The Logical Problem: Support from Above

In the previous post, I sketched a valid argument from evil concluding the non-existence of God. I noted then that premise (3) was the most dubious, and promised to give it support. So..

Support for (3)

(A) God exists. (Assumption)
(B) If God exists, he is ontologically independent (i.e. it is possible that he should exist, without any other thing existing).
(C) If God exists, then he instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties.
(D) Thus, it is possible that God alone should exist, instantiating all good-making properties and no evil-making properties.
(E) Then, there is no good-making property whose instantiation entails instantiation of an evil-making property.
(F) Therefore, every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some good-making property.
(3) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.


Let’s run through the premises. (A) states that God exists. I don’t believe it, of course, but the point here is that the theist would, and I tailor this sub-argument for him/her. Think of it this way: I’m arguing that theism leads to (3), and with it a sound argument from evil, which shows theism to be false. Therefore theism, if true, is false; therefore it is false.

(B) states a widespread understanding of God, which is expressed in various ways. The notion of God as ‘the ground of all being’ stipulates the being of God as prior to, and supportive of, the existence of anything else. The conception of God as a necessary being, particularly as used in the Cosmological Argument, is taken to imply his ontological independence. Lastly, it would seem that ontological independence is a perfection, which God would exemplify1 .

(C) explicates a plausible interpretation of God’s being wholly good: of any good-making qualities that he has them, and of any evil-making qualities that he lacks them. The strongest way in which this premise may be justified is if one takes God to be goodness itself, so that ‘God’ and ‘good’ are interdefinable. Since goodness itself cannot be evil, God would have no evil-making propeties, and since goodness itself cannot fail to include some good-making property (else that property would not be good), neither would God lack any good-making properties. A supporter of this view is William Lane-Craig, here attempting to evade the Euthyphro dilemma2:

“God’s character is definitive of moral goodness; it serves as the paradigm of moral goodness. Thus, the morally good/bad is determined by reference to God’s nature; the morally right/wrong is determined by reference to his will… If the non-theist should demand, “Why pick God’s nature as definitive of the Good?” the answer is that God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, and a being which is the paradigm of goodness is greater than one which merely exemplifies goodness.”

Notice that Craig appeals to perfect-being theology as a reason to identify God with the good, an orthodoxy with distinguished luminaries (Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Plantinga, ..many more). But even leaving aside this argument, (C) is compelling: we understand God as being without flaw (hence without evil-making properties), and as being good in every way that something can be good, even if some other of his properties are not great-making.
(D) gathers (A), (B) and (C) together. (E) draws the consequence of (D). To see this, suppose the contrary, that some good-making property did entail an evil-making property: then, if the good-making property existed, so must the evil-making one. But (D) states that this is not so, that every good-making property can exist in the absence of every evil-making property. So if (E) is false, then (D) is false, thus (D) entails (E).
(F) is a deductive consequence of (E). Suppose the contrary, that there is some evil-making property whose existence is entailed by a good-making property. Then there would be a good-making property which entailed it, whereas (E) states that no good-making properties entail evil-making properties. If (F) is false, (E) is false, so (E) entails (F). (3) is a special case of (F) – if every evil-making property is not entailed by a good-making property, then a fortiori, they are not entailed by greater good-making properties.
So there we have it, support for (3). But what about various theodicies which contest (3)? I’ll quickly consider a couple of these to show what the above considerations tell us about these responses.

The Soul-Making Theodicy

The Soul-Making Theodicy suggests that the evil in the world may be justified by the spiritual growth of our souls. The evil we observe and endure has a greater purpose, and that purpose is the moral perfection of humanity, or soul making. The thought here is that a character won through the strength of temptation overcome is more excellent than the same character produced ab initio. Call the latter ‘character’, and the former ‘character+‘. God attempts to create character+, but naturally, sometimes temptation is not overcome: this is the source of evil in the world.
The premises supporting (3) tell us this must be false. It is false because on this hypothesis there is some good-making property which entails an evil-making property, namely that character+ entails one or more historical evils. If so, then by (C) we can infer that God has this good-making property (character+ , not just character), and that the evil-making property entailed is not a property of him. But that contradicts (B), for (B) asserts the possibility that God alone should exist, in which case said evil-making property would not exist, there being no other existent to attach it to. Since (B) and (C) are highly plausible, therefore the soul-making hypothesis is not.

The Free-Will Defense

This highly popular reply offers free-will as a greater good entailing evil, specifically libertarian free-will. Briefly, the argument is that having free-will entails the ability for agents to do otherwise than they do, and that this means God cannot deny existence to any evil-making action without also denying the agent their free-will. Of course, this wouldn’t be necessary if God made agents who would only choose the good, but perhaps this can’t be done. For all we know, it is argued, every person-essence might be transworld-depraved, such that none would unerringly choose the good in the actual world. If so, some greater good entails an evil – the free-will of various person-essences entailing evil via their ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ – and so (3) is false.
Again, I think the resources for reply are found in the subargument for (3). God instantiates all good-making properties, so he instantiates free-will. His free-will, at least, does not entail any evil. Why not? Presumably because he is omnibenevolent, and this flawless character makes it logically impossible for God to choose evil over good3. In contrast, our characters are flawed, and this is why evil is possible for us. But this distinction just provides more grist for the mill: if God is ontologically independent and instantiates all good-making properties, then flawed character cannot be a good-making property, and furthermore is not requisite for any other good-making property. Given that, there can be no reason for an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being to create creatures with flawed characters4. A God would create flawless characters instead, these being better5.
This is not to deny the free-will defender’s argument that there are possible worlds which God could not actualize. I can admit that there are such worlds, and that these are ones in which flawed denizens of the world always choose the right. But I insist, quite apart from these worlds full of flawed characters, there is a set of worlds containing creatures who are not flawed, who always ‘go right’ in virtue of their flawless character, à la God. If such beings are possible, God can actualize them; if he actualizes them, then they choose the good as a matter of course, without needing coercion. But if God exists, then free and flawless beings are possible, for God is such a being. Thus the free-will defense is no defense after all – it does not give us reason to reject (3).

Conclusion
I’ve offered a valid argument from evil, which shows inconsistency between the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and wholly good being with the existence of evil in the world. This argument depends heavily on what, at first glance, appears to be a dubious premise. But God is a queer entity: he is both logically independent of any other thing, good in every way imaginable, and possesses a character without blemish. Turning his curious properties to the task of supporting our premise, that no evil-making property can be entailed by any good-making property, we find that his existence would entail it. Enlisting them in the task of refuting theodicies and defenses, we find that there is, as there must be, a implicit deviation from the divine. But if God is actual, so too is he possible, and so there can be no hope of denying the possibilities he is said to embody to his creations elsewhere. Given the support his existence would provide to the once-suspicious premise, and given that the other premises in the logical argument are either definitional, highly plausible, or deductive consequences of such, I conclude that at least one logical argument from evil is sound. God does not exist.

1 There’s an objection I ignore here: that abstract objects exist necessarily, and so God could not exist alone. The objection is easily enough handled, for I need only modify (B) so that God is ontologically independent of concreta, and add as a premise: “Only concrete objects can instantiate evil-making properties”. This adjustment aside, there might be good reason to take abstract objects as part of God, which would support (B). See the SEP article on ‘God and Necessary Objects‘ for details.

2 William Lane-Craig, Reasonable Faith (1984), p. 182.

3 Quentin Smith pursues a similar line to that here. See here for the article, A Sound Argument from Evil.

4 Isn’t it obvious? No, not if you begin with the fact that certain person-essences are instantiated, having less than perfect characters – that is, if you begin by thinking of this world as including a God and asking why God doesn’t intervene. But the problem of evil is broader than that of intervention in a ready-made world: it is a problem of the world’s being as it is, as opposed to a better way. So here is another reason why I favour speaking of God’s denying existence to evils, rather than merely eliminating them: the latter frames the problem in a way which leaves out what may be most troubling for the theist. The concentration on concrete evils, or probabilistic arguments from evil likewise tend to frame the problem as one of non-intervention, and so it seems to me a mistake to think of these as simply more cautious statements of the logical problem.

5 Could one not argue that character supervenes on what person-essences do, such that God’s choosing an unflawed character for his creatures would be tantamount to choosing their actions for them? Yes, but only at the cost of denying God’s necessary goodness. If God has no property which determines that he always do the right thing, then it is false to describe him as being determined to do the right thing, and so false to say his goodness is necessary. A God who is not essentially good is not God, ergo, God does not exist.

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31 thoughts on “The Logical Problem: Support from Above

  1. Chucky says:

    I don’t see why I should accept (C).

    “if God is ontologically independent and instantiates all good-making properties, then flawed character cannot be a good-making property, and furthermore is not requisite for any other good-making property.”

    Our characters produce both good and evil. It’s quite clear to me that creating humans is good, even if we ourselves can often do evil.

    “… Given that, there can be no reason for an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being to create creatures with flawed characters”

    One reason might be that he loves us – the creatures with the flawed characters.

    Another problem I have is that if God has a plan to right evil, and provide justice – restoring the damage done by evil many times over. If that were so, a good God could temporarily allow some evil, knowing that the ultimate outcome is undeniably good.

    In any case, thanks for the argument. I hope you don’t mind comments from a random internet surfer. 🙂

    • TaiChi says:

      “I don’t see why I should accept (C).” ~ Chucky

      Because you think God is flawed? Or because you think he is not good in every way possible? I admit, I haven’t bothered to find grounds for lay theists to accept this, since it is so widely assumed in philosophy. I’ll think about that.

      “Our characters produce both good and evil. It’s quite clear to me that creating humans is good, even if we ourselves can often do evil..” ~ Chucky

      On the whole, yes, I suppose we are good. But the question here is whether or not our flawed characters are part of the reason why we are good. I’d say not, and I’d agree with theists when they call it a deficiency and take God’s unimpeachable character as superior. But then, why would omni-God create inferior beings, who were less good (both in their actions and their absolute value), when it was within his power to create better? That looks to be positively irrational.

      “One reason might be that he loves us – the creatures with the flawed characters.” ~ Chucky

      He need never have made us – that’s the point. This isn’t a problem of non-intervention, as I say in footnote 4.

      “Another problem I have is that if God has a plan to right evil, and provide justice – restoring the damage done by evil many times over. If that were so, a good God could temporarily allow some evil, knowing that the ultimate outcome is undeniably good.” ~ Chucky

      For what purpose? Surely he needs some reason to allow the evil, even if it is later swamped by the goods of a Kingdom of Heaven. But what reason could there be? The only morally justifying reason, as I have argued, is one which would explain the evil as a prerequisite for the goods to follow, which the subargument for (3) to be unavailable to the theist.

      “In any case, thanks for the argument. I hope you don’t mind comments from a random internet surfer. 🙂 ” ~ Chucky

      Not at all. Happy surfing.

  2. Chucky says:

    I couldn’t resist…

    “Because you think God is flawed? Or because you think he is not good in every way possible?”

    Neither. I agree with WLC here, but your premise (C) is not the same. To give you an analogy (and a bad one) I think that, for example, Hitler’s mother is good if she cares for her baby. Caring for your baby is a good thing, even though Hitler turned out to be a nutter. In a similar way (but certainly not exactly the same), creating and sustaining mankind is a good act. I guess we all know that, because we know it is not right to obliterate us in one giant nuclear blast.

    “On the whole, yes, I suppose we are good.”

    That would be an objection to your argument, but it wasn’t what I was thinking. I think people are morally both good and bad. I don’t think that we need to be totally good (in contradiction to C) for the creating of us, and sustaining of us, to be a good act. It seems a very good act, loving and patient, even more so because we act in ways offensive to God.

    “He need never have made us – that’s the point. ”

    Right! He need have never made us, but he – at least potentially – has a morally good reason for making us: That he loves us. That he made us is a great, and awesome thing!

    “For what purpose? Surely he needs some reason to allow the evil, even if it is later swamped by the goods of a Kingdom of Heaven. But what reason could there be? ”

    Well there could be all sorts of reasons. The most obvious one – that he loves us, the real human beings who exist in this universe as opposed to some other theoretical universe – I’ve already mentioned too much. That would be tremendously good. Perhaps simply to show how good and just he is – that he will even rescue those people who are evil, to right the wrongs of people like Hitler, and finally bring the justice we think is missing. There *could be* a myriad of reasons, in which case I can’t agree with your argument.

  3. TaiChi says:

    “Neither. I agree with WLC here, but your premise (C) is not the same. To give you an analogy (and a bad one) I think that, for example, Hitler’s mother is good if she cares for her baby. ” ~ Chucky

    (C) states that God is the bunch of good-making properties. He instantiates all good-making properties by being them. What such a bunch of good-making properties would or wouldn’t do, once they exist, isn’t an objection to (C). You’ve misread the premise.

    “I think people are morally both good and bad. I don’t think that we need to be totally good (in contradiction to C) for the creating of us, and sustaining of us, to be a good act.” ~ Chucky

    I agree with all that, except what you’ve put in parentheses, for the reasons above. But there are better acts than this available to an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good being – namely, creating versions of ourselves which resemble God in being wholly good.

    “It seems a very good act, loving and patient, even more so because we act in ways offensive to God.” ~ Chucky

    A good act, yes. Even better because of the moral depravity of his creations? No, I think that’s absurd.

    “Right! He need have never made us, but he – at least potentially – has a morally good reason for making us: That he loves us. That he made us is a great, and awesome thing!” ~ Chucky

    You can’t love what doesn’t exist. The sentence “A loves B” is only true iff A and B exist and there is a relation of A to B that is one of love. It is otherwise false. Prior to creation, no humans exist, ergo, it is false to say of God that he loves them, and so false to say that this is the reason he makes them.

    “Perhaps simply to show how good and just he is – that he will even rescue those people who are evil, to right the wrongs of people like Hitler, and finally bring the justice we think is missing. ” ~ Chucky

    I don’t see how allowing unnecessary evils shows how good and just God is, in fact I don’t even find this idea intelligible. You seem to be suggesting that, say, it would be morally permissible for a dog-owner to starve his animal, so long as he eventually lavished it with a feast, thus proving himself magnanimous. But that’s despicable – not only because of the suffering it causes his poor animal, but also because the owner is willing to trade the animal’s suffering for his own self-aggrandizement.
    Another problem here is that you’re conflating justification with compensation. Yes, perhaps Hitler’s evils could be compensated for, if his victims enjoy eternal bliss in the afterlife, but this is something very different from saying they could be justified by beatitude, as if that could ever make such evils right. They remain wrong, now and forever. The horror of the Holocaust cannot be diminished by goods later acquired.

    “There *could be* a myriad of reasons, in which case I can’t agree with your argument.” ~ Chucky

    None of them could be morally justified, for as I’ve said, a morally justified reason for evil would show that the evil was required. An appeal to ignorance and possibility doesn’t help here, because I’ve anticipated and built into my argument the form of any reason which would do the job you would need it to do.

    • Chucky says:

      “What such a bunch of good-making properties would or wouldn’t do, once they exist, isn’t an objection to (C). You’ve misread the premise.”

      Actually, no I’ve misunderstood what you meant by “instantiates”. I assumed this was creating something good or evil in the world as opposed to applying to God’s character and actions only. Sure God only does only good things. But you seem to be changing the meaning of words here on me mid-argument. If this is what you meant, then sure, this point holds trivially because there is no evil acts instantiated by God, but then I don’t see where you ever get away from applying this to God’s character only and saying “all”?

      I agree with (C) except for that little word “all” if this only applies to God alone. Obviously God doesn’t actually do all good acts, because he logically can’t, since for example, you and I are not God. Perhaps you meant “only”.

      “The sentence “A loves B” is only true iff A and B exist and there is a relation of A to B that is one of love. It is otherwise false.”

      “A loves B” iff there is a relationship of A to B that is one of love. Certainly that was the sense in which I was meaning it. If you didn’t understand it that way, now I hope I am clear – and I still this this (no matter how much you want to argue about what we call it) is good!

      “You seem to be suggesting that, say, it would be morally permissible for a dog-owner to starve his animal, so long as he eventually lavished it with a feast, thus proving himself magnanimous.”

      That’s obviously a faulty analogy. In the case you bring up – it is not the dog owner who does the starving. And I really dislike calling humans, who are conscious of their moral responsibility, “dogs”. I mean, it makes for a heart rending tail 😉 but only because you’ve skewed the picture to appeal to people’s emotions and not their reason. If we have to use your analogy on your own examples, It is clear to me that Hitler is the dog owner, not God, and blaming God for Hitler’s actions is… well yeah. If that’s what this comes down to, then we don’t need sophisticated arguments.

      God is the one who heals the dog. Who rehabilitates him to the world, as he had originally intended… and more than that he is the one who brings justice to the dog owner.

      “They remain wrong, now and forever.”

      Yes, and no. Their consequences don’t necessarily last forever. Repentance and forgiveness, as hard as they can be, is the first step to healing.

      “None of them could be morally justified, for as I’ve said, a morally justified reason for evil would show that the evil was required.”

      I don’t believe it is necessarily required. I think that is one of the things which makes evil so horrible. We could do good, but we don’t. And yet, it may well be that God still loves us – the people who do fall short. That is a tremendously good thing on God’s part, and creating us even though we do evil is a good thing! Why not say that God is good and loves us despite the fact we often do evil.

  4. TaiChi says:

    “I assumed this was creating something good or evil in the world as opposed to applying to God’s character and actions only. Sure God only does only good things. But you seem to be changing the meaning of words here on me mid-argument.” ~ Chucky

    Well, I’m not. I can see how you might think that way about “instantiates”, but I use the word one way in my arguments. I would’ve thought it was fairly clear which way that was from my rundown of (C).

    “I agree with (C) except for that little word “all” if this only applies to God alone. Obviously God doesn’t actually do all good acts, because he logically can’t, since for example, you and I are not God. Perhaps you meant “only”.” ~ Chucky

    No, I meant all: I’m talking about good-making properties like charity, honesty, compassion, etc., etc.. Again, think of WLC’s statement to the effect that God is goodness itself – this is not taken to mean that every individual instance of a good-making property is part of or belongs to God, but instead that at least one instance of every good-making property is possessed by God. If you want a sharper way of putting it, I’m supposing that God possesses all types of good-making properties, but not all tokens of these.

    ““A loves B” iff there is a relationship of A to B that is one of love. Certainly that was the sense in which I was meaning it. If you didn’t understand it that way, now I hope I am clear – and I still this this (no matter how much you want to argue about what we call it) is good!” ~ Chucky

    It’s good, alright. But that wasn’t my point. My point was that love is a relation of sorts, and relations can only hold between existing things. I daresay you love your wife, if you have one, but if you do not have one, then it’s false for me to say that your love your wife (even if, as I suppose, if you had a wife you would love her).
    Now think about God, prior to creating this world. He’s mulling over which type of world he should create, and weighing up reasons of various sorts in each world’s favor. Can a love for us count as a reason for creating us flawed beings? No, precisely because we do not exist prior to our creation, and what does not exist cannot be loved.

    “That’s obviously a faulty analogy. ” ~ Chucky

    It’s not meant to be an analogy of Hitler. It’s to show that allowing evil for the sake of saving the day is not virtuous, but is itself evil. I notice that you don’t disagree with that, but it falsifies your hypothesis that God allows evil to show his magnificence of character.

    “Yes, and no. Their consequences don’t necessarily last forever. Repentance and forgiveness, as hard as they can be, is the first step to healing.” ~ Chucky

    Repentance and forgiveness do not change a wrong action into a right one. Healing does not change the historical fact of injury. And none of these three things – repentance, forgiveness, healing – amounts to a justification for evil, rather than amelioration of its consequences.

    “Why not say that God is good and loves us despite the fact we often do evil.” ~ Chucky

    Because God doesn’t exist, Chucky. Because if God did exist, he would’ve created beings like himself, who acted rightly, without fail. But, quite obviously, we are not those sorts of beings.

  5. Chucky says:

    > No, I meant all: I’m talking about good-making properties like charity, honesty, compassion, etc., etc..

    Thank you. I learnt a new word. Okay. So at best (3) holds for types and not tokens. Which ones of your points (2), (3), (4), (5), apply to types, and which ones to tokens?

    Applying to types only only then I disagree with (C) still, since if there is a good-making type (such as being loving) then the type of not loving each other automatically exists.

    > Can a love for us count as a reason for creating us flawed beings?

    Yes! Absolutely it can! You and I are not all good – and I regard it is as amazing act of love that God would create us, even knowing that I would not turn out perfect. God is omniscient. He can love us before we are created, just as a mother can lovingly do things to prepare for her baby before it is born.

    > It’s to show that allowing evil for the sake of saving the day is not virtuous, but is itself evil.

    Surely it is not for the “sake” of saving the day, but for the sake of the sake of those who are wronged. That does show God’s great character.

    > I notice that you don’t disagree with that, but it falsifies your hypothesis that God allows evil to show his magnificence of character.

    No, it doesn’t. Showing a specific instance (which doesn’t seem to apply to God) does not show that such a thing is not true in all cases. To “falsify” it, surely you have to show that every instance doesn’t work – not just in a contrived situation. At least give an analogy which applies to the instance we’re talking about.

    > Repentance and forgiveness do not change a wrong action into a right one. Healing does not change the historical fact of injury. And none of these three things – repentance, forgiveness, healing – amounts to a justification for evil, rather than amelioration of its consequences.

    It isn’t so much a justification of evil – I don’t think doing evil is justified – as saying that God is good, and one of the things he does as a good God is to repair the damage.

    > Because God doesn’t exist, Chucky. Because if God did exist, he would’ve created beings like himself, who acted rightly, without fail.

    Surely to get your argument to carry through you have to actually show me why my objections – which seems straightforward to me – are wrong. I’m not adverse to be shown why what I’m saying is wrong – I full well know that I’m stepping into a field of philosophy which isn’t my area. But I still have no reason, other than your own say so, to think many of the things you claim as premises. I think our main one is that I don’t see why a good God could not create a world which we can fall morally short, simply because he loves us.

  6. Yair says:

    What you are essentially saying is that since God is Perfect, moral perfection is metaphysically possible (under theism), so any theodicity relying on its impossibility fails. I believe the obvious theistic answer would be that moral perfection is only possible in an infinite being, and that in any finite being there would necessarily be evils.

    In this case, all that you argument shows is that God has no need to create anything. He is perfectly good, containing all good-making properties, by himself. But this is standard theological stuff – Creation is an act of Grace, we are Fallen and did not deserve to be made, we owe our existence only to God’s mercy… There may be a logical problem there, but it isn’t quite the one you’re pointing out.

  7. TaiChi says:

    “So at best (3) holds for types and not tokens. Which ones of your points (2), (3), (4), (5), apply to types, and which ones to tokens?” ~ Chucky

    They all apply to types.

    “Applying to types only only then I disagree with (C) still, since if there is a good-making type (such as being loving) then the type of not loving each other automatically exists.” ~ Chucky

    A type exists in virtue of a token – e.g. to say that “elephant exist” is to say that there exists at least one elephant. So it is not true that unlovingness ‘automatically’ exists: it must be instantiated in some thing which is unloving, which would be a token of unlovingness.

    “He can love us before we are created, just as a mother can lovingly do things to prepare for her baby before it is born.” ~ Chucky

    Sure, a mother can love her baby before its born. That’s because the baby exists. One doesn’t give birth ex nihilo, you know.

    “Surely it is not for the “sake” of saving the day, but for the sake of the sake of those who are wronged. That does show God’s great character.” ~ Chucky

    I think you’ve abandoned your hypothesis here. You’re no longer saying that unnecessary evils could be justified as opportunities for God to show his omnibenevolence. As such, the evils remain unjustified, and the fact that God would later make recompense is beside the point.

    “No, it doesn’t. Showing a specific instance (which doesn’t seem to apply to God) does not show that such a thing is not true in all cases. To “falsify” it, surely you have to show that every instance doesn’t work – not just in a contrived situation. At least give an analogy which applies to the instance we’re talking about.” ~ Chucky

    The fact that “allowing evil for the sake of saving the day is not virtuous, but is itself evil” is what falsifies your hypothesis. And it is a fact. Your apologetic would have God treating us humans as means, and not as ends, our suffering being sacrificed for the glory of God. Not only is that straightforwardly unethical, but it courts contradiction in another way, since the only benefit here seems to be to serve the egotism of the creator – it puts human suffering in the service of one of the seven deadly sins, that of pride.

    “It isn’t so much a justification of evil – I don’t think doing evil is justified – as saying that God is good, and one of the things he does as a good God is to repair the damage.” ~ Chucky

    You can say “God is good” all you like. It doesn’t amount to a justification of the evil we find in this world, and that is the thrust of the problem of evil. Whether a good God would, if he found himself with a broken world, restore it to wholesomeness, is beside the point, for God would not have made such a broken world in the first place.

    “Surely to get your argument to carry through you have to actually show me why my objections – which seems straightforward to me – are wrong. I’m not adverse to be shown why what I’m saying is wrong – I full well know that I’m stepping into a field of philosophy which isn’t my area. ” ~ Chucky

    I’m sorry, but which objection have you raised that I have failed to reply to? Which objection have I failed to protest at, even if you don’t accept that protest? Surely I have tried to show you why your objections are wrong, even if you don’t accept those explanations. To complain that I haven’t is disingenuous.

    “But I still have no reason, other than your own say so, to think many of the things you claim as premises. I think our main one is that I don’t see why a good God could not create a world which we can fall morally short, simply because he loves us.” ~ Chucky

    Because we don’t exist prior to his creating the world, so he can’t love us prior to creating the world, and so his loving us prior to creating the world can’t constitute a reason for creating a world which includes us. It really is that simple. It is self-contradictory to say, for instance “I love Jennifer, but of course, Jennifer doesn’t exist.”. Likewise it is self-contradictory to say “I love Chucky, but Chucky doesn’t exist”. Being self-contradictory, what it expresses is impossible.

  8. TaiChi says:

    “What you are essentially saying is that since God is Perfect, moral perfection is metaphysically possible (under theism), so any theodicity relying on its impossibility fails.” ~ Yair

    Well, not so much. I included the bit about theodicies to show that the argument couldn’t be knocked off its perch by a standard reply, and that it should be dealt with directly. But yes, any sound argument from evil will implicitly undercut the standard theodicies.

    ” I believe the obvious theistic answer would be that moral perfection is only possible in an infinite being, and that in any finite being there would necessarily be evils.” ~ Yair

    Well, fine. I don’t see the link between finitude and moral imperfection, but suppose I grant that. What’s to stop God from creating non-finite beings? Supposing he exists, such beings are possible, for he is such a being, and whatever is actual is possible. If they are possible, then it’s within his power to create them, for he is omnipotent, and can bring about whatever is logically possible. God is the ultimate counterexample to whatever excuse for evil you care to give.

    “In this case, all that you argument shows is that God has no need to create anything. He is perfectly good, containing all good-making properties, by himself. ” ~ Yair

    There’s a perfectly good argument along those lines (pun intended), but that is not my argument. My argument concludes with “(7) Therefore, God does not exist.”. Have I not laid it out clearly enough?

  9. cl says:

    Admittedly, I’ve only read the last two posts perfunctorily, but it seems to me that E (there is no good-making property whose instantiation entails instantiation of an evil-making property) simply denies that any sort of evil can follow from God’s good. For me, this is problematic because real-world experience teaches me otherwise, at least in the context of actual people. It is often the case that an instantiation of good is entailed by an instantiation of evil.

    It seems that your argument has to enforce some kind of rule that says, “All that God instantiates must stay as God instantiated it.” If God existed alone, I’d say I agree, but God does not exist alone.

    Your thoughts?

  10. TaiChi says:

    Hi cl, thanks for your comment.

    “it seems to me that E (there is no good-making property whose instantiation entails instantiation of an evil-making property) simply denies that any sort of evil can follow from God’s good. “~ cl

    E doesn’t say all that – I need to combine it with 1 and 2 of the previous argument in the form of 3 to get to there. But I do get there, eventually.

    For me, this is problematic because real-world experience teaches me otherwise, at least in the context of actual people. It is often the case that an instantiation of good is entailed by an instantiation of evil.” ~ cl

    Well, the first thing I want to say is that if my premises are true, and my logic is correct, then the conclusion is true. So, I don’t think this observation per se lets you off the hook. It might lead you to deny C (If God exists, then he instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties.), but this would be a denial of perfect-being theology, and so of the traditional philosopher’s conception of God.
    Now, are some instantiations of good entailed by instantiations of evil? Perhaps, but the argument rather concerns whether there are instantiations of good which entail evils. Are there some? Certainly, because there are good states of affairs with minor elements of evil. But are there good-making properties which entail evil-making properties? Well, I’m not sure.
    Take, for example, the parable of the Good Samaritan. When the Samaritan helps the injured Jew, what are we taking to be the good-making property? Helping the Jew is certainly good, but this only means that a good-making property is part of our description, not that ‘helping the Jew’ need be a good-making property itself. Perhaps the description is decomposable, and we can, with logical consistency, subtract the evil elements, leaving only the good-making property. One way this could work is if we take good making properties to be character traits (virtues), and so we take ‘helping the injured Jew’ to be good because it exhibits the good-making property of empathy. But people can have the virtue of empathy in the absence of suffering, for character traits are merely dispositional. God can have it prior to the creation of a suffering world. So, I think it is plausible that no good-making property entails an evil-making property, the issue of God aside. But it will depend upon your theory of ethics (a traditional theist will need a theory of ethics that allows this to retain C).

    It seems that your argument has to enforce some kind of rule that says, “All that God instantiates must stay as God instantiated it.” If God existed alone, I’d say I agree, but God does not exist alone.” ~ cl

    The only thing I can think of here is that you are referring to free beings. In their case, I’d say that no, the free beings which God creates do not need to uphold the moral purity of his original creation. But my counter to that is that God need not make free beings who corrupt the world, instead he can make free beings who are perfectly good (like him), and in that case there’s no reason to think that the world would become a home to evil. Does that answer your worry?

  11. faithlessgod says:

    Hi TaiChi

    This post triggered a question that is oblique to the core argument above but maybe you can make it relevant.

    On what basis could such a God create beings with Original Sin? Surely that is an evil-making property simpliciter. Surely such a God could create beings that were morally neutral and then through free will etc. see whether they sin or not and have redemption etc.? Surely for a God who instantiates only good-making properties and evil-making properties, it is necessary that beings are born without Original Sin? If beings are born wiht Original Sin this is evidence that God is not omni-benevolent?

  12. TaiChi says:

    On what basis could such a God create beings with Original Sin? Surely that is an evil-making property simpliciter” ~ faithlessgod

    It is, so he wouldn’t. In Christian theology he doesn’t either, for it is a consequence of the misuse of freewill.

    Surely such a God could create beings that were morally neutral and then through free will etc. see whether they sin or not and have redemption etc.?” ~ faithlessgod

    He could, but he wouldn’t – that’s what I’m arguing. He has a better option than creating morally neutral creatures, viz. creating morally good creatures who freely and unerringly choose the good.

    Surely for a God who instantiates only good-making properties and evil-making properties, it is necessary that beings are born without Original Sin? If beings are born wiht Original Sin this is evidence that God is not omni-benevolent?” ~ faithlessgod

    ‘Yes’ to both questions. But to add to the second answer, original sin would either be evidence for a less than perfectly good God, or against the existence of God (if one takes omnibenevolence as essential to the concept of God).

  13. faithlessgod says:

    “In Christian theology he doesn’t either, for it is a consequence of the misuse of freewill.”
    Surely Original Sin was a result of the misuse of freewill by Adam and Eve and not us. Before being born we could not possibly have misused free will.

    “that’s what I’m arguing. He has a better option than creating morally neutral creatures”
    My point over Original Sin is that God has chosen to create morally negative creatures which might be the complement to and further support for your argument.

    “But to add to the second answer, original sin would either be evidence for a less than perfectly good God, or against the existence of God”
    Exactly! Now this involves your (3). Being born with Original Sin is a fortiorian evil-making property of God? A Christian has to deny (3) otherwise Original Sin suffices to disprove that God is omni-benevolent?

    Maybe I have a different argument here or it requires your argument to make it.

    1. If God is (necessarily) maximally good then people would not be born with Original Sin
    2. People are born with Original Sin
    3. God is not maximally good ( or does not exist if necessarily maximally good)… or there is no Original Sin but then either way bang goes Christianity – it is incoherent.

  14. TaiChi says:

    My point over Original Sin is that God has chosen to create morally negative creatures which might be the complement to and further support for your argument.” ~ faithlessgod

    Ahh. Yes, there’s a tension there. But I’m not sure that the Christian story has God creating beings with original sin, as opposed to them inheriting it via ‘the flesh’. Saint Augustine thought the latter, at least, though I’m not sure what the usual story is today. So, it may be a further problem, or not, I don’t know enough to say which.

  15. faithlessgod says:

    Tai Chi

    If God is omnipotent he could ensure that no-one is born with Original Sin. He certainly has the power and if he is omnibenevolent why would he not use it?

    All the Christian explanations of Original Sin appear post hoc rationalisations that God would have the power to negate. Similarly the theodicies such as Free Will Defense you examine here, fail to justify Original Sin.

    According to Christians God does not prevent Original Sin, since they require that he does not otherwise the path to salvation via Jesus is no longer necessary. Again why would an omnibenevolent God stack the cards in such an unfair manner? If life in this universe is meant to be a test for the hereafter and one’s place in that, why would an omnibenevolent God create such an unfair test, surely this only makes sense if God is not omnibenevolent?

    Surely this relates to your (3), as this indicates that there is no justification for Original Sin, such that claims over Original Sin when combined with (3) is evidence that God is not omni-benevolent?

    Still I suppose that this is likely a different Argument From Evil, ironically based on Original Sin! I lack enough experience (or interest for that matter) to pursue this further. Every time I look at Christian claims all I find is more and more contradictions such as, now, this one over Original Sin. A Christinan God becomes more incoherent and unintelligible every time I examine it.

    It would be great if you could pursue this further, you do appear to have more interest and knowledge in this field than me. I could feed you other contradictions I have noted and you could shoot them down or use them as you feel fit.

  16. TaiChi says:

    If God is omnipotent he could ensure that no-one is born with Original Sin. He certainly has the power and if he is omnibenevolent why would he not use it?” ~ faithlessgod

    Yes, if original sin is something like a spiritual disease, rather than collective guilt. So far as I can tell, there’s no clear doctrine on just what original sin is, so before I raise your argument, I’d have to compare the different options – and then I may as well just argue that the very idea is incoherent, leaving aside the question of evil altogether.

    Still I suppose that this is likely a different Argument From Evil, ironically based on Original Sin! ” ~ faithlessgod

    Yes. You have both logical and evidential arguments from evil, but there’s also a distinction between abstract and concrete versions of both of these. What I run here is an abstract version of the logical problem, you’ve hit on a concrete version of the same, and both of our arguments can be weakened to probabilistic or evidential arguments.

    I lack enough experience (or interest for that matter) to pursue this further. Every time I look at Christian claims all I find is more and more contradictions such as, now, this one over Original Sin. A Christinan God becomes more incoherent and unintelligible every time I examine it.” ~ faithlessgod

    Same here. I think these sorts of theologically involved arguments are best left to the likes of Ken Pulliam. But I appreciate the offer of help.

  17. Reidish says:

    TaiChi,
    Could you give an example of what you consider to be one of these “good-making properties” that God would instantiate were He to exist alone? For example, He couldn’t instantiate “providing for one’s children” were He to exist alone, and yet that is a good-making property. What I’m driving at is this: does your argument rely on the fact that God instantiates (a) all logically possible good-making properties, or (b) only some, or (c) it doesn’t matter either way.

  18. TaiChi says:

    Hi Reidish,
    In reverse order. My argument heavily relies on the assertion that God would instantiate all good-making properties. It is only because of this assertion that I can infer that all good-making properties can exist in the absence of evil-making properties, since God can exist in the absence of evil-making properties. Were I a theist, this is the premise I would deny, and yet, given the comments of Craig, this seems to be tantamount to denying the perfect-being theology central to philosophical theism.
    Now, is ‘providing for one’s children’ a good-making property? I’m not sure. Suppose it is: then it cannot be true that God instantiates all good-making properties, and so perfect-being theology is false. On the other hand, I don’t see why a God should fail to be perfect on account of his not having children (I’ll join you in ignoring Jesus for the sake of argument here). So that suggests that ‘providing for one’s children’ is not a good-making property after all. This can be reconciled with common sense if you remember that I stipulated in my first post that the properties under discussion were simple properties: so we can say that, although ‘providing for one’s children’ is complex good, it is not a good-making property per se, but contains within it a good-making property (or implies one).
    As for examples, check above for my reply to cl, citing the parable of the good Samaritan. I think virtues can play the role of good-making properties, though strictly, it is up to the theist to decide on an interpretation of good-making properties consistent with the fact that God has all of them.

  19. Reidish says:

    My argument heavily relies on the assertion that God would instantiate all good-making properties. It is only because of this assertion that I can infer that all good-making properties can exist in the absence of evil-making properties, since God can exist in the absence of evil-making properties.

    OK, got it.

    Now, is ‘providing for one’s children’ a good-making property? I’m not sure. Suppose it is: then it cannot be true that God instantiates all good-making properties, and so perfect-being theology is false.

    Not so fast. I think it does no harm to perfect-being theology to say that God instantiates all good-making properties that are possible for Him to instantiate. If God exists on His own, by definition there would exist no children (ie, no offspring or created beings). So it would not be possible to provide for created beings if there are no created beings.
    Along these lines is where I’m mulling over an objection to (C): there exist some contingent good-making properties that God cannot necessarily instantiate. I’m not there yet, though.

    On the other hand, I don’t see why a God should fail to be perfect on account of his not having children (I’ll join you in ignoring Jesus for the sake of argument here). So that suggests that ‘providing for one’s children’ is not a good-making property after all. This can be reconciled with common sense if you remember that I stipulated in my first post that the properties under discussion were simple properties: so we can say that, although ‘providing for one’s children’ is complex good, it is not a good-making property per se, but contains within it a good-making property (or implies one).

    Any thoughts on a method to differentiate between simple and complex? Intuitively I see a difficulty in parsing such properties into these two categories.

  20. cl says:

    I’m still holding to the objection I made months ago @9, but here are a few preliminary questions before I get too along in my reconsiderations:

    …even leaving aside this argument, (C) is compelling: we understand God as being without flaw (hence without evil-making properties), and as being good in every way that something can be good, even if some other of his properties are not great-making.

    Why the sudden switch to great-making at the end? Is there any significant difference between good-making and great-making you’d like me to be aware of?

    (F) Therefore, every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some good-making property.
    (3) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.

    I noticed that (F) lacks the qualifier “greater,” whereas (3) does not? Is there any significant reason that is so?

    Here’s a rebuttal to your closing rebuttal @10, which actually seems to pick up right where our discussion at CSA left off::

    …my counter to that is that God need not make free beings who corrupt the world,

    I agree, however: God must make free beings who can choose to corrupt the world, else, they are not free beings.

  21. TaiChi says:

    Not so fast. I think it does no harm to perfect-being theology to say that God instantiates all good-making properties that are possible for Him to instantiate” ~ Reidish

    Really? I think it makes it an empty tautology. The truth of perfect-being theology would tell us absolutely nothing about God. But that can’t be right: perfect-being theology does tell us about God. It is a substantial thesis. And so I think any right-minded theist ought reject your reinterpretation.

    Any thoughts on a method to differentiate between simple and complex? Intuitively I see a difficulty in parsing such properties into these two categories.” ~ Reidish

    I think there’s an epistemological difficulty, yes. But I don’t see why the task should be undertaken beyond recognizing that such a distinction exists. It’s enough, for the purposes of argument, to know that if some good can be decomposed into good and evil elements, then it is not simple.
    _________________________________________________________________

    Why the sudden switch to great-making at the end? Is there any significant difference between good-making and great-making you’d like me to be aware of?” ~ cl

    Not really. I think I wrote ‘great-making’ to emphasize that some of God’s properties might not suffice to make him great – his being immaterial for instance. This was just a stronger way of stating that he might have some properties which are not good-making: I suppose that every good-making property is great-making, and so it follows from the possibility of God’s having non-great-making properties that he has non-good-making propeerties.

    I noticed that (F) lacks the qualifier “greater,” whereas (3) does not? Is there any significant reason that is so?” ~ cl

    Because the stronger (F) follows from (A)-(E). I could’ve immediately leapt from (E) to (3), but as a matter of art, I thought it best to include (F) as intermediary. And yes, (F) is indeed stronger than (3). Think it through yourself.

    I agree, however: God must make free beings who can choose to corrupt the world, else, they are not free beings.” ~ cl

    I’ve replied to this on my other post.

  22. Reidish says:

    “Not so fast. I think it does no harm to perfect-being theology to say that God instantiates all good-making properties that are possible for Him to instantiate” ~ Reidish

    “Really? I think it makes it an empty tautology. The truth of perfect-being theology would tell us absolutely nothing about God.” ~TaiChi

    I don’t see how you arrive at that. If you tell me that you give money to the poor, that is substantively different from telling me that it is possible for you to give money to the poor. Suppose we say that the instantiation of that single good-making property is sufficient to declare someone God (I know, just humor the example), and the study of said property constitutes perfect-being theology. You wouldn’t say that perfect-being theology tells us nothing about God, right?

    All I’m searching for here are the logical limits of the instantiation of good-making properties, and I’m starting to think that instantiating all of them is not possible if God alone exists. So I’m skeptical of (C).

  23. TaiChi says:

    I don’t see how you arrive at that.” ~ Reidish

    Hmm. Supposedly, perfect-being theology tells us what God is, essentially. If the rule for deciding that is “God instantiates every good-making property it is possible for him to instantiate”, then, of any given good-making property G, all it tells us is that God instantiates G if it is possible for him to instantiate G. But how are we to know if it is possible for God to instantiate G, without first knowing the properties of God, such that we can determine whether G would be consistent with them? We cannot – possible properties are parasitic on necessary or essential properties. So it’s an empty thesis. It leaves the concept of God entirely indeterminate.
    I have a few tangled thoughts which further pertain to this. But rather than have you attempt to interpret them, I’ll cut to the quick a different way. Let ‘Satan’ be a being who, in contrast to God, is essentially evil. Because he is essentially evil, Satan instantiates every evil-making property at every possible world, and moreover, instantiates no good-making property at any possible world. But notice that it is Satan’s essential evilness which precludes him from instantiating any good-making property. It is not that he could instantiate the good but sometimes doesn’t, but that it is logically impossible that he should instantiate the good. Therefore, Satan instantiates every good-making property that it is logically possible for him to instantiate, and so Satan is God. But Satan isn’t God, and so your definition must be faulty.

    All I’m searching for here are the logical limits of the instantiation of good-making properties, and I’m starting to think that instantiating all of them is not possible if God alone exists. So I’m skeptical of (C).” ~ Reidish

    I’m skeptical of (C), too. But then I find perfect-being theology absurd. Still, I wonder if we can already agree on something: would you join me in supposing that the strong identification of God with Goodness itself, such as William-Lane Craig professes, is an unsustainable philosophical position? It seems to me that (C) is the only premise in my argument which is even objectionable, and I cannot see how it can be denied by a theist of that kind.

  24. Reidish says:

    TaiChi,

    Supposedly, perfect-being theology tells us what God is, essentially. If the rule for deciding that is “God instantiates every good-making property it is possible for him to instantiate”, then, of any given good-making property G, all it tells us is that God instantiates G if it is possible for him to instantiate G.

    Well, that rule would not be sufficient to establish what God is essentially, and I never proposed it as such. I was simply making an observation on whether or not God can necessarily instantiate all possible good-making properties. My apologies if this was not clear. With that out of the way, we can see that your example equating Satan to God is not applicable.

    But how are we to know if it is possible for God to instantiate G, without first knowing the properties of God, such that we can determine whether G would be consistent with them?

    This is what our discussion is revolving around. I gave you an example of what He possibly could not instantiate, so there’s one limit. Perhaps there are others, I don’t know. Given all possible good-making properties, remove those God possibly cannot do, and the remainder constitute the set of what He can do necessarily.

    I’m skeptical of (C), too. But then I find perfect-being theology absurd. Still, I wonder if we can already agree on something: would you join me in supposing that the strong identification of God with Goodness itself, such as William-Lane Craig professes, is an unsustainable philosophical position? It seems to me that (C) is the only premise in my argument which is even objectionable, and I cannot see how it can be denied by a theist of that kind.

    I’m not up to the task of defending the position that God is Goodness itself, because I have a tough time making sense of a person being equivalent to a property (or properties). I won’t reject the idea outright, though, because on the other hand I’m not sure if ‘Goodness’ here is intended to be a property. I need to read more of the literature and think it through, so I’m non-committal. Sorry.

    Finally, I think perfect-being theology is a little more nuanced (or maybe not as ambitious) than you appear to understand it. Take the concept of moral perfection, for instance. The idea here is not that God instantiates all good-making properties, but that He does only what is good. He is without moral defect. I think my counterexample regarding providing for one’s children helps draw out this distinction. A morally perfect being does only what is good in all possible worlds, therefore the scope of this goodness is a function of which possible world is instantiated. If He alone exists, he retains moral perfection even though ‘providing for one’s children’ will not be instantiated. I see no reason for the theist to commit himself to anything beyond that.

  25. cl says:

    TaiChi,

    Regarding C: Would the taking of life – for any reason whatsoever – constitute an ‘evil-making property” according to your definition? If you find the question to black-and-white, when would you say the taking of life constitutes an evil-making property? When would you say the taking of life constitutes a good-making property?

    Regarding E: When you use the phrases, “instantiation of” and “entails,” what do you mean to say? Are you saying that something evil can never result from doing something good? Are you saying that God would / should never take any good action A so long as even a modicum of evil / suffering would result? You seem to be arguing that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God must necessarily take a “zero tolerance” stance on evil / suffering. Is that an acceptable paraphrase of your position?

  26. TaiChi says:

    Reidish,

    I’m sketchy on the line of argument you’re taking. Here’s how I see it: either (C) is true or false. If it is true, then my argument from evil goes through, and God does not exist. If (C) is false, then the argument does not go through. However, if (C) is a statement of perfect-being theology, (C)’s being false means perfect-being theolgy is false. Therefore, in order to defend perfect-being theology from my argument, you not only need to show that (C) is false, but also that (C) is not a statement of perfect-being theology. You say:

    I was simply making an observation on whether or not God can necessarily instantiate all possible good-making properties. ” ~ Reidish

    Well, ok. It looked for all the world like you were offering an alternate interpretation of perfect-being theology so as to meet the second part of your burden, but fine. Let’s suppose you only meant to question whether (C) is true of a non-perfect-being-theology God, and let’s suppose you arrive at a negative verdict. What’s that to me? You still haven’t made the case that (C) is not an expression of perfect-being theology, thus you still haven’t shown that the argument fails to debunk standard philosophical theism.

    This is what our discussion is revolving around. I gave you an example of what He possibly could not instantiate, so there’s one limit. ~ Reidish

    Again, if (C) is false, what’s that to me? I can well imagine a defense of (C), but I’m happy to leave you to your own opinion on this. What I care about is that (C) is a statement of perfect-being theology, and therefore of standard philosophical theism. If it is, standard philosophical theism is false whether (C) is true or not. So, where it’s actually at is..

    Finally, I think perfect-being theology is a little more nuanced (or maybe not as ambitious) than you appear to understand it. Take the concept of moral perfection, for instance. The idea here is not that God instantiates all good-making properties, but that He does only what is good. He is without moral defect. ~ Reidish

    But this is obviously fallacious. Yes, perfect-being theology implies moral perfection in the sense you describe. But unless perfect-being theology just amounts to the assertion of moral perfection, it does not follow that from moral perfection’s not entailing all good-making properties that perfect-being theology does not entail all good-making properties.
    And perfect-being theology does not just mean ‘moral perfection’. It means all kinds of perfections, of which moral perfection is merely one. Omniscience and omnipotence are perfections, therefore God is omniscient and omnipotent. Timelessness and immateriality, I’m told, are intuitively perfections, which God must have. Necessity, self-sufficiency, rationality.. the list goes on. The supposition that God is a perfect-being, possessing all perfections, does incredible work in expanding the range of his attributes beyond what is described in the Bible.
    So this really is an ambitious thesis. It is not the comparitively mild claim that God is just a really good guy. In every way it is better to be than not be, God is better in that way. Thus Anselm:

    “Now, one thing is necessary, viz., that one necessary Being in which there is every good – or better, who is every good, one good, complete good, and the only good” [Edit: Prologion, Ch. 23]

    Strong stuff. But that’s what you get when you call God a perfect-being.

    I won’t reject the idea outright, though, because on the other hand I’m not sure if ‘Goodness’ here is intended to be a property.” ~ Reidish

    I can’t see that it matters. Craig proposes that God’s nature is definitive of the Good. Definitional relationships allow for the salva veritate substitution of one term by the other in non-intensional contexts. So if the sentence “X is a property of God” is true, then “X is a property of the Good” is also true. Granted ‘the Good’ may not be a property, but it has to be at least the kind of thing that can have properties.

  27. TaiChi says:

    Regarding C: Would the taking of life – for any reason whatsoever – constitute an ‘evil-making property” according to your definition? If you find the question to black-and-white, when would you say the taking of life constitutes an evil-making property? When would you say the taking of life constitutes a good-making property?
    ” ~ cl

    This isn’t really up to me to decide. The claim that God instantiates all good-making properties is not supported by a prior view I have of what good-making properties are, and a recognition that God has them. It is supported by the view of most theistic philosophers that God is a perfect-being, and that he therefore possesses all perfections. Perfections are ways of being good, so God is good in every way, and has every kind of good-making property which makes him good in those ways.
    Now, what ideas about good and evil fit with that picture, I’m just not certain. Possibly there are several accounts which fit with it. But which account is true, I leave up to the theist. All I require for my argument is that good-making and evil-making properties should satisfy the constraint placed on them by perfect-being theology – that God should have all of the former and none of the latter. It would be silly of me to go further than this, and I don’t need to.

    Regarding E: When you use the phrases, “instantiation of” and “entails,” what do you mean to say? Are you saying that something evil can never result from doing something good? ” ~ cl

    Plainly, evil can result from good. That is an empirical fact. What I deny is that there is any sort of necessary connection between good and evil.

    Are you saying that God would / should never take any good action A so long as even a modicum of evil / suffering would result? You seem to be arguing that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God must necessarily take a “zero tolerance” stance on evil / suffering. Is that an acceptable paraphrase of your position?” ~ cl

    I wouldn’t say ‘must’. I’m not telling God what to do. I do say that, given evil-making properties do not follow from the existence of good-making properties, God can take a zero-tolerance stance on evil. Given the kind of guy he’s supposed to be, he would.

  28. Reidish says:

    TaiChi,

    I’m sketchy on the line of argument you’re taking.

    In a nutshell:
    (C) is false, and therefore your argument for (3) fails
    (C) is not representative of perfect-being theology, since the latter does not posit God to necessarily instantiate every logically possible good-making property

    I realize both claims need defense, and I’ve given some reasoning here to that effect. If I’m up to the task of doing anything formally, I’ll post something on this at my place. Thanks for the stimulating conversation, as always.

  29. TaiChi says:

    Thanks Reidish. I appreciate your comments.

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