote myself from an earlier post, which I do not feel anyone has addressed yet:

    I would expect to find no reasonable objections to my observations of suffering (or just observations in general) in the world in light of my considerations of an OOO God’s existence.

    I italicized “reasonable” because I realize this is the word in my statement we will likely have the most contention on. I would like to expand on my definition at this time, however I do have to run and will expand on it in a later post if it is requested. However as an example, referencing a link Andrew posted earlier, I believe I have a reasonable objection in considering an OOO God exists with the observation that there are nearly 20 infant deaths in the United States alone caused by parents forgetfully leaving their infant in their vehicle on a hot day. That an OOO God does not simply cause a malfunction in the vehicle’s window mechanisms, leading the windows to roll down, and thus providing sufficient airflow within the vehicle to enable the infant to live rather than die in an overheated car to me is evidence of excessive suffering which I find unreasonable to exist when considering the existence of an OOO God. I hope that small example can help one to extrapolate what I mean by “reasonable”.

  88. Andrew permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:27 pm

    However as an example, referencing a link Andrew posted earlier, I believe I have a reasonable objection in considering an OOO God exists with the observation that there are nearly 20 infant deaths in the United States alone caused by parents forgetfully leaving their infant in their vehicle on a hot day. That an OOO God does not simply cause a malfunction in the vehicle’s window mechanisms, leading the windows to roll down, and thus providing sufficient airflow within the vehicle to enable the infant to live rather than die in an overheated car to me is evidence of excessive suffering which I find unreasonable to exist when considering the existence of an OOO God. I hope that small example can help one to extrapolate what I mean by “reasonable”.

    It wouldn’t take anything like that much intervention – just the slightest hint of a subconscious reminder to the driver to break them out of autopilot would do it, as would waking the baby just enough to make a noise at any time before the driver leaves; this kind of intervention would be undetectable. Also, why do we have such a dangerous autopilot mechanism in the first place? It’s not something that anyone would design, though it’s understandable from an evolutionary standpoint.

  89. Andrew permalink
    March 6, 2010 2:45 am

    A recent example of why the degree of intervention matters: this article on Ken Miller (which PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne have both criticized for selective quotation), contains this:

    But the cell biologist also makes explicitly scientific arguments: maintaining, for instance, that quantum indeterminacy — the ultimately unpredictable outcome of physical events — could allow God to intervene in subtle, undetectable ways.

    This sort of sly intervention, he argues, is vital to the Creator’s project: if God were to re-grow limbs for amputees, for instance — if God were to perform the sort of miracles demanded by atheists as proof of his existence — the consequences would be disastrous.

    “Suppose that it was common knowledge that if you were a righteous person and of great faith and prayed deeply, all of a sudden, your limb would grow back,” he says. “That would reduce God to a kind of supranatural force . . . and by pushing the button labeled ‘prayer,’ you could accomplish anything you wanted. What would that do to moral independence?”

    So he (whether Miller or the journalist, depending on how much distortion is going on) appears to be arguing that:

    1. God can’t afford to answer prayers in any visible way because that would mess people up. (Never mind that the NT is quite explicit about how God will do literally anything that believers pray for.)

    2. God can’t even intervene on his own initiative in detectable ways for the same reason.

    So the babies-in-cars example stands as a case where even under these highly restrictive rules, where God can only interfere by twiddling with quantum uncertainty, there are still examples where he fails to do anything to prevent suffering.

  90. Knockgoats permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:18 am

    It’s gone very quiet here. Stumped, Cruz?

  91. thomas2026 permalink*
    March 16, 2010 7:20 am

    KG,
    Cruz has finals this week and will be going to NOLA as well. So, while he posted the Cosmological stuff, his reponses might be slower.

  92. March 16, 2010 1:23 pm

    Yeah, not really stumped. Just don’t have the time to really be posting long-winded replies. So I gave you guys that argument from contingency to have fun with until my time frees up. I’ll be back on both posts in about two weeks.

  93. Knockgoats permalink
    March 16, 2010 3:39 pm

    Cruz,
    Fair enough. All the best for your finals.

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