Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why unnecessary evil is necessary

If it appears to us as if God will constantly act to minimize suffering, then it will also not appear to us as if our actions will be decisive in determining whether suffering will occur or not occur.

Hence, if we are to live in a world in which meaningful choices are made and in which our choices have serious consequences, it must appear to us that there are many evils which are not necessary for any greater good. Therefore apparently unnecessary evil is in fact a necessary for the existence of truly significant human choices.

This is an based on some arguments by William Hasker.

66 comments:

Ilíon said...

A world in which actions, and failures to act, did not have logical consequences would be an irrational world.

These silly atheologians are demanding that God be irrational and that he cause the world to be irrational.

exapologist said...

Here's a reply from Christian philosophers Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder (see pp. 119-27).

P.S., Their friendly snark in their acknowledgements note is worth a look in the present context: "For comments on earlier drafts, we thank Michael Bergmann, Terence Cuneo, C. Stephen Lay-
man, Stephen Minister, William Rowe, and, especially, William Hasker, without whose gracious
replies to several drafts of this paper we would never have seen so clearly how he went wrong."

Steven Carr said...

This alleged God makes the signficantly moral choice to allow children to burn to death in housefires while they scream to god to help them.

Steven Carr said...

'....it will also not appear to us as if our actions will be decisive in determining whether suffering will occur or not occur.'

Yes, our actions are decisive in determining whether or not a tsunami strikes Asia.

Everybody can see that if humans had made significantly good moral choices, then nobody would get cancer.

Matthew said...

Tsunamis, volcanos and earthquakes are absorbed evils because without them, life could not evolve on this planet.

They are also absorbed by soulbuilding.

I think the evidential problem in't as half as good as the LPOE. While one might say "One instance is enough!", the evidential problem doesn't work with "This morning I had a hangnail. Why God, why?"

I think if we imagine a world without suffering, it becomes pretty obvious that it would lack a lot of good also.

Just to give an example: the absence of unmerited suffering would make compassion impossible.

Anonymous said...

Why is it worth horrendous suffering in this life to cultivate a virtue (compassion) that cannot be used in the next?

In any case, why not make people virtuous from the get-go and skip the present mess? For the great goods of autonomy and self-ownership that comes with the freedom to shape one's own character as they see fit? But then it's not obvious why this great good isn't offset by its jaw-dropping price tag of the horrendous suffering that comes with it. The price tag on that item would seem to drive any reasonable shopper away from it and toward the slightly less lovely, but reasonably priced, item of inborn virtue.

Beyond that, it leaves the vast bulk of animal suffering unaccounted for (especially the suffering that occurred for the billions of years that preceded human beings). So we'll need another explanation for that.

Steven Carr said...

MATTHEW
Tsunamis, volcanos and earthquakes are absorbed evils because without them, life could not evolve on this planet.

CARR
What a puny god you worship!

ANONYMOUS
In any case, why not make people virtuous from the get-go and skip the present mess?

CARR
God can hardly create beings with an angelic disposition, could he?

That would make no sense at all....

Ilíon said...

1) This present life is not the whole of our existence.

Does a mother spend the rest of her life bitching about the pain of childbirth? Does a father spend the rest of his life bemoaning the awsome responsibility to which he obligated himself by a few minutes of pleasure?

Does someone who has undergone a painful surgery spend the rest of his life whinning about it? Or, does he rather rejoce that the condition necessitating the surgery has been repaired?

This present life is not the whole of our existence. And we who understand that and are seeking God will be no more concerned with *any* of the pains we have endured in this life than a mother is with the pain she underwent in childbirth.

2) We are not the Creator; we are his made-things, his property -- we *really* don't stand in any position to judge him about anything. He is making us, some of us at any rate, into his children, into persons who can exist in his presence ... and this life, pain and suffereing and all, is critical to making us from made-things into complete persons.

3) You silly anti-God people are so dishonest in you caviling about "evil" and/or "pain and suffering." It's merely a stick with which you image you can beat God and/or his people -- but you don't actually give a damn about any "pain and suffering," except perhaps your own.

How do you silly, dishonest anti-God people "solve" the "problem of evil?" -- why, you emphatically *deny* that there even are such thing as 'right' and 'wrong.'

You people are liars; you are, in fact, hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. And you have no intention of being otherwise.

SE said...

This present life is not the whole of our existence.

I think this is really the best answer that any theist can give. One might even say that the reason our earthly lives are so short (life is short, we are always hearing, and it's truer than any young person can imagine while still in their youth) is due to God's mercy. It is not an answer that will convince someone who doesn't already believe in God, however, as there is no evidence for any post-mortem existence.

A world in which actions, and failures to act, did not have logical consequences would be an irrational world. I wonder, then, if the afterlife will be experienced in an irrational world. There would be nothing illogical or irrational if cancer were non-existent in our present world, and surely an omnipotent being could have created a world without it and the enormous physical and emotional pain it has caused over the centuries. If we suppose this being is also all good and all knowing, well, as they, it's a problem (though only for the theist).

We are not the Creator; we are his made-things, his property -- we *really* don't stand in any position to judge him about anything. He is making us, some of us at any rate, into his children, into persons who can exist in his presence ... and this life, pain and suffereing and all, is critical to making us from made-things into complete persons.


This is another good theistic answer, but still not very convincing. And on the Christian view (unless there is reincarnation) how are those who die in infancy to experience this soul-making process?

You silly anti-God people are so dishonest in you caviling about "evil" and/or "pain and suffering." It's merely a stick with which you image you can beat God and/or his people -- but you don't actually give a damn about any "pain and suffering," except perhaps your own.

How do you know this? Are you God? If you don't know everything, then you can't know whether someone gives a damn or not. Some may have great empathy for others such that it caused them to doubt that God exists, at least that God is good.

How do you silly, dishonest anti-God people "solve" the "problem of evil?" -- why, you emphatically *deny* that there even are such thing as 'right' and 'wrong.'

The POE is a problem only if we assume a tri-omni god, that's why it's a problem in the first place. And I don't know anyone that denies emphatically that there is right and wrong, though there may be such. And as usual, God is a poor explanation.

You people are liars; you are, in fact, hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. And you have no intention of being otherwise.

You KNOW that three does not equal one, so if anyone is being intellectually dishonest, it is Christian theists such as yourself.

Eric said...

"2) We are not the Creator; we are his made-things, his property -- we *really* don't stand in any position to judge him about anything. He is making us, some of us at any rate, into his children, into persons who can exist in his presence ... and this life, pain and suffering and all, is critical to making us from made-things into complete persons."

Ilion, if god gave us a moral sense, then why can't we use it to judge god? Didn't Abraham do so in Genesis 18 ("Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?")? If I were to create a robot capable of suffering, and if I were to also give it a moral sense, would it not then be justified in judging my acts immoral, even though I created it? (It's not that I necessarily disagree with you about whether we can in fact judge god; I just don't think that the premise 'god created us' does the work you want it to.)

Also, it's not always clear what god wants: most (all?) theists, who believe they in some sense communicate with god, and who try to discern his intentions for us, don't hear god's voice clearly. Given that the veridicality of any possible 'communication' from god is almost always in question, isn't it better to suggest that it is acceptable use the moral sense god gave us to 'judge' what we believe he's saying, even if we 'feel' certain that the communication is veridical?

Phritz said...

It is not an answer that will convince someone who doesn't already believe in God, however, as there is no evidence for any post-mortem existence.

Good point. Those who accept supernatural premises (God, as well as Heaven and Hell) may devise all sorts of ways to get around God's apparent injustices. Pol pot or plague? The victims went to Hebbin!--or most did--those who attended sunday school each week did anyway. }-]>

Anonymous said...

Being rewarded in the afterlife doesn't address the involuntarily-undergone sufferings of the present life. If I allow my daughter to be raped by the pedophile down the street, it doesn't excuse me to give her a mansion and a comfortable life from her 30s on.

Being a creator doesn't give one carte blanche to do with their creatures as they please. As Keith Parsons has argued, if I were to create a conscious robot that felt pain, it wouldn't give me the right to torture it in my basement.

Phritz said...

Being rewarded in the afterlife doesn't address the involuntarily-undergone sufferings of the present life.

I agree, for most part: tell that to the believers. It may mitigate it slightly, however. The brakes on your Gremlin might go out on the turnpike and you smash into someone's rear bumper. Assuming you live, AMC could cough up a few million for negligent brake design or something. That seems analogous to the afterlife qualification (though of course no evidence exists of Jumanji-land)

Either way, the POE should not be considered a slam dunk, even for skeptics. For one, the premises cannot be confirmed (so the skeptic agrees to play by the believer's rules). Granting the premises, it's debatable whether there is an actual contradiction.

The POE, either Log. or Evi. does reveal the inconsistency of the presumed King-God (or extreme hypocrisy, perhaps), but that might not be sufficient to explain Him away. Besides, many believers follow the dispensationalist view , wherein "all thangs are possible with Jeezuss", so they have no problem believing in God the Plague-master, or Tsunami-roller.

SE said...

Being rewarded in the afterlife doesn't address the involuntarily-undergone sufferings of the present life.

You're right, of course. Even if there is a reward after death, it does not excuse the suffering experienced in this life. But that's still the best answer a theist can offer.

Eric said...

"Being rewarded in the afterlife doesn't address the involuntarily-undergone sufferings of the present life."

I'm not sure this is so obvious. Lewis says that heaven will 'work backwards,' so that it will even encompass our present sufferings. We all know of examples of this: most extremely successful people will tell you that they're so successful because they've failed more than others; their suffering is an integral part of their success, and most, I'd wager, wouldn't have it any other way: in some sense, the previous suffering makes the success all the more sweet (though it of course didn't seem sweet until they succeeded, but this is how success, like heaven, it is said, works backwards). Now, while it's obvious that, say, becoming a billionaire won't make up for the loss of one's family, it's not so obvious that, say, the beatific vision won't.

I know that this sounds rather abstract, but I'm dealing with the intellectual aspect of the question here, not with the emotional aspect (for which there may be no possible or acceptable answer).

Matthew said...

It seems that most arguments from evil use the hidden premise "There is no good theodicy". There is no reason a believer should accept this.

Ilíon said...

Which is to say, most arguments from evil are disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying, but it doesn't seem to me to address the point. The point isn't whether I'll be happy with the prize; it's an issue of justice: does the prize somehow make it right that the little girl was raped by the pedophile down the street.

Eric said...

"The point isn't whether I'll be happy with the prize; it's an issue of justice: does the prize somehow make it right that the little girl was raped by the pedophile down the street."

I don't think that the point of most theodicies is to argue that evil really isn't evil because [insert reason]. They most seem to accept the reality of evil (even if it's understood as a privation of good: there really is a privation), but argue that god in some sense uses evil to bring about good -- a greater good than would be possible if there were no evil (or something along these lines). So, while I would agree that it's not likely that a case can be made that, given how god 'works,' evil isn't really evil, or that evil actions become right actions, I don't think that this is the case that has to be made.

Matthew said...

I think the importance of a possible theodicy is best described using aliens.

If I would postulate that there exists a race of super-intelligent, benevolent aliens, with the technology to solve virtually all problems in this universe, would anyone use the POE to show that this cannot be the case?

I could simply argue that those aliens want that we learn to solve our problems ourselves, which requires some suffering, that we can be responsible moral agents, etc.

If suffering doesn't disprove those aliens, it doesn't disprove God. It might have emotional weight, we might cry out "Why have you forsaken us, E.T.?", but I don't think Mackie would argue that there is an inconsistency here:

(1) E.T. is capable of eliminating all suffering
(2) E.T. is wholly good
(3) There is suffering

Eric said...

Matt, I think the enthymeme is usually something like this:

(2a) If S is all good, S will eliminate as much evil and suffering as S can, given the limits, or lack thereof, of S's power.

This premise, unlike the other premises in POE arguments, isn't obviously tenable, and one can come up with quite a few counterexamples (such as yours), even with beings that are not all good (e.g. parents allowing their children to suffer to teach them a lesson, or to relieve them of potentially greater suffering, as with vaccinations).

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the point of most theodicies is to argue that evil really isn't evil because [insert reason]. They most seem to accept the reality of evil (even if it's understood as a privation of good: there really is a privation), but argue that god in some sense uses evil to bring about good -- a greater good than would be possible if there were no evil (or something along these lines). So, while I would agree that it's not likely that a case can be made that, given how god 'works,' evil isn't really evil, or that evil actions become right actions, I don't think that this is the case that has to be made.

I think we agree on all of this. I'm allowing that God and evil are compossible. Thus, it's permissible for a god to permit evil if it's logically necessary for a greater good. My point is that, prima facie, the girl's rape by the pedophile isn't an evil that's logically necessary for a greater good.

Ilíon said...

How much of *your* freedom to willfully do what is wrong are you willing to give up?

Rob G said...

"the girl's rape by the pedophile isn't an evil that's logically necessary for a greater good."

I'd agree. Although God can (and does) bring about greater goods from evils, both human and cosmic, he in no sense 'needs' evil to bring about these goods. In that sense, while it may be encouraging to say to a suffering person, "God will bring some good out of this," I don't think it's ever helpful to say "God has allowed this for a reason," or even worse, "This looks bad but God intends it for some good." The acceptance of these ideas brings about Ivan Karamazov's argument against God, his 'returning his ticket.'

Ilíon said...

Eric: "I don't think that the point of most theodicies is to argue that evil really isn't evil because [insert reason]. They most seem to accept the reality of evil (even if it's understood as a privation of good: there really is a privation), but argue that god in some sense uses evil to bring about good -- a greater good than would be possible if there were no evil (or something along these lines). So, while I would agree that it's not likely that a case can be made that, given how god 'works,' evil isn't really evil, or that evil actions become right actions, I don't think that this is the case that has to be made."

A willfully ignorant Anonymouse: "... My point is that, prima facie, the girl's rape by the pedophile isn't an evil that's logically necessary for a greater good."

Rob G (putting "niceness" above truth and reason): "I'd agree. ..."

Rob G, while your comments that I didn't quote are all good and valid points in themselves, they don't begin to address this Anonymouse's misrepresentation of the issue. And that misrepresentation -- in this case, turning the issue on its head -- is what needs to be dealt with.

Our delightfully dishonest Anonymouse is ignoring the statements he pretends to be responding to, and he's (falsely) asserting via insinuation that it is the Christian position that the hypothetical rape is logically necessary for a greater good.

The truth is that the Christian claim is that the possibility of rape, and all other moral evils, is the logical consequence of the Great Good of creaturely freedom. And also, the fact that rapes and other moral evils are committed by God's creatures is the logical consequence of the fact that all we human beings are in rebellion against God: we are all liars and murderers, every one of us, for we all have sought to murder Truth.

Some of us want to stop trying to murder Truth; some of us rejoice in trying to murder Truth.

Andrew T. said...

Victor: would you concede that this argument is not effective against the evidential Problem of Natural Evil?

Ilíon said...

Andrew T,
When do you plan to concede that atheism "solves" the problem of natural evil (as it does with moral evil) but asserting that there is no 'good' or 'evil' in the first place?

SE said...

When do you plan to concede that atheism "solves" the problem of natural evil (as it does with moral evil) but asserting that there is no 'good' or 'evil' in the first place?

Ilíon, I think you meant "by" not "but" in the above?

Again, the problem of evil is a problem only for the theist who asserts that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient, while at the same time so much evil is present in the world he supposedly created. If there is no such being, there is no "problem" to solve. As far as there being no good or evil in the first place, this is true in the sense that the universe is neither good nor evil, as not being conscious, it has no intentions.

Good and evil arise in context. I need food to continue living, and if I don't eat and consume nutrients, I will die. To suffer the deprivation that leads to extreme hunger or starvation (as some experience) is therefore an evil.

Rob G said...

**Rob G (putting "niceness" above truth and reason)**

Uh, no. I'm agreeing with anonymous only as far as that one statement. There are some Christians who believe that God would allow a pedophile rape in order to bring about a supposed greater good. I'm not one of them.

Ilíon said...

SE: "Ilíon, I think you meant "by" not "but" in the above?"

Indeed, I did. If you look closely at the posts I've made recently, you might notice an embarrassing number of such typos. At present, for various reasons, I'm typing directly into the comm-box and so my proof-reading before posting is suffering.

Ilíon said...

But Rob G, the Anonymouse's comment has a context (and I should also have quoted his prior sentence). Moreover, the nature/content of the Anonymouse's comment, and taking into account its context (and even the one sentence I quoted is clear on this), makes it plain that he is not *merely* saying what he wrote.

Rather, he is "disputing" what no one has said.

What, other than an invalid over-valuing of "niceness," explains that you are not seeing this?

SE said...

At present, for various reasons, I'm typing directly into the comm-box and so my proof-reading before posting is suffering.

I wouldn't worry about the typos too much, we all make them, and they're almost impossible to avoid with Blogger's comment system. One thing you can do is to "preview" your comment before you publish. It takes a little extra time, but at least then you can do a quick proof-read and correct any obvious mistakes. I just wish we could spell check right from the comm-box.

Ilíon said...

Eric: "Ilion, if god gave us a moral sense, then why can't we use it to judge god? Didn't Abraham do so in Genesis 18 ("Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?")?"

No, Abraham did not judge God; he didn't question, much less deny, God's moral (and "legal") right to destroy the cities and all the people in them. Rather, he plead with God give mercy, rather than justice, to those who do not deserve mercy (as, of course, no one does -- to assert that someone "deserves" mercy it to assert an oxymoron).


Eric: "Ilion, if god gave us a moral sense, then why can't we use it to judge god?"

And how would this work? Logically.

Are we appealing to our own personal "moral sense" -- and if so, how is that different from merely asserting our own desires ... and which we don't have the ability to back up, in any event?

Are we appealing to God's "moral sense" -- and if so, why would any rational and honest man imagine that God doesn't already understand the fullness of the situation, that he is not already doing what is right?

Are we appealing to some "moral sense" disconnected from any person, just sort of vaguely "out there" -- and if so, how is that different from merely asserting our own personal "moral sense?"

Are we appealing to the "moral sense"of some SuperGod -- and if so, then are we not right back to where we started?



Eric: "If I were to create a robot capable of suffering, and if I were to also give it a moral sense, would it not then be justified in judging my acts immoral, even though I created it? "

Aside from the quibble that it's logically impossible to build a robot which is a mind, and aside from the important fact that trying to equate "suffering" with wickedness is an invalid move, whence comes this "moral sense" with which you're going to imbue the robot? To what or whom will he appeal when he "judges" you?

Is this "moral sense" grounded in you? Is this "moral sense" a reflection of your character? Is this "moral sense" another way of understanding you?

If so, then in what sense can one honestly say that he ever has moral standing, or even the brute ability, to judge you?

It seems to me that you must be asserting that there exists some Good which transcends you (and the robot) and that somehow you are able to apprehend this Good and that somehow you have been able to give a robot the ability likewise to apprehend this Good.

So, it seems that the robot is not appealing to *you* when he attempts to protest the injustice of your turning off the power -- it must be that he is primarily appealing The Good ... which is to say, to the Creator-and-Sustainer-of-All-Things ... and secondarily to your knowledge/fear of this Living God.



Eric: "(It's not that I necessarily disagree with you about whether we can in fact judge god; I just don't think that the premise 'god created us' does the work you want it to.)"

And yet you seem not to have attended to what you wished to dispute, despite that you quoted part of it.

Ilíon said...

Normally I compose and edit and re-edit with WordPad (or sometimes Word) ... and save the result to my PC's harddrive.

Ilíon said...

Andrew T: "Victor: would you concede that this argument is not effective against the evidential Problem of Natural Evil?"

Ilíon: "Andrew T, When do you plan to concede that atheism "solves" the problem of natural evil (as it does with moral evil) [by] asserting that there is no 'good' or 'evil' in the first place?"

SE -- playing the atheistical same-old same-old: "Again, the problem of evil is a problem only for the theist who asserts that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient, while at the same time so much evil is present in the world he supposedly created."

Who cares about "theism?" I certainly don't nor do you pretend atheists. We all care about Christianity, with sometimes a glance at Judaism.

Further, 'benevolence' is not the same thing as 'goodness:' as has been pointed out already here on DI in the past few days, Christianity says that God is good; it does not say that he is a Sugardaddy.


SE: "If there is no such being, there is no "problem" to solve. As far as there being no good or evil in the first place, this is true in the sense that the universe is neither good nor evil, as not being conscious, it has no intentions."

So, you pretend-atheists are being intellectually dishonest with all this continuous whinging about "the problem of evil;" non-exhaustively:
1) you equivocate with the word "evil" (why do you think I tend to use 'wicked' or 'immoral' or 'wrong' ) ... as see below
2) you "dispute" a strawman "theism" ... and then act out high dudgeon at the "insult" of being told that you're dishonest
3) you fully understand ... thought you frequently takes pains to pretend otherwise ... that you cannot "get" "theism" on the issue of good-and-evil *unless* atheism is false
4) you pretend to imagine if some "theists" misunderstand the issues related to the reality of good-and-evil that that somehow disproves the reality of God


Why not face up to the amusing fact that you pretend atheists can't even begin to mount a serious offence againt "theism" *unless* God does exist? Why not face up to the amusing second fact that were atheism true it wouldn't *matter* even if you could mount a serious offence againt "theism" (for were atheism true, then nothing at all matters)?


SE -- equivocating with the term "evil": "Good and evil arise in context. I need food to continue living, and if I don't eat and consume nutrients, I will die. To suffer the deprivation that leads to extreme hunger or starvation (as some experience) is therefore an evil."

Anonymous said...

How much of *your* freedom to willfully do what is wrong are you willing to give up?

What would make you think that freedom needs to be eliminated to prevent evil? Why can't God just give us a natural revulsion at the thought of doing evil (like our current revulsion at the thought of eating a shit sandwich), along with virtuous character traits from the get-go? This, surely, is how things are if God and (unfallen) angels exist. God and the angels are free, and yet they never sin. At least this is epistemically possible.

Anonymous said...

Either there's freedom in heaven or there isn't. If there is, then freedom's compatible with the absence of evil. If there isn't, then apparently it's not so bad to eliminate freedom for the sake of preventing evil. Therefore, either freedom's compatible with evil's absence, or it's not so bad to eliminate freedom for the sake of preventing evil.

SE said...

Who cares about "theism?" I certainly don't nor do you pretend atheists. We all care about Christianity, with sometimes a glance at Judaism.

Speak for yourself and don't presume to speak for me. You don't know me, so don't assume anything about me. I care, in fact, about all forms of superstition, and when it comes to classical theism, I include Islam as well as theism outside of organized religion. We just happen to live in a society where the dominant religion is Christianity, so naturally it is addressed more often than other faiths.

And I'm not pretending to be anything.

Further, 'benevolence' is not the same thing as 'goodness:' as has been pointed out already here on DI in the past few days, Christianity says that God is good; it does not say that he is a Sugardaddy.

Omnibenevolent, in the tri-omni formulation, simply means all-good, which I presume you agree your god is. This is the god of classical theism, and no one is talking about a sugar sky-daddy here. But if God does not conform to some human concept of the good, then the word good as applied to God is meaningless. Of course, a careful reading of the Bible leads to the conclusion that the Christian god is not good by any standard of morality, so perhaps we agree.


So, you pretend-atheists are being intellectually dishonest with all this continuous whinging about "the problem of evil;" non-exhaustively:
1) you equivocate with the word "evil" (why do you think I tend to use 'wicked' or 'immoral' or 'wrong' )


Why is something labeled wicked or immoral or wrong, unless its result is evil?

2) you "dispute" a strawman "theism" ... and then act out high dudgeon at the "insult" of being told that you're dishonest

Your caricature of atheism is the ultimate strawman. There are many Christianities and many theisms, and every individual believer has their own personal version of one of those (though they may not realize it), so whatever argument one makes, one can always be accused by someone of creating a "strawman". I don't take your lies as insults, by the way, I just consider them the blatherings of an ignoramus.

Why not face up to the amusing fact that you pretend atheists can't even begin to mount a serious offence againt "theism" *unless* God does exist? Why not face up to the amusing second fact that were atheism true it wouldn't *matter* even if you could mount a serious offence againt "theism" (for were atheism true, then nothing at all matters)?

A typical case of Christian projection. If God is the origin of morality, then morality is simply whatever God says it is and has no rational foundation. To escape Euthyphro's Dilemma the Christian attempts to claim morality as part of God's nature, as if that solves it. It doesn't, of course, but the slight of hand fools some. Morality is either subject to God's whim, or it is independent of it, and if morality exists regardless of any decision by God, God is not needed to explain it. The whole thing is really a false dichotomy anyway, but the Christian is not imaginative enough to see this. Knowing what is good is not a matter of personal whim or the subjective decrees of any god, it's the result of living in a casual, material universe. And the idea that nothing matters if your god is imaginary is beyond amusing, and another lie.

SE said...

Speaking of typos,
that should've been sleight of hand in that last paragraph.

Rob G said...

"If God is the origin of morality, then morality is simply whatever God says it is and has no rational foundation. To escape Euthyphro's Dilemma the Christian attempts to claim morality as part of God's nature, as if that solves it. It doesn't, of course, but the slight of hand fools some."

According to traditional Christianity (i.e., Nicene Chalcedonian orthodoxy) God's essence, which is purely and totally good, is prior to his will. God therefore wills according to his nature. It was not until Duns Scotus that the idea that God's will is primary came into Christian teaching. Even so, this idea has in large part been rejected by orthodox Christians.

Of course you're free to reject the explanation, but please -- no shenanigans about Christians dreaming this up to escape Euthyphro. You find it in the early Church Fathers, and even in the N.T. itself, i.e. "God is love," etc.

"Knowing what is good is not a matter of personal whim or the subjective decrees of any god, it's the result of living in a casual, material universe."

Perhaps you can explain how mathematics, chemical reactions, and atoms and molecules bumping into each other produce both "the good" and a sentient, rational being capable of perceiving it?

Furthermore, why is atheist SE's conception of 'the good' any better than atheist Stalin's conception? Where does the materialist stand to judge conflicting "goods"?

(I asked this of the late not-much-lamented Perezoso and never got an answer, but in fairness, perhaps he was flushed before he had the chance to do so.)

Ilíon said...

The 'Euthyphro Dilemma' presents a false choice, for it is incomplete.

SE said...

Of course you're free to reject the explanation, but please -- no shenanigans about Christians dreaming this up to escape Euthyphro. You find it in the early Church Fathers, and even in the N.T. itself, i.e. "God is love," etc.

I never stated when this occurred.

The 'Euthyphro Dilemma' presents a false choice, for it is incomplete.

Ilion, I acknowledged it presents a false dilemma.

The problem for the Christian remains, however. If good is part of God's nature, God did not choose it and God is not its creator; it already existed.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "Who cares about "theism?" I certainly don't nor do you pretend atheists. We all care about Christianity, with sometimes a glance at Judaism."

SE: "Speak for yourself and don't presume to speak for me. You don't know me, so don't assume anything about me. ..."

Isn't it amusing how quickly these people get on thier high-horse? I don't know, perhaps they're stappled to the saddle?

SE constantly presumes to speak for me (in just the sense he's whinging about); he entered the little community of posters on Mr Reppert's blog presuming to speak for me; for weeks most of the post we made presumed to speak for me. Maybe he's pissed that I've mostly ignored him (I find that to be a common reaction); and just a few days ago he presumed yet again to speak for me (and again here, as one can see by reading carefully).

... and SE constantly presumes to speak for all Christians (in just the sense he's whinging about):
SE: "... I care, in fact, about all forms of superstition, and when it comes to classical theism, I include Islam as well as theism outside of organized religion. ..."

Isn't it amusing (and amazing!) that these fools simply cannot see that they constantly broadcast where they are coming from?

What I find amazing, but not at all amusing, is the willfull refusal by so many Christians to *see* that these internet atheists in general are not intellectually honest. Hell! You don't even necessarily have to tell them to their faces (so to speak) that they're liars, but you do have to realize it and stop lying to yourself about them and their intentions and their modes of "argument."

==============
Ilíon: "Who cares about "theism?" I certainly don't nor do you pretend atheists. ..."

SE: "And I'm not pretending to be anything. "

Certainly you are; you're pretending all sorts of things. For instance, you're pretending that you're examining Christianity with an open mind.

But, as far as atheism goes, you're either:
1) presenting yourself as an atheist-for-the-sake-of-argument
2) claiming to be an atheist even though your behavior indicates that you don't understand atheism.

A *real* atheist is a nihilist. Consequently, as there are few actual nihilists in the world there are very few *real* atheists in the entire world.

Ilíon said...

Here's a clue: I don't *care* about your pique, I don't *care* about your silly little fit of manufactured personal outrage.

I care about truth and reason.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "The 'Euthyphro Dilemma' presents a false choice, for it is incomplete."

SE: "Ilion, I acknowledged it presents a false dilemma."

Do you, indeed?

SE: "The problem for the Christian remains, however. If good is part of God's nature, God did not choose it and God is not its creator; it already existed."

Oddly enough, I see you trying simply to re-assert that same false dilemma.


ps: 'Good' is not a part of God's nature; 'good' *is* God's nature. Neither God, not his nature, have parts; even to speak of "God's nature" as though it were something apart from himself is incorrect and false.

SE said...

Rob G,

You deserve an answer to your other question (not that I can say anything you haven't heard before) I'm just short on time at the moment, so I apologize. I'll try to be back later.

'Good' is not a part of God's nature; 'good' *is* God's nature. Neither God, not his nature, have parts; even to speak of "God's nature" as though it were something apart from himself is incorrect and false.

Whichever way you explain your imaginary god and its attributes, it's still not real. Regardless, your problem remains, and you misunderstand the nature of the false dilemma in question. You're also not a careful reader, or you would have understood my meaning from my previous comments.

For instance, you're pretending that you're examining Christianity with an open mind.

I already did, that's why I'm a former Christian.

I don't *care* about your pique, I don't *care* about your silly little fit of manufactured personal outrage.

Anyone can see you don't care, so why state it? You of course continue to pretend to know all about me.

A *real* atheist is a nihilist. Consequently, as there are few actual nihilists in the world there are very few *real* atheists in the entire world.

Atheism is absense of belief in gods, nothing more. Nihilism can be described as absense of belief in anything, and there certainly are such atheists. But even if it were true that atheism must lead there (it's not) that says nothing about whether or not a god exists. Nihilism believes no values are justified. In a sense it's related to god-based belief; it doesn't comprehend reality and it rejects truth.

I care about truth and reason.

I wish that were true.

Rob G said...

"You deserve an answer to your other question (not that I can say anything you haven't heard before)"

Well, yes. I'm not expecting much, frankly. As I said on another thread, the most consistent and thoughtful atheist I've read on the subject of morality is Kekes, but even he seems to miss this point.

And by the way, I do believe that atheism inevitably leads to nihilism of some sort or another, as both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky saw. Atheists who aren't nihilists simple aren't following their logic to its conclusions (which of course makes a certain amount of sense -- who wants to be called a nihilist, after all? The atheist fiction writer Thomas Ligotti says that he prefers to be called a pessimist).

"Nihilism believes no values are justified."

And without some "Absolute Transcendent Ground of Being" no values CAN be justified, because there is nowhere solid to stand, so to speak, to judge them just or unjust.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, I do believe that atheism inevitably leads to nihilism of some sort or another, as both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky saw. Atheists who aren't nihilists simple aren't following their logic to its conclusions (which of course makes a certain amount of sense -- who wants to be called a nihilist, after all?

This is really sad. This is what happens when Christians get stuck in the apologetics echo chamber for any length of time. They actually believe this crap. Nighty-night in your delusional little world, kiddies.

SE said...

Rob G,

The following answer is not comprehensive, but I did want to make a few points for now.

According to traditional Christianity (i.e., Nicene Chalcedonian orthodoxy) God's essence, which is purely and totally good, is prior to his will. God therefore wills according to his nature.

This appears to avoid a dilemma, but doesn't. How do we know that what God wills is good? Because he is pure goodness! And how do we know God's nature is total goodness? Because he said so! And if God came to you and commanded you to go out and kill some children, how would you decide it was really God speaking to you and not Satan instead? By appealing to your own values, of course, for that is where morality comes from.

Values arise in context. As I tried to explain earlier, if I fail to eat I will die, and so obtaining enough food to sustain my body is therefore a good. Facts are not subjective, they do not conform to your will. The choices you make are moral or immoral based on what results when you take action (or fail to) on some particular matter. Values are therefore objective because they are based on reality, a reality that is not subject to the will or whim of any conscious being.

Christians perceive a "problem" e.g., where do moral values come from? or why does anything at all exist? or, where did plants, animals and people come from, someone must of made 'em! and then think they've solved the mystery by proposing God as the solution.

Furthermore, why is atheist SE's conception of 'the good' any better than atheist Stalin's conception? Where does the materialist stand to judge conflicting "goods"?

One might as well ask, why is Christian Rob G's conception of the good any better than Christian Torquemada's conception? Whose version of Christian morality is correct? How do you judge conflicting Christianities? William Lane Craig has said, "Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are." Even in context (and I don't want to be unfair to Craig) his statement is telling.

Rob G said...

"This is what happens when Christians get stuck in the apologetics echo chamber for any length of time. They actually believe this crap."

Yo, clown: I hardly ever read apologetics. Take it up with Dostoevsky, Richard Weaver, Flannery O'Connor, David Bentley Hart, Edward Feser, etc. It's also staggeringly noticeable that you didn't even attempt to refute what I said. Typical: when you can't debate, just call names.

"if God came to you and commanded you to go out and kill some children, how would you decide it was really God speaking to you and not Satan instead? By appealing to your own values, of course, for that is where morality comes from."

No, there is such a thing as natural law, and one determines the morality of actions based on that. When moral decisions are questionable, you use what was once called casuistry to analyze and apply the law. It's got nothing to do with "my" values, since my values are often in opposition to it.

"One might as well ask, why is Christian Rob G's conception of the good any better than Christian Torquemada's conception? Whose version of Christian morality is correct? How do you judge conflicting Christianities?"

No, it's not the same. While Christians may disagree on things, they believe that there is some transcendent standard by which to judge those disagreements, even if they disagree on what that standard is (and THIS disagreement is quite limited). The atheist can have no standard other than his own emotions and thought processes. There is no higher court of appeal than the self.

Anonymous said...

Yo, clown: I hardly ever read apologetics. Take it up with Dostoevsky, Richard Weaver, Flannery O'Connor, David Bentley Hart, Edward Feser, etc. It's also staggeringly noticeable that you didn't even attempt to refute what I said. Typical: when you can't debate, just call names.

Just go to your local university and take an introductory ethics course. There, you'll get an overview of several "secular" theories of objective morality (e.g., utilitarianism, kantianism, and virtue ethics). So to just trot out the claim that atheism leads to nihilism is going to require not only showing that a God-grounded morality is plausible, but also showing either (i) that all the "secular" theories are implausible, or (ii) that even if they are plausible, they require some sort of explanatory tie to theism. Whether or not that can be done, it's going to require some evidence. You made a very big, controversial claim, and so you're going to need to back it up.

Ilíon said...

Anonymice are so *boring* in any event, and this one being so ignorant ... or dishonest ... just added to the tedium.

Ilíon said...

oops, adds

Rob G said...

"Whether or not that can be done, it's going to require some evidence. You made a very big, controversial claim, and so you're going to need to back it up."

It's only a "big, controversial claim" to those who've already accepted some variety of materialism, and not even to all of those. Some atheists do follow out the logic of their beliefs to nihilism and pessimism, and admit that ethics without some transcendent ground for morality results in either hedonism or the ego's sheer will to power or some combination of both. Myself, if I were an atheist and believed that nothing I did had any real significance, I'd probably be a rather nasty hedonist.

Anonymous said...

It's only a "big, controversial claim" to those who've already accepted some variety of materialism, and not even to all of those.

No, it isn't. Your claim clearly goes beyond common knowledge. Furthermore, some Christians reject your claim (e.g., Richard Swinurne). So it's just false that only "materialists" find it controversial.

Some atheists do follow out the logic of their beliefs to nihilism and pessimism, and admit that ethics without some transcendent ground for morality results in either hedonism or the ego's sheer will to power or some combination of both.

Of course, this begs the questions at issue, viz.,that atheism entails nihilism and pessimism. Again, I'm still waiting for the argument that takes us from the antecedent to the consequent of that claim.

Myself, if I were an atheist and believed that nothing I did had any real significance, I'd probably be a rather nasty hedonist.

I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps you should stay a theist for the sake of the rest of us.

Ilíon said...

Anonymouse: "... So to just trot out the claim that atheism leads to nihilism is going to require not only showing that a God-grounded morality is plausible ..."

Oh, poor Anonymouse! are you really unable to grasp that atheism logically implies nihilism? Are you unable to grasp that you basking up the wrong tree ... because the problem is in atheism itself?

Anonymous said...

Hot air in lieu of a substantive reply: no surprise there. As they say: put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

Blow, anonymous. Ilion is making some damn good points. Don't cry because you can't cop with it.

From one anon to another. ;)

Ilíon said...

It's so hard to keep Anonymoi and Anonymice straight!

SE said...

It's got nothing to do with "my" values, since my values are often in opposition to it.

It's got everything to do with your values. Where do those values come from? They don't exist in a vacuum. Only an individual can think and reason, and only the individual can make a choice. Moral choices have to based on the facts of reality, and that makes them objective, and not based on a mere whim. Any charge of "atheism equals nihilism" is therefore ridicuolous.

Again, let's say God comes to you in a vision and tells you to be nicer to your neighbors. In that case you might suppose that maybe the message was from God, because it agrees with your values, which, if they're based on reality, will acknowledge that it's better to be nice to people because then they'll be nice to you in return, and it's much more pleasant not to have antagonistic neighbors.

But if God in the vision told you to kill your neighbors and their children because they are corrupt and bad people, you would undoubtedly reject it as being from God, and again, you would do so because it conflicts with your values.

Christianity, however, cannot even justify something as basic as "genocide is wrong". Read W.L. Craig on genocide, where God's nature is love, but he still might command you to kill infants, which would then be "morally obligatory".

...there is such a thing as natural law, and one determines the morality of actions based on that.

Yes, to the extent that some Christians acknowledge that ethics can be justified rationally, that approach is compatible with a secular ethics.

"One might as well ask, why is Christian Rob G's conception of the good any better than Christian Torquemada's conception? Whose version of Christian morality is correct? How do you judge conflicting Christianities?"

No, it's not the same. While Christians may disagree on things, they believe that there is some transcendent standard by which to judge those disagreements, even if they disagree on what that standard is (and THIS disagreement is quite limited).


Any standard that can accommodate both the torture of heretics and the values of free speech and freedom of conscience doesn't seem to be too "limited" to me.

Myself, if I were an atheist and believed that nothing I did had any real significance, I'd probably be a rather nasty hedonist.

If you became convinced there was no god, would you also suddenly have no problem with rape and murder? Would you then become a rapist or murderer if it suited you to do so? I doubt it. But the fact that you admit you'd most likely be a nasty person doesn't say much for your character and, ironically, shows the bankruptcy of Christian "morality," as it is not based on reason. If it were, you would see that there are good reasons for not wantonly raping and killing, whether there is a god or not.

Rob G said...

"Moral choices have to based on the facts of reality, and that makes them objective, and not based on a mere whim."

Get back to me on this when you materialists have some solid consensus on what constitutes the facts of reality. I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while.


"to the extent that some Christians acknowledge that ethics can be justified rationally, that approach is compatible with a secular ethics"

Newsflash: rational does not equal secular. I doubt you'll find many Christians who acknowledge that rational ethics can be justified materialistically. And if they do, they're simply wrong, and have bought into the Hume-Hobbes fantasy.

I didn't say I'd be a rapist and murderer. I'd probably be more of a Hugh Hefner or a Larry Flynt. But I'd fail to see any reason NOT to be a rapist or murderer other than A) most other people don't like rapists and murderers, and if you wanna get along, these are things you probably shouldn't do, and B) given the fact that rape and murder are illegal and warrant punishment, they're rather risky.

"the fact that you admit you'd most likely be a nasty person doesn't say much for your character"

Who are you, bundle of cells, molecules and atoms, continuum of chemical and electrical reactions, to offer judgement on my character?

"shows the bankruptcy of Christian "morality," as it is not based on reason"

Ah, but it is based on reason...reason following natural law. Trying to root morality in pure materialist rationalism is what's not based on reason.

Ilíon said...

SE: "the fact that you admit you'd most likely be a nasty person doesn't say much for your character"

Rob G: "Who are you, bundle of cells, molecules and atoms, continuum of chemical and electrical reactions, to offer judgement on my character?"

A hypocrite and an intellectually dishonest advocate of what he knows is false.

Isn't it amusing, though not at all amazing, how quickly pretend atheists resort to this sort of "argument?"

SE said...

Who are you, bundle of cells, molecules and atoms, continuum of chemical and electrical reactions, to offer judgement on my character?

You offered judgment on your own character. I merely observed the fact that you did so.

Get back to me on this when you materialists have some solid consensus on what constitutes the facts of reality. I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while.

Actions have consequences, it's that simple. Whether there is consensus on every last fact of reality doesn't mean that there aren't real facts.

Ah, but it is based on reason...reason following natural law.

If this was ultimately true, you wouldn't abandon it so readily upon discovery that god isn't real.

Trying to root morality in pure materialist rationalism is what's not based on reason.

To be objective, it can't be based on anything but materialism.

Rob G said...

SE, I'd highly recommend you read Edward Feser's 'The Last Superstition.' It's a big open can of Aristotelian whoop-ass aimed not only at the Befuddled Four, but at atheism and materialism in general. If afterwards you still believe that materialism is the only rationality, then I've got some property in Pomona I'd like to sell you.

"You offered judgment on your own character. I merely observed the fact that you did so."

But I think you missed the point. By what grounds does one 'bundle of cells, molecules and atoms, continuum of chemical and electrical reactions' offer moral comment on the character of another? My PC at work can't, to my knowledge, offer disparaging comments or pejorative remarks against the 'character' my poor old Compaq laptop, and never will be able to do so. Yet, mirabile dictu, one biological human machine has the ability to do so to another human machine!

SE said...

Rob G,

I'm willing to read almost anything, so I will certainly check the book out when I can. I do know of Edward Feser (I've seen his blog), but haven't read any books by him. Thanks for the suggestion. I don't know if he's saying anything new in the book (I have seen a review), but it's possible. I do like reading books from all sides.

But I think you missed the point. By what grounds does one 'bundle of cells, molecules and atoms, continuum of chemical and electrical reactions' offer moral comment on the character of another?

Yes, I understand that point. I just don't think there is any reason to believe that there is something going on that needs a supernatural explanation. Future research and evidence could always change this, of course.

My PC at work can't, to my knowledge, offer disparaging comments or pejorative remarks against the 'character' my poor old Compaq laptop, and never will be able to do so.

This doesn't mean that there will never be some form of artificial intelligence. We'll have to wait to see if there is going to be an Asimovian future or not.
Neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Gerald Edelman states that "Someday scientists will make a conscious artifact." He also at the same time says that the human brain can't be compared to a computer.

Rob G said...

"I don't know if [Feser's] saying anything new in the book (I have seen a review), but it's possible."

It's not so much that he's saying anything new, as he is clearing away old established misinterpretations of Aristotle and Aquinas. He is, however, very conversant with recent scholarship; many of the books and articles cited in his endnotes are ones that have appeared in the last five to ten years.