the problem of evil

a solution, somewhat

for those who are not so philosophically inclined, the problem stated simply, reads

  1. If an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god does not exist.

I am not here to give a new or novel solution but present the solution suggested by Rousseau in Emile as given in the essay of the Savoyard Vicar and ask for your views on the same, whether it is adequate and answers adequately the problem as stated above.

He has the Vicar say

There exists no other evil in nature than what you either do or suffer, and you are equally the author of both. A general evil could exist only in disorder, but in the system of nature I see an established order, which is never disturbed. Particular evil exists only in the sentiment of the suffering being; and this sentiment is not given to man by nature, but is of his own acquisition. Pain and sorrow have but little hold on those who, unaccustomed to reflection, have neither memory nor foresight.

and that

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He cannot be mischievous or wicked without hurting himself. A being capable of doing every thing cannot will to do any thing but what is good. He who is infinitely good, therefore, because he is infinitely powerful, must also be supremely just, otherwise he would be inconsistent with himself. For that love of order which produces it we call goodness, and that love of order which preserves it is called justice.

which is to deny the very existence of evil and to reduce it to our passions or judgments. That is to say, evil is a product of our imagination and if we were only to think right, the problem wouldn’t exist. In this view, then, natural evil as elucidated in Rowe’s evidentiary argument doesn’t exist, that is, the death of a bird in a forest fire is not an evil.

The Vicar says of man (moral evil), that

His powers, however, are at the same time so limited and confined, that the use he makes of his liberty is not of importance enough to disturb the general order of the universe. The evil done by man falls upon his own head, without making any change in the system of the world, – without hindering the human species from being preserved in spite of themselves.

In essence, the Vicar has argued that evil, in so far as it exists, is only in our heads and even if we conceded this much it is too minute to affect the nature of things.

Do you agree with the Vicar or is this solution problematic?

 

Advertisements

Consolation of Philosophy

By Boethius

This book is in five sections [books];

Book 1: The sorrows of Boethius

Book ii: The vanity of fortune’s gifts

Book iii: True and false happiness

Book iv: Good and ill fortune

Book v: Freewill and God’s foreknowledge

Boethius, for those who do not know him, was a Roman consul during the reign of Theodoric the Great. He was born in 480CE and executed in 524CE. He wrote the above tract, while exiled in Pavia, and shortly before his execution by Theodoric.

Boethius laments his fall from royalty and the impending death over his head. He feels wrongly accused by the senate and also that his other accusers, for lack of a better word or vagabonds. His mistress, Philosophy visits him in Pavia to lighten his burden. She starts by reassuring him that the likes of Zeno, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Seneca were brought to destruction for no other reason than that, settled as they were in my principles, their lives were a manifest contrast to the ways of the wicked.

In his lament he asks philosophy if the cruelty of fortune against him I not plain enough. He asks if the exile is the recompense of his obedience.

On the vanity of Fortune’s gifts, philosophy tells him, her very nature, is caprice. She tells him it is not to humans to lament the gifts of Fortune for these are hers to give and take. Boethius laments the greatest sorrow for him is to have been happy.

Philosophy tells him nothing is wretched, but thinking makes it so and conversely every lot is happy if borne with equanimity.

She tells him

If then, thou art master of thyself, thou wilt possess that which thou wilt never be willing to lose, and which Fortune cannot take from thee. And that thou mayst see that happiness cannot possibly consist in these things which are the sport of chance, reflect that, if happiness is the highest good of a creature living in accordance with reason, and if a thing which can in any wise be reft away is not the highest good, it is plain that Fortune cannot aspire to bestow happiness by reason of its instability.

Philosophy tells him that riches, honesty, beauty are all things from without. That they do not in themselves make one happy. She tells him, for example, it is a true saying that they want most who possess most, and, conversely, they want very little who measure their abundance by nature’s requirements, not by the superfluity of vain display. Philosophy tells him this is true also of power, rank, glory and fame. Philosophy argues that if there were any natural and proper good in rank and power, they would never come to the utterly bad, since opposites are not wont to be associated. She says nature brooks not the union of contraries.

Philosophy tells him thet ill Fortune is of more use to men than good Fortune. She says good fortune when she wears the guise of happiness is always lying, ill fortune is always faithful, since, in changing, she shows her inconstancy. The one deceives, the other teaches.  Lastly she tells, when good fortune goes, she takes her friends but leaves you with thine own and that in true friends, one has found the most precious of all riches.

Philosophy tells him that all created beings seek happiness as their end. She says they seek this end through acquisition of wealth, rank, fame, pleasure, glory. She says all these means do not bring the seeker of happiness to their goal for each of them is accompanied by some want or anxiety. Philosophy tells him this happiness is god. That to be happy or rather to possess happiness is to be godlike. That happiness and good are one and they are found in god.

Following Anslem, she tells him god is the greatest good beyond which nothing can be thought. She tells him god is omnipotent.

Boethius asks if god is omnipotent can he do evil. And Philosophy answers in the negative.

He says, herein is the very chiefest cause of my grief- that, while there exists a good ruler of the universe, it is possible that evil should be at all, still more that it should go unpunished. Philosophy tells him this is not so. That the good are always strong, the bad always weak and impotent; that vices never go unpunished nor virtues unrewarded, that good fortune always befalls the good, and ill fortune the bad.

The argument here is that, if the chief end of all human action is towards good, then, the bad do not achieve this aim. She argues that the good make the doer god. In this sense then, those actions called bad do not attain the aims for which the perpetrators intended.

Philosophy tells him, it is clear Plato’s judgement was true: the wise alone are able to do what they would, while the wicked follow their own heart’s lust, but cannot accomplish what they would. For they go on their willfulness fancying they will attain what they wish for in the paths of delight; but they are very far from its attainment, since shameful deeds lead not to happiness.

To conclude, philosophy argues that freedom of choice is an attribute of reason and that god’s foreknowledge does not in any way interfere with the actions of humans. She argues that knowledge depends not on the thing known but on the faculty of the knower. That god’s foreseeing doesn’t in itself impose necessity, any more than our seeing things happen makes their happening necessary. She argues no creature can be rational, unless they be endowed with freewill. For that which hath the natural use of reason has the faculty of discriminative judgement and of itself distinguishes what is to be shunned or desired.

She argues there is no such thing as chance in a world rule by god. Chance, she says, as defined by Aristotle is when something is done for the sake of a particular end and for certain reasons some other result that the designed ensues.

She tells him god is eternal, that is, god possesses endless life whole and perfect at a single moment. The world, however is everlasting, that is, it has a prolonged existence.

I think, the current breed of apologists would do well if they were to adopt some of the arguments advanced in this book for example those tackling the problem of evil. What they will not be able to prove is what god is, and how this god, whatever they think it is, is the particular Middle Eastern apparition.

The argument for freewill is also good though it suffers the weakness all others suffer, that the proponent fails to define what they mean. I think by calling it freedom of choice, the proponent only shifts the burden further for we now must ask for the definition of choice.

I think the arguments against fortune make sense. That because they are her gifts to give, we shouldn’t lament so much when we lose them. I must say I agree with Boethius that the saddest thing in the loss of the gifts of fortune is to have been happy.

Lastly, I recommend this book to both theists and atheists alike. Read it, form your own judgements, but at least read it.

Is this the best of all possible worlds

As Leibniz would have us believe?

Many theists have argued, in defence of their god, that this world is fine tuned for life. They tell us if any one constant was altered, the world as we know it would disintegrate.

If we consider the above, does it make this world the best of all possible worlds or the worst, if changing any constant would lead to its collapse not into a worse world or a better world but total collapse?

In my opinion, if it was the best of all possible worlds, the changing of a constant would lead to the formation of a worse world.

What say you?

the problem of evil

I know for most of you the problem of evil is of little interest or appeal. There are many believers who think it is fatal to atheism and there are atheists who argue, and I agree with them, it is fatal to theism. In the emptiness of the word god after the holocaust, the author  asks

Can one reasonably believe in God–or even define the word God–after the Holocaust?

And I think it is not.

An anonymous commenter on the above post argues atheists have no basis for morality other than personal preferences. There is abundant written material on this already.

Anonymous shared a link which I think to her answers the problem of evil.

First, I think the book of Job of is not arresting because it answers the problem of evil, but precisely because it doesn’t.

Peter Kreeft can’t help lying. He writes

The unbeliever who asks that question is usually feeling resentment toward and rebellion against God, not just lacking evidence for his existence. C. S. Lewis recalls that as an atheist he “did not believe God existed. I was also very angry with him for not existing. I was also angry with him for having created the world.”

No, maybe the believer who asks that question is feeling a resentment. The non believer is asking the believer to prove their claims. C.S Lewis is not the poster girl for atheists. He doesn’t and didn’t represent all atheists. And his beliefs or what he wrote cannot be used as a standard for judging other atheists.

He offers a 4 part solution to the problem;

He argues, first

If God is the Creator of all things and evil is a thing, then God is the Creator of evil, and he is to blame for its existence. No, evil is not a thing but a wrong choice, or the damage done by a wrong choice.

but this doesn’t excuse god, nor solve the problem. God is still culpable because we can say with justice it created beings with the capacity for evil.  Being powerful and all, there is no contradiction in the expectation this god could have created beings with only the capacity for good in varying degrees but never for bad. The first solution fails as an answer to the problem of evil.

Freewill is his second solution. One can check my posts on freewill as a refutation to this claim.

His third solution is to become a christcultist. An all-loving god who could easily have said you forgiven all you assholes kills his son because he loves us! Please, your god is doing a miserly job being all-powerful and all.

In his fourth solution, which he claims answers the philosophical problem, he claims the following

  1. first who is to say we are good?
  2. who says suffering is bad. He has quotes to support this assertion but one could easily respond to his claim that happiness is only possible when we don’t suffer.
  3. god has his reasons for allowing evil and we have no right to demand answers. Might makes right. You there shut up! Really.

Kreeft then tells us god casts no one to hell. Why did god have to make a hell in the first place? Why, with foreknowledge that people would fail its many tests, create hell? Is it even imaginable an all loving and all-powerful being couldn’t redeem everyone?

Every time I read an apologist attempt to answer the problem of evil, I am left very disappointed. In my opinion, most, if not all of them haven’t thought really hard about the problem and if they have, then their thought processes need a little reworking. Or maybe I am blind to their genius.

seven reasons why god exists

I don’t know what is funny, the post or the comment by one SOM. I think this post was put together by an ignoramus.

In this second post, the author claims atheists argue that evil disproves god. If only he had read a little, he would have found the argument to be that evil disproves the notion of a wholly good and loving god. For a prophet of a wholly evil god, Zande I am looking at you, evil is not a problem that should be explained.

the problem of evil revisited

We have covered the problem of evil here many times. What I find mind boggling is why theists keep repeating the same arguments to excuse their imaginary make-believe world, a world where gods exist and these gods love them. It is to misunderstand an argument to think of it as a trap as this apologist writes.

Her first excuse is to attempt to convince us that

A morally good being prevents all the evil that he has the power and opportunity to prevent.

is a flawed premise. To bolster their case, they use an analogy of a surgeon. This unfortunately doesn’t help their case. In the case of the surgeon, we all know they don’t claim perfect goodness and they are working with the knowledge available to them at that point. This is not true of their supposed god which they claim apart from being infinitely good is all-knowing. To believe that a perfectly good god would let any evil come to creatures it loves to get some good is abhorrent to logic. Such a being if it were to exist, wouldn’t be infinitely good.

I think a person who writes

They assume that evil is not necessary and it in fact is not necessary. However because we have free will, we choose to do right and wrong

has lost touch with reality. Good and evil are necessary in a naturalistic world where there is strife between organisms of the same species or different species. In a world governed by an omnipotent god, even with freewill, we would expect an all good god to make its creatures to always choose between differing degrees of good, like between hot chocolate and hot coffee. These same people who excuse god for such gross failures would be the first to condemn their neighbours to jail for an infraction, whatever it is. They are however willing to bend backwards all the way to excuse their god. I don’t know who is powerless; their god or themselves.

To absolve god, based on the freewill theodicy is, too me, also not well thought out. If the theist holds to the claim that god made humans and nothing happens without god allowing it, or without his knowledge, it is careless to say god is not culpable in the commission of the mistakes/ crimes. The theist must show that god did not create humans as they are with the capability for great error or good before they can absolve god for the good or bad that man does.

The last argument that without god life would be meaningless is itself lame. How does belief in a god give life any meaning? Why does the theist who believes in god and its love be miserable?