Thursday, March 1, 2012

Glenn Peoples on evil god challenge

Glenn Peoples has a podcast on my evil god challenge here. It's been there a while but have only now had a chance to listen to it. It's very good as an explanation of the challenge. Glenn is a patient, clear expositor...

I have commented and had a brief exchange with Glenn in the comments section if anyone's interested...

93 comments:

Thomas Larsen said...

Glenn's a good philosopher. The trouble is that he happens to live in New Zealand (my home country), where jobs for philosophers are in rather short supply...

BenYachov said...

I like how people even the Atheists over at Glenn's blog get how the EGC doesn't even get off the ground in regards to the Classic View of God.

Told you so.

Thomas Larsen said...

Ben, you need to defend the classic view of God, though. Why couldn't good simply be the privation of evil?

Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Hello Professor,

Did you lose my homework?

Or is that your worldview doesn't have an answer?

Or maybe you're just to high up on your horse to come down and talk to the little people?

By the way I'm known for embarrasing my professors just something to keep in mind.

Glenn said...

Thanks for these comments, Stephen. A welcome reminder that being in disagreement and being disagreeable need not go together. :)

Your recent visit to the blog and your comments about theodicies being ad hoc have prompted me to spell out some thoughts on theodicies and ad hoc explanatory theories. It'll be up in a few days.

Thomas Larsen said...

Hezekiah, show a bit of humility, man.

Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Thomas,

I'm sorry but I was always told in school that my ancestors evolved from a swamp and that we diverted from animals.

I find it kind of offensive that you would ask me to act like a human. I deserve an apology. Not only me but the rest of the animals. Thanks Thomas

BenYachov said...

>Ben, you need to defend the classic view of God, though.

No I don't. Just as I don't need to defend pantheism(I don't believe in it BTW) to claim refuting Cosmological Arguments are non-starter objections to pantheism.

I can disbelieve in any god concept across the board. In my mind it still doesn't change the brute fact EGC is a non-starter objection in the face of the classic view of God.

Live with it & stop trying to deflect the issue.

>Why couldn't good simply be the privation of evil?

I don't understand your question? That is how the classic view defines evil. Didn't you know that?

BenYachov said...

@Thomas

>>Ben, you need to defend the classic view of God, though.

If you mean I need to provide argument as to why the EGC is a non-starter to the classic view I will gladly list the top reasons tonight.

But I don't have to prove Classic Theism to claim the EGC is a non-starter objection to it. Just as I don't have to prove Pantheism to say refuting Cosmological Arguments are non-starter objections to Pantheism.

It's that simple.

Thomas Larsen said...

Ben, the evil-god challenge, as I understand it, is intended to work roughly like this: "Hey, theist! Give me all of the evidence you have for the existence of your God and for the nature of that God, and I'll show you how it can be used just as well to defend the concept of an evil god. Since you don't believe that an evil god exists, you should give up believe in the existence of your God, too." (Theodicies, defences, and the like are also taken into account.)

Now, I'm a Christian theist who happens to not buy the evil-god challenge. But it won't do to say, "The evil-god challenge doesn't apply to theists who hold to the classic view of God." No: the evil-god challenge aims to take all of the evidence theists who hold to the classic view of God have for their position, and twist it around to support an evil god (perhaps where good is the privation of evil, or maybe where what it means to be a "god" is understood very different—perhaps in the context of theistic personalism).

Thomas Larsen said...

*give up belief
*very differently

Sorry.

Benyachov said...

@Thomas
>Hey, theist! Give me all of the evidence you have for the existence of your God and for the nature of that God, and I'll show you how it can be used just as well to defend the concept of an evil god.

I reply: Except the "evidence" it demands is solely empirical in nature.

The classic view tells us that not all knowledge comes solely from the empirical.

Also it tells us that God's existence is a philosophical/metaphysical question not an empirical one.

Indeed any "god" you come up with based on the empirical wither "evil" or "good" can't really be God in the classic sense. Since it can't empirically be shown to be Purely Actual or that it is Ipsum Esse Subsistens.

Like I said it's a non-starter. Like trying to prove Muhammed is a Prophet of God by using the Book of Mormon as your authority.

I personally find it astounding that Prof Law really can't grasp this simple concept. When we brought it up to him over at Feser's blog his response to the effect was "Well pretend you can know God based on empirical evidence".

The argument is good if you assume a Theistic Personalist Deity and if you assume Evil is metaphysically equal and opposite in nature to good vs it being a privation.

But without those assumptions it's a bullshit argument. Law trying to pretend otherwise is not convincing. If I deny any and all gods tomorrow knowing what I know my opinion would not change.

Benyachov said...

@Thomas

If you could first prove that God if He exists can be know via empirical evidence then such an argument of successful would overthrow Classic Theism(not Theistic Personalism of course).

But then it would be that hypothetical argument that is doing the heavy lifting against the Classic God. The EGC would still be a non-starter.

Using the EGC to attack the Classic view is conceptionally no different then trying to refute Pantheism by rebutting Cosmological arguments. Or proving Christianity wrong by refuting the Koran.

None of the EGC fanboyz get the concept of the "non-starter".

Live with it.

testinganidea said...

I see the EGC more as a refinement of Luftus’s outsider test than a POE argument. The challenge forces the theist to relook at what actually supports his beliefs and would he accept these arguments if not for cultural and conformational biases. The notion discussed in the podcast about a scale balancing good and evil god with the moral argument tipping the balance misses the point. Each god has its own scale (as would the thousands of other possible gods that satisfy the Kalam and fine tuning arguments) and the question is would the theist accept the evil god as very likely given the observed evidence of good on one side and the flipped theodicies on the other. Given that they still see the evil god has highly unlikely the good god remains highly unlikely. It is not which of the two is more likely but is rather are either likely using the reaction to evil god as a proxy to the rational reaction to a good god given equivalent evidence.

testinganidea said...

The EGC is also in many ways parallel to The Salem Witch Trial argument (Matt McCormick) which contrasts the theist’s rejection of the evidence associated with the witch trial with their acceptance of the evidence for the resurrection. It is interesting to watch the back-peddling that occurs “once the penny drops” and they see the inconsistency of their positions. Many seem to just lower the standard and actually state that we have good evidence for concluding that there were actual witches performing actual witchcraft in Salem to keep their resurrection views. Rather than reject both the accept both and start looking for special pleadings to make distinctions between them.

Thomas Larsen said...

Ben, why do you think God exists?

Sketch Sepahi said...

It's quite clear that Glenn Peoples is either misinterpreting what you're saying, or that he is flat-out wrong about probabilities. I'm not sure which it is.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

>>Using the EGC to attack the Classic view is conceptionally no different then trying to refute Pantheism by rebutting Cosmological arguments. Or proving Christianity wrong by refuting the Koran.<<

These analogies don't work since there is no fundamental difference between the "Classic view" and a "Theistic Personalist Deity." In fact, the moment you start talking about a "good" god you're in the Personalist camp.

BenYachov said...

>Ben, why do you think God exists?

Not interested in explaining it to you since it's a tangent & not relevant to my claim that the EGC is a non-starter to the Classic View of God.

Like I said I don't even have to believe in any concept of God to believe this about the EGC.

I don't believe in pantheism at all but I know refuting Cosmological Arguments are non-starter objections in the face of Pantheism.


But if you are interested in why I believe on the rational level pick up a copy of Edward Feser's THE LAST SUPERSTITION.

Cheers.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

>>I don't believe in pantheism at all but I know refuting Cosmological Arguments are non-starter objections in the face of Pantheism.<<

So you finally admit it's perfectly okay by this logic for a materialist/empiricist such as myself to reject your rationalistic ideas about God as no more than non-starter assertions that are thrashing in irrelevant quicksand. Way to go.

Thomas Larsen said...

Ben:

I think you may have misunderstood the point of the evil-god challenge. The point of the challenge is not to refute, say, the classic view of God; it is to ask the theist to defend her belief in God (yes, even the classic view of God) when the evidence she draws upon to support her belief in God (perhaps the classic view of God) can be supposedly be used just as well to support belief in an evil god.

"The concept of an evil god is incoherent on the classic view!" you might say. But that is irrelevant; the evil-god challenger is not presupposing the classic view of God, nor should she have to; she needs only to argue that the evidence cited by theists in support of the classic view of God can be explained just as (or more) plausibly in an entirely different way.

BenYachov said...

@Thomas

>The point of the challenge is not to refute, say, the classic view of God; it is to ask the theist to defend her belief in God (yes, even the classic view of God) when the evidence she draws upon to support her belief in God (perhaps the classic view of God) can be supposedly be used just as well to support belief in an evil god.

There is no "evidence" used to prove the existence of God in the classic sense. But metaphysical and philosophical argument and demonstration. Like I said non-starter.

Have you never read the Five Ways? They are metaphysical demonstrations not empirical proofs based on empirical evidence. They can no more be used to prove the existence of an "evil" God then a conceptionalist modeling of science can be used to prove or disprove the Big Bang came from a Hawking/Harte State vs a Hawking/Penrose Singularity.

You are making a catagory mistake.

>But that is irrelevant; the evil-god challenger is not presupposing the classic view of God,

Which concedes the lion's share of the argument to me. Of course it is not presupposing the classic view which is why it's irrelavent to said. Much like Cosmological Arguments don't presupose a PantheisticGod who is identical with the Cosmos but a Creator/Conservor God who is not the same as creation.

>she needs only to argue that the evidence cited by theists in support of the classic view of God can be explained just as (or more) plausibly in an entirely different way.

You really need to reject this Scientism nonsense,

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

BenYachov said...

@Thomas

Also what would an "evil god" given Thomistic Presuppositions look like?

What it would be is a logical contradiction like arguing in some reality it is possible for 2+2=5 to be true. Which is absurd.

Evil is privation. A failure in something to be what it was meant to be. It is a lacking of something.

Since God is Purely Actual He couldn't lack anything. In fact to hypothesize about a "being" who is perfectly evil who contained every imperfection, well do you realize "existence" is itself a perfection?

Thus an "evil God" in the Thomistic Sense(& I am equivocating on the term "god" here for the sake argument) would have every imperfection including non-existence.

So the God(s) of Atheism (i.e. any and all gods who by the strong definition of Atheism don't exist) could be "evil gods" but how something that does not exist could create the Universe and be God in the Classical sense is beyond me?

(Unless you wanted to bring in the Theology of Paul Tillich but that is a whole different kettle of fish)

In short the EGC is still a non-starter. I haven't even delved into the fact God in the Classic Sense is merely metaphysically/ontologically good and cannot coherently be called "morally" good.

The EGC seems to presuppose a "god" who is a moral agent. One who is either perfectly moral or perfectly immoral.

But since in the classic view God is not a moral agent it's still a non-starter.

The EGC is a good challenge to persons who believe in Plantinga or Swimburnes's "god" but not the God of Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides and the scholastic.

Them's the breaks.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Ben,

You have an interesting definition of evil:

Evil is privation. A failure in something to be what it was meant to be. It is a lacking of something.

Then you go on to say that "existence" is itself a perfection; the implication being that God could not create evil by your definition.

If ‘existence is perfection’ then you are effectively saying that evil does not exist.

Leaving humanity out of it for the moment, that means that all the suffering that occurs in the natural world is ‘perfection’.

Regards, Paul.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You simply lack imagination.

What Names can be predicated of God?

We may further consider what may be said or not said of God. Inasmuch as every imperfection of the creature may be found in God, although in another and a more evil way, it follows that whatever names absolutely denote imperfection with infinite defect, are predicated of God, as for instance, `evil,' `cunning', 'destruction' and the like. But the names that express such imperfections with that mode of supereminent evil in which they appertain to God, are predicated of God alone, as for instance, `Sovereign Evil,' `First Destroyer,' and the like.

BenYachov said...

>Leaving humanity out of it for the moment, that means that all the suffering that occurs in the natural world is ‘perfection’.

No not at all. In a material world by definition material things compete with other material things for their perfection.

The lion seeks it's perfection in filling it's belly at the expense of the Lamb. The Black Hole seeks the increase of it's mass at the expense of other steller objects.

Evil exists in the sense that the holes in a donuts "exist". Evil is real. But evil does not have a substance. So it is both real and a privation.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

The last post was directed at Paul.

Cheers again mate.

BenYachov said...

@Paul

>Then you go on to say that "existence" is itself a perfection; the implication being that God could not create evil by your definition.

At best God is the formal cause for evil since he creates matter and free willed moral beings that create natural and moral evils.

Just as a baker is the formal cause of the holes in donuts. But the holes in donuts lack the substance of cake/bread. How can a baker then make something that doesn't have a substance(in the sense of being an efficient cause)?

He simply can't.

BenYachov said...

Of course the analogy is imperfect since donuts are meant to have holes.

But my greater point is evil is real, evil is not a substance but a privation. God is not the efficient cause of evil.

BenYachov said...

Thus talking about an "evil god" in the context of Thomism is an oxymoron. Thus the EGC for a Thomist and any classic Theist is still a non-starter challenge.

Even in a godless universe.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Ben,

I’m curently reading On Evil by Adam Morton, part of the Thinking in Action series jointly promoted by University College Dublin and Boston College, and published by Routledge.

Morton spends over 30 pages just defining evil, including a reference to Augustine, which I suspect is where you get your ideas from.

Morton: ‘…Augustine concludes that evil is due not to the influence of forces that are striving to rival God, but to the individual’s soul turning away from God: “Let no one look for the efficient cause of the evil will; for it is not efficient but deficient.”’

This ties evil into the idea of free will, but it’s a very narrow interpretation and says nothing about the psychological aspect of evil – something we are all capable of, contrary to popular wisdom. And there are innumerable examples of evil committed by people who have turned to God rather than away from God, which is an argument defeater.

So what you are saying is that God created a universe where evil and suffering can occur, and, in fact, is inevitable. Therefore God intended evil and suffering to exist.

Regards, Paul.

BenYachov said...

>So what you are saying is that God created a universe where evil and suffering can occur, and, in fact, is inevitable.

No God is always free to create a better world. The idea of the "Best of all possible worlds" & God's alleged moral obligation to create one is alien to what I have learned of Thomism.

Evil is the inevitable consequence of creating a material world. But as Aquinas said there is no possible created world so Good Gos is obliged to create it and none so bad as long as it participates in having being God should refrain from creating it.

Maybe this link will help.

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

>Therefore God intended evil and suffering to exist.

Rather he intended to create a material world and that is the consequences of it.

Maybe I'll stop by your blog and leave a list of philosophy Books that have shaped my thinking when I get the chance.

Cheers!

djindra said...

BenYachov,

"Just as a baker is the formal cause of the holes in donuts. But the holes in donuts lack the substance of cake/bread."

The baker does sell donuts holes. I've eaten them. They certainly do have substance. And in this case the baker did intend to make those holes. A "perfect" donut does have a hole.

The greater issue is your divine baker. He supposedly makes -- or at least causes to exist -- imperfect things. We don't have perfect lions eating perfect lambs. Both are imperfect at birth, even at conception, even at the molecular level. Evidently his final cause is thwarted. But what exactly does this? Either God is incompetent, or he has competition too, or your understanding of the goodness of God is suspect.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Ben,

I read your link. This is a way for people to rationalise God’s non-responsibility for evil, even though ‘he’ deliberately created a world in which evil could exist.

To be honest, this debate is a non-issue for me, because both God and evil are products of the human mind, therefore God can be good or evil depending on the individual. But like evil itself, people always rationalise that it’s good, which of course, includes the God that they believe in.

Regards, Paul.

Ryan M said...

Technically Aquinas' first 3 ways are somewhat empirical. They rely on a posteriori reasoning. So we don't conclude based on reason alone that a necessary being exists, or that an unchanged, unmoved mover exists. We "Know" those "Facts" based on experience of the world with the addition of our intellect.

BenYachov said...

@Paul
>This is a way for people to rationalise God’s non-responsibility for evil, even though ‘he’ deliberately created a world in which evil could exist.

I reply: Rather it is the logical conclusion we cannot help but come to if we conceived of God in Aristotelian Thomistic non-anthropomorphic transcendent terms vs the Theistic Personalism of a Plantinga or Swimburne.

Even if I deny the existence of God as you do I can't logically attribute "responsibility" in the moral sense to the Classic God for anything.

It's simply not coherent. But I can acknowledge this concept of God is supremely good and the metaphysical basis of goodness in reality.

Knowing what I know I would think this even if I became an Atheist today.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

@Ryan M

I agree with your sentiments as long as it's qualified with the adjective "somwhat".

Both Empiricism and Aristotelian metaphysics employ the senses except the Aristotelian is a moderate realist and historical Empiricists tend to be nominalists.

Cheers.

PS The rest I totally agree with anyone interested should google the 24 Thesis for more info.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

"Rather it is the logical conclusion we cannot help but come to if we conceived of God in Aristotelian Thomistic non-anthropomorphic transcendent terms vs the Theistic Personalism of a Plantinga or Swimburne. ... But I can acknowledge this concept of God is supremely good and the metaphysical basis of goodness in reality."

As soon as you attribute "goodness" to your god you personify him. As soon as you attribute "intention" to your god you personify him. "Goodness" in particular cannot be logically derived. The difference between your concept of God and a Theistic Personalism is at best a matter of degree.

BenYachov said...

djindra was kicked off of Feser's blog after a few months of trollish & clownish behavior.

In the past he has shown he is not a person of good will. I know none of his questions or critiques are serious. Who knew he was this obsessed with me? He even followed me to Victor Rubbert's blog. I'm almost flattered.

But I can't & won't take him seriously.

Paul, Thomas, Ryan M OTOH.....

Cheers.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You kicked me off your blog, Ed, because you have thin skin. I don't take you seriously either.

Btw, I don't follow you. I follow silly philosophy such as yours. And you're not any different than me in that respect. You track the "Gnu Atheists" just as diligently. So at least be that honest with yourself.

djindra said...

A Quick Summary of the Classical Theist Version of Evil God

We notice that change happens. But things don't change themselves. Therefore all things must be changed by an outside agent. There cannot be an infinite series of outside agents so there must be a Prime Mover which sets this series in motion.

But what is change but destruction?

A perfect thing would not change. A perfect thing would not interfere with other perfect things. Perfect order would not seek to disturb itself. But nature disturbs itself tirelessly. There is a war of all against all. The lion eats the lamb and bacteria eat them both. Rainfall destroys the mountain and sunlight dries up streams. Everything in nature has its enemy. Everything in nature tries to destroy some other part of nature. Everything seeks after something's destruction.

Let us admit destruction is evil. Let us further admit the Prime Mover which set in motion this rampage of destruction is the source of all destruction. Let us lastly admit that destruction is evil and the source of it must be Pure Evil. We shall call that source our Evil God.

BenYachov said...

I am doubly flattered djindra thinks I am Feser.

But I have nothing more to say to you. Your loony behavior is showing & I'd rather talk to some intelligent Atheists and Theists.

wombat said...

@Ben,Paul

"So what you are saying is that God created a universe where evil and suffering can occur, and, in fact, is inevitable. Therefore God intended evil and suffering to exist."

"No God is always free to create a better world"


Surely this is not correct is it? As far as I understand it (so far) the Classic God is not free in this way. Neither is intentionality possible for it.

I think this just goes to show how difficult it is to sustain this metaphysics when expressed in terms like "Good/Evil" and "God" which carry so much baggage. Who doesn't think of unpleasant things when they hear the word "Evil" or at least at some level think of "God" in personal terms? (Long white beard, booming voice,sort of father figure - you know the one)

It would have been a lot easier if Aquinas had been an alchemist or some such and come up with different terms.

BenYachov said...

@wombat

>Surely this is not correct is it? As far as I understand it (so far) the Classic God is not free in this way. Neither is intentionality possible for it.

The key words here are "As far as I understand it (so far)" which means you need to due further reading on the subject. But Socrates was one of the wisest men in antiquity because he knew that "he knew not". So major Kudos to you my friend for emulating his example here.

I might suggest you get a copy of INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION by Brian Davies. The first chapter deals with the differences between the Classic view vs the Theistic Personalist view.

Briefly I would say in the classic view God does have intentionality in that He acts with intention from all eternity and all at once.

Maybe this will help.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

>I think this just goes to show how difficult it is to sustain this metaphysics when expressed in terms like "Good/Evil" and "God" which carry so much baggage.
>It would have been a lot easier if Aquinas had been an alchemist or some such and come up with different terms.

Rather I submit his terms were the original & the modern terms are the later novelty. I would recommend you learn Aquinas theological and philosophical language. Learn the meaning of his terms and your confusion will subside.


Cheers.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Ben

I’ve made the observation myself, on my own blog, that the God people ‘feel’ in their heads is not the same as a creator ‘god’ that they intellectualise about or read about in scriptures. But the only God people know about is the one in their heads, so the intellectualised ‘god’ that Feser discusses is just an academic exercise. In other words, God is a manifestation of human consciousness, and assigning abilities to that God, like creating the universe are the most extreme of conjectures.

But I have another bone of contention with Feser based on this statement:

I have emphasized as well in earlier posts that divine conservation – the doctrine that the world could not exist even for an instant, even in principle, apart from the continuous sustaining action of God – is also central to classical theism.

This implies that God is the laws of the universe and nothing else. I could agree, in principle, with this concept of God (non-thinking, non-anthropomorphic, just Platonic laws of nature) but it’s not the Gods of religion and mythology, including the biblical God, all of whom have human traits and personalities.

As for his summation of evil (the same as yours): Furthermore, evil is a privation rather than a positive reality – the absence of good.

This doesn’t even begin to describe evil, let alone comprehend or analyse it.

Regards, Paul.

wombat said...

Thanks for the links.

"Learn the meaning of his terms and your confusion will subside."

Reducing ones confusion is usually good!
I appreciate that Aquinas got there first in historical terms but we are where we are and my observation partly reflects the effects of passing time on language etc. A bit like the differences between dialects of English being aware of and to some extent familiar with the differing idioms does entirely remove the mental effort of having to decide on which is appropriate.

I (and I suspect others) would find that "intentionality" is (a) a personal quality and (b) is one of the signs of moral agency, both of which are expressly inappropriate attributes of the Classical God.

Fair enough if the Classic definitions of these are different but it seems that things would be easier if different words were used. i.e. in the modern world where the majority (even academics) find themselves there is surely a better modern word for privation than "evil". I suspect ts "privation". When in Rome etc.

djindra said...

In As Good As it Gets a female admirer asks Jack Nicholson's character, Melvin, "How do you write women so well?" He answers, "I think of a man and take away reason and accountability."

That works as comedy. But does privation work as more than comic philosophy?

Aquinas claims being is “convertible” with goodness. So if evil is the privation of good, it's also the absence of being. That has interesting results.

For example, in the same movie, Melvin falls in love with Carol and pays her the ultimate compliment, "You make me want to be a better man." Being a better man is likely one "good" Aquinas has in mind. But does "fullness of being" in that sense (becoming a good man) correspond to a change in the ontological status of Melvin? Exactly what "beingness" has increased in the universe? And did Carol create it? She must have if an increase in goodness converts to an increase in being. This is a curious understanding of being. It gives humans the unlikely status of little gods. If we wish it, we can create being just by behaving better or causing others to do so -- unless goodness is a zero sum game and Carol simultaneously sucked goodness out of a different corner of the universe.

Aquinas (through Aristotle) also asserts, "Goodness is what all desire." Since we all have slightly different desires this implies there are different types of being. But let's skip that can of worms. Instead let's ask, How do we know our desire conforms to God's? Could God actually desire something quite different from us? That seems probable. So we cannot rule out an evil (in our mind) God. We cannot rule out a playful God, maybe even a practical jokester -- but by analogy only, of course.

Evil as privation also suggests we should rephrase our laws. It's well acknowledged that desire, or intent, helps us judge lawful behavior. But lawmakers should know we can't desire evil -- so says Aquinas. Rather than confusing the issue, "Assault with intent to murder" should be rewritten as "Assault lacking some intent to do good." First degree murder is currently misunderstood as an intent to do harm. But that won't do. Murder is the crime of killing where some good intent is lacking. Aquinas will definitely clear up these issues.

BenYachov said...

Paul & Wombat

I appreciate your responses to me and their civil tone and obvious sincerity. In case you noticed I have a rather deep contempt for persons I call Gnu'Atheists. Specifically those class of
non-believers who from where I sit seem to think their denial of God automatically grants them some form of automatic enlightenment, wisdom and knowledge. I find them anti-intellectual and narrow minded as I do many of their religious fundamentalist counterparts who have many of the same vices. But I respect persons regardless of their personal beliefs who disagree with me without being disagreeable. I can be fierce toward Gnus & I may rag on Prof Law for what I believe is his unjustified belief the EGC is an omni-polemic against all forms of western Theism. But I really respect him defending Philosophy against philistines like Dawkins and Atkins. Their anti-philosophy fundamentalism is to me just Young Earth Creationism for Non-berlievers. I firmly believe that both Philosophy and Science are needed for mere natural knowledge about reality. Not just science alone as they seem to believe. I would believe this strongly even if I denied God tomorrow.

Anyway I want to fully answer some of your points so I hope I don't think I am trying to overwhelm by posting too much information. But here are some notes I saved from various thomistic sites and some note from Feser and or Brian Davies writings. I just want to post them as some backround before I address some of the issues you posted in your comments. Cheers mates.


Theistic Personalism- God doesn’t really have a bodily form, and his thoughts and motivations are in many respects very different from ours. He is an immaterial object or substance which has existed forever, and (perhaps) pervades all space. Still, he is, somehow, a person like we are, only vastly more intelligent, powerful, and virtuous, and in particular without our physical and moral limitations. He made the world the way a carpenter builds a house, as an independent object that would carry on even if he were to “go away” from it, but he nevertheless may decide to intervene in its operations from time to time. This "god" is a being who exists alongside other beings but is more Uber to an infinite or near-infinite degree.

Classic Theism - God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is Pure Being or Existence Itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space,and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and apart from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object in
the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exists only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the
concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God.

BenYachov said...

Doctrine Of Analogy Vs. Arguing From Analogy

Now, for the Thomist, a proper understanding of these various aspects of classical theism requires a recognition that when we predicate goodness, knowledge, power, or what have you of God, we are using language in a way that is analogous to the use we make of it when applied to the created order. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, though, that this has nothing to do with “arguing from
analogy” after the fashion of Paley’s design argument; indeed, it is diametrically opposed to Paley’s procedure. It has to do instead with Aquinas’s famous “doctrine of analogy,” which
distinguishes three uses of language:
Words can be used univocally, in exactly the same sense, as when we say that Fido’s bark is loud and that Rover’s bark is loud. They can be used equivocally, or in completely unrelated senses, as when we say that Fido’s bark is loud and that the tree’s bark is rough. Or they can be used analogously, as when we say that a certain meal was good, that a certain book is good, and that a certain man is good. “Good” is not being used in exactly the same sense in each case, but neither are the senses unrelated, as they are in the equivocal use of
“bark.” Rather, there is in the goodness of a meal something analogous to the goodness of a book, and analogous to the goodness of a man, even if it is not exactly the same sort of thing that constitutes the goodness in each case.
For the Thomist, this is the key to understanding how it can be the case that God’s goodness is His power, which is His knowledge, which is His essence, which is His existence. Such a claim would
be nonsensical if the terms in question were being used univocally,
in exactly the same sense in which we use them when we attribute goodness, power, knowledge, etc. to ourselves (and as they are used in Paleyan “arguments from analogy”). But neither are the senses utterly equivocal. Rather, what we mean is that there is in God something analogous to what we call goodness in us, something analogous to what we call knowledge in us, and so forth; and in God, it is one and the same thing that is analogous to what are in us distinct attributes. From a Thomistic point of view, it is precisely because theistic personalists apply language to God and creatures univocally that they are led to deny divine simplicity and in general to arrive at an objectionably anthropomorphic
conception of God. (It is only fair to note, however, that followers of Duns Scotus, who are classical theists, reject the claim that terms are applied to God and to creatures in analogous rather than univocal senses(at least in regards to the concept of Being). For Thomists, the Scotist move away from analogy set the stage for the moderns’ move away from classical theism, but Scotists would deny this. But this is a large debate which cannot be settled here.)
In summary, then, classical theism is committed to a conception of God as that which is absolutely metaphysically ultimate – that is to say, as that which is ultimate in principle and not merely in
fact – where this is taken to entail divine simplicity and thus divine immutability, impassibility, and eternity; to a doctrine of divine conservation on which the world is radically dependent on God for its existence at every instant; and (in the case of Thomists, anyway) to the doctrine that the terms we apply both to God and to the created order are to be understood in analogous rather than univocal senses. Its commitment to divine simplicity and to the implications of divine simplicity sets classical theism at odds with theistic personalism, “open theism,” deism, process
theology, and other more anthropomorphic conceptions of God. Such rival views also sometimes reject the doctrine of divine conservation, though not in every case; and they also reject the doctrine of analogy, though some classical theists do so as well.

BenYachov said...

@Paul and Wombat

Some for some of your points my friends.

Paul wrote:
>the only God people know about is the one in their heads,

A lot of Atheists I know more than a majority disbelieve in a "god" I don't think exists in the first place. So I feel ya guy.:-)

>This implies that God is the laws of the universe and nothing else.

I think of the "Laws" as the regularities we observe in nature and that God is Existence Itself behind our contingent existence causing these regularities. Aquinas accepted a lot of Platonic concepts but we need not have a Platonic view of the Laws of nature.

>I could agree, in principle, with this concept of God (non-thinking, non-anthropomorphic...

God "Knows All" so he doesn't really have to reflect or Think.

>but it’s not the Gods of religion and mythology, including the biblical God, all of whom have human traits and personalities.

I reject the notion the Biblical God is an anthropomorphic deity. Let's start in the OT. The OT contains a mash of anthropomorphism and anti-anthropomorphism which show God to be a Transcendent incomprehensible thing that is not a man by nature. Now even if I grant to you the OT is of purely naturalistic origin I don't see how the authors could have intended to present a purely anthropomorphic deity since that would be in contradiction with the Transcendent anti-anthropomorphisms. I don't believe just because people lived thousands of years ago that they where automatically idiots. If the authors intended a purely anthropomorphic deity they would not have include the other elements. Thus I must conclude the anthropomorphism are meant to be taken analogously or metaphorically.

So I categorically reject the notion of the God of the Bible being anthropomorphic. The Rabbis and the Church Fathers have presented a non-anthropomorphic interpretation which I accept.

I anticipate you might bring up Christianity and the Incarnation. I would just say the anthropomorphic Theistic Personalist so called "god" renders the Incarnation both unremarkable and redundant. In Classic Theism it is a true union between the Unknowable Mystery and the Knowable world. Maybe it's me but I find that more deep and the Mystics historically agree with me.

>As for his summation of evil (the same as yours): Furthermore, evil is a privation rather than a positive reality – the absence of good. This doesn’t even begin to describe evil, let alone comprehend or analyse it.

It is the first step in defining it metaphyically and philosophically. It is also the conclusions of the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle etc... who reasoned this out sans any appeal to any supposed divine revelation.

But it may not jive with your personal view. But I wouldn't insist you believe it. I would rather you try to understand it first. Belief couldn't come otherwise & if it never comes will understanding is still it own reward.

Cheers now on to friend Wombat.

BenYachov said...

@Wombat

>I appreciate that Aquinas got there first in historical terms but we are where we are and my observation partly reflects the effects of passing time on language etc. A bit like the differences between dialects of English being aware of and to some extent familiar with the differing idioms does entirely remove the mental effort of having to decide on which is appropriate.

I do enjoy sitting with Brits, Canadians, Australians etc and other non-Americans & compare how we are all divided by a common language.

I never knew telling someone to "get stuffed" could be a really vulgar insult in the UK. Here in the States it has no sexual meaning.

>I (and I suspect others) would find that "intentionality" is (a) a personal quality

see the Classic Definition above for the Classic view of God being personal.

>and (b) is one of the signs of moral agency, both of which are expressly inappropriate attributes of theClassical God.

God can't be moral because it is incoherent to say God has virtue in the sense a human does. God can't be temperate since He doesn't need to eat or have sex in fact he needs nothing to perfect himself. So he have no virtue in the unequivocal sense we do.

God is not and cannot coherently belong to a moral community with us so he can't be a moral agent.

That's all for now. I am a bit tired and I want to get some gaming in before the kids wake up in the middle of the night and spoil it. I start work late tomorrow so I can have a late night.

Cheers.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Ben,

This discussion/argument is getting a bit ridiculous, so I probably won’t say much after this. God is totally subjective, because everyone’s idea of God is different. Some people kill in the belief that they are doing God’s will while their opponents claim the opposite, and both sides can be equally devout and sincere believers, and equally convinced that their God is Right. So God is subjective, based solely on belief which is the only basis for God there is.

There is no evidence of an objective God, because he’s immaterial by definition and outside the Universe, so dissertations like Feser’s are purely intellectual constructs. The difference between his ‘classical’ God and neo-Platonism is simply adding a personality that has no personality – in other words, a contradiction.

Saying the God of the Old Testament is not anthropomorphic is to deny the term’s meaning. He gave instructions to Noah and Moses, he lost patience with his ‘chosen people’ and he was genocidal. You call it metaphorical, which is allegorical; I call it mythology. This conveniently allows you to define a biblical God with both anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic attributes. But it either means that God is anthropomorphic or that he’s a mythological construct. Either way, your argument is sunk.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Btw, if God is not anthropomorphic why does everyone refer to 'him' as 'he'? It's ridiculous to say that God doesn't 'think' just to make him not responsible for evil and then give him a gender.

Regards, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Law,

I've recently listened to your debate with William Lane Craig and heard the EGC for the first time.

You sounded reluctant to grant the notion that there were objective morals and duties on the one hand, but in relation to your argument, sounded as though you were quite certain evil did in fact have an objective existence.

But if evil only "seems to be" an objective realtiy then ECG can't really get off the ground. Your argument then would only "seem" plausible.

The other problem in the debate came from the fact you never defined evil or gave any sort of explanation as to what it is or where it came from. Do you categorize all human suffering as evil? Is there an "evil" independent of the actions of moral agents, such as natural disasters? What of disease?

I thought it interesting as well that in a debate where evil and suffering were discussed, no one mentioned Christ's sufferings.

My question then is twofold.

What is your definition of evil and from where did it come? And what would you say about Christ's suffering in relation to your argument? Does it have a place or do you a priori dismiss it?

Thank you for your time.

Ryan M said...

If people want to get a better idea of Ben's view of God and moral agency, check out philosopher Brian Davies. He's pretty much one of the main "Go to" guys when you want to learn about Aquinas.

And concerning Anonymous' comments on Law and the existence of evil: I bet Law would take the position I do; that being that no atheist is obliged to believe in objective morality to put forth an argument from evil. Law would be showing that given S's presupposition that M, and the amount of M is strong evidence that ~EG, then the amount of ~M (Given S's presupposition of what M is, and ~M is), then ~M is evidence of EG.

Or as a basic thought: S is not obliged to believe any fact of some set P in order to argue that P is inconsistent with itself. The POE works like this. S argues that T entails G and E, but G and E are inconsistent with one another, therefore ~(G and E), therefore ~T.

Anonymous said...

Ryan,


The central difficulty of the EGC is that evil is never fully defined. What is it that its presence or absence determines the existence or non-existence of a divine being?

As Dr. Craig argues, the actual existence of evil is because God exists. Mr. Law never really tackled that in the debate.

I don't think the argument goes anywhere without a solid definition of evil, it's orgin and it's nature, even if such definitions are only for argument's sake.

Again, does evil require moral agents or can there be types of "natural" evil such as disasters or diseases or accidents? I would think a tornado and say murder were two different things, for example. Is a tornado, a volcano or an earthquake evil if it takes no human life or property or is the "evil" in a natural disaster contingent upon their being loss of life and property?

And again, what of Christ? In relation to the EGC, is the cross evil or good? Whether one feels obliged or not to accept the actual event as historical fact, I think the question is a decent one. Again, I was surprised neither Mr. Law or Mr. Craig even mentioned it.

Without a solid definition of evil, the premise doesn't really get out of the gate.

BenYachov said...

@Paul
>Btw, if God is not anthropomorphic why does everyone refer to 'him' as 'he'?

Because the Bible uses that language. Beside my pet dog from my childhood I called a "he". He wasn't anthropomorphic he was a dog.

>It's ridiculous to say that God doesn't 'think' just to make him not responsible for evil and then give him a gender.

Paul, chill dude. I never made that argument. I said God doesn't think because given His nature it is incoherent to say He thinks. He knows & He doesn't change.
It has nothing to do with God being or not being a moral agent.

I address some of your other disagreements later.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

Sorry I said "chill". I'm projecting.

I just woke up & dreamed I had a fight with the lady next door.

Funny I even argue in my sleep.

Anyway sorry I said "chill" to you Paul.

Cheers oh & thanks Ryan.:-)

djindra said...

Anonymous,

RE: A killer tornado vs. a murderer.

We may talk about an "evil" tornado but few modern minds really think a tornado is morally evil, or has some intent to do us evil. We would not pray to it to change directions. We would not ask it for forgiveness. A tornado really cannot be compared to a murderer on moral grounds.

Yet, if Feser is a faithful example, a Classical Theist has trouble with this distinction. He likes to compare "good" triangles to "good" people. Such analogies could show a deep misunderstanding of the issue. Or it could show a sophistic attempt to confuse the issue.

The Classical Theist does attempt to define good. Kudos for that. But unfortunately it's a shallow attempt.

djindra said...

"for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God"

-- that's pretty anthropomorphic. There are probably a thousand such examples in the OT.

Feser correctly points out that there are non-anthropomorphic examples too -- leading him to assert the anthropomorphic references are meant to be analogies. I suggest they are attempts to remedy sociological failings of a non-anthropomorphic god. A true non-anthropomorphic god -- Nature's God -- is like that amoral tornado. It has no moral sense. It has no intention, knowledge, or jealousy. It doesn't care if a tornado wipes out a neighborhood or an ant hill. And it certainly doesn't care if man behaves. It's no more about morality than gravity is. That non-anthropomorphic god simply will not do in a social context. It's fine for a philosopher to create this natural creative and "necessary" force. But to truly bring it alive and make it an active force for "good" in the world, it must take on anthropomorphic characteristics. You see this character development in the Bible, you see it in Aquinas and you see it in Feser. It has to be this way for the god to have any sort of meaning rather than mere intellectual existence.

BenYachov said...

This demotivational poster pretty much sums up my attitude & arguments against the EGC.

http://funnyatheists.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/atheist-logic-108.png

Paul P. Mealing said...

I think djindra makes a very good point. Either God is non-anthropomorphic and completely neutral over good and evil, or he's anthropomorphic and has a moral agenda. According to Ben, Feser's version is the former, which is not the biblical God, who definitely had an agenda.

In regard to Anonymous's point, a discussion of evil is a major topic. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I'm currently reading Adam Morton's On Evil (about half way through) so it's a massive topic. Personally, I take evil as a purely human attribute, as do most discussions on the subject. However, God, if He exists, as exemplified by the Bible, is responsible for all suffering, independently of human action.

I don't think theology has anything to contribute to our understanding of evil - it's purely a psychological manifestation. In other words, you have to understand human psychology to understand evil. Giving evil Divine agency or origins simply sidesteps the whole issue.

Regards, Paul.

Dan Ray said...

Paul

You said here, "I don't think theology has anything to contribute to our understanding of evil - it's purely a psychological manifestation. In other words, you have to understand human psychology to understand evil. Giving evil Divine agency or origins simply sidesteps the whole issue."

Of course theology informs this discussion. God, goodness and evil have everything to do with the "study of God".

Evil is a "purely psychological manifestation". If this is all it is, honestly, there is nothing much to the EGC. That evaluation could be classified as purely psychological and we really are back to square one, namely that evil is something inherently in the mind and apparently how one sees it or defines it is relative to the individual.

This is the failure of the POE argument so often leveled against theism. There is often a fuzzy, ambiguous definition of evil offered to refute an equally fuzzy and ambiguous definition of God.

The non-theist actually claims to know more about good, evil and God than the theists do in the POE, however one chooses to argue it. I for one believe there is a limit to what I can know about God's sovereignty in human affairs.

Again, I argue the problem for POE advocates attempting to refute the existence of God is the cross. Regardless of whether or not one accepts the cross as historical, one must define one's terms using an objective standard by which such terms can be measured. This has not been done.

It also must be recognized that the Scriptures give us at least one account that God and evil do in fact co-exist and God is not merely "neutral" over it, He is absolutely sovereign over it.

The opening chapter of Job is a good example of this.

If the EGC is to have any substance to it, a solid definition of evil and its origin is necessary, whether or not one actually believes it. Otherwise, it's merely conjecture about straw men.

BenYachov said...

@Paul
>I think djindra makes a very good point.

If that is really true then miracles do happen.;-)

>Either God is non-anthropomorphic and completely neutral over good and evil, or he's anthropomorphic and has a moral agenda.

I take it by "good and evil" you mean your own subjective amorphous unstated non-technical definition and not my historic Judeo-Christian & western philosophical definitions?

In which case you are both begging the question and equivocating. Paul like Prof Law you have not given me a technical definition of evil. Nor have you argued for it's possible truth. You didn't deal with my argument the Biblical God is Transcendent you just dismissed it out of hand.

Plus you are employing an either/or fallacy here. Either I believe in a "god" that is in no way personal, a mindless force or I believe in a "god" who is no more than a disembodied human mind with preternatural powers and magical meta-abilities.

Sorry but the answer is the third alternative, God is personal in an analogous sense compared to a human being not the unequivocal sense of the Anthro "god" or equivocal sense of "the Force".

If God is a Transcendent Incomprehensible Intelligence such can relate to us even thought we can't on our own natural powers relate to Him. I can relate to my dog. I can communicate and train it to lead it into what I want it to do. But the dog can't relate to me on the intellective level like another human being. The dog will simply perceive me or relate to me as a larger and more dominate animal. It would therefore make sense for the Transcendent Incomprehensible Intelligence to relate to us on our level. It would make sense a Scripture Inspired by Being Itself would contain statements declaring God's transcendence & anthopomorphism as analogies to relate to Him and tell us something about Him.
Of course as I argued before even if we declare Scripture purely of human invention by the arguments I already made the OT authors clearly invented a Transcendent God and the biblical anthropomorphism are clearly not meant to be literal.

>I don't think theology has anything to contribute to our understanding of evil.

My primary definitions have come from pre-Christian philosophers.

Historical Christianity has always accepted all truth is God's truth and Historical Christianity doesn't accept the post-Reformation doctrine of Scripture alone or the post-enlightenment modern Anthropomorphic God that is read into scriputes.

That is just the way it is.

Cheers Paul.

Have a good weekend my friend.

PS The master/pet analogy is not a perfect analogy and please do not make the mistake of treating it as an unequivocal description of God's relation to His creatures.

Cheers again.

djindra said...

"I take it by 'good and evil' you mean your own subjective amorphous unstated non-technical definition and not my historic Judeo-Christian & western philosophical definitions?"

The Judeo-Christian & western philosophical definitions are subjective. Merely writing down a list of laws does not make them objective goods and evils.

Regardless, if God is non-anthropomorphic, does that mean it must be completely neutral over good and evil? If so then it doesn't make sense to insist on a technical definition of evil. It's irrelevant. The first question that has to be answered is why such a god would care about good and evil? Does it even make sense to attribute "caring" to such a god?

It's hard to see how human laws are connected to that god. Human law implies duty. No sane person believes there is a duty to obey the law of gravity. It's no sin for terrestrial man to flout gravity and fly like a bird or drift weightless in space. If we strip a god of all anthropomorphic characteristics we necessarily strip duty away as well. The master/dog analogy is more than imperfect. It's hard to see how dog-training man, cast as God, works as analogy in a non-anthropomorphic sense. The only analogy that works is a morally neutral one like gravity. Strip all those human qualities away and we are left with a simple sense of awe. That god is analogous to a beautiful sunset on a beach -- plenty enough, IMO.

BenYachov said...

@Paul
>God is totally subjective, because everyone’s idea of God is different.

But you must objectively deal with objectively specific God concepts & traditions. You must deal with Pantheism as Pantheism & not try to pretend it's no different then any other conventional monotheism. You must deal with the God a specific faith tradition believes in not the one you wish they believed in order to make strawman polemics more convenient.

>There is no evidence of an objective God, because he’s immaterial by definition and outside the Universe, so dissertations like Feser’s are purely intellectual constructs.

Only if one's basic philosophy is empiricism, materialism and naturalism and one judges truth by that standard. But I reject empricism and Kant, Hume etc. I don't think empriricism is logical or coherent. Like I said I believe philosophy not just science is the key to natural knowledge.

We disagree on basic philosophy.

>The difference between his ‘classical’ God and neo-Platonism is simply adding a personality that has no personality – in other words, a contradiction.

Only if you insist on ignoring the Analogy, Unequivocal and equivocal distinctions. Which is what you have to do for the above statement to make any sense.

>Saying the God of the Old Testament is not anthropomorphic is to deny the term’s meaning.

So when the Bible talks of God enfolding me in His Wings I am to believe God is literally a giant Chicken? So you are saying no ancient people ever used analogy or metaphor? Seriously?

>But it either means that God is anthropomorphic or that he’s a mythological construct.

This doesn't make any sense Paul. The God of the OT can be mythological (i.e. it was made up from the imaginations of the Authors and not of any divine origin) but that imaginary God can still be imagined to be Transcendent and not literally anthropomorphic. The Bible contains both Transcendent language with anthropomorphic. The only logical conclusion I can draw is the primacy should be given to the transcendent because that is how it was received by the Rabbis and the Church Fathers. The anthropomorphism are not to be taken literally and unequivocally.

>Either way, your argument is sunk.

Rather you need to investigate more before you can get yours off the ground. But I admire you moxy.

Cheers again friend.

Paul P. Mealing said...

To both Dan and Ben, who think my ideas on evil are ‘fuzzy’ and ‘non-technical’, I refer you to this.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

To Ben,

…but that imaginary God can still be imagined to be Transcendent and not literally anthropomorphic.

The key word here is ‘imaginary’.

Regards, Paul.

Dan Ray said...

Paul

I thank you for the link and for a reaffirmation of the fuzzy, non-technical nature of non-theistic definitions of evil! The closest the article came to defining evil in any objective sense, however, was that it said "evil is almost a cultural disease".

The rest of the article was merely commentary on certain observed human behaviors.

Again, nothing even remotely approaching any sort of objective definition or insight into where evil actually came from or what it is.

The last paragraph was especially informative when it mentions this little gem.

"...yet our real motives stem from our long ago evolutionary heritage of wanting to maintain our territory and preserve our resources."

Is he roundaboutly saying evil is the result of evolution and natural selection? For arguments's sake, I'm going to suggest, well, that he is.

One also might conclude by such logic that recycling is ultimately "evil" or the attempt to preserve forests or other natural areas from urban development is "evil" or that a farmer's attempt to keep his fields healthy and cultivated is "evil".

But ok, all that aside for the moment. If natural selection is mostly about survival, which it is, then we must grant "evil" some sort of innate strength to have survived. How can we not? Something called "good" likewise must have had equally tenacious survival attributes in order for it to have survived. The evidence suggests we have no choice in this matter, either.

I don't know what the biological term is for a beneficial relationship between two organisms (forgive me), like egrets and cattle,but it would seem to me good and evil are something like this, wherein we're the host cattle and good and evil are the various egrets who land on our backs and eat or bugs, if evolution is true, but that is neither here nor there for the moment.

If evil developed in some natural selection process, I'm not sure we cannot make moral judgments on those who insist on using evil or good to their survival advantage. Well, ok, we CAN make moral judgments so long as we recognize they are pretty much in the same category as chiding someone's choice of fashion. WE might not like it, but natural selection doesn't care what we like. It just selects. And if it's selected "evil" to survive, who are we to criticize it's existence or those who use it to their advantage?

What natural selection does NOT say, however, is that I am objectively bound and obliged to use one and shun other, or a combination of both, for my own survival.

This is why I think in order for stuff like the ECG to "work" one has to maintain a safe distance from objective definitions of evil. The theistic connotations are borrowed but no definition is actually presented in easy-to-understand terminology.

In so courteously providing us with the link, Paul, you have demonstrated that rather than being a functionally simplistic logical premise by which one may trivially dismiss theism, evil rather turns out to be a bugger of a term for the moral relativist to pin down without objectively and obligingly contradicting himself.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Dan,

I'm sorry you don't understand what I'm talking about.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Dan, again.

I expect your acrimony arose from my comment: 'I don't think theology has anything to contribute to our understanding of evil.'

So let me be more specific, less provocative: Attributing evil to supernatural agents doesn't contribute to our understanding of evil.

Good and evil are themes in lots of mythology, and the Bible is no exception, especially the Old Testament.

Regards, Paul.

BenYachov said...

@Paul

>To both Dan and Ben, who think my ideas on evil are ‘fuzzy’ and ‘non-technical’, I refer you to this.

Thank you very much for the link. I'll give it a look. I did skim you blog. It's interesting.

Cheers.

Dan Ray said...

Hellooo Paul,

No worries. There are lots of things I do not understand.

There was no acrimony in my bitterness, by the way! I apologize if my poor attempts at humorous prose came across as caustic or barbed.

You mention, "Attributing evil to supernatural agents doesn't contribute to our understanding of evil."

Well,not actually defining evil doesn't contribute much to our understanding of evil either, and sort of hinders the EGC right off the bat.

Stephen Law said...

Hello all

(i) Any definition of evil on which gratuitous suffering qualifies will do to run evidential problem of evil. Those theists saying "But what's your definition?" with respect to the PoE are missing the point.

(ii) Atheists don't need to presuppose evil is a reality to run the problem of evil. They can be moral nihilists

(iii) The point that an evil God may involve logical contradictions (because e.g. is a privation (which is rubbish, of course), etc. etc. is actually anticipated by my paper. I point out that even if that is so (and note it may well also be so re the good god hypothesis, in which case the symmetry is back) if we would nevertheless rule out an evil God on empirical grounds, even if it turned out there was no such logical contradiction, then the EGC can still be run. If, not withstanding such a contradiction, they'd still rule out an evil god on empirical grounds, why don't they rule out the good god on the same basis? This is in the paper. Fesser entirely missed it...

I'll write it up as an academic paper shortly and publish it

Dan Ray said...

Mr. Law,

How would you align a definition of "gratuitous suffering" with the cross?

It would seem that one would have to presuppose purposelessness in suffering.

To attempt to negate or deny a teleological interpretation of suffering does not actually establish a priori that suffering is inherently gratuitous.That's an inference.

Likewise, on that same account, to presuppose a purpose for suffering is not the same thing as knowing precisely what that purpose might be.

I enjoyed listening to your debate with Dr. Craig, however. It was my introduction to the EGC.

Dan Ray

BenYachov said...

Prof Laaw writes:
`>if we would nevertheless rule out an evil God on empirical grounds, even if it turned out there was no such logical contradiction, then the EGC can still be run. If, not withstanding such a contradiction, they'd still rule out an evil god on empirical grounds

I reply: Prof Laaw, Thomists say God cannot be proved to exist or not exist on empirical grounds. Thus any being you come up with by definition would be a being alongside other beings therefore it cannot be God. Not subsistent being itself. Thus not God.

We are Aristotians with some sprinklings of Plato not post enlightenment Kantian/Humeian philosophers.

My question is why do you keep missing that point and or pretending that is not relevant?

For your consideration.

From the 24 Thesis of Thomism

22. We do not perceive by an immediate intuition that God exists, nor do we prove it a priori. But we do prove it a posteriori, i.e., from the things that have been created, following an argument from the effects to the cause: namely, from things which are moved and cannot be the adequate source of their motion, to a first unmoved mover; from the production of the things in this world by causes subordinated to one another, to a first uncaused cause; from corruptible things which equally might be or not be, to an absolutely necessary being; from things which more or less are, live, and understand, according to degrees of being, living and understanding, to that which is maximally understanding, maximally living and maximally a being; finally, from the order of all things, to a separated intellect which has ordered and organized things, and directs them to their end.

23. The metaphysical motion of the Divine Essence is correctly expressed by saying that it is identified with the exercised actuality of its won being, or that it is subsistent being itself. And this is the reason for its infinite and unlimited perfection.

24. By reason of the very purity of His being, God is distinguished from all finite beings. Hence it follows, in the first place, that the world could only have come from God by creation; secondly, that not even by way of a miracle can any finite nature be given creative power, which of itself directly attains the very being of any being; and finally, that no created agent can in any way influence the being of any effect unless it has itself been moved by the first Cause.END QUOTE

That is not Hume's standard for empirical proof my friend. God cannot be shown to exist or not exist based on empiricism.

Or do you want to make the wacko claim that all proofs for the existence of God are empirical ones?

For example is an Ontological Argument for God an empirical one? Seriously?
(BTW FYI Thomists reject Ontological arguments)

You can use empiricism to show the existence of any being who exists alongside other beings. Like a floating tea pot between the planets. But not God as defined in the classic sense.

BenYachov said...

Cont:

By definition of evil we clearly mean a metaphysical philosophical description not a fictional or mechanistic one.

That is the definition we seek. What is evil? Does it have a substance or not? Is it privation of perfection or a positive being that is the metaphysical equal & opposite from good?

Prof Laaw I maintain you weird claim the EGC can be applied to a Classic view of God is no better than the weird claim refuting Cosmological Arguments for the Existence of God is relevant to a Pantheism.

It's called a Non-starter and no matter how much you try to deflect from it it can never be anything else.

But hey it might torment the followers of Plantinga or Swimburne but as far as I am concerned their "god" is false anyway.

One last point:
>(ii) Atheists don't need to presuppose evil is a reality to run the problem of evil. They can be moral nihilists.

So you are in fact defining evil in the moral sense here. Since the Classic God cannot by nature coherently be called a moral agent again another non-starter.

It's a non-starter for classic Theism Prof Laaw. Accept it.

No "god" whose existence can be proven empirically can be God in the Classic Sense. Only the personalist sense.

God in the classic sense is proven a posteriori.

Now if you wish to venture an argument God is proven empirically and not a posteriori. God for it! But it would be that argument that does the heavy lifting against Classic God. The EGC is still a non-starter.

djindra said...

From "BenYachov's":
"Thomists say God cannot be proved to exist or not exist on empirical grounds."

to the Catholic:
"But we do prove it a posteriori, i.e., from the things that have been created, following an argument from the effects to the cause:"

-- That is, the proof is rooted in the empirical.

Yet this empirical requirement eventually leads to the assertion that the evil we experience empirically does not exist. The denial of that-which-obviously-exists is okay in Feser's philosophy when it serves his purpose. Yet in other cases he ridicules the same sort of thing. For example, he ridicules the eliminative materialism of the Churchlands.

Feser wants it both ways. He eliminates what suits him.

When one takes first principles and deduces an absurd and nonsensical conclusion (evil is privation of good), one ought to question those first principles and the arguments that got him there.

"What is evil? Does it have a substance or not? Is it privation of perfection or a positive being that is the metaphysical equal & opposite from good?"

This looks like a false choice. But it leads me elsewhere.

The idea that perfection is good first requires some standard for measuring perfection. What standard do we use to judge this perfection when the object is the standard itself?

We can judge the difference between the triangle we draw and the ideal triangle, and this we can call its relative perfection or "goodness". But how do we judge the ideal triangle itself? What do we compare it to? Can it be called perfect? Can it be called good? Is the Classical Theist's idea of God much different than that triangle? If not, then I agree his god is amoral. In addition it certainly cannot be called good.

When that Classical Theist makes claims of divine goodness it's an implicit rejection of his own god. No need to apply the Evil God argument. The Good God argument achieves the same destruction.

BenYachov said...

djindra still bitter from being kicked off of Feser's blog.

Dude, you need to move on.

BenYachov said...

edit:By definition of evil we clearly mean a metaphysical philosophical description not a fictional or mechanistic one.

That last should have said functional or mechanistic etc

Sorry I was in a hurry.

Anyway my original point remains the EGC is a non-starter in the face of Classic Theism.

Like claiming to refute Cosmological Arguments somehow refutes Pantheistic concepts of God.

The only way you can "save" the EGC & make it "apply" to Classic Theism is to commit the fallacy of equivocation with reckless and shameless abandon.

Like "proving" 2+2=5 true by making the numeral symbol "5" ad hoc mean this many objects (****).

You really don't make 2+2=5. It's still four just with a renamed symbol given a radically new meaning.

You can't make the EGC apply to a Classic God by redefining all historic arguments for God as empirical ones.

An a posteriori argument is not an empirical argument anymore than Lamarckian evolution is just another form of Darwinian Evolution.

There is a resemblance but you commit the fallacy of equivocation if you substitute one for the other.

djindra said...

djindra still bitter from being kicked off of Feser's blog. Dude, you need to move on.

That's rich coming from someone who is still fighting the Enlightenment.

djindra said...

"The only way you can 'save' the EGC & make it 'apply' to Classic Theism is to commit the fallacy of equivocation with reckless and shameless abandon."

Classic Theism is permeated with the fallacy of equivocation. But it's called "analogy" for further equivocation.

Anonymous said...

djindra, I've enjoyed your back and forth with ben. Hats off to you, well done. Dr. Law was the moving secularism forward conference recorded?

Lee said...

Well done, professor, in the debate and on both appearances on the Unbelievable? podcast. The one with Glenn got a bit frustrating towards the end, where he kept saying you had conceded that the EPoE/G had been "dealt with" by the corresponding theodicies (which you hadn't, of course). One small question for you (or anyone else with the info):

"because e.g. is a privation (which is rubbish, of course)"

It certainly sounds like rubbish, but I haven't been able to determine why it is rubbish on my own, and I can't seem to find any smart people with an explanation for why it is, in fact, rubbish. Anyone have a link?

@ben:

"But we do prove it a posteriori, i.e., from the things that have been created, following an argument from the effects to the cause: namely, from things which are moved and cannot be the adequate source of their motion, to a first unmoved mover;"

Sounds an awful lot like empirical justification. "Effects to the causes" is empiricism (isn't it? If not, what is?).


Thanks,

Lee.

BenYachov said...

>Sounds an awful lot like empirical justification. "Effects to the causes" is empiricism (isn't it? If not, what is?).

Limarc an awful lot like sounds like Darwin.

It's still not the same. Go look it up.

Lee said...

"Limarc an awful lot like sounds like Darwin.

It's still not the same. Go look it up."

notsureifsrs.jpg (look it up)

BenYachov said...

@Lee

I was running out the door last night so my response was rushed.

I'll rephrase, Lamarck Theory of Evolution sounds like Darwin.

"Animals changing their morphology slowly over generations by forces in nature till they become different species etc".

Of course it's not exactly the same
example (natural selection-Darwin vs Acquired traits are inherited-Lamarck).

But you can't say without committing the fallacy of equivocation. Lamarck was shown to be incorrect (mostly). Lemarck was a theory of evolution & it was wrong therefore related theories of evolution like Darwin are wrong.

That would be base sophistry worthy of a YEC fanatic.

You equally can't say just because there is a similarity between modern empiricism and a posteriori Aristotelian theories of knowledge that they must be the same & interchangeable because they have something in common(they make inferences about the world from the senses).

They also have major differences. Modern Empiricism suggests only empirical knowledge is valid and real. Modern Empiricism relies on nominalism.

Aristotle was a Moderate Realist and believed in intellective demonstration.

The Modern Empiricist would go searching the Universe for both "God" and a FSM. The Aristotlian Thomist would start with one rock and from it deduce the existence of God.

Enough of the fallacy of equivocation shit.

Lee said...

I think what confused me most was that it appears the Aristotelian theories of knowledge operate empirically up until they enter rationalist territory, at which point the rationalist takes over. This is why you must start with a rock, but can end with God. Is this correct?

I didn't mean to imply they were one and the same, as I tried to emphasize by saying "sounds like", followed by a few question marks.

"The Modern Empiricist would go searching the Universe for both "God" and a FSM."

I take this to mean that the Aristotelian Thomist denies the very possibility of empirical justification for belief in either?

Thanks,

Lee.

BenYachov said...

@Lee
>I take this to mean that the Aristotelian Thomist denies the very possibility of empirical justification for belief in either?

Pretty much. At best maybe with empiricism you could find a Paley "gap" without any apparent natural explaination but you couldn't known anything about God.

>I think what confused me most was that it appears the Aristotelian theories of knowledge operate empirically up until they enter rationalist territory, at which point the rationalist takes over. This is why you must start with a rock, but can end with God. Is this correct?

That is one way of puting it as far as I know with my own amature knowledge of the subject.

>I didn't mean to imply they were one and the same, as I tried to emphasize by saying "sounds like", followed by a few question marks.

My apologizes for biting your head off then.

Peace and Cheers.

Lee said...

Thanks for the clarification, I think I understand your objection now. You said:

"The only way you can 'save' the EGC & make it 'apply' to Classic Theism is to commit the fallacy of equivocation with reckless and shameless abandon."

It seems to be that Classic Theism as you conceive of it is predicated on the truth of Aristotelian Thomism (perhaps this is in the definition). Taking your word for the truth of both of those positions, it appears that the EGC is the wrong tool for that particular job. Of course, there are a number of 'god' concepts and theories of knowledge that will remain aloof from the EGC in much the same manner.

What I'm not clear on, and I hope you can clarify for me, is how the existence of one such concept of God and it's requisite theory of knowledge somehow puts the EGC in a position of needing to be saved. Can Stephen Law, for example, not simply reach for another tool from his toolbox? Could he not simply raise any of the many objections to that theory of knowledge, whilst preserving the EGC for concepts to which it applies?

Thanks,

Lee.

BenYachov said...

>What I'm not clear on, and I hope you can clarify for me, is how the existence of one such concept of God and it's requisite theory of knowledge somehow puts the EGC in a position of needing to be saved.

In so much that Prof Law has made the extreme claim that the EGC applies to the Classic View it needs to be saved.

If it is realized that it can't apply to the Classic view then it's Ok.

If a scientist philosopher came up with a devastating refutation of Young Earth "Scientific" Creationism(& no doubt it's been done) he would be a bit of a fool to pretend it applies unequivocally to Old Earth or Theistic Evolutionist concepts.

In the latter case a general critique of Theism is called for & even then a specific God concept needs specific polemics.

>Can Stephen Law, for example, not simply reach for another tool from his toolbox? Could he not simply raise any of the many objections to that theory of knowledge, whilst preserving the EGC for concepts to which it applies?

If he would I would have no beef with him.

Lee said...

Glenn Peoples raised similar issues in his podcast following the discussion he had with Prof. Law. His objections, like yours, appeared to hinge on 'being' and 'perfection' as it pertains to 'goodness' and 'greatness'. I am unfamiliar with the arguments that establish that 'being' is 'perfection', or that 'goodness' is 'greatness' (if that is even a fair synopsis), so I'm certainly in no position to critique them.

On your view, can we rule anything out on empirical grounds? What is the upper limit? I think I understand the nature of the objection, but I'm having a hard time conceptualizing the empiricist/rationalist breaking point. Put simply, it's hard for me to understand why the suffering referenced in the EPoE cannot provide an empirical foundation for the Thomist, but somehow a rock can. Clearly I'm missing something, so I'll read more on the general view, I suppose.

Thanks,

Lee.

BenYachov said...

>On your view, can we rule anything out on empirical grounds?

Short answer: Yes, those things which belong in the empirical category.

>Clearly I'm missing something, so I'll read more on the general view, I suppose.

I'll see what I can recommend if I get around to it.

Cheers man.