Friday, June 30, 2006

The Problematic Presuppositions of the Argument from Evil

Tim said...
"But what you seem to have admitted is that evolution doesn't explain why the pain exist."

I'm afraid that I really don't understand what you are objecting to here.
The pain behavior system that evolution has "designed" for humans involves feelings of pain. Perhaps another system may have have worked as well. Although for creatures as complex as us, it does seem a little difficult to imagine what this pain behavior system would be like without the sensation of pain.

It appears quite obvious to me that for highly devoloped animals like us, conscious sensations are a very effective evolutionary advantage.
Also, becuase consciousness may not be what you would expect it to be under your metaphysical system, that does not mean it is merely an illusion or unreal.
And a 3rd person description of consciousness is always going to differ from the 1st person experience of it.
Again, I really am having trouble understanding or seeing a problem here.

It may be hard to imagine pain behavior without the sensation of pain, because we presume that critters like ourselves are suffering pain when they are in similar states to the states we are in when we suffer pain.

The problem has to do with what is called the argument from consciousness. Pain requires actual consciousness, not systems that act is if they were conscious. If you read people like David Chalmers, they argue that consciousness is a hard problem for naturalists. The idea of a self that feels, that has a point of view, etc. is something that doesn't fit very well with the world-view that says that all facts are facts discoverable by some science or other. So I am saying that the very things that atheists use to support the argument from evil are not things that atheists can explain easily themselves. They presuppose that there is consciousness and consious sensations or qualia, which is hard to understand on a naturalistic world-view. They presuppose the existence of objective moral values, which doesn't make sense on naturalism, and they presuppose that they can draw rational inferences, which, as I have proven conclusively :), isn't possible on a naturalistic world-view.

So the naturalist expects us to accept his world-view on the basis of things are problematic from his own perspective. Maybe not problematic in the same way that evil is problematic for the theist, but equally if not more problematic.


Dr. M said...

One little quibble. Atheists need not presuppose objective moral value when they press the problem of evil. Rather they might argue like this:

"You theists say that there's a God and objective moral value. If this is so, surely pain is objectively evil. But then there's just to much pain about for God's existence to be at all likely. Thus likely God does not exist."

That is, the atheist as it were inserts herself into the theistic world-view and its assumption of objective value and attemtps to show that this world-view doesn't square with the facts on the ground. She thus doesn't herself assume anything about the real existence of objective value.

Victor Reppert said...

But what if the theist is a moral subjectivist? Then the argument fails.

Dr. M said...

Do you mean by 'moral subjectivism' the view that moral goods vary from person to person? If so, then as you say the problem of evil is really no problem at all. But I know of no theist who defends such a moral subjectivism.

Anonymous said...

"But what if the theist is a moral subjectivist? Then the argument fails."

As Franklin has already pointed out, the argument is dependent on the theist being a moral objectivist. It also is dependent on the type of god one believes in. If xians didn't insist that their god was all-powerful, all-good and intervened in history for the benefit of mankind then the argument from evil would lose much of its force. For example, I don't see it being a problem for a deist or a polytheist. Nor would it be a problem for a monotheist who believed in a god who was not all-good and all-powerful.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Didn't we hash through this a while ago? The atheist is perfectly free to use a reductio against the theist that only relies on premises the theists believe in (which is basically what Franklin Mason said). This is a standard and perfectly legitimate method of argumentation.

Incidentally, Kirk (who first formulated the zombie-possibility argument against naturalism) has an interesting new book out on zombies. He now thinks they are impossible, and is a naturalist.

Chalmers' whole argument rests on the assumption that zombies are logically possible, but he never really deals with the problem that this implies qualia are epiphenomenal (he does discuss it, extensively, in one chapter of the book, but doesn't alleviate the worries). I don't know many people who like epiphenomenalism, including zombie-philes, but they still tend to not realize this implication.

That said, consciousness is a difficult problem no matter what your metaphysics is. Like the theism question, there aren't any single knock-down arguments, but two (or ten!) suites of arguments, almost different worldviews, each with its own set of problems that make it look implausible right now. Consequently, most philosophy of consciousness ends up as a pie-throwing contest, with very few significant positive contributions.

Typically philosophy of consciousness paper:
This paper consists of two parts. In part I, I show damning arguments with position X about consciousness. In part II, I tentatively speculate about a potential avenue for future exploration that may or may not be complete BS, but which is a breathtakingly new solution to this age-old problem.

Part I is usually about 20 pages. Part II is usually about a sentence long.