Friday, May 11, 2012

Craig: reason leads to atheism or agnosticism

"The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic." William Lane Craig.

Yes, Craig really did say that. The source is here. A very interesting article. Thanks to this forum.

But does Craig really mean what he appears to mean? You should make your own mind up about that. These other quotes from Reasonable Faith re. the role of reason may be relevant:

"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa."

[William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.]

"Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God's Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God." 

[William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), pp. 35-36.]

Craig's view seems to be that reason is a useful apologetic tool, but faith is not dependent on reason, nor should it be. Indeed, when faith and reason come into conflict, it is reason that must give way (though I wonder, then, exactly why he rejects Young Earth creationism).

Craig's view that unbelievers such as myself know in our hearts that God exists (and, apparently, even that Christianity is true) is linked interestingly to his view of hell, and why unbelievers really do deserve to go there. Of course, no one deserves to burn in hell for not embracing God if they don't know that God exists. However, according to Craig, I do know God exists. Which is why hell is indeed an appropriate punishment for me - why a loving God really will send me there to receive infinite torment.

On Craig's view, when I, as an atheist, say I don't believe God exists, I'm lying. I am freely and knowingly sending myself to hell to receive infinite punishment, when I could be going to heaven if I would only admit what I know to be true and embrace God (and that's really quite an incentive to do so, isn't it? Though - surely somewhat bafflingly from Craig's point of view - not incentive enough.)

I find Craig's view genuinely fascinating, if rather disturbing.What must it be like like to look at the world from a perspective like that? How must I look to Craig? I find it hard to imagine.

Follow up post here (in response to Craig's comment about this). Also here.


116 comments:

Anonymous said...

Craig is not *endorsing* the view that reason leads to atheism or agnosticism. He is *mentioning* this view in order to describe what he thinks is the current cultural milieu and the attitude of most Western intellectuals. The context makes this clear.

Tony Lloyd said...

In context the quote is very unclear. WLC could be mentioning a view held by intellectuals. Or he could be endorsing the view. Or he could be warning of a danger: without the input of natural theology, reason will lead to atheism.
I would read WLC's intended meaning as being the last one. For WLC 'bare' reason leads to perdition. The rationalist, though, wants reasons and so, if he is nit to be lost, the apologist had better give him some reasons.
But then there is the question of whether WLCs natural theology provides actual reasons or mere rationalisations.
If it just provides rationalisations then, if he were honest, WLC, would admit that he does endorse the view: rationalisations are no part of reason and, so, reason alone leads to atheism.
If natural theology does provide genuine reasons, then WLC can consistently reject (and, so just mention) the view.
But Natural Theology as providing genuine reasons sits very uncomfortably with the other statements from WLC quoted and referenced above.

Paul Wright said...

Craig's "loves darkness rather than light" here is a reference to the follow on from that famous verse in John 3:16: "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."

As a good inerrantist, Craig apparently believes this and other passages like Romans 1 (see my old blog post about this) where Paul writes that unbelievers are "without excuse". You and I know there's a God really but don't worship him because to do so we'd have to acknowledge how bad we are, or something.

Independently of whether Craig really meant to suggest that reason is the Devil's whore, the pathologising of non-belief based on knowing what people think better than they do is itself pathological, as Thrasymachus says.

Anonymous said...

Law seems rather confused in this post. He begins by quoting Craig:

"The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic."

and then concludes with...

"On Craig's view, when I, as an atheist, say I don't believe God exists, I'm lying."

These being blatantly contradictory propositions, it is difficult to see how Law expounded one from the other; Law's post is devoid of any meaningful argument or logic.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Paul Wright comments are insightful, especially the last one.

I read your essay on losing religion, very well written, and it reflects the experience of many 'believers', especially of my generation in the 1960s.

Albert Camus’ La Peste was a prescribed text when I was 16 and it changed my views totally, though my mind was ripe for it. At a time when school texts like Hardy’s Tess of the d’urbervilles, Dickens’ Great Expectations and Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers were completely lost on me, Camus’ book was a revelation. I’ve read it twice since.

One of the issues I've long had with Craig is that he promotes himself as an 'expert' on the mind of God and the trials and rewards of the 'afterlife'.

In regard to people’s ‘relationship with God’, I’ve long argued that it’s a projection.

Regards, Paul.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

Can you lie to yourself about your belief in god?

Plantinga has described belief in god as a properly basic belief?

Can you lie to yourself about your properly basic beliefs?

Stephen Law said...

Tony I think your interpretation is most likely. Thanks Paul for link to Thasymachus on this, which is excellent.

Stephen Law said...

Also Paul I v much enjoyed reading your losing my religion piece....

Anonymous said...

Well, Stephen, if you find "Craig's view genuinely fascinating", you should at least buy and quote the latest edition of Reasonable Faith (2008)!

I laughed when I read that you asked why Craig "rejects young earth creationism".
Let me quote Plantinga "Of course Christian belief just as such doesn't include the thought that the universe is young; and in fact as far back as Augustine (354-430) serious Christians have doubted that the scriptural days of creation correspond to 24-hour period of time" (Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, 10)

wombat said...

Jame Whyte (not uniquely) has argued for the opposite i.e. Christians do not really believe. (Brief version here Do believers really believe?)

on the grounds that their behaviour is not in line with what one should expect from their stated position.

"The vast majority of Christians display a remarkably blasé attitude toward their approaching day of judgment, leading lives almost indistinguishable from those of us open non-believers. Put simply, they fail the behavioural test for belief."

This is particularly telling because one might perhaps find this sort of seeming contradiction where one accepts something intellectually but not at a more basic emotional level e.g cigarette smokers who continue in spite of acknowledging its dangers. The Christian apologists here are claiming that the "knowledge" is at that deeper visceral level.
The conclusion seems to be that if we do have a deep down sense for God it is telling us and them "Nope... Still nothing out there..."

Paul Wright said...

I'm glad people liked the "losing my religion" essay. It's the one thing I've written which I occasionally get fan mail about!

wombat: There's also Georges Rey's "Meta-atheism: religious avowal as self-deception", where he argues that Christians generally don't act as if they believe what they say they believe.

As I say in the another old blog post, there's a folk psychology where "thoughts" are propositional sentences that occur to us, and "beliefs" are the ones we hold on to as true over time and use to guide our actions. But the way the phenomenon we call "belief" really works doesn't seem much like that. This doesn't just apply to religion: see The Mystery of the Haunted Rationalist.

So yes, it may be that the evangelicals are talking about visceral belief, but if the theist claim is that atheists anticipate-as-if there's a God while avowing-as-if there isn't, I don't think that works. What are the things that atheists are doing which give away the fact that they are anticipating that way? And why does this make them culpable and deserving of Hell?

I don't think the atheist version (i.e. Rey's or Whyte's) has the same problem, because there's plenty of stuff in where Christians don't act like there's a God.

In either case, using a psychological theory about your opponent to avoid responding to their arguments would be logical rudeness, but Craig doesn't do that in his debates, because that wouldn't convince the audience. He just has some rather odd positions on the justification for his own beliefs and what it would take to modify them (and encourages other Christians to take on those odd positions, which is pretty bad, I suppose).

Thomas Larsen said...

Oh dear. Yet another quote that will fall into the quote-mines of sceptics for years to come...

Craig's full paragraph is as follows:

"A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society. While most of the original Enlightenment thinkers were themselves theists, the majority of Western intellectuals today no longer considers theological knowledge to be possible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic."

From the context, it seems pretty clear that Craig's contention is that "the majority of Western intellectuals today," who "no longer consider theological knowledge to be possible," believe that "the person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic." But Craig doesn't believe that himself, obviously; he goes on to say, "Christians who depreciate natural theology because 'no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments' are therefore tragically shortsighted," because the Gospel "is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the current cultural milieu."

Kel said...

I don't think it's a quote mine, except in it leaving out Craig's context of talking about the need for natural theology - that without an intellectual climate that allows for the inner witness of the holy spirit and other such tools, then it's only natural that people would fall into atheism or agnosticism. The sentiment of the quote seems to be carried through even without its wider context (yes, I went and read what Craig wrote), though on its own it seems like a more powerful admission than it is in the wider text.

John said...

Stephen's either dishonest or incompetent --or both. The 'for-WLC-faith trumps-reason' schtick has already been dispensed with by WLC himself --ad nauseum. At one point, during his debate with Hitchens.

WLC's whole website is even titled 'reasonable faith' for crying out loud.

Quoting out of context much?

(Oh yeah, Stephen, how's your ego been hanging after the Feser kerfluffle?)

MauricXe said...

Your debate with Craig is finally online:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTeN2IaRKrM&feature=g-u-u

Stephen Law said...

John

Which bit, exactly, of what I say above is incorrect? And can you then point to a quotation from WLC that shows it to be wrong?

As to Feser's claim that the EGC "does not apply" to his Classical God, he misunderstood my paper. In particular he missed the point about impossibility arguments, and then, when the penny finally dropped, he retreated to saying that the ECG did not apply because he had a good argument *for* the existence of the Classical God (which is not to show the EGC does not apply, but is rather an attempt to meet the challenge - exactly what I'm after).

Feser's response to the ECG is intellectually one of the weakest I have come across. Still, Feser just kept ploughing his "it doesn't apply" furrow, ignored the explanation of why it does (and also changed the subject to why the ECG offers nothing new over the old problem of evil [which I then skewered by pointing out how, unlike the trad prob of evil, the ECG illuminates the failings of his own theodicies in his own book]).

However, I realize that repeating the same point over and over, ignoring counter-arguments, and then changing the subject, passes for sophisticated philosophical argument in certain circles.

Stephen Law said...

mauricxe - the video is not there.

MauricXe said...

Ah it was. They switched it to private. I guess they didn't intend for it to be uploaded! lol sorry about that.

I thought you did a great job in the debate. I also admired your outfit.

Paul Wright said...

I think Thomas Larsen is right: Craig probably doesn't mean what that sentence says in isolation, any more than I mean that atheists know there's a God really in my first comment on this thread (yet there is a sentence you could pull from that which says so).

As far as I know, the other quotes are fair summaries of Craig's views and show that he has a somewhat unusual approach to epistemology. He doesn't attempt to rely on that in debate, though, so all an opponent could to would be to show that some claims of Christianity which Craig believes because they are What the Bible Says (such as the "without excuse" stuff) are bonkers. Craig usually retreats from arguing about inerrancy though: for the sake of debate he will concede it, from what I remember. In a debate, he's much more interested in making mere Christians than making inerrantists.

Anonymous said...

according to Craig, I do know God exists.
That sounds like a challenge to me. Would both protagonists be willing to undergo interrogation in an MRI scanner? A few suitable questions should quickly reveal the difference between believing something to be true, and it actually being true. The first may not appear to be a lie to the holder. But anyone believing that believing constitutes definitive proof is lying to them self.

BenYachov said...

Context is a bitch.

Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism's triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture's view of how the world really is.

A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society. While most of the original Enlightenment thinkers were themselves theists, the majority of Western intellectuals today no longer considers theological knowledge to be possible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.End QUOTE

Seems he doesn't reject reason or believe reason leads inevitably to atheism.

BenYachov said...

@ Prof Law
>As to Feser's claim that the EGC "does not apply" to his Classical God, he misunderstood my paper.

Yet that Atheist fellow testinganidea made many of the same points Feser made in his initial critique and after some arm twisting(& some egging on from moi) you all but admitted the EGC is not adequate by itself to answer a Classic Theist?

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2012/03/evil-god-challenge-cartoon.html

What you have some problem admitting weakness to a Theists?

>In particular he missed the point about impossibility arguments, and then, when the penny finally dropped, he retreated to saying that the ECG did not apply because he had a good argument *for* the existence of the Classical God (which is not to show the EGC does not apply, but is rather an attempt to meet the challenge - exactly what I'm after).

No Prof Law, Feser informed you that God in Classic Theism is known only by philosophical argument & reasoning not empirical investigation. Otherwise it's not classic Theism.

(You already debated contra Dawkins and Atkins on the validity of philosophical knowledge vs science alone so no use playing the "Reject empiricism = reject evidence" card.)

Your answer was to the effect "Well pretend your God can be know via empirical methods". Then you ran from his blog.

Lame!

>Feser's response to the ECG is intellectually one of the weakest I have come across. Still, Feser just kept ploughing his "it doesn't apply" furrow, ignored the explanation of why it does (and also changed the subject to why the ECG offers nothing new over the old problem of evil [which I then skewered by pointing out how, unlike the trad prob of evil, the ECG illuminates the failings of his own theodicies in his own book]).

This bit of bluster is amusing but you already admitted to testinganidea your argument can't be used against a Classic Concept of God that rejects the idea it is a quant piece of historical revisionism.

>However, I realize that repeating the same point over and over, ignoring counter-arguments, and then changing the subject, passes for sophisticated philosophical argument in certain circles.

Indeed, physician heal thyself.

Even in a Godless universe you EGC is as irrelevant to casting doubt on the existence of the Classic Theistic God as refuting the Kalam Cosmological Argument is to refuting Pantheism.

Those are the breaks.

BTW good luck applying EGC to Davies. You will need it.

BenYachov said...

Of course this was not as lame as your empirically false claim Feser endorses Theodicies.

BenYachov said...

>In particular he missed the point about impossibility arguments.

Now that I think of it. If we found some horseshoe footprints on the ground you EGG relative to a theistic personalist deity would be comprable to arguing wiether a winged Unicorn or a regualar horse made the footprints.

Applied to a Classic View of God it's like arguing a horse made the footprints vs "A creature who is always a four legged horse and never a five legged Unicorn and at the same time a five legged unicorn who is never a four legged horse".

Plausibly you could have a winged unicorn with either gensplicing or cosmetic surgery but how could you have a "A creature who is always a four legged horse and never a five legged Unicorn and at the same time a five legged unicorn who is never a four legged horse" since that is incoherent?

Plus how could you coherently say the evidence for either a horse or a winged unicorn making the horseshoe prints is consistent with "A creature who is always a four legged horse and never a five legged Unicorn and at the same time a five legged unicorn who is never a four legged horse" and have it mean anything?

Just as it's meaningless to talk about an "Evil" Classic Theistic God. How can you have something that is purely actual and at the same time privation?

(BTW did you all know Prof Law called the "privation" definition of evil "stupid" on Feser's blog?)

The EGC is a respectable challenge to the God of Plantinga and Swimburn but not Aquinas.

Stephen Law said...

Ben

It's an empirical fact that Feser DOES present theodicies - that's to say (using the term "theodicy" in a very standard way) explanations of why observable evils are not strong evidence against a good God. See Feser's book The Last Superstition p161-165 where Feser gives two theodicies in fact: a non-pain-no-gain theodicy (illustrated with a a child being forced to learn the violin) complimented with a compensatory after-life theodicy. I pointed out that both these theodicies can be flipped to defend belief in an evil God.

As for your other post, Ben, its your usual mix of falsehoods, half truths, irrelevancy and insults, so forgive me if I decline to step onto your merry-go-round of BS again.

Those are breaks, as you say.

Stephen Law said...

As to what Craig actually means, I am not sure myself, though I suspect Tony is right. The context does not really settle it. Which is odd as Craig is usually very, very clear. Constructing a straightforward declarative sentence that, in isolation, would be taken to say, quite unambiguously, that the use of reason alone leads to atheism or agnosticism, is very sloppy thing for a professional philosopher to do if that's not what that philosopher actually thinks. It is, at the very least, a rather baffling slip.

I am just not sure what Craig thinks. Maybe we should ask him.

I don't have my copy of Reasonable Faith to hand (though it is the latest edition!), otherwise I'd look and so if I could find a quote in which Craig says that reason alone supports to theism. Such a quote would put the issue to bed. The absence of any such a quote, on the other hand, would be noteworthy...

P.S. Ben, the one thing I have not said is that Craig "rejects reason". You're attacking strawman there.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law
>It's an empirical fact that Feser DOES present theodicies - that's to say (using the term "theodicy" in a very standard way)

According to Davies the modern use of Theodicy refers to giving a moral defense of a God who is a moral agent. Feser like Davies rejects the idea that God is a moral agent. THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Davies which Feser cites multiple times has two chapters devoted to rejecting Theodicy and a bad way to exonerate God.

It's very DZ Philips.

>explanations of why observable evils are not strong evidence against a good God. See Feser's book The Last Superstition p161-165 where Feser gives two theodicies in fact: a non-pain-no-gain theodicy (illustrated with a a child being forced to learn the violin) complimented with a compensatory after-life theodicy. I pointed out that both these theodicies can be flipped to defend belief in an evil God.

You misread him and ignored the greater context of the book as well as the bibliography.

Pages 161-165 are conclusions via Feser's arguments on the Aristotilan view of Good and Evil & the Reality of a Classic God not theodicy arguments morally justifying God's actions!

We all tried to point that out. Moi especially. To this day you ignored this response &clearly have no answer.

>As for your other post, Ben, its your usual mix of falsehoods, half truths, irrelevancy and insults, so forgive me if I decline to step onto your merry-go-round of BS again.

No they are brute facts that anyone can check the link and see for themselves.

BenYachov said...

>P.S. Ben, the one thing I have not said is that Craig "rejects reason". You're attacking strawman there.

I never literally said you did. If I implied it then I apologize for the confusion.

Stephen Law said...

"According to Davies the modern use of Theodicy refers to giving a moral defense of a God who is a moral agent."

Yes, Davies chooses to define the term that way (for obvious reasons!) but reference to moral agency is by no means standard. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on theodicy doesn't mention moral agency, for example.

Moreover, simply saying "God is not a moral agent" does not, in any case, deal with the problem of evil. The problem can be set up without assuming God is a moral agent. If god's goodness, even if not moral goodness, is nevertheless such that pointless pain and suffering is not good, then apparent pointless pain and suffering constitutes prima facie evidence against such a good god. Whether or not that god is a moral agent.

Faced with this problem, one might be tempted to run theodicies to deal with the problem, *whether or not you think god is a moral agent.*

Which is exactly what Feser does.

Now your case for saying Feser *doesn't* do this, is, bizarrely, that Feser references a book by Davies in which Davies says theodicies are not required because God is not a moral agent.

But it of course it does not follow from the fact that Feser refers to a particular book that Feser agrees with *everything* in it. Moreover, and more crucially, even if Davies and/or Feser *did* think that theodicies were not *required*, because the (non-morally) good God can be salvaged in some other way, it would not follow that Feser thinks belief in a good God cannot *also* be effectively salvaged by means of a theodicy. Davies might think the theodicies fail, but it doesn't follow Feser thinks they fail. You, Ben, just assume it does follow.

So your case, Ben, for saying Feser does not offer theodicies is, frankly, awful. Feser clearly and unambiguously does offer theodicies (as pretty standardly defined, even if not as defined by Davies). And your case for saying Feser doesn't offer theodicies is full of holes.

BTW, Davies own response to the problem of evil fails, as does his explanation of why theodicies are not, required (though he's dead right that the theodicies fail!) But I'll deal with that later.

BenYachov said...

>Yes, Davies chooses to define the term that way (for obvious reasons!) but reference to moral agency is by no means standard. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on theodicy doesn't mention moral agency, for example.

Actually I brought that up in the past on this very blog(David Span tried unsuccessfully to make an issue of it) that the classic meaning of Theodicy is simply the justification for belief in God. In which case standard Cosmological philosophical arguments are Theodicies. But I would be the last person to claim Feser doesn't give arguments for the existence of God. That was the whole point of THE LAST SUPERSTITION.

>Moreover, simply saying "God is not a moral agent" does not, in any case, deal with the problem of evil. The problem can be set up without assuming God is a moral agent. If god's goodness, even if not moral goodness, is nevertheless such that pointless pain and suffering is not good, then apparent pointless pain and suffering constitutes prima facie evidence against such a good god. Whether or not that god is a moral agent.

The problem with your tendency to keep the definitions of Good and Evil as ambigious as possible is from the perspective of Satan even Plantinga's morally good God is "evil" to the Evil One.

Anyway as amusing as your fallacies of equivocation are they only apply to a God who is a moral agent. You can no more call a non-moral agent type God "evil" because he allows meaningless suffering then you can call science evil because scientists produced the Bomb. Science is not in itself a moral agent and neither is God.

>Faced with this problem, one might be tempted to run theodicies to deal with the problem, *whether or not you think god is a moral agent.*

>Which is exactly what Feser does.

Feser denies that's what he meant we should take him at his word or we are poisoning the well.

I take you at your word your definitions of Good and evil are pre-theoretical. I just maintain that renders your EGC incoherent.

>Davies might think the theodicies fail, but it doesn't follow Feser thinks they fail.

Even I think it is possible not all arguments against specific theodicies succeed and so does Feser. So what? Given our classic view neither of us needs theodicies.

Feser did say none of the reasons(not moral justifications mind you) he gave for God allowing evil would confort the parents of a raped and murdered child.

>So your case, Ben, for saying Feser does not offer theodicies is, frankly, awful. Feser clearly and unambiguously does offer theodicies (as pretty standardly defined, even if not as defined by Davies). And your case for saying Feser doesn't offer theodicies is full of holes.

Only because you rely on fallacies of equivocation like a fish relies on water to breath.

I'm sorry but you are dead wrong.

>BTW, Davies own response to the problem of evil fails, as does his explanation of why theodicies are not, required (though he's dead right that the theodicies fail!) But I'll deal with that later.

What are you going to do? Argue if God exists he must be a moral agent?

God's not morally good professor according to Davies. What are you gonna do? Agree with him and shout "That makes him evil by default!"?

Yeh good luck with that.

BenYachov said...

Let's face it Prof Law. An Evil God is either morally evil or ontologically evil. There is no third choice unless you keep the definition of evil ambigious.

Given the nature of God classically the God of Abraham and Aquinas can't coherently be described as either.

Maybe that God doesn't exist but the brute fact your EGC doesn't coherently apply to Him remains.

Keep equivocating.

BenYachov said...

>But it of course it does not follow from the fact that Feser refers to a particular book that Feser agrees with *everything* in it.

But I would rate myself a 6.5 on a scale of seven that he didn't agree with Davies based on the existing empirical evidence and lack of evidence for your claim.

You are a brilliant man Prof Law. But here I am like that student who found out Einstein forgot to carry a number in one of his equations.

You have clearly forgotten more philosophy then I have yet to learn. But you failed to carry the one here.

BenYachov said...

edit:That is 6.5 on the skeptical scale with 7 being absolute skeptical non-belief.

BenYachov said...

>If god's goodness, even if not moral goodness, is nevertheless such that pointless pain and suffering is not good, then apparent pointless pain and suffering constitutes prima facie evidence against such a good god.

Given the Platonic and Aristotilan definitions of Good and Evil how does God allowing privation both moral and natural make God less than purely actual thus ontologically (but not morally) good?

I'd love to hear this!

Stephen Law said...

"Feser denies that's what he meant we should take him at his word."

Ben, you are claiming that Feser clearly and unambigously states, not just that theodicies (as I and the Catholic Encylopedia use the term) are not *required*, but that he *does not offer any*?

Where? Can you provide a quotation?

As for this: "he allows meaningless suffering", are you, Ben, saying God does allow meaningless, by which I take you to mean, pointless suffering? But this is consistent with his kind of non-moral "goodness"?

BenYachov said...

edit:

Given the Platonic and Aristotelian definitions of Good and Evil how does God allowing privation of both the moral and natural kind make God less than purely actual thus ontologically (but not morally)not good?

Well your arguments suck professor but at least your grammer & spelling is better.

BenYachov said...

>Ben, you are claiming that Feser clearly and unambigously states, not just that theodicies (as I and the Catholic Encylopedia use the term) are not *required*, but that he *does not offer any*?

No Professor it was you who told me to tell Feser and Glenn to stop using theodicies & pointed out he doesn't use them in the modern sense and I gave evidence.


If there was evidence Feser endorsed Theodicies in the manner of Plantinga or Swimburn you would have given it by now.

Stop trying to shift the burden of proof.

You are wrong. Get over it.

Rabbie said...

"God in Classic Theism is known only by philosophical argument & reasoning not empirical investigation".

No amount of philosophical argument and reasoning can distinguish a monod from a Trinity, can it? That mist clinging to the peaks of the Godhead can only be cleared by Revelation, and in the case of the Old and New Testaments we have two entirely dissimilar presiding Deities, as that perceptive commentator and arch-heretic Marcion pointed out. You can have one or the other, but it is intellectually dishonest to pretend you can have both - unless of course you backpedal away from the idea of Biblical inerrancy and downplay the importance of the Hebrew scriptures.

This is why characters such as Craig need the "self-verifying witness of the Holy Spirit", as without this magic get out of jail card, my Father's mansion is revealed by the reason to be built right over a Judeo-Hellenic fault line.

I find Craig's "I can read your mind because the Holy Spirit tells me you are lying"" routine to be frankly terroristic as well as offensive. For I have my own witness to this: up to the age of around fourteen, I believed in God and loved Jesus, but during that period of my life before I'd put off childish things, I had never encountered and was certainly not aware of anything remotely like Craig's witness of the Holy Spirit. His additional threat of hell for non-acceptance "without excuse" should be seen for what it is - a mindfucking routine, unworthy of serious consideration - a technique first used to great effect by Mr Thorn-in-the-Flesh of Tarsus himself.

BenYachov said...

>(as I and the Catholic Encylopedia use the term)

By your own admission your definitions of Good and Evil are pretheoretical?

How can you use post theoretical ontological definitions then?

Well?

BenYachov said...

>As for this: "he allows meaningless suffering", are you, Ben, saying God does allow meaningless, by which I take you to mean, pointless suffering? But this is consistent with his kind of non-moral "goodness"?

Again given the Platonic and Aristotelian definitions of Good and Evil how does God allowing privation of both the moral and natural kind make God less than purely actual thus ontologically (but not morally)not good?

If you want to argue the the Platonic and Aristotelian definitions of Good and Evil are false that is fine. But given those views your EGC is still a non-starter.

I know why you can't see that?

Stephen Law said...

See this is why it's pointless having a conversation with you Ben. I say Feser offers theodicies in my (entirely standard) sense. You say he doesn't. I point two out - a no-pain-no-gain theodicy and a compensatory afterlife theodicy (nb both of which Davies himself calls theodicies!). You insist that Feser doesn't offer theodicies, and your case for saying so is "Feser denies that's what he meant we should take him at his word." I ask you where he denies offering theodicies, and you say:

"No Professor it was you who told me to tell Feser and Glenn to stop using theodicies & pointed out he doesn't use them in the modern sense and I gave evidence."

Right. The evidence. The actual quote, you know, where Feser denies offering theodicies. Let's have it then.

My answer to your question re Platonic good is, if there's a Platonic form of good - and that's what god essentially is - then there's no evil God. By definition. Which is to completely miss the point of the EGC.

So now, Ben, my question: Does your (non-morally) good God allow pointless suffering? Yes or no?

Stephen Law said...

Also Ben, can you provide a quote where Davies defines theodicy like so: "Davies the modern use of Theodicy refers to giving a moral defense of a God who is a moral agent"?

I cannot find it in Davies' "The Reality of Good and Evil". Got a page number?

Stephen Law said...

Where does Davies define theodicy as a "moral defence of god as a moral agent?" Does he, in fact, Ben?

BenYachov said...

>See this is why it's pointless having a conversation with you Ben. I say Feser offers theodicies in my (entirely standard) sense. You say he doesn't.

No I responded too your quip that Feser doesn't use Theodicies by showing his reliance on Davies. You have merely prooftexted pages 161-165 and made your isogesis of that the sole basis of your laughable claim.

>I point two out - a no-pain-no-gain theodicy and a compensatory afterlife theodicy (nb both of which Davies himself calls theodicies!). You insist that Feser doesn't offer theodicies, and your case for saying so is "Feser denies that's what he meant we should take him at his word." I ask you where he denies offering theodicies, and you say:

I don't believe those are moral justifications Feser is giving for God allowing evil but merely conclusions and Feser himself told you that you are treating them as arguments for a Theistic Personalist God which he denies exists.

So Feser himself said it I can tonight dig up the quote again & provide a link. You can continue to ignore it & live in a fantasy world where your EGC is the omnipotent godslayer like Elric and Stormbringer.

>Right. The evidence. The actual quote, you know, where Feser denies offering theodicies. Let's have it then.

The burden of proof falls to the accuser. You accused Feser of using Theodicies & you have not provided any convincing proof other then your own self serving isogesis of his writings.
You admit Feser relies on Davies who rejects theodicy and both of them reject God as a moral agent. Thus logically both would rejected arguments designed to defend a moral god.

It's not hard to see you are grasphing at straws and your pride can't let you admit you didn't carry the One.


>My answer to your question re Platonic good is, if there's a Platonic form of good - and that's what god essentially is - then there's no evil God. By definition. Which is to completely miss the point of the EGC.

Rather you should admit you can't know or not know there is a Form of the Good or something purely actual by empirical argument & thus that renders the EGC a non-starter.

>So now, Ben, my question: Does your (non-morally) good God allow pointless suffering? Yes no?

I bet dollars to donuts you are going to cast this in Theistic Personalist terms if I say Yes God is after all the formal cause of evil in Thomism but he can't be morally blamed for it since he has no obligations to us to create or not.

Stephen Law said...

MY COMMENTS IN CAPS (SORRY IF SEEMS LIKE SHOUTING)

BenYachov has left a new comment on your post "Craig: reason leads to atheism or agnosticism":

>See this is why it's pointless having a conversation with you Ben. I say Feser offers theodicies in my (entirely standard) sense. You say he doesn't.

No I responded too your quip that Feser doesn't use Theodicies by showing his reliance on Davies. You have merely prooftexted PROOFTEXTED? pages 161-165 and made your isogesis of that the sole basis of your laughable claim. YOU MEAN, I BASED MY CLAIM ON FESER'S TEXT. YES I DID! WHAT SHOULD I HAVE BASED IT ON? HIS ASTROLOGICAL CHART?

>I point two out - a no-pain-no-gain theodicy and a compensatory afterlife theodicy (nb both of which Davies himself calls theodicies!). You insist that Feser doesn't offer theodicies, and your case for saying so is "Feser denies that's what he meant we should take him at his word." I ask you where he denies offering theodicies, and you say:

I don't believe those are moral justifications Feser is giving for God allowing evil but merely conclusions and Feser himself told you that you are treating them as arguments for a Theistic Personalist God which he denies exists.NO I WAS NOT AND AM NOT TREATING THEM AS ARGUMENTS FOR A THEISTIC PERSONALIST GOD. OBVIOUSLY AS I SAID VERY CLEARLY ABOVE, WHEN I POINTED OUT THAT FESER CAN AND DID STILL RUN THEODICIES EVEN IF HE DOES NOT HAVE A PERSONALIST CONCEPTION OF GOD.

So Feser himself said it I can tonight dig up the quote again & provide a link. You can continue to ignore it & live in a fantasy world where your EGC is the omnipotent godslayer like Elric and Stormbringer.

I DON'T DOUBT YOU CAN FIND A QUOTE WHERE FESER DENIES ARGUING FOR A PERSONALIST GOD. I WANT THE QUOTE WHERE FESER DENIES OFFERING THEODICIES IN DEFENCE OF A NON-PERSONAL GOD (WHICH CAN BE DONE, EVEN ON THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA'S DEFINITION OF THEODICY, AND CERTAINLY ON MANY STANDARD DEFINITIONS).

>Right. The evidence. The actual quote, you know, where Feser denies offering theodicies. Let's have it then.

The burden of proof falls to the accuser. You accused Feser of using Theodicies & you have not provided any convincing proof other then your own self serving isogesis of his writings.

MY PROOF IS POINTING TO FESER'S NO-PAIN-NO-GAIN THEODICY AND COMPENSATORY AFTER LIFE THEODICY. YOU ARE NOW TRYING TO DENY THEY ARE "THEODICIES" BY DEFINING THEODICY SO IT ONLY APPLIES TO DEFENCE OF PERSONALIST GOD.

You admit Feser relies on Davies who rejects theodicy and both of them reject God as a moral agent. I DO NOT ADMIT FESER RELIES ON DAVIES'S CLAIM THAT THE THEODICIES FAIL AND YOU HAVE NOT SHOWN THAT HE AGREES WITH THAT CLAIM (USING "THEODICY" IN MY OWN STANDARD SENSE)

Thus logically both would rejected arguments designed to defend a moral god.

OF COURSE THEY WOULD. THERE IS NO MORAL GOD ACCORDING TO THEM.

It's not hard to see you are grasphing at straws and your pride can't let you admit you didn't carry the One.

YES THAT'S ME. THE ARROGANT KNOW-IT-ALL PROF SET STRAIGHT BY THE HUMBLE, PLUCKY STUDENT WHO WOULDN'T GIVE UP. OR SOMETHING... (AD HOMINEM).

Stephen Law said...

[continues]

>My answer to your question re Platonic good is, if there's a Platonic form of good - and that's what god essentially is - then there's no evil God. By definition. Which is to completely miss the point of the EGC.

Rather you should admit you can't know or not know there is a Form of the Good or something purely actual by empirical argument & thus that renders the EGC a non-starter. THAT WE CANNOT NOT KNOW THIS IS PRECISELY THE ISSUE.

>So now, Ben, my question: Does your (non-morally) good God allow pointless suffering? Yes no?

I bet dollars to donuts you are going to cast this in Theistic Personalist terms if I say Yes God is after all the formal cause of evil in Thomism but he can't be morally blamed for it since he has no obligations to us to create or not.

I SHALL NOT BE MORALLY BLAMING HIM FOR IT BEN AS HE AIN'T A PERSON, IS HE? OBVIOUSLY. SO WHAT, FINALLY, IS YOUR ANSWER?

BenYachov said...

>Where does Davies define theodicy as a "moral defence of god as a moral agent?" Does he, in fact, Ben?

So two chapters titled HOW NOT TO VINDICATE GOD which list every known theodicy including those you accuse Feser of believing in is not sufficient for you conclude that is what he believes?

You need me to reproduce these exact literal words somewhere in his writings to believe me?

Stop playing games professor.

That you are reduced to such sophistry is beneath you.

BenYachov said...

>I SHALL NOT BE MORALLY BLAMING HIM FOR IT BEN AS HE AIN'T A PERSON, IS HE? OBVIOUSLY. SO WHAT, FINALLY, IS YOUR ANSWER?

Clearly at this point you are panicking and losing it.

After all what part of "Yes God is after all the formal cause of evil in Thomism but he can't be morally blamed for it since he has no obligations to us to create or not." in unclear to you?

BenYachov said...

>YOU MEAN, I BASED MY CLAIM ON FESER'S TEXT. YES I DID! WHAT SHOULD I HAVE BASED IT ON? HIS ASTROLOGICAL CHART?

A text without a context is a pretext. Otherwise you would be claiming Craig rejects reason which you say you don't based on a quote from his text.

Really professor? This is the best you can do?

Stephen Law said...

Davies lists a load of theodicies in those two chapters, yes.

And Feser uses two of the very theodicies Davies rejects. True, Feser uses them in defence of non-personalist God. But that doesn't mean he doesn't use them He clearly does.

You may say "But if used in defence of a non-personalist god, they are not theodicies", but that's just cheap sleight of hand with words, Ben. On many standard definitions of theodicy they *are* theodicies, and in any case, they key point remains that they are offered as explanations of why the evil cited is not, after all, good evidence against the existence of God. As such, they fail (as Davies points out).

BenYachov said...

>NO I WAS NOT AND AM NOT TREATING THEM AS ARGUMENTS FOR A THEISTIC PERSONALIST GOD. OBVIOUSLY AS I SAID VERY CLEARLY ABO

Feser says otherwise. Why should I believe you? Feser is the Thomistic expert on classic theism not you.

>YES THAT'S ME. THE ARROGANT KNOW-IT-ALL PROF SET STRAIGHT BY THE HUMBLE, PLUCKY STUDENT WHO WOULDN'T GIVE UP. OR SOMETHING... (AD HOMINEM).

No it a plea for you to be open to the possibility you might be wrong.

He is a thought no God classic or otherwise might in fact exist but your EGC might still be a non-starter objection to the classic God concept?

Or do you need it to apply to all religious and theistic philosophical concepts across the board to be proud of it?

I wouldn't. I would use it to pound Swimburn's followers and come up with something else to answer the Thomists.

BenYachov said...

>And Feser uses two of the very theodicies Davies rejects.

So your question was bullshit and a red herring.

>True, Feser uses them in defence of non-personalist God. But that doesn't mean he doesn't use them He clearly does.

How about we ask him rather then go back and forth?

Stephen Law said...

"So your question was bullshit and a red herring."

No, I am genuinely interested. Interesting you can't supply a quote and have to infer that by "theodicy: he means attempt to defend belief in a personal god because he only discusses such attempts. Of course the conclusion that he defines "theodicy" thus does not actually follow.

Stephen Law said...

Sure go ask him, Ben. Get him to define his terms though, or it'll just be even more confusing.

However, whatever Feser says, the fact is he attempts to deal with the problem of evil in that book by explaining evil in terms of no-pain-no-gain and a compensatory after life. Call it a theodicy or don't, I don't care. That's what he does.

Incidentally I have noticed that as your position becomes more precarious, your increasingly resort to insults and ad hominems!

Stephen Law said...

"Feser says otherwise. Why should I believe you?"

Feser thinks I take his arguments to be in defence of a personalist God. I say I do not.

You ask why you should believe me?

Well, clearly Feser knows much better than I what I think, Ben.

Stephen Law said...

So anyway, my question - the one I actually asked rather than the one you tried to fob me off with: Will your non-personal God allow for pointless evils? Do such evils exist?

Yes or no?

Stephen Law said...

PS


After all what part of "Yes God is after all the formal cause of evil in Thomism but he can't be morally blamed for it since he has no obligations to us to create or not." in unclear to you?

er. you preceded that sentence by "If I said..."!

Which means you didn't say it. In fact you still haven't!

But anyway that's *not even the questions I asked*. See above! (this is getting ludicrous!)

Stephen Law said...

Really, you're just trolling, right? The games up, I think.

BenYachov said...

>Really, you're just trolling, right? The games up, I think.

No I am merely busy at the moment but stand by.

BenYachov said...

Prof Law in the age of the internet you should be careful what you say.

QUOTE" If we are determined to indulge in theodicy, if we insist that God, considered as a moral agent, is morally justified in allowing the occurrence of evil.

Page 154 REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Brian Davies

You missed that part? Davies clearly defines theodicy exclusively (as he does in the rest of his book) in terms of morally justifying God as a moral agent.

Good thing I found that PDF version online. It saved me from having to plow threw my hard copy.

More later. Standby!

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

First let's get some of the cheap shots out of the way before we tackle something more substantive.

>Incidentally I have noticed that as your position becomes more precarious, your increasingly resort to insults and ad hominems!

You mean like saying "Feser's response to the ECG is intellectually one of the weakest I have come across." or telling people to "Sod off!"? Or calling Professor Feser stupid or willfully misspelling his name?

Hey I'm a psyche student from long ago we call this projection.

Knock yourself out if it makes you feel better.

>Sure go ask him, Ben. Get him to define his terms though, or it'll just be even more confusing.

You are allergic to asking a fellow academic an academic question to clarify his position or something? You need a non-academic nobody from NYC to do it for you?

Seriously? I don't need to ask him shit I hang with his crowd over at his blog. Why are you afraid to do it?

As I recall when you conversed on Feser's blog with him he did define his terms. Such as defining Evil as privation which you said was "stupid" & telling you the Classic View of God rejects the idea a classic God can be discovered via empirical means.

Prof Law it's not hard the man is a Traditional Thomist it is simply a historical brute fact they use Aristotle's definitions and descriptions of Good and Evil and have not changed it.

Simply own up to the fact you don't exactly posses someone like Sir Anthony Kenny's understanding of Thomism?

Please while we are both young and good looking. Well you at least.

Prof Law U OTOH claim your EGC uses pre-theoretical understandings of Good and Evil(which whatever that means shows you are not using a Thomistic understanding of Good or Evil thus your argument is still a non-starter to show an Evil Thomistic God).

>However, whatever Feser says, the fact is he attempts to deal with the problem of evil in that book by explaining evil in terms of no-pain-no-gain and a compensatory after life. Call it a theodicy or don't, I don't care. That's what he does.

In other words heads I win tails Feser loses Seriously?

>So anyway, my question - the one I actually asked rather than the one you tried to fob me off with: Will your non-personal God allow for pointless evils? Do such evils exist?

>er. you preceded that sentence by "If I said..."!

>Which means you didn't say it. In fact you still haven't!

I reply: I love a guy who can't take yes for an answer even when he asks a blatant "Do you still beat your wife" type question! Hysterical!:-)

But let me clarify. I don't know objectively what you mean by "pointless evil".

I believe there is evil that has no moral point to it that God who is not a moral agent allows & has no obligation to stop. When Rowe talks about pointless evil he is referring to a God who could stop it but doesn't & is morally obligated to do so because he is morally good in a perfect way. Since he doesn't then he doesn't exist.

Now enough of the snark & cheap shots let us go to something more substantial.

BenYachov said...

@Prof Law

>Davies lists a load of theodicies in those two chapters, yes.

And as I quoted from page 154 Davies understands Theodicies to assume a well behaved moral God who is unequivocally compared to a human person & of course human persons are moral agents. He tells us all of these theodicies have that assumption as their common warrent. Do you deny it?

>And Feser uses two of the very theodicies Davies rejects. True, Feser uses them in defence of non-personalist God. But that doesn't mean he doesn't use them He clearly does.

He clearly doesn't employ what Davies talks about on page 154. Feser draws some conclusions based on the idea God is a Classic God and Evil has no substance which is what he means when he says "evil is nothing" but he also says his arguments will give no confort to the parents of a murdered and raped child. So how can they be moral justifiations on his part especially when he argues along with Davies God has no moral obligations nor is a moral agent?

>You may say "But if used in defence of a non-personalist god, they are not theodicies", but that's just cheap sleight of hand with words, Ben.

Love the Chuzpah my pretheoretical defitions of good & evil friend!

Do you even know why Theodicies fail? Have you never read DZ Philips? God can build up the soul without allowing it too suffer evil. That's been argued. Thus there is no moral justification on God's part for allowing evil as a means to build up the soul. Thus Soul building theodicies fail. But given a God who is merely metaphysically & ontologically good in the AT sense & not coherently morally good there is no (non-moral)reason why God might not use suffering to build up a soul even thought he could build it by other means that don't envolve suffering.

Get that?

>On many standard definitions of theodicy they *are* theodicies, and in any case, they key point remains that they are offered as explanations of why the evil cited is not, after all, good evidence against the existence of God. As such, they fail (as Davies points out).

Stop bullshiting me are we really to believe you had Brian Davies in mind when you put together your EGC and not Plantinga, Hick, or Swimburn(theistic personalist all who explicitly claim God is morally perfect and a moral being comparable to a moral human only more uber)?

Seriously?

It seems your latest story is mere Ad Hoc and after the fact. In any conceivable godless universe you EGC is a non-starter objection to the Classic view of God.

BenYachov said...

BTW something you have avoided like the plague.

A Classic God's existence can't be known via empirical means. According to Feser.

You EGC relies on empirically investigating the "character" of God based on the existence of both good and evil in the world.

So how does this non-starter apply again? Do we Thomists simply pretend we aren't thomists & believe Thomistic philosophy and believe empirical evidence can prove a Thomistic God even thought it conceptually can't?

BenYachov said...

BTW Craig's view on the testimony of the Holy Spirit seems to be similar to a concept Calvin once taught.

Which means Thomists and Catholics like myself don't much care for it.

We also reject Craig's weak views on Divine Simplicity and his none Eternalist views.

Also his belief God's written word contains 66 books when it clearly contains 73.

What can I say we Catholic chew Craig's meat but spit his bones.

No giggling that wasn't a sexual reference.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

>Where does Davies define theodicy as a "moral defence of god as a moral agent?" Does he, in fact, Ben?

QUOTE" If we are determined to indulge in theodicy, if we insist that God, considered as a moral agent, is morally justified in allowing the occurrence of evil."

Page 154 REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Brian Davies

Read more carefully next time professor. Carry the one and we will all be better for it.

BenYachov said...

While I'm at it.

"Champions of means-ends theodicy such as Richard Swinburne will immediately say that God does so for morally justified reasons - e.g. so as to allow people to be virtuous, so as to preserve a world in which people have freedom of choice, and so on.'As I have argued, however, this line of thinking (especially given its often non-victim-oriented consequentialist character) does
not count as a moral justification of God.
It portrays him as one who
is happy to countenance suffering in a way that few of us would. God
may not be able to give us a certain level of happiness, but he can
surely be morally condemned for planning what most of us would
deem to be unjustifiable if planned by any human person. Pages 161-162
REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.END QUOTE

So let me get this straight professor? Davies argument fails (according to you) & the EGC can somehow apply to it yet you don't even know Davies defines Theodicy strictly in terms of trying to morally justify an all powerful "good" God allowing evil?

You are lucky I left some of my other Davies quotes on my other computer.

Stephen Law said...

Ben

Thanks for the quotes. Yes I am well aware Davies says such things. But do you know the difference bewteen a definition and a claim or assumption? You are pointing to passages where Davies may be taking the view (even this is not entirely clear) that a theodicies are always offered in defence of a personal God. It does not follow - obviously does not follow - that he defines "theodicy" thus, so that *by definition* that view is correct. That may or may not be how Davies understands the term. I have no stake in that issue either way, of course. But it's interesting that you have failed to come up with an actual definition, despite your repeated insistence that he *defines* the term in such that theodicies can only be given in defence of a personal God (rather than that being a thesis of his - an incorrect one, btw).

Stephen Law said...

"A Classic God's existence can't be known via empirical means. According to Feser."

Ah right well it must be true then!

Stephen Law said...

"So how can they be moral justifications on his part especially when he argues along with Davies God has no moral obligations nor is a moral agent?"

There cannot. Obviously. As I keep on saying. You are missing the point.

What Feser offers are explanation of how god's (no doubt non-moral - please notice I am saying this NON-Moral, right?) goodness can be reconciled with the existence of various evils.

Now that is indeed a theodicy as many use the term (and even Davies may use the term, he certainly explicitly acknowledges this meaning in the book in his disucssion of Plantinga).

But, hey, don't call it a theodicy. Define theodicy in your own way if you prefer. Pretend, if you like, that we know for sure that that is how Davies uses the term (though you've failed to justify that claim). Point is, playing with definitions won't save you.

Fact is, Feser is offer such an explanation (whatever you choose to call it).

Stephen Law said...

And now back to my question that you still have not answered. Ben, would your God allow for pointless evil? Does such evil exist?

Stephen Law said...

"Stop bullshiting me are we really to believe you had Brian Davies in mind when you put together your EGC."

Yes I did. Well not Davies personally, but yes that kind of God. I was well aware of the kind of line you have taken, and anticipated it in the book, though I now wish I had really spelt out and hammered home the point about impossibility arguments more as Feser entirely missed it.

Stephen Law said...

So, to summarize. Feser attempts to deal with the problem of evil by means of no-pain-no-gain and compensatory after life explanations. he does. Get over it. You may choose to defne "theodicy" in such a way that these don;t count as theodicies (because in defence of a non-personal god). But so what? That doesn't mean he doesn't offer those explanations. Or that they are not theodicies on a standard use of the term.

And, as I pointed out - those explanations can be flipped in defence of a (even non-personal!) evil God! Much to Feser's embarrassement.

So what is your answer to my question about pointless suffering? Would God allow it? Does it exist?

Stephen Law said...

PS the key point you are missing, and that I think Davies misses, is that theodicies don't have to be moral justifications.

They are not usually *defined* as such, either (though they do *very often* take that character, of course).

Moreover the problem of evil can be set up without assuming God is either personal or a moral agent. As I explained at the outset of this thread.

Stephen Law said...

So, will God allow pointless evil? Does such evil exist?

John said...

Stephen, how can those explanations be "flipped" if evil, on classical theism, is ontologically posterior to good?

Stephen Law said...

John. You are running an impossibility argument. That's dealt with even in the paper. Maybe read it?

BenYachov said...

>And, as I pointed out - those explanations can be flipped in defence of a (even non-personal!) evil God! Much to Feser's embarrassement.

No you just pulled a David Span and swapped out the word "good" with "evil" in Feser's conclusions.

That is both unremarkable and unintelligent. It like me claiming I can make 2+2=5 by merely redefining the symbol "5" to mean four objects.

An Atheist named dguller wrote in response to this tactic way back when on this very blog:

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.

dguller rersponed:
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.END QUOTE

BTW I answered your bullshit "do you still beat your wife" question twice now and you ignored it. You ignore what Davies plainly says & now admit it was a dishonest ruse & you knew what he said all alone. Yet you want me to ignore everything I've read in Tharakas & DZ Philips & pretend your "just so" claims about Davies are true and ignore the evidence right in front of my eyes?

This is not philosophy sir this is sophistical bullshit.

BenYachov said...

>Thanks for the quotes. Yes I am well aware Davies says such things.

So you knew all along and concealed this from me? This makes you look disingenuous. You gambled I was bluffing and didn't know what I was talking about in regards to Davies and you lost.
Now you have to backtrack.

>But do you know the difference bewteen a definition and a claim or assumption? You are pointing to passages where Davies may be taking the view (even this is not entirely clear) that a theodicies are always offered in defence of a personal God. It does not follow - obviously does not follow - that he defines "theodicy" thus, so that *by definition* that view is correct. That may or may not be how Davies understands the term.

That last sentence tips your hand. Taken at face value you really don't know what Davies believes & thus it's unlikely you understand Feser either.

Your argument by special pleading that Davies defines modern Theodicy in other than moral & Theistic personalist terms is a clear "just so" explanation.

>Yes I did. Well not Davies personally, but yes that kind of God.

By your own admission you don't even know what Davies teaches about theodicy & you willingly concealed from me your knowledge on what he said about theodicy.

Why should I believe you understand the difference between a Theistic Personalist deity vs a Classic Concept of God? I submit you equivocate between the two at will. Your whole method of argument looks like relativism on steroids.

>I was well aware of the kind of line you have taken, and anticipated it in the book, though I now wish I had really spelt out and hammered home the point about impossibility arguments more as Feser entirely missed it.

You whole argument with him is to pretend you can make 2+2=5 by redefining the symbol "5" to mean four objects.

It's bullshit.

BenYachov said...

>A Classic God's existence can't be known via empirical means. According to Feser."

>Ah right well it must be true then!

You are an alleged academic what is your historical evidence Thomists used Humean empiricism & later positivism sans a postori philosophy to prove the existence of their God?

Well?

>>"So how can they be moral justifications on his part especially when he argues along with Davies God has no moral obligations nor is a moral agent?"

>There cannot. Obviously. As I keep on saying. You are missing the point.

Thank you after much arm twisting and bullshit you just conceded to me Feser did not use any theodicy as defined by Davies on pages 161 and so on in his book.

Now was that so hard?

So far you tactic Prof Law has been to twist this whole thing to make it look like I was claiming Feser makes no mere defense of his views on God or of the subject of God in general. I would never make any such foolish claim.

But Feser made no moral justification for God allowing evil on pages 161 to whatever in TLS.

Like with testinganidea it took a lot of confrontation to finally weasel an answer out of you.

At last!

BenYachov said...

>PS the key point you are missing, and that I think Davies misses, is that theodicies don't have to be moral justifications.

Missed it? I was the one here that originally pointed it out on an earlier thread. But I am talking about it's modern use & it's use in post enlightenment non-scholastic philosophy.

Just as evil doesn't have to be defined as privation. Or God has to be defined as purely actual you are trivially correct here but so what?

You have to argue with the definition I believe in & the God I believe in not the one you wished I believed in to make your narrow pet argument more applicable.

QUOTE"To be blunt, I suggest that many contemporary philosophers writing on the problem of evil (both theists and non-theists) have largely been wasting their
time... They are like people attacking or defending tennis players because they fail to run a mile in under four minutes. Tennis players are not in the business
of running four-minute miles. Similarly, God is not something with respect to which moral evaluation (whether positive or negative) is appropriate.33 - Brian Davies PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION:A GUIDE TO THE SUBJECT(softcover) PAGE 182.

Feser doesn't use Theodicy in the modern sense. He by your own admission makes no moral justifications for the actions of God who cannot be coherently said to be a moral agent.

Of course he uses Theodicy in the scholastic sense. Thesis 22 to 24 in the 24 Thomistic Thesis are labeled theodicy. But they don't contain any moral justifications for God.

Stephen Law said...

{{ >Thanks for the quotes. Yes I am well aware Davies says such things.

So you knew all along and concealed this from me? This makes you look disingenuous.}}

Er no Ben. It's just that those quotes don't settle the matter of how Davies *defines* "theodicy" as I just explained to you very clearly.

{{You gambled I was bluffing and didn't know what I was talking about in regards to Davies and you lost.
Now you have to backtrack.}}

Those quotes don;t settle it, as I just pointed out. And so now you have no case for saying that is even how Davies defines the term. Back track? I have not committed myself to how Davies would define "theodicy"! I just asked you to justify your claim that he "defines" the term that way. You failed.

{{ >But do you know the difference bewteen a definition and a claim or assumption? You are pointing to passages where Davies may be taking the view (even this is not entirely clear) that a theodicies are always offered in defence of a personal God. It does not follow - obviously does not follow - that he defines "theodicy" thus, so that *by definition* that view is correct. That may or may not be how Davies understands the term.

That last sentence tips your hand. Taken at face value you really don't know what Davies believes & thus it's unlikely you understand Feser either.}}

No I don't know how Davies would define "theodicy". But it makes no odds to me, as I have explained. I was just asking you to justify *your* claim that he *defines* it in the manner you claim. You just failed.

{{ Your argument by special pleading that Davies defines modern Theodicy in other than moral & Theistic personalist terms is a clear "just so" explanation.}}

I have never said how I think Davies defines "theodicy" in any way at all! But you have. I asked you to justify that claim. You failed.

{{ >Yes I did. Well not Davies personally, but yes that kind of God.

By your own admission you don't even know what Davies teaches about theodicy & you willingly concealed from me your knowledge on what he said about theodicy.}}

yes I do. I have read the book. I just am not sure how he *defines* it so asked you to supply a quote where he clearly *defines* at in the way you say he does. You failed to do so and are now desperataley trying to cover that up with a smokescreen!

{{ Why should I believe you understand the difference between a Theistic Personalist deity vs a Classic Concept of God? I submit you equivocate between the two at will. Your whole method of argument looks like relativism on steroids.}}

Believe what you like Ben. I don;t mind.

{{ >I was well aware of the kind of line you have taken, and anticipated it in the book, though I now wish I had really spelt out and hammered home the point about impossibility arguments more as Feser entirely missed it.

You whole argument with him is to pretend you can make 2+2=5 by redefining the symbol "5" to mean four objects.

It's bullshit.}}

Unargued assertion. Well done!

BenYachov said...

>You are running an impossibility argument.

This is bullshit too. Like I said we can argue to death wither some horseshoe footprints where caused by a winged unicorn or a normal horse and get nowhere. The empirical evidence fits both.

Just as those who argue modern theodicy can likely be stalemated with Evil Theistic Personalist God anti-theodicys. The empirical evidence for good and evil in the world is the same.

But claiming the horseshoe prints where caused by "A creature who is always a four legged horse and never a five legged Unicorn and at the same time a five legged unicorn who is never a four legged horse" is not coherent. It is also not coherent to claim the empirical evidence for a "A creature who is always a four legged horse and never a five legged Unicorn and at the same time a five legged unicorn who is never a four legged horse" is the same as a horse or winged unicorn.

Thus the impossibility argument defeats the claim the empirical evidence is the same since it renders it incoherent.

The EGC would be an excellent retort to guys like Plantinga and Swimburn (but clearly not Aquinas) and their modern theodicies if only Prof Law didn't keep screwing the argument up with his goal post shifting & unhelpful ambition.

You cannot in principle come up with the omni-anti-religious argument. You can only come up with specific objections to specific philosophical world views in religion.

You must accept it.

Stephen Law said...

((..

>A Classic God's existence can't be known via empirical means. According to Feser."

>Ah right well it must be true then!

You are an alleged academic what is your historical evidence Thomists used Humean empiricism & later positivism sans a postori philosophy to prove the existence of their God?

Well?))

Weird. I have not mentioned Hume or positivism or Thomism. Nor do I think Thomists use aposteriori methods to prove their God. Nor have I ever said they do. Straw man.

(( >>"So how can they be moral justifications on his part especially when he argues along with Davies God has no moral obligations nor is a moral agent?"

>There cannot. Obviously. As I keep on saying. You are missing the point.

Thank you after much arm twisting and bullshit you just conceded to me Feser did not use any theodicy as defined by Davies on pages 161 and so on in his book.}}

(i) You have not established that is how Davies defines "theodicy". You have failed to provide any such definition, just evidence that Davies thinks, perhaps, that theodicies are, as a matter of fact, only given in defense of a personal God, but that is a theoretical claim, not one he really argues for, and is in any case not even true.

(ii) I have not denied Feser does not offer theodicies if theodicy is *defined* as defence of a *personal* God. As I have said several times. Apparently you have only just started listening, though.

((
Now was that so hard?))

It's never hard to admit what I said all along, Ben.

(( So far you tactic Prof Law has been to twist this whole thing to make it look like I was claiming Feser makes no mere defense of his views on God or of the subject of God in general. I would never make any such foolish claim.))

Well good. He does try to deal with the problem of evil by means of no-pain-no-gain explanation and compensatory after life. That's what I have been claiming all along. Glad you're on board with that now.

(( But Feser made no moral justification for God allowing evil on pages 161 to whatever in TLS.

Like with testinganidea it took a lot of confrontation to finally weasel an answer out of you.

At last!))

Yes, at last you've understood what I am saying. Good.

So Feser offers explanations of evil in terms of no-pain-no-gain and a compensatory after life. Whether or not you call those explanations "theodicies" is irrelevant.

Davies rejects those explanations. They are, for the reasons Davies gives, no good, whether made in defence of a personal or non-personal God (notice Davies's criticism do not rely on them being offered in defence of a personal god). Feser's explanations are also flippable, as I pointed out.

So Feser's response to the problem of evil in that book is no good.

Now then, about my question: would your god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?

BenYachov said...

>Er no Ben. It's just that those quotes don't settle the matter of how Davies *defines* "theodicy" as I just explained to you very clearly.

I should not be surprised such cognitive deficiency in reading comprehension from someone who can't take "yes" for an answer even to an obvious "do you still beat your wife" question.

>Those quotes don;t settle it, as I just pointed out. And so now you have no case for saying that is even how Davies defines the term. Back track? I have not committed myself to how Davies would define "theodicy"! I just asked you to justify your claim that he "defines" the term that way. You failed.

I'm loving this! I caught you with your hand in the cookie jar and you can't weasel out of it. Davies defines theodicy strictly in terms of morally justifying God as a perfect moral agent. It's a theme all threw his work (which I have been reading) over decades of his career get over it.

>No I don't know how Davies would define "theodicy".

Even thought you disbelieve your own eyes and the writing on the page you could ask him but of course it would shatter you if you didn't get the answer you want.

which is likely why you don't ask Davies or Feser?

>I have never said how I think Davies defines "theodicy" in any way at all! But you have. I asked you to justify that claim. You failed.

No you asked for a quote & I provided two now you are caught backtraking and I am loving it.

>yes I do. I have read the book. I just am not sure how he *defines* it so asked you to supply a quote where he clearly *defines* at in the way you say he does. You failed to do so and are now desperataley trying to cover that up with a smokescreen!

Is this even English?

>Unargued assertion. Well done!

Fun accusation from a person who can't even put together a coherent argument.

Never the less you have admitted to me Feser does not make any moral defense of God or make moral justifications for God's actions, after much arm twisting, so we are done.

Stephen Law said...

Ben, you remind me of the Catholic thinker who, when presented with evidence the earth moves, tried to define his way of trouble by saying "But we can ignore that evidence - there can be be such "evidence" - for you see "the Earth" means "that which does not move"!. The Earth is immovable *by definition*!"

So when are you going to answer my question? Would your god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?

Stephen Law said...

"Never the less you have admitted to me Feser does not make any moral defense of God or make moral justifications for God's actions, after much arm twisting, so we are done."

Yes, that's always been my view. Thanks for finally grasping it.

You now appear to be running away, Ben.

We are not done, are we? There's the matter of my question. The one I have been asking and asking and you won't answer.

Stephen Law said...

"No you asked for a quote & I provided two now you are caught backtraking and I am loving it."

Yes two quotes that fail for the reason I explained.Apparently you don;t understand the difference between a thesis and a definition.

Stephen Law said...

...or rather you do understand, but pretend not to?

BenYachov said...

>Weird. I have not mentioned Hume or positivism or Thomism. Nor do I think Thomists use aposteriori methods to prove their God. Nor have I ever said they do. Straw man.

In short you simply are unfamilar with Thomism.

>(i) You have not established that is how Davies defines "theodicy". You have failed to provide any such definition, just evidence that Davies thinks, perhaps, that theodicies are, as a matter of fact, only given in defense of a personal God, but that is a theoretical claim, not one he really argues for, and is in any case not even true.

By this strain of sophistry you never gave me evidence Feser defined his defenses of God as theodicies either in the Thomistic or Libsen sense.

At this point you are panicking and shifting the burden of proof because you have no argument.


>(ii) I have not denied Feser does not offer theodicies if theodicy is *defined* as defence of a *personal* God. As I have said several times. Apparently you have only just started listening, though.

You are not paying attention the issue with theodicy is moral justification for God allowing evil.


>It's never hard to admit what I said all along, Ben.

I know the feeling since on one of these Evil god threads it was I who pointed out to David Span the classic definition of Theodicy as used by scholastics was to "justify God". That would include the 5 ways but never moral justification. Libsen thought otherwise.

>Well good. He does try to deal with the problem of evil by means of no-pain-no-gain explanation and compensatory after life. That's what I have been claiming all along. Glad you're on board with that now.

No he doesn't stop being such a sore loser.

>Yes, at last you've understood what I am saying. Good.

That your fellow Atheist are confused doesn't speak well of your communication skills or lack there of.

>Davies rejects those explanations. They are, for the reasons Davies gives, no good, whether made in defence of a personal or non-personal God (notice Davies's criticism do not rely on them being offered in defence of a personal god). Feser's explanations are also flippable, as I pointed out.

Only if you analigiously refine the symbol "5" to mean four objects.

>Now then, about my question: would your god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?

You don't really want an answer. You just want to bust chops. I'm not against that in principle if you want to point out someone is being illogical.

But that would be you not I.

BenYachov said...

>Would your god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?

A fish!

At this point since a rational answer & a plain yes won't move you I might given your irrational ism get esoteric.

BenYachov said...

>You now appear to be running away, Ben.

If you want me to leave just say so.

It's your blog. I'm not a troll. I am a critic.

>Ben, you remind me of the Catholic thinker who, when presented with evidence the earth moves...

Actually a Catholic I believe it was Fulcrum was instrumental in proving the Earth moved. You see it was notoriously hard to prove geocentracism false scientificially and it wasn't till Fulcrum and his pendulum in the late 18 & 19th century they where able to do it.

It was more then that ponce Galalleo did arguing the tides proved the Earth moved. PLUEEZ!

Stephen Law said...

{{{{>Weird. I have not mentioned Hume or positivism or Thomism. Nor do I think Thomists use aposteriori methods to prove their God. Nor have I ever said they do. Straw man.

In short you simply are unfamilar with Thomism.}}}}

Unargued for assertion.

{{{{>(i) You have not established that is how Davies defines "theodicy". You have failed to provide any such definition, just evidence that Davies thinks, perhaps, that theodicies are, as a matter of fact, only given in defense of a personal God, but that is a theoretical claim, not one he really argues for, and is in any case not even true.

By this strain of sophistry you never gave me evidence Feser defined his defenses of God as theodicies either in the Thomistic or Libsen sense.}}}

I never said he did define them that way Ben.

{{{{At this point you are panicking and shifting the burden of proof because you have no argument.}}}}

Ironic.


{{{{>(ii) I have not denied Feser does not offer theodicies if theodicy is *defined* as defence of a *personal* God. As I have said several times. Apparently you have only just started listening, though.

You are not paying attention the issue with theodicy is moral justification for God allowing evil.}}}

Unargued for assertion unless you define "theodicy" as defence of a personal god. In which case the issue is with Feser's crap explanations, whether they are "theodicies", thus defined, or not. See my "earth moves" analogy.


{{>It's never hard to admit what I said all along, Ben.

I know the feeling since on one of these Evil god threads it was I who pointed out to David Span the classic definition of Theodicy as used by scholastics was to "justify God". That would include the 5 ways but never moral justification. Libsen thought otherwise.}}

No idea what this means or why it is relevant. Appears to be smokescreen.

{{[[>Well good. He does try to deal with the problem of evil by means of no-pain-no-gain explanation and compensatory after life. That's what I have been claiming all along. Glad you're on board with that now.

No he doesn't stop being such a sore loser.}]]}

Unargued for, false, assertion. Feser does offer such explanations. You're response so far has boiled down to "but these explanations are not theodicies, as I/Davies define "theodicy"". However, realizing that doesn;t save Feser, you now seem to retreating to saying - he offers no such explanations, even! Which is just silly, frankly.

((>Yes, at last you've understood what I am saying. Good.

That your fellow Atheist are confused doesn't speak well of your communication skills or lack there of.}}

I'm not perfect.

{{>Davies rejects those explanations. They are, for the reasons Davies gives, no good, whether made in defence of a personal or non-personal God (notice Davies's criticism do not rely on them being offered in defence of a personal god). Feser's explanations are also flippable, as I pointed out.

Only if you analagiously refine the symbol "5" to mean four objects.}}

Spelling? And defining yourself out of trouble, again.

{{>Now then, about my question: would your god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?

You don't really want an answer. You just want to bust chops. I'm not against that in principle if you want to point out someone is being illogical.

But that would be you not I.}}]]

So finally you acknowledge the question I have been asking and asking. But you now refuse to answer it - because you think I'm going to "bust your chops"? I hadn't realized you were so sensitive.

Either answer gets you into terrible trouble of course, as you've probably figured out, right? Which makes your reticence understandable.

Stephen Law said...

No you are borderline troll, Ben. Rude, aggressive, with a vastly inflated sense of how good a thinker you are. You go round bludgeoning and belittling those you disapprove of, bombarding them with your Davies-lite schtick, missing the point, endlessly repeating the same points over and over, engaging in smokescreen, evasion, subject-changing and many other rhetorical tricks, until finally, your opponent gives up. Then you claim victory. Pretty troll-like behaviour, I'd say.

Stephen Law said...

"Actually a Catholic I believe it was Fulcrum was instrumental in proving the Earth moved"

Straw man, I said evidence not proof. Also, irrelevant to the point being made. Two fallacies in one go, there...

BenYachov said...

>Unargued for assertion.

But it's of course Ok when you do it.

>I never said he did define them that way Ben.

You never say anything you can be held too since you keep moving your goal
posts.

>Ironic

Indeed!

>unargued for assertion unless you define "theodicy" as defence of a personal god. In which case the issue is with Feser's crap explanations, whether they are "theodicies", thus defined, or not. See my "earth moves" analogy.

So when you can't answer you opponent's argument you change it? Gee that's just swell.

Anyway Theodicy as taught by Davies refers to morally justifying God's actions and assumes he is a moral agent. That is how it is dealt with in modern argument from evil circles. Get over it and catch up.

>So finally you acknowledge the question I have been asking and asking. But you now refuse to answer it - because you think I'm going to "bust your chops"? I hadn't realized you were so sensitive.

It still amazes me you don't understand the meaning of "yes" with the qualifications I gave.

>Either answer gets you into terrible trouble of course, as you've probably figured out, right? Which makes your reticence understandable.

Or the question might be like asking "do you still beat your wife" to someone you know is a confirmed bachelor while claiming with a straight face it's still a rational question.

BenYachov said...

>Rude, aggressive, with a vastly inflated sense of how good a thinker you are.

People do tend to react negatively to others who share their own deficiencies.

Nobody like looking in the mirror.

Anyway enough!

I made a new argument why you "impossiblity argumen" is bullshit.

Interact with it or don't.

BenYachov said...

>endlessly repeating the same points over and over, engaging in smokescreen, evasion, subject-changing and many other rhetorical tricks, until finally, your opponent gives up.

Projection! Actually I had a civilized discussion with Paul Wright a while back and even thought I think he failed to understand me I let him have the last word. This was around Christmas time.

He even blogged about it.

http://pw201.livejournal.com/163810.html

The problem is clearly with you Prof Law.

Stephen Law said...

"I let him have the last word..."

Ah yes, I forgot to mention that tactic - you normally make a point of always having the last word...

BenYachov said...

Only if I judge it necessary & not if I have a civilized discussion with a person who plays straight with me.

People who for example feign ignorance of Davies views on Theodicy are by definition not playing it straight with me or being civilized.

Stephen Law said...

Interesting approach, Ben, to such invented sleights. My response to commentators who engage in endless smokescreen deceit, evasion, wind-ups and "nose tweaking" (as you out it), iterated fallacies, subject-changing, etc. is to mark their comments as spam...

testinganidea said...

Dr. Law,

Informed that my name was being used within this post I felt obligated to read through this thread and now find myself intrigued but a bit confused by the conversation. As an atheist I am not use to describing a role for god in any moral system. I am also not an expert in any of the schools of thought or individuals you and Ben have been discussing so my post is likely off-point but I would appreciate seeing where it leads.

Given a god that is:
1) the foundation of everything that exists
2) not a moral agent
3) not personal

I would conclude that such a god is “responsible” for the evil in the world, in that without god nothing including that evil would exist. However, I would also conclude that nothing is “pointless” as everything is interrelated through the common foundation and that relationship can be seen as its “reason for being as it is” or its “point”.

So I would approach your question: “would [this] god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?” with:

1) the verb “allow” seem to be a verb for a personal god so I would rephrase the question slightly
2) if you are asking “is this god consistent with existing evils?” the answer would be yes since whatever exists is by definition the result of this god
3) if you are asking “is this god consistent with pointless evils?” the answer is no as “pointless” evils do not exist as stated above.

Given these answers, have I committed myself to a logical contradiction or accepted some repugnant belief (no jokes about any belief in god being repugnant to a true atheist)?

Stephen Law said...

A pointless evil would be one for which there is no good, adequately justifying reason (e.g. of the sort that theodicies typically try to provide).

Most theists (even non-personalist one's, I think) tend to say that God and pointless evils cannot co-exist. There will be a point to horrendous suffering, for example, even if we are not aware of what it is. Feser appears to take this line.

However, some non-personalists may say God's goodness is such that God and pointless evils may co-exist. Ben Yachov might fall into this category perhaps.

It's up to theists what they say, of course. But depending on which answer they give, different issues arise.

The first answer generates the evidential problem of evil (and also gives a point to theodicies). The second sidesteps the problem of evil and renders the theodicies otiose. But immunity to the problem of evil comes at a price.

I think Davies would give the first answer but I'm still reading his book, and may revise my opinion about that...

Stephen Law said...

ones, I meant. for some reason I add extra apostrophes when commenting...

Stephen Law said...

By the way your definition of God does allow for the second answer, of course. You could just go for a deist God, for example. Or some abstract cosmic doodah from which everything pours forth. It seems that what pours forth, no matter how disgusting and horrific it might be, or indeed might have been, could not, as you define the term, be "pointless".

Again, if the problem of evil is the problem of "pointless" evil, as you define it, then there would still be no problem of evil, not even if God created literally nothing but Hell.

Rabbie said...

This non-personal God of classical theism - would this be Him speaking here?

"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" Matthew 28:18

I am aware that one possible translation of the Greek "exousia" is "authority", but even so, hasn't something quite baffling and incoherent happened here? That is, a supposedly atemporal entity like the Trinity has undergone a fundamental change in its internal power relations because of events taking place in a space-time which It Itself created?

The Father, Son and Spirit atemporally coexisting outside of creation in a hypostasis of bliss...and then the incarnate Son, once He falls into Time, is compensated for the physical agony of the cross and the spiritual agony of Gethsemane by being promoted to chief Judge on the Day. One wonders if the Father will, like King Lear, enjoy his retirement...

Stephen Law said...

Reading Davies for second time, I should add (!), and making notes. I'll eventually do a paper on it. I'm still not confident I have all the details of his view correct.

testinganidea said...

Dr. Law,

I was a little uncertain what to make of your first reply as neither of your options seemed to apply to my answers. In the first option you state:
pointless evil can be explained or rationalized
while in the second option you state:
pointless evil is allowed to co-exist with god

But in my answer I claimed that pointless evil did not exist. Perhaps I am unknowingly in the first case with a simple rationalization built into my definitions but your two options seem to imply that pointless evil is a meaningful concept even with the definitions given. Under the definitions given, I see “pointless evil” to be more like a “square circle”; it is a logical contradiction as all evil has a point.

Finally under these beliefs your question (“would [this] god allow for pointless evils (e.g. suffering)? Do such evils exist?”) seems ill-formed as “pointless evils” could not exist yet your example “suffering” could.

Your additional post helped clarify my proposed situation. As I understand your reply, I (or more accurately the theist with these beliefs) can have a consistent position (i.e. no logical contradictions) with no “pointless” evil, provided I accept the equivalent of divine command theory for the world this god creates (i.e. all good, evil and suffering in it has a point because god makes it so). This seems to require skeptical theism (at least on claims of good/evil) but that may be an acceptable price especially if I do not claim that the balance of good/evil in the world informs me of this god’s nature.

Going back to the initial reply can I ask for some clarification on your definition:
“A pointless evil would be one for which there is no good, adequately justifying reason”
As one who argues for the unreasoned and non-purposeful character of evolution, I find phrases like “justifying reason” tend to anthropomorphize the term in question. Since we were discussing a non-personal god how should I interpret your use of “justifying reason” in our context?

Stephen Law said...

Thanks testing…

In the first post, I was just outlining responses to “pointless evil” available to theists, not assuming they go with your definition of pointless.

The second post was directed more towards your own definition of pointless. On which nothing is pointless.

So, if I have got this right, you define God as that which is source of everything, and define having a point as being sourced in God.

Therefore God exists and everything has a point. QED.

Therefore exists no pointless evil or suffering or anything else for that matter. QED.

Is that it?

As for how I use “point”, I'm just drawing on how Christians – including non-personalists - use the term in their discussions of evil. They say, for example, that, though a child may suffer, its suffering is not pointless or gratuitous if it’s the price paid for an outweighing good. To borrow Feser’s own example: a child made to learn the violin suffers, but there’s the very great good of accomplishment at the end that outweighs that evil (p162)

If Feser et al understood pointlessness as you do, so that nothing, by definition, is pointless, they’d not bother constructing such explanations of apparently pointless evils in in terms of greater goods (this seems to be the Yachov line, btw). There would be no point (!) Nor would skeptical theists need their skepticism. For skeptical theism begins with the assumption that there are apparently pointless evils. On your definition of pointlessness, there’s not even the appearance of such evils.

I’m curious, by the way, about what leads you to atheism?

Stephen Law said...

P.S. it is worth separating out different arguments for why one might think "no theodicies are required".

(i) "theodicy" is by definition a defence of a personal God, and God is not personal.

(ii) theodicies are only needed to account for apparently pointless/gratuitous evils - but there are no pointless evils or indeed anything by definition.

(iii) no theodicies - explanations of why there is apparently pointless evil even though there's a god - are required because God is non-personal.

Other arguments are possible, too, of course...

Stephen Law said...

Re my (i) to (iii) above, which line is taken by Yachov, Davies, Feser and testinganidea?

Testinganidea seems to go for (ii).

Yachov goes for (i) - which would still leave the problem of explaining pointless evil, of course (it's just a cheap semantic trick).

Davies goes for (iii), I think. But, weirdly, he doesn't argue for it so far as I can yet tell. And (iii) is false, I believe. Feser also seems to think (iii) is false because his method of dealing with the "problem of evil" (which he characterizes as pointless evil) is actually to offer such explanations.

wombat said...

@testing

Re: non-purposeful character of evolution,


Are you also arguing that evolution cannot give rise to creatures which exhibit purpose? Or that "purpose" is simply another type of evolved adaptive behaviour and therefore a redundant descriptive term?

Stephen Law said...

P.S. I don’t claim to know what Davies would say re (i). But obviously evidence that he accepts (iii) is not evidence he accepts (i).

testinganidea said...

Dr. Law,

Thank you for the follow-up.

A quick comment before I answer your question on by background. Your choice of the term “pointless” to denote “unjustified by sufficient reason” threw me off and may inadvertently do the same to others as well. I think of the classic problem of evil story, Job, where the “point” of the suffering was (in my biased opinion) to provide bragging rights to yahweh with his fellow gods. So the suffering was not pointless but was (again in my biased opinion) morally reprehensible and unjustified by sufficient reason.

In general I am an atheist because I find no evidence or argument that a god (or any supernatural entity) exists convincing. I was raised in a secular humanist (Jewish by culture) home with strong commitments to both the value of education and midrashic debate to defend your beliefs. In high school I was an admirer of the thoughts and methods of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. In college, classes on Godel and computability increased my awareness of the limitations of formal systems but it was quantum electrodynamics that convinced me that our models about the world, no matter how grounded in logical/deductive thought, are insufficient to show if they correspond to the reality in which we exist , unless they are strongly supported with empirical evidence. The final step before I called myself an atheist came in the early 1980s when I ran across a book called the Atheists Debater’s Handbook; it seemed to summarize much of my current thinking so I adopted the label.

testinganidea said...

Wambat,

I was trying to say evolution is purposeless. Evolution has no goals; it is impersonal.

David Span said...

I am so honoured the BenYachov would mention me in his comments.

This discussion of what is a theodicy etc. is interesting, but seems a bit odd. Maimonides’ re-definition of evil as privation of good, and then Aquinas’s adaptation to his concept of a god, were theodicies, attempts to address the Problem of Evil.

But Aquinas’s definition of god and love (willing the good) doesn’t even get past the problem of evil (using his definitions). If we let Aquinas get away with evil only being the absence of the good, we can simply label the problem as the Problem of the Privation of Good. Childhood cancers and mass deaths in tsunamis counter the good of humans, and hence also counter the all-loving (willing the good) of the god. Hence the concept of an all-loving, omnipotent god is still incoherent.

That this god supposedly has a special interest in humans merely digs the hole deeper for Aquinas. Humans weren’t even around for billions of years – pure evil for humans for all that time, so quite clearly not all-good.

The EGC is also adaptable to Aquinas’s god, using his definitions. Aquinas would say that (by his definition) god cannot be all-evil because that would mean that god would be non-existent and there would be no existence of anything. But an attribute of the EGC is acceptance that a god exists – in this case, things do exist so there cannot be an all-evil god. So this can’t be an objection to the EGC. The EGC then goes to say that this god cannot be all-loving – and clearly if the good of humans is countered then this god is not all-good.

The use of empirical evidence cannot be objected to. The evidence is being used to assess the claims around existence and the good for humans, in the same way that empirical evidence about the world was used by Aquinas to develop his concepts and arguments. After all, isn’t it a focal point of god concepts to explain the world that we experience? The supernatural concepts behind the claims of course cannot be measured empirically.

themayan said...

This is a classic case of quote mining.


Quote mining; "The repeated use of quotes out of context in order to skew or contort the meaning of a passage or speech by an author on a controversial subject"