Friday, March 13, 2009

Lowder on Logical Arguments from Evil

Jeffrey Jay Lowder on logical arguments from evil.


According to logical arguments from evil, some known fact about evil is logically incompatible with God's existence. (In contrast, evidential arguments from evil merely claim that some known fact about evil is evidence for God's nonexistence.) Ever since Alvin Plantinga rebutted J. L. Mackie's logical argument from evil, the majority of contemporary philosophers of religion have come to believe that logical arguments from evil are unsuccessful. This opinion is not unanimous, however. Philosophers Richard Gale, Quentin Smith, and Howard Jordan Sobel challenge the conventional view regarding the prospects for logical arguments from evil. Indeed, Smith has formulated a new version of the logical argument from evil to avoid the pitfalls of Mackie's argument. Nevertheless, many philosophers remain highly skeptical regarding logical arguments from evil.

31 comments:

Matthew said...

How mmuch scepticism does the AfR get?

Probably much less, because it's not intended to be a slam dunk. Unless "dangerous idea" implies this ;)

Jason Pratt said...

Why not call them "deductive" and "inductive" arguments from evil? It isn't as though the "evidential" argument is non-logical (in principle anyway {g}) and the "logical" argument features no evidential data reference.

Good link, though.

JRP

Finney said...

That's what I felt, too, Jason. I'm not sure why it isn't called the deductive argument.

Brandon said...

The 'logical' and 'evidential' seem to me to have less to do with the form of the argument than with the sort of conclusion that is being derived: one of the problems logical arguments from evil have always had is that it is very difficult to formulate them deductively. But they can still be logical arguments from evil if the conclusion is that there is some logical inconsistency in affirming both the existence of evil and the existence of God; whereas the evidential arguments, which can be formulated deductively (and perhaps much more easily than the logical arguments), are for the conclusion that (all other things being equal) the existence of evil is a reason for thinking God does not exist.

Perezoso said...

Why not call them boring.

The evidential POE does pack a punch, at least to those who understand it (as Mackie did: so did Voltaire for that matter. Perhaps one has to live through a serious quake/tidal wave/epidemic, or even world war (collateral damage/deaths to civilians also a type of natural evil, arguably). The LPOE may show inconsistency, and is valid, but vacuous.

Believers can always quibble on "evil" (or on "God" for that matter), howeverL as on the other thread where Matthew suggested a plague or epidemic might be a type of punishment. Inshallah! Or they sneak in qualifications/limitations. Besides, given supernatural premises, anything follows (ie a heaven where say the victims of plagues, or pol pot live in like high rise hotels with playboy bunnies, forevah)

Mike Almeida said...

The logical argument does not need the assumption that there is actual evil. It needs only the much weaker assumption that evil is possible. VR, where is Quentin's argument published/posted? Do you know?

Perezoso said...

Really, given stipulative premises (anyone care to confirm God's existence?), all that's shown is inconsistency. It's not really truth functional, either with LPOE or EPOE (tho EPOE a sound inductive argument).

Sort of overrated, except as illustration of the implausibility of the theologian's assumptions (and argualy the POE is to the fundamentalist's advantage, since they can bark thomistic jargon ad nauseum)

Finney said...

That's a bit helpful, Brandon. I heard the distinction made between logical arguments and probablistic arguments; that goes in line with what you said as the conclusion of the argument being definitive of its nature.

Victor Reppert said...

Mike: Just click on the link in the title of this post, and it is the last essay on the page.

Blip said...

Mike,

You can fing Smith's arguement here:

http://www.qsmithwmu.com/a_sound_logical_argument_from_evil.htm

Mike Almeida said...

VR & Blip, many thanks!

Perezoso said...

When you confirm that first premise--ie God exists, and is omniwhatever--yada yada yada--start over Richie Cunningham!

Victor Reppert said...

Perry: What in the world are you talking about? What contribution did that statement make?

cratefromastoria said...

better question is "Who are you talking to?"

Perezoso said...

You seem to forget that "God is omnipotent" is not a true statement. It's a stipulated definition, or "position statement" of Judeo-Chirstian tradition, and really, not even consistently held.

Since the hypothetical is not 'framed" correctly, the believers are able to suggest that a real god is being discussed, when that is not what the hypothetical concerns, at all. Like on the other thread, where the typical response was, "atheists can not discuss evil": a statement right out of one of Calvin's old dungeons.

The POE, either Log. or Evi, is not meant to show "God may allow or be evil". It's meant to show that the traditional definitions are inconsistent, and that God's existence is therefore unlikely.

Victor Reppert said...

God is omnipotent is a true statement. Nothing that is identical to God is non-omnipotent. So is that statement that all unicorns have one horn.

Perezoso said...

Yes it's about as axiomatic as "Jupiter is King of the Gods. " Theological assumptions about attributes such as omnipotence are not capable of being verified. Per Carnap, they are meaningless in terms of propositional content. It's to be noted that the names themselves do not refer. The names of religious entities (God, allah, Brahma Wotan, etc.) might have metaphorical significance (connotation) but they do not denote, as say "George Bush", or "Oakland Raiders" or "Napoleon" denotes particular objects. The name "God" is more like, say, King Lear, than Napoleon.

(translation anothe issue: Does "El Dios"/ or Latin "Deus" equal God? (from german Gott). Debatable--I doubt that all catholics consider El Dios = God. The King James ain't the vulgate, and vice versa)

Someone at the Jeesus Malt Shoppe would say "verification itself cannot be verified." Not accurate either. Real world knowledge, say in natural sciences, economics, history--does depend on verification, or at least evidentialism. Theological assumptions do not.)

Eric said...

"You seem to forget that "God is omnipotent" is not a true statement. It's a stipulated definition"

Stipulated?

Stipulated?

Stipulated?

Now you can call these bad arguments, but you cannot justifiably say that god's omnipotence is simply 'stipulated' or 'axiomatic.'

Eric said...

"Someone at the Jeesus Malt Shoppe would say "verification itself cannot be verified." Not accurate either. Real world knowledge, say in natural sciences, economics, history--does depend on verification, or at least evidentialism."

You've confused verificationism, which is concerned with meaning, with evidentialism, which is concerned with justification. This makes quite a mess of what you've written.

Perezoso said...

Not exactly. You've confused scripture with philosophy.


Anyway, you're merely obscuring the problem with trivial semantics issues.

Verificationism was not merely about meaning: you have it backwards. Statements which cannot be verified ARE meaningless, according the Veri.. But that doesn't imply verification is merely about meaning: it's about proof, evidence, observable data.

Carnap was concerned with Phil. of science, not rhetoric. So obviously verification does relate to evidentialism (which relates to belief, like, based on evidence).


Evidentialism not as demanding as veri., but even in terms of evidentialism, scripture cannot be established as reliable or inerrant.

Eric said...

Perezoso, the verificationist is attempting to set out criteria that distinguish meaningful from meaningless statements; the evidentialist is attempting to set out criteria that distinguish justified from unjustified statements. The fact that the verificationist does so with a criterion that requires evidence, etc. in no way affects my point, which is that your confusion of the (different) aims of verificationism and evidentialism reduced your defense of verificationism to a muddle.

Perezoso said...

Eric avoids the issue again, with a trivial distinction. Yes, obviously the meaning of a statement hinges on the data, proof, evidence, and the statement is meaningless without proof, evidence, data. So what?

The key point is that verificationism requires empirical/observable proof, or at least highly probable (and Carnap quoted Hume quite often on the distinction between matters of fact, and relations of ideas.

What is "God is Omnipotent"? Not analytic/relation of ideas (ala mathematics or logic, or even "all bachelors are unmarried). So must be matter of fact, ie synthetic. Where is evidence/data/observation which would confirm it? Thus, meaningless given verificationist criteria.

Evidentialism follows veri., yet complicates matters with "belief". So let's stick to verificationism

Perezoso said...

So however vulgar Dawkins seems to some churcies, he was mostly correct in saying proving or disproving the existence of God is an empirical matter. We can discuss the fossil record. We can't discuss Jupiter's kingly qualities, or God's either, except in a sort of Tolkienish fashion.

I have yet to read some believer offer a good argument for why proving God is not an empirical matter (or see some mathematical/logical alternative).

Rob G said...

"I have yet to read some believer offer a good argument for why proving God is not an empirical matter"

See Edward Feser's recent book "The Last Superstition."

Carnap and the other Logical Positivists attempted to prove that metaphysical statements have no cognitive value. Yet their principles are not sufficient to support even their own argument.

One cannot prove by logic and/or his senses that the only things he can really know are things proved by logic and/or his senses.

Hence Carnap's "verification" is, in fact, itself unverifiable.

Perezoso said...

One cannot prove by logic and/or his senses that the only things he can really know are things proved by logic and/or his senses.

Sure you can. Examining how natural scientists, economists, other researchers work, you note they do something like data gathering, hypothesis testing, experiments, etc.: so there's evidence of verificationism, or we read about it in books etc.

Statistical info is tabulated. Inferences are made, estimates formed, conclusions drawn. That is not done in theology, except in a trivial discovery channel sense (the historical record does not help theology, or religious philosophy).

People working on global warming look for data, do experiments, test hypotheses, like with CO2 (not saying Al Gore is correct on all the details, either). So verification is occurring, and that's a critical type of knowledge: were many claims not verified (like in regards to CO2 leading to warming) a great deal of money and energy would be wasted, if the claim turned out to be false.

Eric said...

"Eric avoids the issue again, with a trivial distinction."

Right.

The issue is whether your defense of verificationism was coherent. Let's look at what you said while keeping my 'trivial' distinctions in mind:

"Someone at the Jeesus Malt Shoppe would say "verification [the criterion of meaning,which you referred to here, in the same post I'm addressing: "Theological assumptions about attributes such as omnipotence are not capable of being verified. Per Carnap, they are meaningless in terms of propositional content."] itself cannot be verified [justified]." Not accurate either. Real world knowledge, say in natural sciences, economics, history--does depend on verification [justification, apparently in a strong sense], or at least evidentialism [justification, apparently in a weaker sense]. Theological assumptions do not.)

So, here's your argument:

(1) Real world knowledge does depend on verification [strong justification], or at least evidentialism [justification].

.
(2)... It's not the case that "verification [the criterion of meaning] itself cannot be verified [justified, and, going by your usage, justified in the strong sense]."

As I said, it's a muddle, and my 'trivial' distinctions make that obvious.

Perezoso said...

That's not the issue, puto: that's yr little nazi deception tactic.

The issue is verifying the truth of this statement, genius: "God is omnipotent." Buena suerte. (And yes, verificationism can itself be verified).

You have no arguments, so resort to the usual sunday schooler deception, insult, etc. The Billy Sundays at ASU, or AU done good: simply insult those who refuse to agree to metaphysical realism.

Eric said...

"That's not the issue, puto: that's yr little nazi deception tactic."

Here's my first post on the topic of verificationism, and it's this post that we've been discussing:

"You've confused verificationism, which is concerned with meaning, with evidentialism, which is concerned with justification. This makes quite a mess of what you've written."

The issue *we've been discussing* is verificationism; you never even responded to my post on your false statements about the stipulative nature of god's omnipotence.

"You have no arguments, so resort to the usual sunday schooler deception, insult, etc."

I'd like you to point out exactly where I've insulted you. Calling your argument a muddle isn't an insult; it's to say that your argument was confused, which I then proceeded to demonstrate, quite clearly, with an argument that began with the 'trivial' distinction you referred to.

Victor Reppert said...

Perezoso: You are banned.

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

You can't verify the premise. So you are wrong. It's a discussion of whether verification is true. It's a discussion of confirming theological premises, putos. So try to ban someone who demands a valid and sound argument.

Consider your site on the theo-nazi watchdog list (and ah say that as a moderate)

buh bye, Doc.

Finney said...

R.I.P Perezoso.