Monday, November 14, 2011

Feser saga continues

Just posted this on Edward Feser's blog here.

It relates to this post of mine below.


It all ultimately related to my paper The Evil God Challenge.

Edward, you say:

“But your [evil god challenge] argument now sounds like it amounts to little more than the claim that the existence of evil is a challenge to the claim that there is no God.”

Ah right the penny has finally dropped. It is indeed a way of developing that traditional challenge and refining it somewhat.

“Which is just the ancient argument from evil warmed over rather than the novel challenge your "evil god challenge" was supposed to be!”

Warmed over, eh?! Charming. Well, the evil God challenge is a way of developing the evidential problem of evil in such a way that very many standard theistic responses are neutralized or revealed to be hopelessly inadequate. Because, it turns out, those responses work just as well in defence of an evil god. The key point is, the evil god hypothesis remains straightforwardly empirically falsified on the basis of what we see around us, notwithstanding the reverse theodicies I consider.

That’s what makes this way of developing the challenge posed by evil somewhat unusual, and worthy of inclusion in the journal Religious Studies, apparently.

Obviously, you’re not terribly impressed. It’s just the evidential problem of evil “warmed over”, you say. But let’s look at an illustration of the evil god challenge in action.

One author dismisses the evidential problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God as “worthless”. Why is it worthless? The author sweeps the problem to one side because they suppose it’s entirely dealt with by two points. The first point is: they suppose we can look forward to a limitless afterlife in which we’ll enjoy the beatific vision, and this is going to more than compensate us for all the horror we experience in this life. The author quotes St. Paul, who said: “the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The second point the author makes is this: that the pain etc. we experience now is the price paid for greater goods to be gained later. They illustrate by pointing out how suffering of child being forced to learn the violin is the price justifiably paid for great good of that child’s later being able to play violin (they admit this isn’t suffering on quite the scale of Auschwitz, but insist the same basic principle applies). Indeed, this particular author adds that, by supposing evil constitutes good evidence against a good God, the atheist is just assuming there’s no God and thus no wondrous afterlife etc. that more than compensates the evils we experience now. So the atheist’s argument based on suffering is hopelessly circular. Indeed, this author says that atheists who run such an argument need “a course in logic”!

But now here’s where the evil God challenge comes in. All these points made above can be flipped in defence of belief in an evil god. A defender of belief in an evil god can say we can look forward to an afterlife of unremitting terror and suffering, and this will more than compensate us for any good enjoyed now. Moreover, these goods we experience now are actually the price paid for greater evils (I give loads of examples in my paper). Moreover, by assuming that the goods we see around us constitute good evidence against an evil God, the evil-god-rejecter is just assuming there’s no evil God and thus no hellish afterlife that more than ouweighs the goods. So this objection against belief in an evil god is hopelessly circular. Clearly, this critic of the evil god hypothesis needs” a course in logic”!

Now, despite the above moves that might be made in defence of belief in an evil God, it remains pretty obvious that there’s just way, way too much good stuff in the world for this plausibly to be considered the creation of an evil God.

In fact, most of us (except e.g. the skeptical theists) will continue to consider the evil god hypothesis absurd on empirical grounds (whether or not also on other grounds), notwithstanding these rather ridiculous attempts at explaining all the good stuff away.

Of course, none of this is to say that the evil God challenge cannot be met. For example, the author in question might perhaps come up with some really extraordinarily good argument for the existence of a good god, an argument that’s so very, very compelling that it more than outweighs the mountain of evidence against such a god constituted by the vast quantities of horror and suffering we see around us (but boy it’s going to have to be a really good argument!).

But that’s what this particular author needs to do to really meet the evil god challenge. Otherwise, their attempts to deal with the problem of evil have been exposed as hopelessly inadequate. Despite all the dismissive posturing about critics needing a “course in logic”.

So who is the author in question?

He is the author of a book called “The Last Superstition” (see pages 161-165)

That’s to say, it’s you, Edward.

137 comments:

BenYachov said...

As another wag over at Feser's blog points out to clear the fog Proof Law is in.

QUOTE"Mr. Law,

Your last response seems to contain three parts: in the first, you expose the objections brought by Feser against the incompatibility between the existence of a (good) God and the existence of Evil. In the second, you said that similar objections can be said against the incompatibility between an Evil God (or, to be more precise, an Evil Creator) and the existence of goods of the world. In the third part, you explain the Evil God Challenge. First, you say that there is too much good in the world, on empirical grounds, to render the hypothesis of an Evil Creator probable. Second, if that’s true of an Evil Creator because the amounts of good, then it’s true also of God and Evil – they are ruled out on empirical grounds. Please, correct me if I am wrong and point the specific part where my fail is.

Now, this seems to be Feser’s response. He is saying that this “rule out of a (good) God” is not a worry to the classical theist, (like Aquinas, say), because he has two cards in the hand: (1) he has an demonstration of the existence of a “Pure Act” (or similar, if he is a Neo-Platonist, etc) and (2) given the traditional metaphysics that underlies this demonstration, the hypothesis of the “Pure Act” as an Evil Being is just not possible.

Now, if you want to put the classical theist in a worry, you have to refute either (1) or (2). Considerations about empirical amounts of good or evil are irrelevant given (1) (i.e., you cannot defeat a demonstration with and empirical consideration, and they claim to have a demonstration) and (2) (given the demonstration plus the background metaphysics, he is necessarily good).

Please remember what Feser said in his post:
In answering, Law should remember that it will not do to say: “Well, I don’t think the doctrine of privation, the doctrine or the transcendentals, divine simplicity, etc. are correct and/or that the attempted demonstration in question is sound.” For in that case, it will be the various specific criticisms of these various metaphysical and epistemological assumptions that will be doing the philosophical work, and not the evil god challenge itself. He should remember also that it will not do to say: “If we don’t make these various classical theistic background assumptions in metaphysics and epistemology, then the ‘evil god challenge’ applies.” For that is true but completely trivial.

So, please reply:
(a) If (1) and (2) are present, there can be an Evil God Challenge or the challenge would be meet?
(b) If the challenge is meet, then the point would not to be, for an atheist, to refute either (1) or (2) and not to run an Evil God Challenge?

Thank for your attention,
MateusEND QUOTE

I reply: Good luck with that Proff Law.

BenYachov said...

Feser responses in the comm boxes at at his blog at November 14, 2011 2:18 PM

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8954608646904080796&postID=563654022580990746


The saga continues.

BenYachov said...

edit: November 14, 2011 2:19 PM

Mateus said...

Hello,

I'm happy to see that BenYachov quoted my reply here (thanks Ben!).

I would like to see an answer.

Best Wishes,
Mateus

BenYachov said...

No problem guy.

BenYachov said...

As Monk wrote:

"Can someone please help me understand how a classical theistic Aristotelian account of the predicate term "evil" as a privation of being, grounded in an observation-based philosophy of nature and ontology, cashes out as a Stephen Law-esque impossibility argument which has apparently been dispensed with? No doubt I have overlooked the obvious."END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

dguller the Atheist wrote on the other thread.

QUOTE" Look. I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m actually an atheist. I just enjoy stimulating intellectual discussions, and want to make sure that people’s views are represented properly. With regards to Feser’s Thomism, it is important to keep in mind the framework from which he operates before offering any criticisms. He defines his terms quite clearly, and thus the logical implications of those terms are must more clear than Law’s account, which does not even define “evil” or “good” at all.

And with regards to Thomism, the general idea is that the goodness of X depends upon the degree to which X’s nature is actualized. I actually like this definition, but find it incredibly difficult to identify exactly what a thing’s nature is, and find it even more difficult to believe that there is a single final end for each nature. But that’s a whole other story.END QUOTE

That my friends is an intelligent analysis & a valid criticism of Thomism.

Now what is wrong with the rest of you? Including you Prof Law, which pains me to say because I thought you did well against Craig.

But we are not defending Craig's "god". We are saying your EGC doesn't logically apply to ours and it clearly doesn't in any reality.

David Span said...

BenYachov, there is nothing in the assertion of the "Pure Act" that necessitates goodness. If you want to appeal to "traditional metaphysics" that asserts goodness, then the assertion of evilness is just as valid.

Even claiming a "Pure Act' as a "god" begs the question. There is certainly no empirical evidence for it. But then it has always been convenient in arguments for the existence of gods to slip between empirical and metaphysical when it suits.

dguller said...

David:

BenYachov, there is nothing in the assertion of the "Pure Act" that necessitates goodness. If you want to appeal to "traditional metaphysics" that asserts goodness, then the assertion of evilness is just as valid.

It depends upon your definition of “goodness”. The Thomist definition is that the degree of goodness of X depends upon the degree to which X’s nature is actualized. So, mother that cares for her children is more good than a mother who abuses her children, because caring for a child is part of the nature of a mother.

In addition, the degree of badness of X depends upon the degree to which X’s nature is not actualized. Hence, the abusive mother is bad, because her caring nature is not actualized. That is part of the reason why traditional metaphysics describes evil as akin to non-being, or non-actualization.

Once you accept this definition of “goodness”, then Pure Act must be good, because it fully actualizes its nature without any potential remaining to be actualized. And that means that it cannot be evil, because evil is essentially non-actualization or non-being.

There’s plenty to criticize in this account, but it’s important to, at least, present it in its correct form, and not a straw man.

Even claiming a "Pure Act' as a "god" begs the question. There is certainly no empirical evidence for it. But then it has always been convenient in arguments for the existence of gods to slip between empirical and metaphysical when it suits.

Right. I can accept that there is a Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, but deny that this Ground (or whatever) is what God is supposed to be. Sure, God is supposed to have these properties, but is also supposed to have more properties, as well. Now, Thomism claims to deduce these additional properties, such as intellect and will, which would bring this Being closer to the traditional definition of God. Personally, I am not persuaded by these deductions and arguments.

I would caution you about arguing that metaphysical deductions do not have “empirical evidence” for them. They are not supposed to be hypotheses derived from induction of particular cases. They are supposed to be more akin to logic and mathematics than the empirical sciences. One can debate whether metaphysical arguments can possibly meet this criteria, but that is different from making the mistake of complaining that they lack “empirical evidence”. That is actually a category error.

Just something to keep in mind.

BenYachov said...

dguller writes:
>I would caution you about arguing that metaphysical deductions do not have “empirical evidence” for them. They are not supposed to be hypotheses derived from induction of particular cases. They are supposed to be more akin to logic and mathematics than the empirical sciences.

Which is why I can't take David Span's complaint "There is certainly no empirical evidence for it." seriously.

It like saying "How can the Andromeda galaxy exist if I can't see it undermy microscope?". Or reverse that "The Hubble telescope can't observe animals evolving thus there is no evidence evolution is true."

It's a category mistake like claiming you can prove or disprove a metaphysical/philosophical demonstration empirically.

Anyway it is good to have you here dguller. An Atheist who understands the issues and has a better understanding of Thomism then the regulars here seem too.

I liked discussion you had with with Josh on analogy over on Feser's blog. I learned a lot. I also learned where I went very wrong in having the same discussion with you (which sadly ended unpleasantly between us). Again sorry about that. I can't stop apologizing for how that went down. But what can I do> Catholic guilt.;-)

But it is good to have you here. Show em how a real coherent credible Atheist criticism of Thomism looks like.

That would be very refreshing.

funnyatheists said...

We are all still waiting for your definitions of "good" and "evil". Your definitions may be irrelevant to classical theism and thus making your challenge also irrelevant.

Many people have pointed it out to you.

Could you please respond with your understanding of the concepts of "good" and "evil"?

Thanks and good luck.

Steven Carr said...

'The first point is: they suppose we can look forward to a limitless afterlife in which we’ll enjoy the beatific vision, and this is going to more than compensate us for all the horror we experience in this life. '

So the next time Christians bang on about how Jesus died for us, simply point out how his suffering was nothing.


Apparently, a lifetime of horrendous suffering is nothing when looked at from the perspective of eternity, but the Christian god will damn you to Hell for all time for one momentary lapse of sin.

Stephen Law said...

Hi funny atheists.

My definitions of good and evil? I am working with our familiar, pretheoretical concepts of good and evil, on which, for example, pain and suffering are evils, and agony inflicted for no good justifying reason is a gratuitous evil.

You may say "Ah, but we mean something different by "good" and "evil". You might. But that won't help you avoid the evidential problem of evil, or the evil god challenge, if, for example, on your concept of good and evil, pain and suffering are still evils, and if agony inflicted for no good justifying reason still counts as a gratuitous evil.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Mateus

You said: "Now, this seems to be Feser’s response. He is saying that this “rule out of a (good) God” is not a worry to the classical theist, (like Aquinas, say), because he has two cards in the hand: (1) he has an demonstration of the existence of a “Pure Act” (or similar, if he is a Neo-Platonist, etc) and (2) given the traditional metaphysics that underlies this demonstration, the hypothesis of the “Pure Act” as an Evil Being is just not possible.

Now, if you want to put the classical theist in a worry, you have to refute either (1) or (2). Considerations about empirical amounts of good or evil are irrelevant given (1) (i.e., you cannot defeat a demonstration with and empirical consideration, and they claim to have a demonstration) and (2) (given the demonstration plus the background metaphysics, he is necessarily good)."

My reply. This is confused. My evil God challenge is not presented as a proof, but as a challenge to theists. I am asking them to explain why belief in a good god is more reasonable than belief in an evil god, particularly given that the evil god seems to be ruled out on straightforward empirical grounds (i.e. so why isn't the good god, notwithstanding all the theodicies, args from miracles and religious experience, etc. all of which can be flipped).

Fesser dismisses the challenge on the grounds that it does not apply to his god. He does not even have to try to meet it, he thinks. In fact, he does, for the reasons I have explained (impossibility arguments are easily sidestepped by the evil god challenge, and in any case do nothing to neutralize the evidential problem of evil).

However, Feser might try to meet the evil god challenge by coming up with a proof of the existence of God. However. It will have to be some proof. Remember what it has to rationally offset - what otherwise looks like overwhelming empirical evidence that there's no such god. Now even a proof - a real, cogent proof - cannot do that if there's some doubt about it's cogency. I might have a mathematical proof, but be rightly doubtful about it's cogency, given it's highly technical and complex. Your thought that "demonstrations trump inductive arguments" just overlooks this key fact.

So Feser's "demonstration", in order to effectively neutralize and overturn the case against belief in his God by the empirical evidence, will have to be some proof. It will have to be, not just cogent, but a proof of such power and clarity that there just can't be any significant reasonable doubt that it does indeed establish the existence of Feser's god - a god whose goodness is such that he won't e.g. torture children for no justifying good reason.

This is why the fact that the vast majority of philosophers find the Feser-type medieval proof unconvincing is relevant. It shows there's indeed very significant, widespread doubt, in fact.

So, Feser has entirely failed to meet the challenge, and, indeed, it looks like his god belief is, in fact, pretty straightforwardly empirically falsified.

Stephen Law said...

For some reason I have started putting tons of unnecessary apostrophes into "its". My apologies...

funnyatheists said...

Oh hi,

Let's go with what the classical theist says. Evil is not a reality, it is a privation of reality.

"Privation" might appear foreign, but let's use another example.

Take a straight piece of metal.
It just is straight. If you zoom into the piece of metal you see small holes and bigger holes. These holes are privations of the reality of the straightness of the piece of metal.

Now someone comes up with the ingenious "The holey piece of metal challenge".
He argues that the evidence of all the holes in the piece of metal can be used to argue against a straight piece metal. And he argues that the straight pieces on the piece of metal can be used just as well to argue against a holey piece of metal. This person is also working with our familiar, pretheoretical concepts of straight and holey, on which, for example, holes in a piece of metal are holey, and holes inflicted for no good justifying reason is a gratuitous holey piece of metal.
Ok great, now we see holes, does this all of a sudden mean the piece of metal is not straight? Of course not. The challenge misses the point, it is irrelevant. And it is precisely because the challenge does not recognize that holes are privations of a straight piece of metal.

Joshua Cordray said...

I cannot see why Prof Law's Evil God Challenge is even a challenge!

I quote Prof. Law:

"I am asking them to explain why belief in a good god is more reasonable than belief in an evil god, particularly given that the evil god seems to be ruled out on straightforward empirical grounds (i.e. so why isn't the good god, notwithstanding all the theodicies, args from miracles and religious experience, etc. all of which can be flipped)."

Now, totally apart from the simple throwing out of your hypothesis because even you do not believe it, I think it is possible to say it is more reasonable to believe a good God exists because this universe could not have been the product of an evil god but it could have been the product of a good God.

Why?

Read my entire response at

http://jcordray.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/the-evil-god-challenge-from-professor-stephen-law/

It is too long to post here!

Steven Carr said...

I think funnyatheists is claiming that if I hit him over the head with a straight piece of theological debating metal, the pain and suffering he would get would not be reality , just a sign that I am not doing him much good.

Someone who claims pain and suffering do not exist in their own right is not to be allowed to enter discussions with adults.

Steven Carr said...

It is far more reasonable to say that wellbeing is a lack of suffering and tragedy than that suffering and tragedy is merely a lack of wellbeing.

funnyatheists said...

Has it ever occurred to you Steven (Carr) that different people may have different concepts for the terms "existing", "act of existing", "being", "essence" etc.?

Have you heard about "The Principle of Charity"? Read a bit about it.

David Span said...

dguller

Thank you for your response. It does suggest that I need to write my points in more detail to avoid them being misunderstood. However, they seem clear enough, and I do not see how your elaboration counters what I said. You show the Thomist definition of good/bad. (I used the term "assertion" rather than "definition".) But that's the point, it's their definition.

So you say that the “definition is that the degree of goodness of X depends upon the degree to which X’s nature is actualized.” You use the example of a mother caring for her child. But how can we assert that this applies to a god? Even BenYachov elsewhere: (1) quotes Anthony Kenny saying that god cannot be part of a moral community; (2) quotes Aristotle saying we cannot attribute moral virtues to divinity; (3) provides another quote that “characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible”; and (4) quotes Freser saying that concepts such as moral obligation “make no sense when literally applied to God”.

Drawing analogies with what we would apply to humans therefore makes no sense in a discussion of this god.

So I can paraphrase your explanation of the Thomist goodness: we can define that the badness of god depends upon the degree to which god’s nature is actualised, and the degree of goodness depending upon the degree to which its nature is not actualised; we can then describe good as akin to non-being of this god, or non-actualisation. Then the Pure Act by this god must be evil: it cannot be good, because good for this god is essentially non-actualisation or non-being.

I thought my other point was clear, questining how this asserted pure act can be asserted as being a god. That's why I said "there is certainly no empirical evidence": i.e. BenYachov needs to establish the existence in some other way to avoid question begging.

Steven Carr said...

I've never know anybody who had toothache saying that his toothache did not exist.

Are you prepared to claim that my hitting you over the head with a bit of metal is evil?

David Span said...

BenYachov

My point was clear enough: about how this asserted pure act can be asserted as being a god. That's why I said "there is certainly no empirical evidence”, i.e. you need something else.

As I pointed out to dguller above, for you to even attempt to apply human moral concepts of good/bad to a god contradicts your very own conception of the classical god of theism.

That's why I can't take your position seriously.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Steve, your comment reminded me of the following quote by Avicenna:

Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned

Doubting Thomas said...

Was Judas "evil"?

Did he do a "good" thing in ratting out Jesus?


Are biological mutations "evil"? Sickle-cell anaemia is caused by a mutation. Yet it prevents people from getting maleria. Is maleria "evil" or is it "good" because that's its purpose. Inall of this the atoms are doing what their "purpose" is.

See, the problem with the Thomist worldview is that "purpose" is ascribed to everything without knowing what purpose is. Then emotional value judgements are made post hoc to make it all fit. This combined with layer upon layer of arcane definitions, which may or may not reflect the way the world actually is, make for a rotten edifice.

Next let's define luminescent either and firmament. Then we can use them to discuss physics.

Doubting Thomas said...

By the way. Judas was a necessary "evil" for the death cult myth (pun intended). Divine Jesus doesnt get to suffer and die for three days, atoning for the sins of the world, if Judas doesn't fulfill his "purpose". So according to the myth, Judas must die and that's "good"?

I'm so con fuze ed? What's the purpose?

Doubting Thomas said...

The Natural Lawists love to ridicule atheists for being adrift at sea without morals.

The way I see it. They are too. They must find ultimate "purpose" for things in the world. Since they can't be objective so they are also adrift. All the while making emotional pleas to a god who created woman out of a man's rib.

BenYachov said...

David Span

1949 called they want their logical positivism & scientism back.

BenYachov said...

Prof Law

Your talent at projection astounds me at this point. Thus far you haven't answered even one of Feser's arguments. What was it he said about you?

QUOTE"What is at issue, and what has always been at issue between you and me, is whether the “evil god challenge,” specifically, even applies to classical theism. And it doesn’t, as I’ve shown many times now. (No point in repeating the points again, since you’ll just keep ignoring them. For example, you ignore them when you assert that your “evil god” stalemate approach applies to what I said about evil in TLS. Well, it would apply to it if I had defended a theistic personalist view of God in TLS, but since I defend a classical theist view there, it doesn’t apply. And if you insist that it does apply to classical theism too, then I guess we can add Begging the Question to your toolkit too.)

Your way of avoiding this basic problem is by flitting between two senses of your expression “evil god challenge.” In one sense it has to do with stalemating arguments for theism by showing that evidence for an evil god is no worse than evidence for a good God, so that if we reject the former we ought to reject the latter. But when it is pointed out to you that this stalemating strategy makes no sense when applied to classical theism, suddenly the “evil god challenge” just becomes a synonym for the evidential problem of evil, which I’ve never denied can intelligibly be raised against classical theism. “The existence of evil is incompatible with, or at least improbable given, God’s existence” is at least intelligible, even if easily answered. “A God as God is conceived of in classical theism might turn out to be an evil god” is unintelligible given what “God” entails in classical theist metaphysics. Sorry if that makes your “evil god challenge” less badass than you think it is, but them’s the breaks.

So, it is no good equivocating on “evil god challenge” as a way to salvage your position. It just trivializes it. It is also no good heaping scorn on the privation view of evil as you keep doing, as if the scorn somehow magically transformed the “evil god challenge” into a threat to classical theism. Let the privation view be as stupid as you think it is. It doesn’t change the fact that (a) classical theists are typically committed to it, (b) given the privation view together with the other metaphysical theses of classical theism, an ”evil God” is unintelligible, and therefore (c) the stalemating strategy doesn’t intelligibly apply to classical theism. If you want to show that the privation view is wrong, fine, but (as I keep saying) in that case it is the criticisms of the privation view that will be doing the philosophical work against classical theism, not the “evil god challenge.”

By the way, “Religious Studies published it” is not a good argument. Just like, you know, “The ‘philosophical community’ thinks such-and-such” is not a good argument and “Every fool knows that the privation view is stupid” is not a good argument. And just like “Let’s expand the meaning of the expression ‘evil god challenge’ so as to avoid falsification” is not a good argument. Not that you need “a course in logic” or anything.

And it’s quite rich for you to call my discussion in TLS “sloppy” when (as commenters here have pointed out) you consistently use terms like “evil” and “god” and an ill-defined way, ignoring the crucial differences between classical theist vs. theistic personalist conceptions of God and privation vs. non-privation views of evil. But then, that’s your whole defense against my criticisms, as it turns out: keep the key terms vague so that you can shift your ground whenever necessary.

BenYachov said...

>As I pointed out to dguller above, for you to even attempt to apply human moral concepts of good/bad to a god contradicts your very own conception of the classical god of theism.

What part of "I don't believe God is a moral agent" do ye not understand?

You are only beating dead horse my friend but the wrong dead horse.

BenYachov said...

>My definitions of good and evil? I am working with our familiar, pretheoretical concepts of good and evil,

Which reders any potential philosophical definition hopelessly ambiguous. Thus allowing you to move the goal posts at will.

>You might. But that won't help you avoid the evidential problem of evil, or the evil god challenge,

This is mere assertion sir not argument. You have offered no argument.

At this point I nominate you EGC as presented by you for a STOVE AWARD.

philosopher145 said...

Hi Professor Law, I find your evil god challenge interesting and thought provoking.

I have a couple of questions and comments in that regard.

In your "Evil God Challenge" paper, you state that the theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of evil (re: 'good god') and the mirror/reverse theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of good (re: 'evil god') are roughly equivalent in terms of their reasonableness, so that a person who is not persuaded by the mirror/reverse theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of good (re: 'evil god') must also, if s/he is to be consistent, be skeptical about the theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of evil (re: 'good god'). So far, so good.

On your blog, however, you seem to go one step further by stating that people *should* be unpersuaded by the mirror/reverse theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of good (re: 'evil god') and, hence, they should be skeptical about the theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of evil (re: 'good god').

I understand that some (many) people might be unpersuaded (perhaps intuitively) by the mirror/reverse theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of good (re: 'evil god'). But *should* they be unpersuaded? Are they *justified* in their skepticism? What about those who withhold judgement in that regard, are they reasonable?

Moreover, I would argue that Christians who accept the argument that you set out in your "Evil God Challenge" paper (but who are *persuaded* by the mirror/reverse theodicities pertaining to the evidential problem of good - re: 'evil god') can rationally base their faith (in a good god) on historical evidence and religious experience. This is because, and I am sure that you will acknowledge it, that the mere possibility that they are being deceived by an evil god is not a good reason for them to abandon their faith any more than the possibility that I am a brain in a vat is good reason for me not to take you seriously.

BenYachov said...

BenYachov said...

>the evil god dimension brings out just how hopeless and ludicrous many standard theodicies are, as they stand. Including yours, it turns out.

At this point Prof Law has invalidated his argument even more so. The point of Classic Theism is to reject Theodicy(at least in the modern sense or in the sense it's used to defend the so called perfect moral agency of God).
Not defend or use it. At this point his kneejerk and fundamentalistic tendency to equivocate between Theistic Personalism & Classic Theism is getting old.

Might I direct him to read Against Theodicy: A Response to Peter Forrest
N. N. Trakakis
Published online: 26 February 2010
# Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010


SOPHIA (2010) 49:129–140

Trakakis is a self-described tentative theist and a defender of Rowe's evidential argument from Evil.

Abstract In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I
point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their
commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the
Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This
remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very
different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.

BenYachov said...

Some choice quotes from Trakakis.

"The problem, more specifically, is that theodicies such as
those one finds in Hick and Swinburne, and in most discussions in contemporary
analytic philosophy, presuppose a thoroughly anthropomorphic conception of God."


"God, on the perfect-being model,
looks very much like a human being, albeit a quite extraordinary one, one inflated
into infinite proportions: a ‘super-duper superman’ (in Andrew Gleeson’s words2), or ‘the biggest thing around’ (as David Burrell puts it3)."

"to treat God as
an individual entity or thing, as a being existing amongst other beings, is to reduce
God to creaturely proportions, to place God in the same ontological order as ordinary
beings and objects."


"God in the analytic tradition is understood as an individual entity or substance of
some sort, usually a person or person-like being who exists alongside other personal
beings (such as humans and angels) and non-personal things (whether they be things
in the physical world, or the physical world itself)."

"if God is absolutely simple then God is not
distinct from his essential attributes, in which case God is not so much morally good
as moral goodness itself. This in turn entails a divine command theory of morality, or
something quite like it, for if God just is goodness or the standard of goodness, then
whatever counts as good must have its source or origin in God. But if God is the
source of moral norms in this sense, then what kind of moral community would he
share with us? Although it is perfectly legitimate to think of a human being as
subject to moral criticism, it makes little sense to say that God qua moral goodness
itself can be held up for judgment according to some independent moral standard.
This, by the way, also has the effect of dissolving the problem of evil,



QUOTE"Either say that God shares a moral community with us—in
which case God will have to be judged according to our moral standards and
requirements; or else say that God shares no moral community with us (or with
anyone), that God’s morality is not our morality (assuming it is even coherent to
think of God as having a morality)—in which case the very idea of passing moral
judgement on God is rendered meaningless."

"Brian Davies, in particular, has highlighted in many of his writings the importance
of preserving the creator/creature distinction. He notes, for example, that it would be
wrong to assert that God is an individual—in the familiar sense of ‘individual’
where to call something an individual is to think of it as a member of a class of
which there could be more than one member, as something with a nature
shared by others but different from that of things sharing natures of another
kind, things with different ways of working, things with different characteristic
activities and effects."

BenYachov said...

Stephen Law at this point insists on pretending that the particular philosophical concept of God under discussion has no relevance to his vague argument.

The problem of evil presupposes a God who is a moral agent who can either be morally blamed for allowing evil or justified for allowing it in order to obtain some good. The later employs Theodicy.

Thomist reject the idea God can coherently be called a moral agent in the first place. As Trakais a defender of Rowe's Evidential Argument of Evil points out that dissolves the problem of evil.

But Thomists care nothing for modern Theodicy since it is incoherent to apply it to their concept of God.

You really don't have the slightest concept of the difference between a Theistic Personist God and a Classic Theist God do you Prof Law?

Cause your attempts to fake it at this point are really not convincing.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Philosopher145

I think I answered your questions back here:

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2011/11/evil-god-challenge-skeptical-theist.html

see what you think.

Stephen Law said...

Hi BenYachov

You seem to have descended into posting tons of largely irrelevant assertions and cut-and-pasted material, interspersed with sentiments along the lines of: "Yah boo sucks, Mr clever dick philosopher!" "You know nothing!", "Fool!"

Doubting Thomas said...

Ben the Bellicose,

"I don't believe God is a moral agent" do ye not understand."

Nice dodge. I wasn't asking god for his opinion.

I ask you. Since you and your church are so "good" at determining for everyone else what "good" and "evil" are. Which of the above are good and evil?

I await your decree

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

>You seem to have descended into posting tons of largely irrelevant assertions and cut-and-pasted material,

I cited the arguments of a Defender of Rowe's evidentialist argument of evil. Now that is not relevant?

Why are you afraid to read his paper and interact with it?

>nterspersed with sentiments along the lines of: "Yah boo sucks, Mr clever dick philosopher!" "You know nothing!", "Fool!"

Sir with all due respect I can't help but not take you seriously if you refuse to hold your EGC up too to it's strongest potential critics.

It seems the fantasy of having come up with a silver bullet to finally slay the werewolf of religion has clouded your reason.

I can't help you then. I'm not trying to convert you. I could care less what you believe at this point. I am trying to get you to make a rational argument. You are not doing that.

Sorry.

Patrick said...

Unlike what Prof. Law claims in his paper “The evil-god challenge” I think that miracles do refute his challenge. The miraculous events accompanying the work of the Lutheran pastor and theologian Johann Christoph Blumhardt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Blumhardt) may show this. Reports about these events can be found in the follwing book:

Dieter Ising, Johann Christoph Blumhardt: Life and Work: A New Biography, Translated by Monty Ledford, Eugene 2009.

In particular informative in this respect are the chapters “The Events Surrounding Gottliebin Dittus” (pp. 162 ff.), “The Awakening Spreads. Healings” (pp. 202 ff.) and “Healings” (pp. 326 ff.).

These events are very well documented. To get an idea to what an extent this is the case, one may go to the following link, then go to the link “Search inside this book” and have a look at the section “Sources and Literature”.

http://www.amazon.com/Johann-Christoph-Blumhardt-Life-Work/dp/1606085395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289074764&sr=1-1

A description of these events is also presented in the following excerpt from the first biography of Blumhardt:

http://data.plough.com/ebooks/Awakening.pdf

These reports may be so well-documented that they can withstand a Bayesian analysis. What such an analysis with respect to miraculous events looks like can be seen in the paper entitled “A Bayesian Analysis of the Cumulative Effects of Independent Eyewitness Testimony for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”, written by philosopher John M. DePoe. The paper can be read in the following link:

http://www.johndepoe.com/Resurrection.pdf

An objector would have to give a reason why an evil God would let such things happen. Moreover, he would have to provide examples of well-documented miracle accounts outside the Judeo-Christian culture being at least equal to these events.

BenYachov said...

I could in theory reject all the claims miracles found in Patrick's links and it still wouldn't make this argument compatible with a Classic Philosophical view of God.

The EGA is that bad.

dguller said...

David Span:

You show the Thomist definition of good/bad. (I used the term "assertion" rather than "definition".) But that's the point, it's their definition.

It is a definition rooted in numerous examples to are supposed to support it. You can certainly criticize anyone’s definition of anything, but it’s not enough to say, “Well, it’s just your definition!”. Show how it is an incorrect definition. That’s the challenge.

So you say that the “definition is that the degree of goodness of X depends upon the degree to which X’s nature is actualized.” You use the example of a mother caring for her child. But how can we assert that this applies to a god? Even BenYachov elsewhere: (1) quotes Anthony Kenny saying that god cannot be part of a moral community; (2) quotes Aristotle saying we cannot attribute moral virtues to divinity; (3) provides another quote that “characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible”; and (4) quotes Freser saying that concepts such as moral obligation “make no sense when literally applied to God”.

I think that you are conflating two separate issues here. First, you have to remember that, in Thomism, all beings have natures that they are trying to actualize, and the more they actualize their natures, the more good those beings are considered to be. So, a triangle with crooked lines is less good than a triangle with straight lines, because the latter actualizes its triangle nature more than the more. In other words, “goodness” is a term that applies to all beings by virtue of their possession of natures that they are trying to express.

Morality is another matter. Morality does not apply to all beings, because morality pertains only to beings that have both intellect and will. A rock cannot be moral, but it can be good. A triangle cannot be moral, but it can be good. And this is because neither a rock nor a triangle can consciously choose to actualize its nature. Human beings can, because they possess both an intellect to understand their nature and will to choose to actualize it.

How does this apply to God? Here’s how I see it, and I might be wrong here. Human beings can possibly not actualize their natures by choosing to be immoral, for example. So, humans can be either moral or immoral to the degree to which they choose to actualize their natures. However, God is neither moral nor immoral, because there is no possibility that he could choose not to express his nature, because he is Pure Act, and thus has no potentiality remaining in his being. His nature is fully actualized with no residual potentiality, and thus it is impossible that he could have chosen not to actualize his nature. And without that condition, he can be neither moral nor immoral.

Again, it is just a matter of learning the terminology, and then following the deductions. It is kind of like learning the axioms of a mathematical proof, and then following the inferences to the conclusions. That is where one has to start, and then one can subsequently criticize the axioms, the inferences, and so on. But to just ignore the definitions, and start somewhere else, does not actually refute anything except a straw man.

dguller said...

So I can paraphrase your explanation of the Thomist goodness: we can define that the badness of god depends upon the degree to which god’s nature is actualised, and the degree of goodness depending upon the degree to which its nature is not actualised; we can then describe good as akin to non-being of this god, or non-actualisation. Then the Pure Act by this god must be evil: it cannot be good, because good for this god is essentially non-actualisation or non-being.

First, you can change the words, but they still refer to the same thing. I can call a dog a cat, but it’s still a dog.

Second, the more difficult part would be to justify your terms. As I mentioned, the Thomist definition is plausible, and supported by human intuitions and multiple examples. For your redefinition to work, you would have to support the idea that if X has a nature, then the more X’s nature is actualized and expressed in reality, then the more bad X is supposed to be.

I thought my other point was clear, questining how this asserted pure act can be asserted as being a god. That's why I said "there is certainly no empirical evidence": i.e. BenYachov needs to establish the existence in some other way to avoid question begging.

But it isn’t question begging. The terms are supposed to be justified by arguments. You can certainly question the arguments, but this cannot be done by just declaring that they beg the question. The only question that they beg is that reason is capable of uncovering objective truths about reality. If you grant that assumption, then the conclusions follow. Perhaps it would be helpful to read Feser’s book on Aquinas. It’s a short read and well written. Even if you disagree with it, exposing yourself to an alternative viewpoint could be beneficial, because we all get stuck in tunnel vision and miss out other perspectives. And this is coming from someone that actually disagrees with whole swaths of that book!

dguller said...

Doubting Thomas:

See, the problem with the Thomist worldview is that "purpose" is ascribed to everything without knowing what purpose is. Then emotional value judgements are made post hoc to make it all fit. This combined with layer upon layer of arcane definitions, which may or may not reflect the way the world actually is, make for a rotten edifice.

Or maybe it is incredibly difficult in a number of cases to accurately determine what the purposes are? If you want to say that if a theory results in a situation where it is simply impossible to acquire accurate knowledge, then it should be jettisoned, then perhaps Newtonian mechanics should have been thrown out by virtue of the impossibility of accurately predicting the subsequent motion of three bodies interacting, i.e. the three body problem. Just because something is really hard to figure out does not falsify the assumptions behind it.

Any thoughts?

dguller said...

David:

One other thing.

If you want to include human feelings in your definition of good, i.e. maximizing happiness, then there are a number of important points that you will have to establish.

How does one measure the degree of happiness? How long should one be happy for? How many people should be happy? Is it more important for lots of people to be minimally happy or one person to be maximally happy? What if pain results in happiness, then does that make pain a good thing? And if pain is a good thing, then goodness is independent of pleasure/pain, maybe?

In addition, if truth is now beholden to human feelings, then perhaps Copernicus is wrong, because it hurts our feelings not to be the center of the universe? And Darwin is wrong, because it hurts our feelings to simply be animals? And quantum mechanics is wrong, because it hurts our feelings that reality is so bizarre at the atomic level? There is a reason why it is considered fallacious to argue from emotion, because just because something hurts our feelings does not make it false.

Any thoughts?

Doubting Thomas said...

dguller,

"Just because something is really hard to figure out does not falsify the assumptions behind it."

I tend to agree with most of your reasoning. What are the assumptions behind determining ultimate purpose?

How about an example of any ultimate purpose?

dguller said...

Doubting Thomas:

I tend to agree with most of your reasoning. What are the assumptions behind determining ultimate purpose?

I think that here we are getting into teleology, which according to my understanding refers to the fact that beings are disposed towards the actualization of certain potential outcomes. So, the idea behind an “ultimate purpose” -- which admittedly is something that I disagree actually exists, although I have no problem with more local purposes or ends, which can be described by different levels of explanation -- could be explicated by a description of those dispositional properties that are both necessary and sufficient to determine its essence and nature. To use Aristotle’s terms, it would refer to the substantial properties that define a thing.

How about an example of any ultimate purpose?

Let’s stick with the traditional idea, and call it “final cause”, or “final end”. One example might be that the final end of fire is to heat or burn.

Any thoughts?

BenYachov said...

>How does this apply to God? Here’s how I see it, and I might be wrong here.

As far as I can tell you are not.

Good job guy.

dguller said...

Ben:

Thanks. And no worries about our prior nasty exchange. Things can get testy in this comboxes.

My only question about my account was whether it would be more appropriate to describe God as necessarily moral rather than neither moral nor immoral. In other words, is it the case that if a being has both intellect and will and it uses its will to actualize its nature, then is it necessarily moral, by definition? In that case, then God must be moral. On the other hand, if it comes down to having the possibility of being immoral, then God would be neither moral nor immoral. I don’t know enough about Aquinas to know which side he would be on.

Do you know?

BenYachov said...

>My only question about my account was whether it would be more appropriate to describe God as necessarily moral rather than neither moral nor immoral.

The later if we believe the arguments advanced by Davies, McCabe, DZ Philips etc...and I do.

BenYachov said...

Not to mention Trakakis.

BenYachov said...

OTOH if I may recall what I read in Davies THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL. The former could be true in a sense. That is God by necessity has to do his own will.

If God wills X then God must do X by necessity. A critic of Davies whose name escapes me citing Aquinas showed Him using the term "virtue" in reference to God.

Davies showed how in context it was God will act according to His will by necessity.

There is no potency in God that can be actualized to effect His will and nothing external can do so.

It however did not mean God has moral obligations to us. Which He doesn't.

BenYachov said...

So in a sense God morally and by virtue of his nature has to do his own will by necessity.

Eric said...

(cross posted)

Professor Law wrote (in the comments section of his post, "Feser Saga Continues):

"So Feser's "demonstration", in order to effectively neutralize and overturn the case against belief in his God by the empirical evidence, will have to be some proof. It will have to be, not just cogent, but a proof of such power and clarity that there just can't be any significant reasonable doubt that it does indeed establish the existence of Feser's god - a god whose goodness is such that he won't e.g. torture children for no justifying good reason."

It seems to me that the work the EGC does, when run via the impossibility argument, is to place a stronger burden of proof on the classical theist to show that there are reasons robust enough to override the empirical data that undergirds the evidential POE. That, and it puts the classical theist in a position where he must provide such reasons before appealing to theodicies etc., since the EGC shows how these can be flipped and applied to the notion of an evil god. I think that if it minimally does this much, it qualifies as a challenge.

However, as someone who moved from agnosticism to belief in god by way of the sorts of arguments classical theists defend, I think that the classical theist can meet the challenge. As Professor Feser has explained many times, it's not the sort of thing that can be done in the comments section of a blog post, but it seems to me that it can be done, *provided* we don't unjustifiably set the epistemic bar too high -- which brings me to my next point.

Whether the classical theist can meet the EGC to Professor Law's satisfaction is another question, of course. Indeed, he seems to overstate the case to me when he says that any metaphysical demonstration of god's existence and nature must be of "such power and clarity that there just can't be any significant reasonable doubt that it does indeed establish the existence of Feser's god" and "It will have to be some proof. Remember what it has to rationally offset - what otherwise looks like overwhelming empirical evidence that there's no such god. Now even a proof - a real, cogent proof - cannot do that if there's some doubt about it's cogency." I don't think that this strong a requirement can be defended on the grounds of the EGC challenge and the evidential POE alone -- after all, the EGC concedes that there is are vast amounts of good in the world too, so the empirical data is hardly "overwhelming" -- though it does seem to me that Professor Law is correct in principle insofar as the burden on the classical theist (re the reasons he has for concluding that a god of a certain nature exists) is increased by the EGC, and that certain traditional approaches to dealing with the problems raised by the amount of suffering in the world are barred, if temporarily, by it.

So I suppose that I'm in the odd position of agreeing in part with Professor Feser, and in part with Professor Law. The discussion has gotten a bit heated, but it's been very substantive, and I'm sure that many of us have learned quite a bit from it.

BenYachov said...

Dr. Feser's latest in His comm box.

QUOTE"Stephen,

First, some advice: Count to ten before hitting “Publish.” Or get an editor. That way you won’t keep saying all these cringe-making things that are inessential to your argument and just make you look foolish – appealing to “the verdict of the philosophical community,” say, or reminding us that Religious Studies liked your article enough to publish it, or writing this gem:

Frankly, I now just don't believe you still don't understand the point. I think the intellectually honest thing for you to do… [etc.]

So, now I’m a liar because I say I don’t think the “evil god challenge” applies to classical theism. Because it just so obviously applies, and it’s just so obviously bitchin’ an argument, and (has this been mentioned yet?) got published in Religious Studies, and the “philosophical community” doesn’t buy all this Thomism stuff anyway, and it just obviously does so apply to classical theism so stop dishonestly pretending it doesn’t, etc.

But then, maybe this kind of stuff is essential to your argument, since your latest remarks certainly don’t add much of philosophical substance. Again you insist that I don’t understand your “impossibility” point, but you don’t explain how I misunderstand it except to allude to Eric’s comments. But I responded to Eric’s comments with the “material res cogitans challenge” parallel. You claim the analogy is no good. (Indeed, “obviously” no good – lots of things are “obvious” to you, it seems, that no one else finds obvious.) The reason, you say, is that “the evil God challenge does not say there’s evidence FOR an evil God.”

But the “evidence for” locution is not essential to the point I was making. (“Obviously,” I’m tempted to say, but I wouldn’t want to steal your thunder.) The point is rather that, given the background Cartesian metaphysics, the notion of a “material res cogitans” is just muddleheaded from the start; and the suggestion that pointing out that it is muddleheaded merely “meets” the challenge rather than shows that it doesn’t apply in the first place makes the “challenge” completely trivial. To use another analogy (since you still don’t get the point), if someone replies to a “round square challenge” by pointing out that what is round of necessity cannot be square so that the “challenge” cannot even get off the ground if “square” and “round” are being used in the usual way, it is no good to say “Ah! But you’ve simply tried to meet my challenge!” The “challenge” in that case is completely trivial and uninteresting.

Your remarks simply reinforce the point that your own “challenge” is completely trivial in just this way when applied to classical theism. For you say that even if an “evil God” is metaphysically impossible given classical theism, there’s still the evidential problem of evil to deal with. What you don’t see is that you’ve just confirmed what I said in an earlier comment to the effect that you’ve made your expression “evil god challenge” so elastic that in some cases it refers to your strategy of stalemating evidential arguments for a good god with the evil god hypothesis, while in other cases (i.e. when responding to the charge that the stalemate strategy doesn’t apply to classical theism) you expand the meaning so that pointing out the incoherence is “meeting” the challenge, except that the “challenge” still applies because it is in that case just a matter of reminding us that there’s the evidential problem of evil to deal with.

In short, the whole thing is just a word game to keep you from having to admit that your “evil god challenge” isn’t the novel knock-out punch you think it is, but only applies to some (e.g. theistic personalist) conceptions of God while adding nothing at all to the atheist’s case against classical theism beyond what traditional arguments from evil have already said. And if I were Stephen Law, I might add that “Frankly, I now just don't believe you still don't understand the point.”END QUOTE

wombat said...

Ok. Not sure I grasp fully the Thomist position here but here goes...

"Good" in the Thomist definition is not the same as the average layman's definition, since it is relative to the nature of the subject/thing being referred to. Since the EGC refers to the common or garden version of good/evil (fluffy bunnies, sunshine vs
war, toothache etc.) this is irrelevant. i.e an evil god in this sense is still a "good" one in the Thomist sense as he is in a state of perfection. We mere humans may not like what this leads to but that's just tough. No amount of fluffy bunnies or stomach cramp will sway the argument one way or another.

Is that about right?

BenYachov said...

@wombat

If you mean a God who is not morally obliged to give us fluffy bunnies and keep us from pain then yes. OTOH an evil God as a God who does evil as an end in itself is incoherent. Since said God would effectively be perusing non-being as it's own end.

But then why not save a step and not create in the first place since that would more effectively obtain non-being?

The Good God who allows evil still peruses causing being as it's own end.

You exposition is very crude but you are close. Heck it's better than Prof Law's refusal to give an operating definition of good or evil.

It's clearly not as good or accurate as dguller's explanation.
But you are getting there.

Good try I mean that.

Of course I want to say dguller's explanation of Thomism these last few posts is awesome.

In fact he more clearly states why God is not a moral agent then ever I did & I am a true believer.

I am so stealing his explanation.

That is how good it is.

Cheers.

Stephen Law said...

Feser says:

"in some cases it refers to your strategy of stalemating evidential arguments for a good god with the evil god hypothesis,"

There is no such strategy. I am not attempting to stalemate evidential arguments for a good god.

Stephen Law said...

Just posted this on Feser's blog...

Hi Edward

You... say... about what I might say:

"I think that the existence of evil is such overwhelmingly powerful evidence against God's existence that it makes it very highly probable that any purported metaphysical demonstration of the existence of the God of classical theism has a flaw somewhere." That would be a very dubious proposition, but at least it would be clear and straightforward and susceptible of fruitful discussion"

Er, yes that is indeed my view, as I explained above. However, the challenge is not an argument for that view, it's simply a challenge to explain why belief in a good god is significantly more reasonable than belief in an evil god (or, if you prefer, creator). The relevance of the "evil god" dimension is, this: it reveals that many of the arguments for god are no less arguments for an evil god, and that many of the standard theistic explanations for evil work just as well (in defence of a evil god) as explanations of good. Yet an evil god remains empirically absurd. Hence such arguments can hardly raise the level of reasonableness of the good god hypothesis with respect to the evil one. So what does?

Saying, "But as I define "god" an 'evil god' is conceptually incoherent' neither neutralizes this challenge nor meets it. This is because, for example, (i) we can simply rephrase the challenge in terms of an evil creator, (ii) in any case, pointing out that a hypothesis is conceptually incoherent doesn't establish there cannot be powerful empirical evidence against it (or prima facie powerful evidence, at least). Hence, there can still be powerful evidence against the evil god hypothesis provided by the evidential problem of good.

So your criticism of the evil god challenge - that it "doesn't apply" to your god because an "evil god' is conceptually incoherent - is, simply, wrong.

You skimmed the article, failed properly to understand the points I was making, and dismissed it cavalierly (just as you did the evidential problem of evil in your book, AS MY EVIL GOD CHALLENGE VERY CLEARLY BRINGS OUT. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE MOVES YOU MADE TO DISMISS THE PROBLEM OF EVIL CAN BE FLIPPED AND APPLIED JUST AS EFFECTIVELY IN DEFENCE OF THE EVIL GOD HYPOTHESIS.).

In short, the evil God challenge just is the evidential problem of evil, but formulated in such a way that it brings out the hopeless and inadequate nature of many standard theodicies, etc. Such as yours.

One of my main aims in constructing the challenge was to prevent the problem of evil being arrogantly and cavalierly swept aside by twerps who think that appeals to an after-life, riches in heaven, and "no pain-no gain" are more than enough to deal with it. They are not.

PS I don't really think you are a liar, Edward. I think you are so stuck in a particular way of thinking about god, and in dealing with challenges to theism by certain routes, that it makes it almost impossible for you to take on board any sort of unusual or left-field view. Anything a critic might say must be forced into the mould of something you're already familiar with, so you can just apply one of your stock Catholic moves. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to work in this case. Hence your growing frustration and anger.

Anyway, that's my take for what it's worth. I don't doubt you will continue to maintain that the evil god challenge "doesn't apply" to your sort of theism, despite the fact that it actually very nicely reveals the inadequacy of the theodicies you offered in your book.

Verbose Stoic said...

I think one of the main issues here is that you don't really get what a lot of the theodices are really aimed at. They are not, in fact, aimed at disproving the Problem of Evil, but at, in fact, defusing it. Recall that the structure of the Problem of Evil is -- using your definition of evil -- that suffering exists, suffering is evil, therefore evil exists, but since a good God cannot cause evil then there cannot be a good God. It's a proof by contradiction.

To defuse that, I don't need to prove that suffering is ultimately good or anything like that. All I need to do is prove that it MIGHT be. If it might be good, then the Problem of Evil argument is defused because we can now return to them and ask "So, what makes you think you KNOW that this stuff counts as evil and so contradicts the existence of a good God?". All I need to do is make the question indeterminate, meaning that we simply don't know if the Problem of Evil is right or wrong.

Enter your "evil god" challenge. If the evil god defender uses arguments similar to the theodices, all they end up doing is exactly what I'm doing: making the question of an evil god indeterminate. Which makes the question of whether a god, if it exists, is good or evil indeterminate; we just don't know. But that's all that I wanted with the theodices, so the challenge is pretty much meaningless.

You attempt to work around this by talking about the supposed mountains of empirical evidence, but the whole point of the theodices is to do exactly what I just did: point out that the mountains of empirical evidence are not, in fact, mountains of evidence since that evidence cannot be used to actually settle the question. One can then reject that we ever claim that it's the good in the world that leads us to reject that there's an evil god -- and I'm not sure who ever does that -- but that it's OTHER evidence that leads us to do that. And then the debate gets shifted to that other evidence and your challenge gets left far behind.

Steven Carr said...

VERBOSE STOIC
All I need to do is prove that it MIGHT be.

CARR
So to defuse claims that Hitler was not all-good, you just have to prove that it might be the case that he was forced against his will to do bad things by demons?

And to defuse claims that people have two legs , you just have to prove that it might be the case that people are mistaken about the number of legs they have, just as they are mistaken about how many legs the average millipede has?


VS
... point out that the mountains of empirical evidence are not, in fact, mountains of evidence since that evidence cannot be used to actually settle the question.


CARR
Of course, there is mountains of evidence that people have two legs, but then people can be mistaken. They might be being deluded by an evil god.

So this mountain of evidence about the bipedal nature of humanity, using theological logic (I say logic.....), cannot decide against the unipedality of mankind, because an evil god might possibly be deluding mankind.

I see VS is deploying the nuclear bomb of apologetics, the ultimate Christian doomsday device , by which you can show there is no logical proof that human beings have two legs.

dguller said...

Stephen:

it reveals that many of the arguments for god are no less arguments for an evil god, and that many of the standard theistic explanations for evil work just as well (in defence of a evil god) as explanations of good.

You mention that “many” of the “arguments” and “explanations” for a good God would equally work for an evil God.

Fine.

“Many” is not “all”, though. Perhaps the “many” arguments that you are referring to are of a personalist God rather than a classical theist God. I don’t think anyone was saying that your challenge did not apply to any God, but only that it did not apply to the classical theist God.

we can simply rephrase the challenge in terms of an evil creator

It would depend upon what you mean by “evil” and “creator”. Sure, one can be an evil creator of a watch, but it wouldn’t work, according to Thomist terms, to be the evil creator of the universe, because the creator of the universe would have to be Pure Act, and I’ve already explained by Pure Act cannot be evil.

in any case, pointing out that a hypothesis is conceptually incoherent doesn't establish there cannot be powerful empirical evidence against it

So, you’ll be on the hunt in the world for square circles, then?

The real issue here is the nature of metaphysical proofs versus empirical demonstrations, and which should trump the other. Feser argues the former, and you challenge with the latter.

Verbose Stoic said...

Stephen Carr,

Let's recall what the theodices are trying to do by looking at the argument from evil again (in a VERY abbreviated form):

There is suffering in the world.
A good God could not allow there to be suffering in the world.
Therefore there is no good God.

The theodices aim at the latter, and the deductive part of it, which is that what we see in the world is simply incompatible with the concept of a good God. They do so by showing that, conceptually, there's no real reason to think that there can't be suffering if there is a good God, if they succeed (if they fail, of course, then that's a completely different question). So, they argue, the concept of God under consideration or the concepts of good or evil or suffering or all of those are such that the supposed empirical evidence doesn't address the concept; it is possible to be good and be a god while still allowing the evidence that you see.

Now, look at the supposed counters you are making to the Hitler or the legs case. Are ANY of these conceptual arguments, arguments that our concepts of legs or good are such that the empirical evidence is compatible with those concepts? No. For the legs case, you are talking about an empirical claim and replying with a supposed empirical counter (that we could be mistaken about what we are seeing), but that's not what the theodices are doing or aimed at. For Hitler, it's the same thing: you are introducing an EMPIRICAL counter, but never move on to discussing what it means to the concept of good; you accept the concept of good and evil as stated but deny that Hitler actually himself was responsible for his actions. Not the same thing as I claim theodices and successful theodices aim at.

We can see this if we look at another way of arguing about Hitler's morality, by looking at it this way. Ask "Was Hitler immoral?" and have someone counter with this:

But what if he genuinely believed that the Jews were ruining the world and that the only solution was to exterminate them? Would he still be acting immorally in that case?

This sort of question is, in fact, one that has plagued moral philosophy for thousands of years; it's the heart of the debate between intentionalists and consequentialists. This, however, is an interesting defusing attempt that is similar to theodices, unlike the examples you gave, because it claims that the concept of morality is intentionalist as opposed to consequentialist as most assume, and that you can't settle it without appealing to morally relevant intentions, which the original argument does not do.

Steven Carr said...

VS
There is good in the world.
An evil God could not allow there to be good in the world.
Therefore there is no evil God.

The atheodices aim at the latter, and the deductive part of it, which is that what we see in the world is simply incompatible with the concept of an evil
God.

They do so by showing that, conceptually, there's no real reason to think that there can't be good if there is an evil God, if they succeed (if they fail, of course, then that's a completely different question). So, they argue, the concept of God under consideration or the concepts of good or evil or suffering or all of those are such that the supposed empirical evidence doesn't address the concept; it is possible to be evil and be a god while still allowing the evidence that you see.

Steven Carr said...

VS
Are ANY of these conceptual arguments, arguments that our concepts of legs or good are such that the empirical evidence is compatible with those concepts? No.

CARR
Yes, they are exactly compatible with your view that mere mountains of evidence of Hitler being evil and us having two legs does not rule out Hitler being good or us having one leg.

They simply use your theodicies to show that there is no logical proof that Hitler was evil or that we have two legs , despite the 'mountains of evidence' against such a view.

Your sophistry cuts too deep.

Verbose Stoic said...

Stephen Carr,

And apparently you missed this from my original post:

"Enter your "evil god" challenge. If the evil god defender uses arguments similar to the theodices, all they end up doing is exactly what I'm doing: making the question of an evil god indeterminate. Which makes the question of whether a god, if it exists, is good or evil indeterminate; we just don't know. But that's all that I wanted with the theodices, so the challenge is pretty much meaningless."

So, in light of that, what's your point? I conceded that the move might be able to be made but fail to see why anyone who uses theodices should care about it.

Verbose Stoic said...

Steven Carr,

"Yes, they are exactly compatible with your view that mere mountains of evidence of Hitler being evil and us having two legs does not rule out Hitler being good or us having one leg."

This you need to demonstrate, not merely assert. If you are unwilling to engage my actual arguments for why it doesn't then what need do I have of simply accepting your assertions?

Steven Carr said...

I don't need to demonstrate your abject failure to meet my original points, as you merely asserted that I was wrong, and produced no point worth responding to.

I can't refute smoke with no substance there to refute.

As to your claim that Law has merely shown that theodicies make god 'indeterminate', this merely underlines that there is no reason to believe in a good god, as people agree that it is absurd to believe in an evil god.

Which makes it absurd to believe in a good god, as even you agree they 'end up' doing what your theodicies of a good god do.

Verbose Stoic said...

Steven Carr,

I'll give you one last chance to demonstrate that you're even reading what I'm saying:

My argument is that if theodicy style arguments work for Law's evil God, then those who think it simply absurd that there might be an evil God based solely on considerations of there being good in the world ARE WRONG ... just as they are for the good God case. It is, in fact, no longer simply absurd when considerd in light of that empirical evidence. But since that merely makes it indeterminate whether good God, evil God, or no God exists based on the evidence of good and evil in the world, we leave the Problem of Evil/Good behind and move on to other arguments.

Stephen Law said...

"So, you’ll be on the hunt in the world for square circles, then?"

You are making the mistake of supposing that because the conceptually incoherent claim "square circles exist" cannot have prima face empirical evidence against it, therefore none can. I've given an example of one that can. Another would be - Ted says he ate x for dinner last night. I have powerful prima facie empirical evidence he didn't eat dinner last night. I thereby have prima facie empirical evidence against all claims of the form "Ted ate x for dinner last night". If it subsequently turns out the particular x in question is incoherent, e.g. a male hen, it remains true to say that I would be justified in rejecting the claim that he ate x anyway, on the basis of the empirical evidence, even if x wasn't incoherent.

Stephen Law said...

Hi dguller

You say: "The real issue here is the nature of metaphysical proofs versus empirical demonstrations, and which should trump the other. Feser argues the former, and you challenge with the latter."

This is correct! Ultimately, now we've left the "doesn't apply to my god" debate behind, and I think we have, the issue becomes - does Feser have a demonstration sufficient to neutralize and overturn the enormous rational deficit his belief faces, given the evidential problem of evil?

When I consider how good and clear and persuasive proof of the existence of an evil god I would need before I might reasonably conclude that, actually, there probably is such an evil god after all, notwithstanding what looks like overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, the answer, it seems to me, is: a pretty extraordinarily clear and persuasive one about which no significant doubts at all could be raised. Because of the sheer scale of the evidence to the contrary.

If that's correct (and of course you'll probably deny it is), then that's what Feser will need to provide to overturn the rational deficit.

Otherwise, he's left floundering in irrationality.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law
>There is no such strategy. I am not attempting to stalemate evidential arguments for a good god.

You keep moving the goal posts. At this point I am convinced your argument has no objective content and is nothing more than a sophistical exercise on the level of the classic Sophist argument that "proves" a man's pet dog is really his father.

I can't fathom why you believe your challenge applies to Theism across the board and all types of philosophical God concepts and moral philosophical schemes?

If every conceivable Cosmological argument where shown to be false it would stand to reason that would not rule out the existence of a Pantheistic view of God. Since a Pantheistic view of God identifies God with the universe and Cosmological Arguments tried to argue from the Universe to a generic theistic God as the distinct cause of it's distinct existence.

Thus logically for example Wes Morrison's critique & refutation of let us say the Kalam argument can't lead one to doubt a Pantheistic view of God. It's impossible since the Pantheistic God is not the same type of God the Kalam tries to demonstraight.

It's a different catagory of god.

But I suppose if Prof Morrison had an obstinate tendency to equivocated he could blur the lines that separate the distinct definitions of a Pantheistic view of God vs a genetic Theistic one.

Thus making a sophistical argument that a refutation of the Kalam functionally serves to cast doubt on the existence of Pantheism.

But should a rational person be moved by such sophistry?

I think not. Well with all due respect, your EGC when your equivocations and ambiguities are sweep away can't be applied to a Classical view of God. It can at best pimp slap the God of Plantinga or Swinburne. But the God of Aquinas must be taken out by other means.

You can blow me off by accusing of making mere assertion without argument. You can turn around & ignore arguments I give from philosopher who are known defenders of Rowe & yet make claims that are at odds with your conclusion.

You can call me bias. But sir dguller is just as much Atheist as you & he appears not to be convinced your argument can apply to the Classic view of God.

You can be an Atheist and on purely rational ground believe as I do on the effective application of your EGC to other specific traditions of Theism.

Just as Morrison can believe in God (since he is a Tillichian Theist) & argue the Kalam is not effective in proving the existence of God.

So I don't get your fanaticism here? I think a more skeptical view of your own argument is in order.

You of course are free to reject my obvious correct advice.

Cheers.

dguller said...

Stephen:

Another would be - Ted says he ate x for dinner last night. I have powerful prima facie empirical evidence he didn't eat dinner last night. I thereby have prima facie empirical evidence against all claims of the form "Ted ate x for dinner last night". If it subsequently turns out the particular x in question is incoherent, e.g. a male hen, it remains true to say that I would be justified in rejecting the claim that he ate x anyway, on the basis of the empirical evidence, even if x wasn't incoherent.

Here’s the problem. The proposition, “Ted says he ate x for dinner last night” is a coherent proposition that does not involve any contradictory terms. Sure, if you include an incoherent term for x, then the whole proposition would become incoherent, but until then, it is perfectly fine. The point is that until there is a clear contradiction in a proposition, it can be treated as coherent.

With regards to your challenge, you are taking the coherent proposition, “X might exist”, and turning it into an incoherent one by saying, “An evil God might exist”. In other words, you are comparing apples and oranges.

Ultimately, now we've left the "doesn't apply to my god" debate behind, and I think we have, the issue becomes - does Feser have a demonstration sufficient to neutralize and overturn the enormous rational deficit his belief faces, given the evidential problem of evil?

Here’s a good way to look at it. Feser argues that metaphysical demonstrations are more like logical and mathematical demonstrations made by deduction than empirical demonstrations made by induction. Just as you would not deny the correctness of the definition of “triangle” by virtue of the fact that there do not exist any empirical triangles that have absolutely straight lines, so – Feser would argue – you cannot do the same for metaphysical demonstrations. If the demonstration is sound, then that’s the end of the matter, and no amount of empirical investigation will change it, just as no amount of non-straight triangles will falsify the concept of “triangle”.

And remember, it depends upon one’s definition of “evil”. If you accept the view that “evil” is “a privation of being”, then it is a metaphysical demonstration that God as Pure Act cannot be “evil” in this sense. It is as certain as the Pythagorean Theorem. The only way out of this conclusion is to reject the premises (i.e. argue that the definition of “evil” as “privation of being” is incorrect or inadequate, for example) or find a flaw in the inference itself (i.e. via a hidden premise that is incorrect). But, that is a whole other issue than your EGC.

When I consider how good and clear and persuasive proof of the existence of an evil god I would need before I might reasonably conclude that, actually, there probably is such an evil god after all, notwithstanding what looks like overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, the answer, it seems to me, is: a pretty extraordinarily clear and persuasive one about which no significant doubts at all could be raised. Because of the sheer scale of the evidence to the contrary.

Again, you really need to be clear in your terms. When you are talking about an “evil God”, this could mean a number of things. A malicious being that intentionally wills to spread suffering throughout his creation? A being that is the cause of all suffering in the universe? Or perhaps something else? There is ambiguity in your use of this term that really requires some increased clarity. Until you can provide it, there is the legitimate charge of equivocation.

Any thoughts?

BenYachov said...

>probably is such an evil god after all, notwithstanding what looks like overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary,

But what if the moral philosophy I hold is extreme moral relativism that rejects the existence of objective morality and objective good & evil?

Then in principle there can be no amount of empirical evidence to prove any type of god good or evil?

Nobody can doubt the brute fact of authentic empirical data but the meaning of the data is judged by philosophy not empiricism since that would be a category mistake.

So as I said your sophistry for this EGC applying to Classic theism is unconvincing. Since I could reject it as an Atheist/Agnostic or liberal Theist who holds an extreme relativist view of Good vs evil on the grounds the categories of Good and evil don't really exist.

So empirical evidence at that point would become irrelevant.

If I was an Atheist I would council young Atheist activist to only use this argument to go after Plantinga and those in his camp. I would tell them nought is to be gained using this on any serious Thomist. I council them to go read Sir Anthony Kennedy for ammo in that venture.

That's just common sense.

BenYachov said...

Stephen Law wrote on Feser's blog.

""One of my main aims in constructing the challenge was to prevent the problem of evil being arrogantly and cavalierly swept aside by twerps who think that appeals to an after-life, riches in heaven, and "no pain-no gain" are more than enough to deal with it. They are not."

But what of theistic traditions that don't rely on that type of argument to believe in an all good God and reject an Evil one?

Even if you drop Dr. Feser's passing remarks about the beatific vision on pages 160 of TLS it is self evident his arguments are based on metaphyical assumptions & definitons of Aristotle, Aquinas, Anscombe, Davies, McCabe, Oderberg etc...

AG Flew believed in an Aristotelian deity(which is Aquinas' God stripped of Christian particulars) but he still rejected an afterlife.

How would EGC work for him?

At best I might admit the EGC is effective against persons who use reward in the afterlife as the sole justification, sole Theodicy for excusing a God who is a Moral Agent from allowing evil.

But I still don't believe in a God who can coherently be described as a moral agent.

Now what? I could retain by belief in the Classic God but reject an afterlife like Flew.

Again now what?

Stephen Law said...

"Here’s the problem. The proposition, “Ted says he ate x for dinner last night” is a coherent proposition that does not involve any contradictory terms. Sure, if you include an incoherent term for x, then the whole proposition would become incoherent, but until then, it is perfectly fine. The point is that until there is a clear contradiction in a proposition, it can be treated as coherent. "

Put it this way: you're ignoring the point that we can quite properly say, regarding "Ted ate a male hen last night" that we would be justified, on the evidence that he ate nothing last night, in rejecting what would be uttered by this sentence if "male hen" were coherent.

Pointing out that if "male hen" is incoherent then so is "Ted ate a male hen" does nothing to undermine that point.

Stephen Law said...

"Until you can provide it, there is the legitimate charge of equivocation."

No, that's wrong, if you mean the fallacy of equivocation. For the charge of equivocation to stick there has to be more than some ambiguity. There has to be exploited ambiguity. Ambiguity that's traded upon. But that I am exploiting some ambiguity is not true, given what I say in the previous post is correct.

If I say "I went to the bank" I am not guilty of equivocation. To be guilty of equivocation you have to seesaw between meanings to suit yourself.

In fact it matters not precisely what evil means in this context. Our pretheoretical concept of it will do. But then so would, e.g. - will maximize moral evil and suffering. The reason you think it won't is that you are assuming my point re impossibility arguments is incorrect. But it is correct.

dguller said...

Stephen:

Put it this way: you're ignoring the point that we can quite properly say, regarding "Ted ate a male hen last night" that we would be justified, on the evidence that he ate nothing last night, in rejecting what would be uttered by this sentence if "male hen" were coherent.

I see what you are saying. If we observed that Ted ate nothing last night, then we have empirical evidence to reject the proposition “Ted ate x last night”, and thus have justification to reject all values of x in that proposition, including nonsensical ones.

That makes sense, but I’m not too sure how this applies to the EGC. In that case, there isn’t a general proposition with a variable x involved where the general proposition is coherent iff x is coherent. Instead, there is an incoherent general proposition, i.e. “it is possible that an evil God exists”.

To put it another way, I would agree with you that one can muster empirical evidence for or against a general proposition that is coherent, but might become incoherent, depending upon what how vague terms or variables are clarified, as per your general proposition, “Ted ate x last night”, but that does not imply that one can muster empirical evidence for or against a proposition that is incoherent. In fact, an incoherent proposition doesn’t actually mean anything at all, being completely nonsensical, and thus cannot be argued against. It is like looking for evidence for or against a word salad, such as “dog cat train”, or like a contradiction, such as a square triangle.

So, that’s the difference here. “Ted ate x last night” is coherent, and thus amenable to empirical evidence, but “An evil God exists” is incoherent, and thus unamenable to empirical evidence.

No, that's wrong, if you mean the fallacy of equivocation. For the charge of equivocation to stick there has to be more than some ambiguity. There has to be exploited ambiguity. Ambiguity that's traded upon. But that I am exploiting some ambiguity is not true, given what I say in the previous post is correct.

What I meant is that you are equivocating between different meanings of “evil”. There is “evil” as “privation of being” and “evil” as “this feels really, really bad”. Whether you are exploiting it or not, I don’t know. However, the fact is that under one definition of “evil”, an “evil God” is as coherent a concept as a “square circle”, and under another, it is a possible one. Your challenge only applies the possible form of an evil God, which happens to not be the classical theist version of God. As such, your challenge is limited to the personalist forms of theism, which is fine. But, you cannot pretend that it is equally applicable to the classical theist form, except by equivocating on the meaning of “evil”. That is all I meant. Under one meaning of “evil”, your challenge is possible, and under another meaning of “evil”, your challenge is impossible. That’s what it comes down to.

Thanks.

dguller said...

Stephen:

Just to add to my comment.

Your challenge’s applicability to classical theism hinges upon the possibility of seeking empirical evidence for or against incoherent and impossible propositions. I think that you agree that this is impossible in a direct fashion, i.e. if one has an incoherent proposition P, then it is just meaningless and nonsensical, and thus there is neither evidence for nor against it.

However, you seem to believe that one can do so indirectly by finding a general proposition that contains a vague or indeterminate term, which could make the proposition incoherent if the term is itself incoherent. Thus, by finding empirical evidence against the coherent general proposition, then one has automatically found evidence against all coherent and incoherent specific propositions that follow from the general proposition once the term is specified.

But doesn’t that presuppose that the refutation of a coherent general proposition equally applies to its incoherent specific propositions? That would assume that the incoherent specific propositions could be bearers or truth or falsity in order to have evidence for or against them, right? But what if an incoherent proposition is neither true nor false? Then your argument wouldn’t follow, because truth and falsify cannot be transferred to propositions that can be neither true nor false.

And that would seem to undermine your challenge when it comes to classical theism.

Any thoughts?

Stephen Law said...

Hi again dguller

Perhaps it is true to say you cannot muster evidence for the falsity of a sentence expressing something is incoherent, because there's no claim made for it to be evidence against.

But even if that's true, there's still the possibility of saying this: there's good empirical evidence that if "An evil God exists" were to express a proposition, the proposition in question would be false (because there's way to much good).

It doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, notice.

Similarly, suppose Craig is right that an actual infinite is conceptually incoherent. Then "The universe is infinitely old" is conceptually incoherent, and expresses no proposition. Even so, evidence for the Big Bang would constitute good evidence that, were the sentence "The universe is infinitely old" to express a proposition, it would express a false one.

So we can say, more lazily, whether or not an actual infinite is incoherent notion, the universe being infinitely old is in any case pretty conclusively ruled out empirically.

Similarly, even if an omnipotent and omniscient but supremely evil (moral-evil-and-suffering maximizing) god is a conceptually incoherent notion, there may be empirical evidence sufficient (putting the point equally lazily) to establish there's no such a being.

You then continue...

"As such, your challenge is limited to the personalist forms of theism, which is fine. But, you cannot pretend that it is equally applicable to the classical theist form, except by equivocating on the meaning of “evil”."

But this is just to assume that the point I make re impossibility arguments above is incorrect. Which it isn't.

Stephen Law said...

ps I just re posted the last comment as first time round the first sentence was gibberish.

dguller said...

Stephen:

But even if that's true, there's still the possibility of saying this: there's good empirical evidence that if "An evil God exists" were to express a proposition, the proposition in question would be false (because there's way to much good).

Sure, but then it would depend upon the meaning of “evil” and “God” in the proposition in question. The fact is that there are meanings of those terms that make their conjunction an impossibility, and thus would make that “evil God” proposition out of reach for your challenge, which you seem to agree only holds for coherent forms of “evil God” propositions. Again, that is because incoherent forms of “evil God” propositions simply lack any content, being inherently contradictory and inconsistent, and thus nonsensical.

Take an example of a “square circle”. “Square” in this case could either mean a four-sided figure or a very boring individual. In the former sense, a “square circle” is impossible, but in the latter sense, a “square circle” is certainly possible. If you had a challenge against “square circles”, then it must necessarily only apply to the latter sense, being the only coherent one, and not to the former sense, being utterly incoherent.

Ultimately, it seems that your challenge relies upon pretending that incoherent propositions can still bear truth conditions, which even you agree is a dubious position to hold.

It doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, notice.

That would be like saying that it does not matter how one defines “square” in my above example. Clearly, it does matter, because one definition results in coherence, and another in incoherence.

Similarly, suppose Craig is right that an actual infinite is conceptually incoherent. Then "The universe is infinitely old" is conceptually incoherent, and expresses no proposition. Even so, evidence for the Big Bang would constitute good evidence that, were the sentence "The universe is infinitely old" to express a proposition, it would express a false one.

That assumes that Craig is correct. Could you point me in the direction of his demonstration of this contradiction?

So we can say, more lazily, whether or not an actual infinite is incoherent notion, the universe being infinitely old is in any case pretty conclusively ruled out empirically.

First, the Big Bang only shows that our current universe had a beginning, and thus has no bearing upon whether there are parallel universes, or a cyclical pattern of universes beginning and ending. So, the empirical case is not definitive here.

Second, you are assuming that if a proposition makes sense, then its negation must also make sense. Take the proposition that “a square has four sides”, which makes sense, and then look at its negation, “a square does not have four sides”, which is nonsense, because it comes down to a square that isn’t a square. In that case, it is not that the affirmation and negation both have truth conditions, but rather that one is necessarily true, and the other is just incoherent, and thus neither true nor false.

So, one can have an incoherent proposition whose negation actually makes sense, and vice versa. If you translate this idea to the “evil God” issue, then you have a “good God”, which is necessarily true (according to one definition), and its negation in the form of an “evil God”, which is incoherent (according to the same definition of terms). Thus, you can certainly look at empirical evidence for and against the existence of a good God, but it makes no sense to look for evidence for and against the existence of an evil God, which is just a nonsensical combination of words.

Verbose Stoic said...

Stephen Law,

"But even if that's true, there's still the possibility of saying this: there's good empirical evidence that if "An evil God exists" were to express a proposition, the proposition in question would be false (because there's way to much good).

It doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, notice."

But it does, since you need to know what "evil God" means in order to claim that there being way too much good is, in fact, empirical evidence against such a God existing. If the definition of evil and good are such that there being large amounts of good is not, in fact, any sort of evidence against that being existing, your possibility simply doesn't get off the ground. Additionally, if "evil God" is a conceptual contradiction, one can wonder -- as I think dguller does -- what you are mustering empirical evidence AGAINST? Surely you don't know enough about that incoherent concept to claim to have identified what it would be in the world so that you can muster empirical evidence against it?

Thus, if Feser's concept rules out an evil God conceptually, then you cannot use the evil God challenge against him, and must resort to a straightforward problem of evil challenge, which is accepts is doable. And for those who use theodices, you need to ensure that your empirical evidence remains such after the arguments presented, even if they would apply to the evil God as well, since arguing that they can't rule out an evil God using their concepts a) may not be true, depending on what good and evil mean (there may be too much good for an evil God but not enough evil to rule out a good God) and b) is likely irrelevant since they can appeal to other arguments than "There's too much good" to go after the evil God.

Anonymous said...

Me and My friend are studying animal rights and vegetarianism and Speciesm for Citizenship and I was just wondering that if I were to send you a letter would you write back, simply so we can have some advice etc.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Verbiose

You said:" "But even if that's true, there's still the possibility of saying this: there's good empirical evidence that if "An evil God exists" were to express a proposition, the proposition in question would be false (because there's way to much good).

It doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, notice."

But it does, since you need to know what "evil God" means in order to claim that there being way too much good is, in fact, empirical evidence against such a God existing"

reply: I meant it doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, as long as they are opposites. Sorry, thought that was clear.

Mateus said...

Hello, Mr. Law.

I made another comment in Feser's blog that you might want to see.

Thank you,

Mateus

Verbose Stoic said...

Stephen Law,

"reply: I meant it doesn't matter to the above being possible how "good" and "evil" are actually defined, as long as they are opposites. Sorry, thought that was clear."

But how can you say that it's possible to say that there's too much good in the world for there to be an evil God as an empirical argument if you don't know what evil and good are so that you can go look for them in the empirical world, or what an evil God would be so that you can determine that the opposition of good and evil would matter to that sort of being? After all, left and right are opposites, but no one would say that there's no right or right-turning being because there are too many lefts in the world.

If you want to still say that it's possible, it strikes me that it would be a possibility of "Depending on what good and evil mean, it's possible that we have a good empirical argument against good and evil Gods". But that immediately raises the question of what good and evil mean before we can validate that.

David Span said...

BenYachov

Where did I appeal to scientism? Yet you present a false dilemma: just because science doesn’t address everything doesn’t mean it doesn’t successfully address some things. And classical, Aristotelian metaphysics has indeed been taken over by physics.

But seeing you hold onto medieval metaphysics, your comment is rather hypocritical.

Anyway, how does a god, such as Aquinas's god, move from concept to reality?

As for the Evil God Challenge, Aquinas lets both you and Freser down badly. Aquinas himself wrote that "God loves all existing things", so the challenge is just as relevant. You think you are distancing Aquinas's god from the "theistic personalist" view, but the analogies even Aquinas draws with humans (writ large of course) belies such a claim.

wombat said...

OK - so the assertion is that "Good" in the Classical Theist definition has no opposite in the same way that say "left" is opposite of "right". It's more like for example temperature where we can cool things down to zero but never go below zero or gas pressure which can never reduce beyond a vacuum. Hence the concept of an evil god is like negative temperature. So far so good but can we still not apply a version of the EGC to a Classical Theist God by asking the question "Why is there empirically less Good than we should expect? That is to say the amount of (lack of) Good is indistinguishable from chance and we therefore have no empirical reason to think that the Classical Theist God exists (other than as a fully coherent platonic type ideal). Instead of pointing to evils in the world being caused by an Evil God we say that the evils are absence of Good to a degree we would not expect if the (Thomist) God were part of the world. Again drawing the analogy with temperature - akin to saying its not as warm as some physical theory says it ought to be so we have no good ground for accepting the theory. Does this work?

Larkus said...

@dguller

Would a being whose nature it is to torture babies for fun still be good under the Thomist definition?

dguller said...

Larkus:

Would a being whose nature it is to torture babies for fun still be good under the Thomist definition?

Yes, according to the definition of “good” as related to the actualization of the potential in the nature of a being.

Larkus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dguller said...

Larkus:

Wouldn't that be a good reason to reject this definition of "good" as not capturing what we normally mean by "good" and "evil"?

It’s certainly a reason, but I’m not too sure if it would be a good. Consider an analogous situation. Copernicus has shown that the earth is not the center of the universe. Darwin has shown that humans are not special, and are only evolved primates. Einstein has shown that our concepts of space and time are inaccurate. Should the fact that these truths violate our intuitions and emotional self-esteem be sufficient to reject them as false? Sometimes, the truth hurts.

Any thoughts?

Larkus said...

@dguller

"Sometimes, the truth hurts."

I think this definition misses one of the everyday-meanings of good resp. evil, as in:

"You are a good devil if you are especially evil."

What word would take the place of "evil" in the above sentence? Immoral?

dguller said...

Larkus:

"You are a good devil if you are especially evil."

What word would take the place of "evil" in the above sentence? Immoral?


If it is the nature of a “devil” to cause pain and suffering, and you called this “evil”, then a devil that causes pain and suffering would be good in the sense of actualizing its nature. However, if you are using “evil” in the sense of not actualizing one’s nature, then the sentence is contradictory, much like the Liar paradox.

Larkus said...

@dguller

"Sometimes the truth hurts."

So according to the Thomist view, God would be good, no matter what, since he always actualises his own nature, but that nature could be "torturing babies for fun and committing all kinds of heinous acts ", that in an everyday-understanding of "good" and "evil" would be considered evil, and God couldn't even be called immoral for it, because God does everything he does necessarily. Is that roghly correct?

dguller said...

Larkus:

So according to the Thomist view, God would be good, no matter what, since he always actualises his own nature, but that nature could be "torturing babies for fun and committing all kinds of heinous acts ", that in an everyday-understanding of "good" and "evil" would be considered evil, and God couldn't even be called immoral for it, because God does everything he does necessarily. Is that roghly correct?

Yup, that’s roughly correct. There’s probably a few problems involved in your account of God’s nature, including the having “fun” part, which indicates a psychological state that wouldn’t apply to God, but that would get us into areas that I either do not understand or utterly disagree with. I think that Thomists would deny that human beings could actually know God’s nature at all, and only understand some of his properties by analogy with created properties. So, I don’t think they would say that you could state his nature with the precision that you have.

Larkus said...

@dguller

"I think that Thomists would deny that human beings could actually know God’s nature at all, and only understand some of his properties by analogy with created properties. So, I don’t think they would say that you could state his nature with the precision that you have."

But they wouldn't deny that God's nature could turn out the way I described it (if the fun part is corrected), would they?

If God had such a nature, how could it be called, if it can't be called evil and neither immoral?

dguller said...

Larkus:

But they wouldn't deny that God's nature could turn out the way I described it (if the fun part is corrected), would they?

Actually, I don’t know. Ask this question at Edward Feser’s blog for a better answer, particularly at the recent Stephen Law post comment section.

If God had such a nature, how could it be called, if it can't be called evil and neither immoral?

It would be called “good” according to the Thomist definition of “good”.

Larkus said...

@dguller

"It would be called “good” according to the Thomist definition of “good”."

Of course. I was looking for a fitting word, that would catch the "torturing babies and committing lots other heinous acts" aspect of God's nature, if he had such a nature as opposed to a nature that involved making Earth a paradise.

dguller said...

Larkus:

Of course. I was looking for a fitting word, that would catch the "torturing babies and committing lots other heinous acts" aspect of God's nature, if he had such a nature as opposed to a nature that involved making Earth a paradise.

Well, here’s a helpful way to think about it. God doesn’t torture babies and commit heinous acts. However, he does create the circumstances that make these instances of suffering occur. So, you are actually talking about the background conditions of suffering, and are holding God responsible for those background conditions. Unless you have seen God torture a child?

Given that framework for your question, change the subject of your inquiry from God to the Sun. The Sun transmits electromagnetic radiation in the form of photons carrying energy to the earth, which is absorbed by plants, consumed by animals, and ultimately consumed by human beings. The Sun is part of the background conditions that make suffering possible, because without it, there would be no suffering, because there would be no life. What would you call the Sun in this circumstance?

Larkus said...

@dguller

I was rather thinking about God miraculously intervening in the world to make babies suffer. Of course I have never seen God intervening in the world to make babies suffer, but since we don't know God's nature we can't exclude that he does.

dguller said...

Larkus:

I was rather thinking about God miraculously intervening in the world to make babies suffer. Of course I have never seen God intervening in the world to make babies suffer, but since we don't know God's nature we can't exclude that he does.

Well, we don’t know God’s nature, because it is beyond our understanding, being limited and finite beings. What you propose would be comprehensible, and thus could not – by definition – be part of God’s nature. Thomists claim that all we can know about God is what is deduced from natural theology, i.e. by reason, and revelation. Perhaps if you could show how God’s intervening in the world to make babies suffer could be deduced from reason or revelation?

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps if you could show how God’s intervening in the world to make babies suffer could be deduced from reason or revelation?"

Does Deuteronomy 20:10-20 count? What about Numbers 26:10?

Larkus said...

@dguller

I have to admit this is hard to comprehend. Nonetheless, thank you for your time. I have to think that through.

Best regards

dguller said...

Anonymous:

Yup, that would do it! :)

BenYachov said...

The babies suffer as a pre-accident result of the fact God orders the Israelites to kill all these people and killing people can be painful for them. (Duh!)

But does God cause evil(non-being) as an end in itself for any being?

God can cause directly or indirectly the particular accidents/properties of a being to be given or taken away. That is unremarkable.

But where is the Evil (as defined by Aquinas) for it's own sake?

BTW before you answer my question if you are going to cite the Bible & Theology you are not allowed to equivocate by smuggling in the Materialist Atheist idea that death result in a complete loss of a personal being.

In Thomism the biological death of a human being is not equivalent with annihilation and non-being.

I am not interested in debating wither it is wrong for people to kill babies & condemn them to non-existence on the orders of a make believe "god".

I get it the people around here don't believe in any gods. I however am not one of them.

So no fallacies of equivocation I will become nasty. If I want bullshit I'll talk to a NYC politician.

(Hey I could make this easy for myself by arguing from the Talmud some rabbis didn't believe the Commands of Haram where literal or literally applied. But Aquinas wasn't one of those people & I want to argue from the strongest possible objection to my Theistic views. )

I am interested in hearing dguller's analysis. Since I know he will take the question seriously.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

>I was rather thinking about God miraculously intervening in the world to make babies suffer.

Does the Haram command really count here since if the text are taken literally it's the Israelites who are merely killing the children that causes pain.

What you say above would be better suited to imagining God directly and supernaturally pouring all the punishments & full damnation of Hell into the souls of innocent children.

Anonymous said...

BenYachov,

Your concern for truth on your own terms is noted.

Return to your bridge now.

BenYachov said...

>Your concern for truth on your own terms is noted.

Well as a matter of brute fact & common sense you have to dismember a person's particular "truth" on it's own terms.

Otherwise you are wasting their time begging the question.

dguller said...

Ben:

How do you square the Biblical passages describing God commanding the murder of children with the God of classical theism? I mean, it seems that the God of classical theism is inconsistent with virtually all of the Bible, which describes God as a personal being who issues commands and injunctions to human beings. And if so, then how can revelation ever be a genuine source of truth about God? And if you say that it should not be taken literally, but only metaphorically, then why not an explicit preface to the Bible that commands this hermeneutic stance? That would avoid the damage that literalists are causing in the Bible’s name, no? And if you are going the metaphorical route, then what are the rules by which these metaphors are discovered?

Elentar said...

Is it just me, or do neo-medievalists rely on a kind of semantic inquisition, by which words are tortured until they confess to meanings of which they are entirely innocent? When I read Feser's style of theology (which I encountered at length in my days taking philosophy at a Catholic University) they remind me of nothing so much as physicist spinning mathematical conjectures without ever going to the lab. Although the mathematics of physics has a rigour that no theologian can ever hope to attain, physicists wander down blind alleys more often than not. As Richard Feynman put it, "You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

If there were a God, his book would not be any scripture or book of theology--these were all written by us. The book of God would be reality itself. Cosmology without induction is less than worthless. What I see in Feser and his kind is a triumphalist arrogance that will not submit itself to the discipline of evidence, but instead indulges in endless solipsistic motivated reasoning. They are convincing only to the convinced. His arguments amount to nothing more than poetic non-sequitors (deepities, as Dennett calls them), in which descriptive, metaphorical, and metanymic modes of language are thrown together in a cacaphony of category errors.

The problem with motivated reasoning is not bad conclusions, but bad arguments. People who like the conclusions develop a tolerance of nonsense, and so we have the Becks and Olbermans and Huffingtons and Limbaughs. The neo-scholastics are just more noise without signal.

Anonymous said...

Elentar:

"Is it just me..."

You are not alone.

They steal words like "good" and "evil" to make their arguments emotional.

No one 'talks' like that. No one.

Furthermore, when confronted about problems with 'revelatory' material there is a cognitive dissonance that gets swept away with post hoc motivated reasoning.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

Hey guy.

>How do you square the Biblical passages describing God commanding the murder of children with the God of classical theism?

I reply:1st a minor quibble. Since God is not a moral agent if He takes life it is no more murder than a tree which falls on you & kills you can be coherently called a murderer. Murder is the unlawful taking of human life and God by any definition has that right. I had an interesting debate with an Agnostic with strong Deist leanings who conceded God given His Nature had the right
to take any human life(innocent or not) at will directly but quibbled over the "morality" of him ordering others to do it especially the innocent like the Canaanite children.

So there are grades here. Atheists who say if there is a God he can't take anybody's life. Or He can only take the life of the wicked. He can the life of the innocent but only if He does it directly(flood, Angel of Death, Plague etc) and regardless he can't order someone to kill the innocent.

Those issues need to be spelled out. Is it evil for God to take human life? That is the question. I say no.

>I mean, it seems that the God of classical theism is inconsistent with virtually all of the Bible, which describes God as a personal being who issues commands and injunctions to human beings. And if so, then how can revelation ever be a genuine source of truth about God?

I reply:I don't for a second doubt it is inconsistent with your interpretation of the Bible. But that is also a non-starter for me since Catholics reject the Reformation heresies of erspicuity, Private interpretation & interpreting Scripture alone without Tradition(i.e Sola Scriptura) etc..

You are kind of begging the question here in that you are assuming the Bible was meant to be the Sole Rule of Faith intepreted by the individual Christian. Catholics don't believe that.
Here is a good analogy. Can you give the Constitution to individual Americans and tell them "May the spirit of Washington & Jeferson guide you in implimenting this document" without a government or supreme court to
implement it? The USA wouldn't last a year. The Bible is more like a constitution to the Church and less a personalized handbook for believers.

Protestants put too much on the Bible so much so that it creates the backlash of Liberal Christians or Atheists who take it all away.

We Catholics (& to be fair the Eastern Orthodox, High church anglicans to some extent)have a more balanced approach IMHO.


>And if you say that it should not be taken literally, but only
metaphorically, then why not an explicit preface to the Bible that commands this hermeneutic stance? That would avoid the damage that literalists are causing in the Bible’s name, no? And if you are going the metaphorical route, then what are the rules by which these metaphors are discovered?

I reply: Again that kind of begs the question by assuming it is meant to be used as the sole rule of Faith apart from Tradition in the first place.
OTOH the Bible does tell us to follow Tradition (2 Thes 2:15, 3:6, 1 Cor. 11:2). To follow the Church Luke 10:16, and the Bible itself calls the Church "The Pillar and Ground of the Truth"(1 Tim. 3:15). Scripture doesn't discernible itself as thus so why should I do so? The Jews via tradition had the Pshat, Drash, Midrash, din and Gematria senses of Scripture. The Christians had similar takes on it.

Hope this helps.

Proph said...

A few points:

@dguller-
How do you square the Biblical passages describing God commanding the murder of children with the God of classical theism? I mean, it seems that the God of classical theism is inconsistent with virtually all of the Bible, which describes God as a personal being who issues commands and injunctions to human beings.

The classical theist conception of God allows for personality; indeed, I believe it requires it. I think the most that can be said of classical theism in this regard is that the divine personality it posits is not simply akin to human personality but on a grander scale.

@Larkus--
But they wouldn't deny that God's nature could turn out the way I described it (if the fun part is corrected), would they?

If God had such a nature, how could it be called, if it can't be called evil and neither immoral?


I have an answer to this but I won't hazard to offer it, since my background in philosophy is pretty shallow and I'm likely to muddle the issue more than I am to clarify it. But there's a useful explanation related to the topic from the Catholic blogger Bonald, explaining the contributions of John Duns Scotus to Scholastic theology. Read it here:

BenYachov said...

@dguller

I would still like to get your personal thoughts if I may press you? Let me put it is language you might find easier to understand given your study of Thomism. (Also I hope you will find it clever).

If Being Itself (who remember is not a moral agent) Timelessly from all Eternity, willed, directly caused and or actualized, one Moses to have an anthropomorphic voice in his mind(or in a Cloud of Luminous Darkness, like it matters) telling him that Being Itself(aka YHWH, God, The One Upstairs etc) wanted him to tell the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites, would that be defined as evil under what you understand Thomism to define as evil? Would it make God evil?

If yes then why? If no then why.

Your thoughts?

If it's too much & you decline then mull it over and in the future we can bounce it around Feser's blog and see what the regulars say.

Cheers. I don't plain on replying & I will resist my kneejerk tendency to "correct".

I just want to know what you think based on what you have learned so far.

Cheers again.

BenYachov said...

edit :Catholics reject the Reformation heresies of Perspicuity, Private interpretation & interpreting Scripture alone without Tradition(i.e Sola Scriptura) etc..

Patrick said...

As for the question how God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites refers His moral perfection there are comments of mine in the following thread that may be helpful:

http://www.daylightatheism.org/2011/07/they-have-no-answer.html#comments

wombat said...

@BenYachov

How does one resolve the issue of a non-moral agent having the "right" to do anything? Surely the notion of rights is a legal/moral/ethical issue not one of ability to execute. It seems to me that (non - moral) God might well have the power to kill people but no more the right to do so than the tree falling on someones head has the right to do so.

David Span said...

dguller

You miss my point again. Aquinas deceitfully equivocates on “goodness”, first using it in regard to essence of being but then in regard to morally good for a god, as in not being able to do evil. This is clear from the introduction of the term evil, as well as Aquinas's claim that god loves everything (after the biblical “god is love”). Of course it is reasonable to think that that was the end that Aquinas was aiming to meet all along: a perfectly (morally) good god. But the reality contradicts it. So I equivocated backwards from evil, in the spirit of Aquinas’s own approach, taking into account reality, ala the EGC.

But if you don’t like my initial paraphrasing, then I’ll remove the equivocation -- so the essence of this god, its goodness, is about inflicting suffering and evil, and the degree of this goodness is the degree to which its nature is actualised. Actually that seems a better format, still of course paying homage to the EGC.

As far as “tunnel vision” is concerned, we can only go where the evidence leads -- if only one tunnel remains that may have the light at the end of it, because we have found other paths are blocked or in darkness or lead nowhere, so be it.

David Span said...

BenYachov

The claim that Aquinas’s god is not a moral agent makes no sense in light of the way the god of the Bible is revealed as acting/thinking. Not only does Aquinas claim his god loves everything (after all, it is the god of Christianity), but the Bible is full of this god making laws, judging, punishing, making decisions favouring one group over another, killing, sparing, setting out details about what is pure and impure. Which nicely covers the 5 dimensions of human morality: care, fairness, in-group, authority, purity. This god clearly acts with reference to a right and wrong - hence is a moral agent.

(Even the claim that it is impossible for this god to do evil is contradicted by the revelation in the Bible that god created evil/suffering.)

To redefine how we look at morality and moral responsibility (and also how we might define evil) when applied to a god, heads towards special pleading. Or maybe it would fall into certain categories where we don’t hold beings morally responsible: animals, which in general lack our moral sense; children, who have not properly developed/matured their moral sense; and the insane, whose brains lack the relevant functionings. Do we want any of these to apply to this concept of a god? Maybe we could also include “the being in charge, giving orders” -- Hitler would like to appeal to that dispensation.

So, special pleading it is.

And so the EGC applies very well to Aquinas’s god, needing to go no further than the evidence of evil assocaited with this god in the Bible itself.

As far as the concept of heaven is concerned, just because you might see it sitting logically with a particular set of definitions about how the world works doesn’t automatically make it reality. (Just like the lgoic of a world in a computer game doesn't necessarily represent the real world.) And we don’t need to “smuggle in” a materialistic view of the brain/mind. The evidence for it is already in. Now it’s not a good idea for you to ignore the evidence, simply calling it inadmissible; and ditto for the evidence for evil god.

BenYachov said...

@David Span

While I wait to see what dguller's thoughts are on the subject at hand I am going to punt* with you.

(That is an American Football term. Another way to put it is I am going to pass the buck.)

Brian Davies discusses God's moral agency or rather his lack there off according to the Bible in his book THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.

The God of the Bible is not a Moral Agent unequivocally compared to a human moral agent. Go read it for yourself. It's a good read.

Ironically it taught me something Prof Law is aiming for in his incoherent Evil God Challenge. That Theodicy is a pointless and silly enterprise. But that doesn't undermine the case for God it rather strengthens it IMHO.

Read it for yourself. Take it out of the library or buy it. Or not. It's your choice.

BenYachov said...

David Span,

Prof Law's argument has no definition of either good or evil and it equivocates between radically different philosophical and metaphysical conceptions of God. It equivocates between moral goodness vs ontological goodness.
It's view of good and evil is hopelessly subjective. It really has no content. It's no better then when I was a Freshmen in college so very long ago & I argued with my Professor who was an Atheist by saying "Well if there is no God then Hitler got away with it".

Mine was a bogus argument then. Prof Law's EGC is one now. Except I grew out of my bad argument.

If we imagine the Haram commands where nothing more than hyperbole speech and not meant to be or applied literally(like when Jesus says "If thy Right eye offend thee pluck it out, Right hand offend thee cut it off etc" is not taken to be a literal command for self-mutilation). Further more if we imagine God really is a perfect moral agent & a disembodied human mind with unlimited metaPowers & if we imagine the God of the Bible is all these things and the same God.

Well then according to Prof Law's subjective challenge God is still an "Evil God" to the likes of Hitler because of the challenge's subjectivity, ambiguity and equivocations.
God is an "evil Jew loving God"(from Her Hitler's subjective perspective) who punishes a lovely fellow like him who is merely trying to improve humanity by getting rid of it's inferior members and assuming for himself the role of God to make these choices about beings he did not create from nothing and whose existence he doesn't actively sustain from moment to moment.

Which he should do since YHWH is proven an incompetent Jew lover. Which Hitler can't abide and tragically must unjustly suffer for all eternity for from his perspective.

Talk about special pleading.

Sorry David Span if I denied God tomorrow I would see no value in this EGC other then it's a quaint & clever piece of sophistry.

Brian said...

It's amusing seeing atheists taking a Protestant view of the Bible. I want to squeeze your guys' cheeks for being so cute. Protip: stick to classical theism vs. atheism for now. Then, if you become a theist, we'll deal with Protestantism vs. Catholicism.

Brian said...

And for crying out loud, St. Thomas Aquinas is a doctor of the Catholic Church and was a Scriptural theologian himself. If a keen intellect like him did not notice any problems between his classical theistic formulation of God with the one true of God as revealed through Christ, certainly the Catholic Church would have caught then. But no, the Catholic Church has dogmatized classical theistic doctrines - do you know what that even means?! So maybe - just maybe - there is something that you are not even considering when you think the "two" conflict.

Larkus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Span said...

BenYachov

You can pass the buck if you want, but you haven’t addressed the challenge.

Unfortunately for you and Friar Davies, the subjective god character depicted in the Bible indeed acts and thinks as a moral agent.

Even though Friar Davies says “we can’t judge god” he, and Aquinas, also state that their subjective god concept is good and cannot be evil! Some standard is being used to judge this god as good.

So Davies says we can’t judge his god but meanwhile he does judge it. Friar Davies hopelessly contradicts himself. He’s a hypocrite.

You try the same thing trying to avoid the problem of evil. Of course you might think that “theodicy is a pointless and silly enterprise”. But if you apply moral goodness to your subjective god concept, as Aquinas does, then you can’t avoid the problem of evil -- and Aquinas’s subjective god concept becomes incoherent. (Even Aquinas saw the need for a theodicy, as unsuccessful as it was.)

Prof Law defines what he means by evil. It seems standard. However, if you claim the definition is “hopelessly subjective” it gets you nowhere. Morality is subjective. Your and Aquinas’s definition would also be “hopelessly subjective”.

So where does the EGC equivocate on “good” like Aquinas does? And even if the EGC does equivocate, all you would then have is a tu quoque fallacy. Which damns Aquinas’s god, but is useless to attack the EGC, because that’s the whole point – if it applies to Evil God it applies to Good God.

To say that the EGC is incoherent is to commit the Good God to incoherence.

And what is the relevance of the Haram commands to Jesus, or a god as depicted in the Bible? Where the commands are actually depicted to result in mass suffering (e.g. slaughtering babies, enslaving captured civilians, inflicting pain in child birth, slaughtering people for holding different beliefs).

How does your picture of Evil God from Hitler’s perspective make sense? Firstly, how did Evil God lose its power to create something from nothing? Prof Law says Evil God is still all-powerful.

Now from Hitler’s perspective, Evil God hates the Jewish people – a la Hitler saying several times he was completing god’s work to destroy the Jews (remember that Germany’s anti-semitism was directly linked to Evil God’s New Testament via countless Christian atrocities and via Martin Luther). And why would you think that Evil God makes Hitler “unjustly suffer for all eternity”? You are blinkered by your own subjective assumptions –- try to think outside your box. Evil God sends Hitler to heaven for his evil deeds. Of course Evil God couldn’t stop some people choosing to do good by beating Hitler – that’s the price of giving humans free will.

After all, Good God sends some people to Hell. Evil God can send some people to heaven.

Sorry BenYachov, Aquinas’s subjective god is nothing but a quaint piece of sophistry.

BenYachov said...

I see dguller has his hands full trying to explain things to you David.

>Unfortunately for you and Friar Davies, the subjective god character depicted in the Bible indeed acts and thinks as a moral agent.

According to whose interpretation? Yours? I should accept your subjective interpretation over & above let us say Davies or the Pope for what reason again? Are
you infallible? Where you authorized by God to interpret this text under the protection of the Holy Spirit? If not why should I listen too you? Are you
interpreting it in harmony with Catholic teaching or in opposition? Why should I
go with the opposition? OTOH if there is no God then that doesn't make the bible perspicuous. It means what the reader wants it to mean and I should choose your meaning over mine or Davies why?

What part of "I'm a Catholic I don't believe in Private Interpretation and Perspicuity of Scripture" do you not understand? What part of "Non-starter" is
unclear to you?

England! Even your Atheists are kneejerk Protestants.

Maybe I should pick a fight with Irish Atheists?

>Even though Friar Davies says “we can’t judge god” he, and Aquinas, also state that their subjective god concept is good and cannot be evil!

Where would Prof Law & you be without the fallacy of equivocation eh? I read Davies
unlike either Law or you apparently. When he says we "can't judge God" he means that
analogously to how we "can't judge science as science" morally. Since science is amoral & can't coherently be called a moral agent it is silly to judge it moral or
immoral. The same with God. But amoral things can be good, like science for example.

Sure an immoral human can use science for immorality but science itself cannot coherently be called moral or immoral.

>Some standard is being used to judge this god as good.

Ontologically good yes but not morally good. You really don't have the faintest idea
of what the difference is between those two concept do you?

>So Davies says we can’t judge his god but meanwhile he does judge it. Friar Davies hopelessly contradicts himself. He’s a hypocrite.

Here you are equivocating between moral evaluation vs metaphysical description of a thing's nature.

Lame!

>(Even Aquinas saw the need for a theodicy, as unsuccessful as it was.)

Your assuming Aquinas means the same thing as Plantinga and Swinburne mean by "Theodicy".

That is like assuming if yours truly(an American) talks about "Football" I mean the same thing
as Prof Law(a Brit) does when he talks about "Football".

Seriously? More equivocation and sophistry!

BenYachov said...

>Prof Law defines what he means by evil.

To quote him "My definitions of good and evil? I am working with our familiar, pretheoretical concepts of good and evil, on which, for example, pain and suffering are evils, and agony inflicted for no good justifying reason is a gratuitous evil."

So is an Animal who bites you gratuitously, "evil"? In what sense would it be called "evil"? It may have inflicted an evil on you but that doesn't make the animal a failure as an animal now does it? Nor can one claim the animal is immoral for biting
you because animals aren't moral agents.

So there is no clear definition of what does it mean philosophically to call something good or evil and in what sense here, is there?

Plus a "pretheoretical concept" is another way to say an intuition. So you have this intuition something is either good or evil but you can't or won't provide a techinal definition for a logical argument?

I don't see how any of this is clear? It is just fog.

>However, if you claim the definition is “hopelessly subjective” it gets you nowhere.
Morality is subjective.

But since God in the Classic sense is not a moral agent and can't coherently be conceived as such it's still incoherent to apply any moral standard subjective or
objective to God. It's like discussing the Batting Averages of Poets and it's importance to poetry.

Meaningless!

>So where does the EGC equivocate on “good” like Aquinas does?

Aquinas doesn't equivocate on "good". He defines clearly difference between moral good (i.e. living up to a moral code you are under) vs ontological good (something acting/existing according to the perfection of it's nature).

In the EGC OTOH Good and Evil are non-defined subjective intuitions or they are seemingly defined strictly in moral terms defining a "God" who is a moral agent who
fails to act according to a moral code he must live up too or acts contrary to his moral nature.

This is incoherent for a classic God who is not a moral agent, purely actual and thus by definition cannot fail to live up to His nature.

Plus the "god" of the EGC is clearly an anthropomorphic being alongside other beings.

The God of Classic Theism is not a being alongside other beings but BeingItself. He is also not anthropomorphic. He can only be compared to creatures analogously not unequivocally.

>How does your picture of Evil God from Hitler’s perspective make sense?

Your the one who said morality is subjective. So calling something an evil God makes little sense without an objective standard of Good and Evil. A God who hates Jews is "Good" to Hitler's subjective standard. A Good who punishes him for all eternity for killing Jews is "evil" to him. But then Good and evil themselves become trivial concepts.

There is little more that can be said other then the Challenge is meaningless to a Classic view of God. It's like challenging a Footballer to get more Home Runs in his next game of football.

Sophistry and nonsense the EGC.

OTOH if Prof Law would give up his fantasy pretense the EGC can be applied across the
Theistic spectrum. The EGC is a pretty good polemic against a Theistic Personalist type of God who is conceived of as a perfect moral agent. It's a good challenge to the God of Swimburne and David Wood. But not the God of Aquinas and Classic Theism.

wombat said...

"Plus the "god" of the EGC is clearly an anthropomorphic being alongside other beings. "

Doesn't have to be.

"He" could just be pure good/evil, as long as the "good is the opposite of evil" property is in place then the rest works. Doesn't even have to be a moral agent either as far as I can see as long as the results of his actions are deemed goods/evils. Like the animal that bites. It may well be morally neither good nor evil but we can say that if we encounter it we will be bitten and suffer as a result which is an evil (in the generally understood sense). One of the strengths of the EGC is surely that as various enhancements are brought to one side - e.g. "Its for greater good." a corresponding inverse one can be equally plausibly added to the other. Now that still leaves the "Classical Theist God" and the corresponding definition of "good" which has no opposite. Fair enough but this does not allow, surely, any claims about this sort of God to be useful for any sort of Christian does it? How on earth Aquinas avoided being burnt at the stake for heresy etc. is amazing let alone managing to get a sainthood out of it! Who in any sort of mind wants moral guidance from an amoral
source? Love from an non-personal thing? Forgiveness is right out. Still it does seem to make "sin" rather irrelevant so perhaps it's going to be a more popular view after all.

Unless of course one tries to squirm out of this pure view and one speaks "analogically" in which case an analogy of the EGC comes into play doesnt it?

BenYachov said...

>"He" could just be pure good/evil, as long as the "good is the opposite of evil" property.

Easily refuted by the fact that the Classic View via Thomism does not postulate that Good and Evil are metaphysically equivalent but opposite positive existants. Like the Light Side vs the Dark Side of The Force.

Evil is metaphysically understood as privation, therefore a purely evil "God" by definition is a non-existent one. Evil metaphysically doesn't have a substantive existence but an accidental one.

Now if you want to argue this metaphysical description of evil is wrong for whatever reason knock yourself out but that argument you come up with would be doing the heavy lifting against the Classic view of God not the EGC. The EGC would still be by nature and content(or lack there of) a non-starter to the classic view. Like I said it's like delivering your devastating flawlessly logical refutation of Young Earth Creationism to a room filled with Theistic Evolutionist.

**Yawn!**

In Thomism an Evil God is not logically possible anymore than a four-sided Triangle is possible.

An Evil God would be evil because it lacked a perfection. But God is a Subsistant Existence that is Purely Actual thus if He lacked any perfection he would not be God.

If he failed to act according to a morally he would be evil but God is not a moral agent in the classic view so that is a non-starter.

The EGC can only be applied to a Theistic Personalist view of God like Swimburne's "god" (who is a moral agent, an unlimited mind unequivocally compared to a human mind etc, everyhting that is anathema to the Classic view).

Accept it. If I denied any God tomorrow knowing what I know my opinion here would not change.

wombat said...

@BenYachov

I seem to have expressed myself poorly in some way here. I AGREE that the Thomist God does not have the same problem as the anthropomorphic variety of deity in this respect. I was merely pointing out that it is not the non-anthropomorphism that avoids the problem and that other non-personal conceptions of god may be subject to the EGC. As you point out it's more to do with the Thomist definition of Good.
That is to say I think the EGC is valid for any definition where good is the opposite of evil in the sense of say addition and subtraction in mathematics.

That being said I think that :

(1) In practice many theists (and I am not suggesting you are doing this) use something like the Thomist view and then claim a huge range of other attributes for God (compassion etc) which are not really justified. I believe that any such attachment of more conventional labels (common or garden good//evil, any sort of benign personal qualities) will still be subject to the EGC even if the (Thomist) basis still stands. That is to say there it is equally (in)valid to argue from "Thomist God" to "God likes fluffy kittens".

(2) Accepting the definition of Evil as simply lack of Good (which pretty much divorces the terms from the man in the streets conception of them) seems to render the EGC irrelevant to Thomist God but does this not also demonstrate that the Thomist God is (necessarily by definition) irrelevant to the man in the street?

In short it seems to me (at present) that the Thomist God (as I think I have understood your description) is safe from the EGC as as long as it makes no attempt to impinge on the pyhsical world or rely on arguments from empirical evidence to support it.

BenYachov said...

wombat

If you are still reading (since this post fell off the first page) I would say we are in accord.

I don't think I disagree with anything you posted in your last.

Cheers.

David Span said...

BenYachov

If you’re concerned about an anthropomorphic god, then Aquinas scores an own goal. Clearly his god is anthropomorphic – it’s a “he” for a start (what a give away). Then it’s given characteristics of loving, imposing justice, telling the truth. It’s description is of a moral agent, it acts as one, and is judged as one.

But why should I accept your, or Davies’ or Aquinas’s subjective interpretation? Are you infallible? Were you authorised by Evil God or are you under the protection of Evil God’s magic spirit? Why should anyone listen to the Pope or Aquinas – just an appeal to authority.

Interesting that you would raise the issue of Protestants vs Catholics – that doesn’t help you, it provides even more of a problem for you and your subjective version of a god and the tales of the Bible.

Well obviously what I’m saying is not in harmony with Catholic teaching – so what? That would just lead to another appeal to authority by you. OK, then yours isn’t in harmony with Islamic teaching.

How can your analogy with not being able to “judge science as science” morally have any relevance? Science is about a method and a body of knowledge. It’s not being given moral attributes, nor does it have the ability to judge, nor that it can only be morally good and not evil. Amoral agents cannot be judged to make decisions about moral right and wrong, cannot be just, cannot itself be judged as creating a moral code. Which is what Aquinas’s god does. So you have a rather silly analogy.

So however much you complain about it, Tom’s subjective god character has been judged by a moral standard. You can call it a “metaphysical description” if you want, but it is still a moral evaluation by the definition of the terms.

And how is it analogous to the batting average of poets when it is clearly about the poetry? Where do you come with these absurd analogies?

How lame!

Theodicy is an attempt to prove a god's intrinsic or foundational nature of being all loving – which is obviously what Aquinas was trying to do with his make-believe about a god. And we know it is make-believe because Aquinas conceded that his god character is fundamentally incomprehensible to us! He shoots himself in the foot. You haven’t the faintest idea what a theodicy is.

So first you say Prof Law hasn’t defined good/evil, now you say he has.

Human suffering from being attacked by an animal is an example of natural evil, consistent with the familiar definition. It makes perfect sense in the context of the claim that the world is created by an all-loving that can only do moral good. Hence the power of the problem of evil.

And way we talk abouy morality is about innate mental concepts, so it is reasonable to talk about it as a pretheoretical concept -- for which a definition is given.

In regard to Aquinas’s equivocation, as his subjective god’s essence nature is defined as loving everything, unable to do evil, and is just – so it is indeed defined as a moral agent, and hence not only is the problem of evil relevant, but Evil God too.
You keep contradicting yourself on this.

Well the issue of subjective morality isn’t a problem for me - where is it objective? Aquinas judges his god as not being evil and all those other moral evaluations. So where is this objective standard that you allude to? You mean it’s Aquinas claiming it’s objective? That would beg the question. What’s wrong with Evil God’s standard of moral good and evil? Why does it trivialise but Aquinas’s Good God doesn’t? This is at the heart of the challenge.

Your objections are meaningless to Evil God, and your analogies irrelevant.

BenYachov said...

>If you’re concerned about an anthropomorphic god, then Aquinas scores an own goal. Clearly his god is anthropomorphic...

This is about as intelligent as when a YEC claims "The Second Law of Thermal Dynamics" refutes Evolution.

It is simply a brute fact Aquinas view of God is not anthropomorphic.

Reading any scholar of Aquinas & you would know that. It can be someone as religious a Feser or McCabe or Agnostic like Sir Anthony Kennedy.

You are an ignorant person sir.

BenYachov said...

>But why should I accept your, or Davies’ or Aquinas’s subjective interpretation?

About as asinine a question as when the YEC asks "Why should I accept Dawkins or Coyne's subjective interpretations of fossel evidence".

>So first you say Prof Law hasn’t defined good/evil, now you say he has.

Where did I say this? I can't help but notice you don't directly quote me so you are content to make shit up.

This is pathetic! If this is the intellectual class of Atheist you have here Prof Law I weep for the fate of Atheism.

David Span said...

BenYachov

It is simply a "brute fact" that the description of Aquinas's god is anthropomorphic. If he didn’t want it to be so then he shouldn’t have assigned it with human attributes. It’s male for a start and had a son!

You present a false analogy between claims based on empirical evidence and those that are not. You can’t equate claims about the supernatural (which by definition has no empirical evidence) with scientific claims.

And, to paraphrase you, this is just another of your asinine comments.

Well in one post you said Dr Law hadn’t defined evil, then you said he had presented a subjective definition. If you can’t follow your own contradictions, I can’t help you.

You are particularly rude and uncivil, and I suggest that you learn to control your temper. Maybe when you can actually come forward with evidence for your particular god then you will get somewhere. Until then, as AC Grayling says, “the notions of deities, fairies and goblins belong in the same bin.”