A Logical Problem of Evil

What follows is a reworking of my previous posts on evil, which I wanted to combine into one document. Much of the material is the same, though I’ve clarified it some, and added another objection. Since I seem to have gone about as far as I can for the moment, it’s posted.

EDIT: Best version and last version here.

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Groundwork for the Argument

I begin by picking up a thread of inquiry which Alvin Plantinga follows in God, Freedom, and Evil1. There we find Plantinga examining the logical problem of evil, as given by J.L. Mackie in his 1955 paper, Evil and Omnipotence. According to Plantinga, Mackie takes the following propositions to form an inconsistent set..

(1) God is omnipotent
(2) God is wholly good
(3) Evil exists.
(19) A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can
(20) There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.

.. all of which seem plausible on theism. Yet if the set is inconsistent at least one proposition must be rejected on pain of contradiction. Since (3) is obvious, while (19) and (20) appear to be sound definitions, it appears that either (1) or (2) must go, or both, if the presupposition of God’s existence is false. But Plantinga contests (19) on several grounds, guiding a cascade of revisions, the most important amongst these being that if some evils are logically required for the existence of a greater good, then we would expect that a good being would not eliminate the evil, as this would also eliminate the good. Eventually, he settles on an inconsistent set of propositions from which a valid argument from evil may be constructed:

(1) God is omnipotent.
(2) God is wholly good.
(2′) God is omniscient.
(3) Evil exists.
(19c) An omnipotent and omniscient good being eliminates every evil that it can properly eliminate.
(20) There are no nonlogical limits to what an omnipotent being can do.
(21) If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he can properly eliminate every evil state of affairs.

So, having constructed this set, why does Plantinga doubt that a logical argument succeeds? Because, he tells us, (21) is possibly false, whereas it needs to be a necessary truth in order to ensure that the existence of God and the existence of evil are incompatible. I aim to show that, pace Plantinga, something like (21) is necessarily true, though I shall first reformulate Plantinga’s set into an argument, making two improvements along the way.

The first change I make to the set above is to replace talk of ‘proper elimination’ with that of ‘denial of existence’. According to Plantinga, “a being properly eliminates an evil state of affairs if it eliminates that evil without either eliminating an outweighing good or bringing about a greater evil2. But this notion appears to be inadequate, for it seems to be consistent with unjustifiable evil existing in the world, so long as God eventually gets around to dispensing with it. A fortiori, Plantinga’s formulation places no restriction on what God creates, good or evil. By contrast, the requirement that God should deny existence to every evil does restrict the scope of what God would create and allow3.

One further adjustment is needed. Plantinga indicates that a premise like (21) can easily be falsified, since there might be some state of affairs S, such that S is good overall, but where a constituent of S is an arbitrary evil – for example, S might represent the conjunction of “Alvin is deliriously happy” with “Paul has a minor abrasion”. A conjunction entails its conjuncts, and so (21) is false if any good outweighs some evil, and if these are compossible. The obvious way in which (21) goes wrong (or in which it is ambiguous) is that the “goods” and “evils” cover complex states of affairs, whereas it is not specifically these that we think of as goods and evils in the context of the argument from evil. What usually comes to mind are goods or evils conceived as basic, the kind of goods and evils which are at once atomistic and general. Being atomistic, they do not divide into conjuncts responsible for their value as a whole; being general, they describe types of good or evil which have particular tokens. In short, I think we require good-making and evil-making properties, which I define thus:

Good-making Property: A property which (i) is objectively good, and (ii) cannot be decomposed into constituent properties in virtue of which it is good.

Evil-making Property: A property which (i) is objectively evil, and (ii) cannot be decomposed into constituent properties in virtue of which it is evil.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll call these GMPs and EMPs in what follows, and ‘properties’ will refer to these kinds of properties. With these adjustments, and some minor tweaks to presentation, I can now advance this essay’s main argument.

The Argument from Evil

(1) If God exists, then God is an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.
(2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil-making property whose existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
(3) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
(4) Therefore, if God exists, every evil-making property is such that God denies it existence.
(5) Evil-making properties exist (since evil exists).
(6) If God exists, then some evil-making property exists and it is the case that God denies it existence (which would be contradictory).
(7) Therefore, God does not exist.

(NB: References to numbered premises will henceforth be to this argument). The argument is valid. But is it sound? Well, (1) is a uncontroversial statement of traditional theism, and (2) seems unobjectionable as well. (5) has as good a claim to truth as any other moral assertion. (4), (6) and (7) are logical consequences. That leaves (3), which makes an obviously outrageous claim. And yet I think standard philosophical theism is committed to this claim:

A Sub-Argument for (3)

(A) God exists. (Assumption)
(B) If God exists, 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) assumes God’s existence, which every theist must do also. (B) asserts the ontological independence of God, which various notions of God support. For example, 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: this is God’s sovereignty and aseity. The conception of God as a necessary being, particularly as used in the Cosmological Argument, is taken to imply his ontological independence. And lastly, it would seem that ontological independence is a perfection, which a perfect-being such as God would exemplify4. Less abstractly, imagine the state of affairs prior to God’s creation ex nihilo: supposedly God alone exists, and afterward performs the acte gratuit of creating the universe. If actual, this scenario is certainly possible, and so (B) would be true.

(C) explicates a plausible interpretation of God’s being wholly good: of any GMPs that he has them, and of any EMPs that he lacks them5. 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 EMPs, and since goodness itself cannot fail to include some GMP (else that property would not be good), neither would God lack any GMPs. A supporter of this view is William Lane Craig, here responding to the Euthyphro dilemma:

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.”6

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.. many more7). But even leaving aside this argument, (C) is compelling: we understand God as being without flaw (hence without EMPs), and as being good in every way that something can be good. Of course, this does not mean that each of God’s properties are good, for some may be neither good-making nor evil-making, but value-neutral.

(D) gathers (A), (B) and (C) together. (E) draws the consequence of (D). To see this, suppose the contrary, that some GMP does entail an EMP: then, if the GMP exists, so must the evil-making one. But (D) states that this is not so, that every GMP can exist (as God) in the absence of every EMP. So if (E) is false, then (D) is false, thus (D) entails (E). Similarly, (F) is a deductive consequence of (E). Suppose the contrary, that there is some evil-making property whose existence is entailed by a GMP. Then there would be a GMP which entailed it, whereas (E) states that no GMPs entail EMPs. If (F) is false, (E) is false, so (E) entails (F). (3) is a special case of (F) – if every EMP is not entailed by a GMP, then a fortiori, they are not entailed by greater GMPs. So there we have it, support for (3). And with it, I believe, a successful argument from evil.

Objections

(I) I disagree with (C): God does not instantiate every good-making property, but on the contrary, only most good-making properties – those which are compossible.

Reply: No argument from evil covers every conception of God, and this argument is unexceptional in that regard8. Nevertheless, I believe the arguments here cover standard philosophical theism, which endorses the thesis that God is a perfect-being. This is because God’s perfection seems to entail the having of every GMP:

(I) God is a perfect-being.
(II) A perfect-being instantiates every perfection.
(III) A perfection is an optimal fulfillment of some evaluative dimension.
(IV) So, God optimally fulfills every evaluative dimension.
(V) To instantiate a good-making property is to optimally fulfill an evaluative dimension – namely, the binary dimension which concerns the having or not of the good-making property.
(VI) So, God instantiates every good-making property.

(I) expresses perfect-being theology. (II) is a definitional expansion of (I) – a Cartesian claim which, so far as I’m aware, is accepted by all perfect-being theologians, this being the premise which allows them to infer that God has any individual perfection (e.g. necessary existence, omniscience, perfect goodness)9. (III) expresses perfection. (V) includes its explanation – whatever else a GMP is, it is evaluative, and being evaluative, it implies some dimension (scale) on which it is evaluative – at least the GMP/~GMP dimension. (IV) and (VI) are logical consequences, the latter confirming the suspect fragment of (C). The second conjunct in (C), that God instantiates no evil-making property is, I presume, uncontroversial. I therefore take it that perfect-being theology is committed to (C).

(II) Theodicy/Defense X solves the logical problem of evil. Since your argument does not deal with theodicy/defense X, you have not made your case.

Reply: Supposing the Argument and the Sub-Argument are sound, I have indeed made my case. For a sound deductive argument necessitates its conclusion, and so, whatever else there may be to say about why a given theodicy fails, the arguments here make it given that it does so. But since I realize that many readers will want more of an explanation before they feel convinced, I will offer some general remarks.

The conspicuous premise of the Argument is (3), and it is conspicuous precisely because it is designed to cover all theodicies: every viable theodicy purports to cite a greater good for whose sake evil may be justified. So my general reply to those who wonder why their pet theodicy fails is given in the support for (3), the Sub-Argument. That argument works by exploiting a double standard inherent in theodicies: on the one hand, theists claim the existence of a perfect-being, who has every perfection and is without flaw; on the other hand, a theodicy claims the regrettable but necessary imperfectibility of the created world. But whatever is actual is possible, therefore, if perfection is actual in the form of God, perfection is possible. Since an omnipotent God can bring about any states of affairs which are logically possible, God can bring about a perfect creation. And so theodicies are destined to fail.

The free-will defense perhaps deserves special mention here. It might be thought that, contrary to the usual form of a theodicy, where the greater GMP straightforwardly entails an EMP, free-will merely makes evil possible – a denial of (2) rather than (3). However, if possibility is all that follows from the good of free-will, then the connection between the GMP of free-will and any EMP is not necessary, and so it seems open to an omnipotent being to bring about free-will without allowing evil. Hence, contemporary apologists attempt to show that (for all we know) free-will does entail evil via certain ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ – conditionals which state what free persons would do if placed in particular circumstances – and in doing so dispute (3). Therefore our treatment will be the same as other theodicies: find and exploit the double standard at the heart of the theodicy. On the one hand, the theist wants to say that human free-will opens up the possibility of evil; but on the other hand, the theist wishes to maintain that this possibility is not open to God, at least not in a way that he would avail himself of it. But if God does not have free-will, then free-will can’t be a GMP, else God would have it. Alternatively, if God has free-will, but of a different sort to our own, then God’s free-will is a GMP, and human free-will is only good insofar as it approximates God’s sort of free-will. Either way, the free-will defense fails because of its differential treatment of God and man. However…

(III) Your argument assumes that creation could be God-like, in that God could avoid creating anything which, in departure from his own nature, would introduce evil into the world. But you have overlooked the one property which God does not instantiate, but which must be instantiated by his creation: that of being created by God. This property, perhaps together with other good-making properties, does entail evil.

Reply: Quentin Smith offers an argument temperamentally similar to my own, in A Sound Logical Argument from Evil. He begins by distinguishing three different varieties of freedom..

A person is externally free with respect to an action A if and only if nothing other than (external to) herself determines either that she perform A or refrain from performing A.
A person is internally free with respect to an action A if and only if it is false that his past physical and psychological states, in conjunction with causal laws, determine either that he perform A or refrain from performing A.
A person is logically free with respect to an action A if and only if there is some possible world in which he performs A and there is another possible world in which he does not perform A. A person is logically free with respect to a wholly good life (a life in which every morally relevant action performed by the person is a good action) if and only if there is some possible world in which he lives this life and another possible world in which he does not.10

.. and notes that, whilst God has internal and external freedom, his omnibenevolence precludes logical freedom. From this infers he that logical freedom is not metaphysically valuable (else God would have it), though internal and external freedom may be. He then constructs an argument from evil asserting that God could’ve created necessarily good (thus logically unfree) but internally and externally free beings, like himself, and therefore need not and would not have created a world in which moral evil exists11. Alexander Pruss, in The Essential Divine-Perfection Objection to the Free-Will Defence, takes up our objection and extends it:

The initial form of my argument is very simple. If Patricia is a creature who lacks logical freedom with respect to a wholly good life, then by Smith’s definition either it is a necessary truth that if Patricia exists, Patricia leads a wholly good life, or it is a necessary truth that if Patricia exists, Patricia does not lead a wholly good life. For concreteness, take the first case: that Patricia exists entails that Patricia leads a wholly good life […] Then, that God creates Patricia entails that Patricia exists. Therefore, that God creates Patricia entails that Patricia leads a wholly good life. But surely that means that Patricia is determined to lead a wholly good life by something external to her, namely by God’s creating her. Hence, she is not externally free with respect to leading a wholly good life.12

At first pass this response looks decisive. It is undeniable that God has the property of being uncreated, whereas any of his creations must have the property of being created. It is undeniable that, as God is part of a causal chain leading to any particular of Patricia’s actions, God qualifies as a cause of them. And it further appears that some notion of libertarian free-will will support the idea that causal origination in God would be freedom-canceling. However, Pruss’s argument fails because it applies indiscriminately to all creatures, whether logically free or not.

To begin with, notice that God’s entailment of Patricia’s virtuous behavior proceeds by way of her counterfactuals of freedom. Pruss tells us that Patricia’s existence entails her leading a wholly good life, and this is only true if Patricia’s existence entails those counterfactuals that ensure every morally relevant action she performs is good. So we can gloss Pruss’s argument in a way which makes this salient: God creates Patricia in circumstances C, she has certain counterfactuals of freedom specifying a good action A in C, and so God determines her doing of A in C. But since the same is true of every action Patricia performs, and since every action Patricia performs is good, it is (surely!) the case that God determines that she lead a wholly good life. Hence, she is not externally free with respect to leading a wholly good life.

Yet if this is how the entailment is derived, then it is not just necessarily good creatures who are determined by God, but creatures of every stripe. For consider Manuel, a person-essence whose counterfactuals of freedom support a mixture of right and wrong actions. That God creates Manuel in circumstances C, having counterfactuals of freedom specifying his doing A in C, means that God determines his doing of A in C. The same is true of every action Manuel performs. To complete the symmetry, we can let ‘M-life’ denote the kind of life that Manuel would live in C given his counterfactuals of freedom – then, that God creates Manuel in C (surely!) determines that he lead an M-life. Hence, Manuel is not externally free with respect to leading an M-life. Thus, Pruss’s counter to Smith would seem to lay waste to the external freedom of God’s creation generally.

It isn’t difficult to see where your typical free-will defender will think this goes awry. The free-will defense typically distinguishes between strong and weak actualization, where to strongly actualize a state of affairs is to be the cause of that state, and to weakly actualize a state of affairs is to strongly actualize (cause) a subset of some state of affairs containing free beings, who complete that state with their free acts. The point of such a distinction, as I understand it, is to allow us to separate the issue of entailment (which weak actualization implies) from that of causation and hence responsibility (which strong actualization implies). But if the distinction is to do its job it must be the case that, though God’s bringing about C would counterfactually entail some person-essence’s action A, this entailment is not sufficient for God himself to cause and therefore be responsible for A. Plausibly this is so: despite entailment, we think that God only controls an initial segment of the causal chain specified in C, and that consequently he does not determine the outcome of the process in the relevant sense – his creatures do. But then, by creating necessarily good beings, God need not control all parts of the causal chain either – he can leave the counterfactuals of freedom to be determined by his necessarily good beings 13.

So it would seem that creaturehood cannot be used to support the free-will defense after all – it either cancels external freedom for all creatures, or mistakenly overlooks the distinction between strong and weak actualization. But could another defense be mounted on the basis of it? I have no argument that it cannot. All I can say here is that the free-will defense appears to be the only apologetic which might put the difference to use. This being so, I take my argument for the non-existence of God to be complete.

Conclusion

I began this essay by looking at Alvin Plantinga’s God, Freedom, and Evil, wherein we find the general form of a successful argument from evil. I made two adjustments to this form: first, by eschewing talk of ‘proper elimination’ in favor of ‘denial of existence’ talk; and second, by bringing in the notions of good-making and evil-making properties. With these changes, I proposed a valid argument from evil. I then noted that, as the other premises were unobjectionable, the weight of the argument fell on premise (3), the proposition that “Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property“. I offered a sub-argument for this premise, using the notion of God’s ontological independence (i.e. that “it is possible that [God] should exist, without any other thing existing.”) and his perfection (i.e. that God “instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties”) to show that, if theism is true, then (3) is also true. But if (3) is true, of course, then the argument from evil proposed succeeds – so theism, if true, is false, therefore it is false.

Finally, I considered three objections. The first of these objected to the premise stating God would instantiate every good-making property, and no evil-making property. I conceded to this objection the point that my argument would not disprove every conception of God, but bolstered my argument that it would apply to God conceived as a perfect-being, and thereby to the God of orthodox philosophical theism. I then considered the objection that my argument ignores the various attempts to reconcile evil and the existence of God, making it inadequate. My reply here was to give a general answer, grounded in the sub-argument, such that by its lights any theodicy would have to be guilty of a double-standard. Lastly, I considered an exception to the argument, in the form of a property which all God’s creation must have, but which God himself would not have – that of being created by God. Because God does not have this property, we cannot use the sub-argument to show that it does not entail evil, nor that its combination with other good-making properties would not entail evil. In this vein I consider the response of Pruss to Smith’s logical argument from evil, and assess Pruss’s counter as failing to support the free-will defense. Given the failure of these objections, and being unaware of any others, I conclude that the theist must accept the soundness of the Argument From Evil. Thus, standard philosophical theism is untenable.

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Notes

1 Plantinga, p. 12-29.
2 Plantinga, p. 20.
3 Another reason is that Plantinga’s formulation leads one to think that the problem of evil is a problem of God’s non-intervention, given that the world is the way it is and contains evil. But the problem of evil is much broader than that of non-intervention in a ready-made world: it is a problem of the world’s having evil in the first place.
4 There’s an objection from Platonism 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 EMPs”. This adjustment aside, there might be good reason to take abstract objects as part of God, which would support (B).
5 This may not be obvious if one is thinking of moral goodness alone. However, it is said that God’s goodness does not merely consist in how he acts, but in what he is: goodness has a metaphysical sense. “God is said to be good in a wider or narrower sense; wider, when this indicates the fullness and completeness of his being, his self-sufficiency and freedom from want or deficiency of any kind. In this sense of “ perfect goodness ” it has the same reference as “ perfect being, ”though a different sense. Divine perfection provides the conceptual link between being and goodness in God’ s case; God alone is, and can be, good. In the narrower sense God’ s goodness is an aspect of his moral character, and he communicates this goodness to his creatures in acts of creation and redemption.” (Paul Helm, ‘Goodness‘, in The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, p. 263).
6 Craig, p. 182.
7 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” (Proslogion, Ch. 23). Aquinas: “All the perfections of all things are in God” (1964, pt. I, q. 4, art. 2). Leibniz: “41. Whence it follows that God is absolutely perfect; for perfection is nothing but amount of positive reality, in the strict sense, leaving out of account the limits or bounds in things which are limited. And where there are no bounds, that is to say in God, perfection is absolutely infinite. (Theod. 22, Pref. [E. 469 a; G. vi. 27].)”.
8 As Jordan Howard-Sobel tells us, “The logical problem of evil is a problem for perfect-being theologies only” (p. 479).
9 More support: “According to traditional Western theism, God is the greatest being possible in virtue of possessing a complete set of great-making qualities or perfections”. Hoffman & Rosenkranz, p.15.
10 Smith, “A Sound Logical Argument from Evil” in Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 149. (Emphasis added).
11 On Smith’s view, such necessarily good beings are not humans who have been restricted to the good, nor are they humans whose counterfactuals of freedom just happen to ensure their perfect goodness in the actual world. Instead, they are to be understood as a class of beings over and above humans, internally-externally free but logically determined, but who might qualify as ‘human’ in a loose sense as being similarly rational persons. Though Smith doesn’t say so directly, his reference to a class of necessarily good beings suggests that their goodness is essential to them, as it is to God. Pruss (see below) does not always observe this difference between humans and these ‘humans’ in arguing for his position, crucial though it is: “[Patricia] has a certain nature, and God has created Patricia as having that nature. But surely then God has determined her to act rightly.” (Pruss, p. 441, emphasis mine).
12 Pruss, p. 435-6.
13 Pruss further argues that creaturehood and a lack of logical freedom entails a lack of internal freedom, chiefly on the grounds that logical determination would have to be grounded in internal dispositional states. I do not treat this here because (i) Pruss does not show that internal freedom can be had in the absence of logical determination, which would be necessary to justify God’s creating logically free beings as securing the supposed greater good of internal freedom, and (ii) Pruss needs to show that his arguments against internal freedom in logically determined creatures do not also apply to God, but does not do much more than gesture towards a Thomistic metaphysics.
Spelt out: Let “P c Q & Q c R” symbolize “P causes Q, and Q causes R”. Then, that God causes Patricia, who in turn causes action R fits this form. Pruss derives from God’s causing Patricia, and Patricia’s causing R, that therefore God causes R, i.e. from “P c Q & Q c R” that “Q c R”, which is perfectly valid – causation is transitive, and so the predecessor in a causal chain will always be a (not necessarily the) cause of a later event in the chain. However, this is not the causation required for cancelling freedom. What is needed instead is that God causes Patricia to cause action R, for him to cause her counterfactual of freedom. So, what Pruss really needs to deduce from “P c Q & Q c R” is “P c (Q c R)”. But this derivation is fallacious. For example, though true that “smoking causes cancer, and cancer causes death”, it is not true that smoking causes the causal relation between cancer and death itself, for the causal relation between cancer and death obtains regardless of whether there is anybody who smokes. Likewise, it does not follow from God’s causing Patricia, and Patricia’s causing action R, that God causes Patricia to cause that action.

Bibliography
Aquinas, Of God And His Creatures: An Annotated Translation Of The Summa Contra Gentiles Of Saint Thomas Aquinas. New York: Kessinger Publishing, Llc, 2010.

Anselm, Proslogion, with the Replies of Gaunilo and Anselm. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2001.

Helm, P., ‘Goodness’, in The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010). pp. 263-269.

Hoffman, J., and Rosenkrantz. G.S.. The Divine Attributes (Exploring the Philosophy of Religion). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.

Craig, W.L., Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Leicester, England: Crossway Books, 2008.

Leibniz, G.W., The Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings. New York City: Cornell University Library, 2009.

Mackie, J.L., “Evil and Omnipotence”, Mind 64 (1955); reprinted in Louis P. Pojman (ed), Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, 3rd edition (Wadsworth, 1998), pp. 186–193.

Plantinga, A.: God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974).

Pruss, A., “The Essential Divine-Perfection Objection to the Free-Will Defence”, Religious Studies 44, (Cambridge University Press, 2008). pp. 433–444.

Smith, Q., “A Sound Logical Argument from Evil” in Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

Sobel, J.H., Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God. 1 ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

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127 thoughts on “A Logical Problem of Evil

  1. […] TaiChi offers a logical problem of evil. […]

  2. MichaelPJ says:

    Very nice! Beautifully clear and precise exposition.

    One tiny thing: did you mean “cancels external freedom” rather than “cancels internal freedom” in the paragraph before your conclusion?

  3. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Would you consider this an apt summary of your argument? These are the terms by which I’m interpreting your argument, I just want to see if I’m understanding it correctly.

    1) God, by His nature, could actualize a world free from evil (omnipotence and omniscience)

    2) God, by His nature, if He creates any world should actualize a world free from evil (omnibenevolence)

    3) Any possible world that exists, if God exists, was created by God

    4) This world, if God exists, was created by God (3)

    5) Evil exists in this world

    6) Therefore, God does not exist

  4. Ralph says:

    Great defense of Quentin’s formulation of the LPOE. Nice 😀

  5. TaiChi says:

    @MichaelPJ
    Ah, thanks for the catch – sorted.

    @Bryce Laliberte
    Heh. If it was an apt summary, I could just use your 1-6, instead my own (1)-(7)+(A)-(F)+(I)-(VI) – that would be much quicker! No, I’m afraid the best I can do summary-wise is in the ‘conclusion’ section, and if I knew how to explain the argument better, I would’ve done so there. Sorry if that doesn’t help much – perhaps if you asked a specific question I could be of more use to you.

  6. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Well okay, then here’s my question. Could you explain what EMP’s are? And what is meant by “entailing” here as you are using it? That’s where I’m getting hung up on.

  7. Kyle Key says:

    Just wanted to say, great job!

  8. Mike Young says:

    Your argument is confused. There is no such thing as an evil making property. Properties are not the kind of things that are either “good-making” or “evil-making.”

    Properties are inert, as such it is logically impossible to have a good or an evil property. Properties of objects allow for uses of objects or things that are good or evil. Here is an example: The property of hardness of some baseball bat allows for both the “good” of playing sport and the “evil”of bashing a skull in for no reason. Hardness is neither “good-making” or “evil-making”.

    Now suppose you respond with something like this: “You wanting to bash someones skull with a bat is an evil making property.” That would be false. Why? Because my wants, beliefs, dispositions, etc are not properties of me, they are propositional attitudes. So that would be a category mistake. Propositional attitudes are not themselves properties of people. To put it more clearly: The contents of my thoughts are not properties of me.

    Your problem turns out to be that your ideas of good-making and evil-making properteis turn out to be incoherent.

  9. TaiChi says:

    @Bryce Laliberte
    I think I have explained what EMP’s are, in the post. Roughly the idea is this: Imagine some state of affairs you’d describe as ‘evil’. Then try to pick out what it is, fundamentally, about that state of affairs which makes it evil. That (supposing you are correct in picking out what makes it evil) is an evil-making property. For example, you might think that suffering is what fundamentally makes a state of affairs evil – then suffering would be, on your view, an evil-making property.
    On ‘entaiing’: ‘A’ entails ‘B’ iff one can formulate a deductively valid argument with ‘A’ as the premise, and ‘B’ as the conclusion. Derivatively, A entails B iff one can formulate a deductively valid argument with ‘A’ as the premise, and ‘B’ as the conclusion, where ‘A’ asserts the existence of A and ‘B’ asserts the existence of B.

    @Mike Young
    Properties are not the kind of things that are either “good-making” or “evil-making.”

    Plainly, we can appropriately call something like suffering “evil-making”. That is, we can predicate ‘evil-making’ of some state of affairs which includes suffering. But each predicate has a corresponding property in virtue of which the predication is correctly made. And a property corresponding to the predication of ‘evil-making’ would be an evil-making property. So, again on the assumption that the predication of ‘evil-making’ is legitimate, I can legitimately talk of ‘good and evil-making properties’.

    Properties are inert, as such it is logically impossible to have a good or an evil property.

    This can’t be true if you allow hardness as a property, for, as you say, the hardness of the baseball bat is (ie. plays the central causal role in) bashing in someone’s skull.

    Properties of objects allow for uses of objects or things that are good or evil. Here is an example: The property of hardness of some baseball bat allows for both the “good” of playing sport and the “evil”of bashing a skull in for no reason. Hardness is neither “good-making” or “evil-making”.

    Certainly true. And consistent with the claim that some other properties of objects are good or evil-making. Also consistent with properties of states of affairs being good or evil-making. You haven’t made an argument here.

    Propositional attitudes are not themselves properties of people.

    Well, why not? You’ve asserted it, but you’ve yet to explain it.

  10. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Alright, I think I understand then. Its a good argument, but I think I have a response to this already.

  11. Ralph says:

    Taichi,

    Re: your defense of Quentin Smith, how do you counter the objection that while a logically determined (to be good) but internally and externally free creature can avoid all moral evil, only creatures that have omniscience could possibly avoid surd evil ?

  12. TaiChi says:

    @Bryce Laliberte
    Well, if you care to share it, I’m all ears.

    @Ralph
    I don’t know what you mean by ‘surd evil’, but my initial reaction to the problem you raise is that if it takes omniscience to avoid evil, then there’s no reason why God couldn’t give his creatures omniscience. Is there some paper you’re referring to here, that I’ve yet to read?

    • Bryce Laliberte says:

      I’m in the process of rewriting it, working through some drafts with some friends of mine. When I’ve got a finished product, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  13. Ralph says:

    @Taichi,

    surd evil – just a fancy way of saying natural evil

    Meggan Payne and Keith Sims
    http://personal.bellevuecollege.edu/wpayne/the%20problem%20of%20evil.htm

  14. TaiChi says:

    Thanks for that, Ralph.

    One reply to [the suggestion that non-omniscient creatures would not know all the results of their actions, and so may unintentionally cause surd evil, even if they are logically determined] might be that God could have made his creatures omniscient and logically determined. However, this will not work. God cannot make his creatures omniscient because they are necessarily finite by virtue of their having been created. Created entities are contingent and therefore finite by nature. So, since any created being will be necessarily finite in nature, this would prohibit them from being infinite in knowledge. Hence, they cannot be both logically determined and omniscient.

    I think this is poor. First, because God’s being limited to the making of finite creatures appears to contradict his omnipotence. Second, because what “infinite” and “finite” mean in this context desperately needs spelling out to establish the point, and this is not done. Third, because I suspect that any plausible explication of “infinite” and “finite” will invalidate the inference from finitude in general to a lack of inifinite knowledge. And fourth, because there is at least two obvious workarounds here: (i) since creatures would only need to know a finite number of facts relevant to the choice under deliberation at any given moment, God could directly inform them with these facts at each moral junction, or (ii) God could instill a sensus moralitus that unerringly informed humans of the moral value of their actions.

    Furthermore, even if one supposes that it is logically possible for God to create a world with free creatures that always choose the good, it may still be the case that such a world is not feasible based upon contingent facts about the interconnected nature of our universe.

    Surely if those facts concerning the interconnectedness of the universe are contingent, then God need not actualize them. He could instead create a universe where no facts depend on one another, e.g. the universe of logical atomism, or a universe only weakly interconnected.

    One might argue that God allowed evil because he knew that it would ultimately bring about a greater good. We think it is likely that only in a world containing evil would God’s creatures be emotionally moved in such a way as to come to a belief in him.

    This falls to the general pattern sketched in the post: Is an “emotionally enlivened belief” in the existence of God a good, let alone a greater good? That depends on the answer to another question: does God essentially have “an emotionally enlivened belief” in his own existence? I’d say not, but let’s say that he does: then it is possible that he should have this belief in the absence of any evil, for it is possible that God should exist without anything else existing, and God instantiates all good-making properties without instantiating any evil-making properties. From this it follows that the proposed good does not entail the existence of evil. But only a good which entailed the existence of evil would be suitable for the purposes of theodicy. Therefore this good of emotionally enlivened belief cannot be successfully employed in theodicy. And so the proposal of Payne and Sims fails.

    The actuality of evil brings about a knowledge of evil that is personal, and such knowledge can move a person toward the contemplation of God in a way that a mere conception would not have moved them.

    Perhaps they believe this, but I just find this ridiculous. Well, even if my argument above didn’t work, this solution would at best save a heterodox brand of theism: it is traditionally held that one can experience God in a way that instills passionate belief thereafter. So heterodox, in fact, that I can’t think of a single varietal of theism which denies the claim.

    • Ralph says:

      “The actuality of evil brings about a knowledge of evil that is personal, and such knowledge can move a person toward the contemplation of God in a way that a mere conception would not have moved them.”

      This is also poor. Doesn’t this reduce to all evil being necessary? That’s a very strong claim supported only by the mere possibility that the actuality of evil will move a person toward the contemplation of God that NO OTHER thing can accomplish. I don’t see how that undermines your argument.

      • TaiChi says:

        Yes, I agree. And these are strong claims – to argue for the possibility that some good entails evil is to argue for a necessary truth, which is about as strong as it gets.

  15. TaiChi says:

    Footnote added.

  16. cl says:

    Well, I’ve read the argument again, this time fresh off it for well over a month, and… the same problems arise for me. For brevity, I’m going to use the term “omni-3” to refer to the qualities of omniscience, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence. As a general criticism, I think simpler language would help maximize clarity, but at the same time, I respect any writer’s decision to use the language that they think most closely approximates their intentions. Still, you’re going to have to bear with me paraphrasing your premises so I can be sure I understand them as you intend them to be understood.

    You write,

    According to Plantinga, “a being properly eliminates an evil state of affairs if it eliminates that evil without either eliminating an outweighing good or bringing about a greater evil”2. But this notion appears to be inadequate, for it seems to be consistent with unjustifiable evil existing in the world, so long as God eventually gets around to dispensing with it. A fortiori, Plantinga’s formulation places no restriction on what God creates, good or evil. By contrast, the requirement that God should deny existence to every evil does restrict the scope of what God would create and allow3.

    If “God should deny the existence of every evil” is part of your argument, I deny that premise. When you make that adjustment, you impose upon God a restriction that does not logically follow from an omni-3 God. To me, Plantinga’s formulation is correct. You need to provide a reason why an omni-3 God ought to deny the existence of evil in the across-the-board manner you postulate here.

    Your argument:

    (1) If God exists, then God is an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.
    (2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being denies existence to every evil-making property whose existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
    (3) Every evil-making property is such that its existence is not entailed by some greater good-making property.
    (4) Therefore, if God exists, every evil-making property is such that God denies it existence.
    (5) Evil-making properties exist (since evil exists).
    (6) If God exists, then some evil-making property exists and it is the case that God denies it existence (which would be contradictory).
    (7) Therefore, God does not exist.

    This is just a minor quibble, but I don’t accept (1) as you’ve worded it. I think (1) should simply read, “An omni-3 God exists,” because all kinds of other gods could exist which to me seems to nullify the “if / then” structure of the premise, but that’s only a minor point which won’t impact my overall reaction to your argument.

    If I’m understanding (2) the way you intend, it breaks down to something like, “God won’t allow evil unless for the sake of a greater good.” If that’s what (2) intends, I agree to it.

    If I’m understanding (3) the way you intend, it breaks down to something like, “No evil can be followed by a greater good.” If that’s what (3) intends, I deny it and would further reply that you’ve simply asserted it and not met the burden of proof. Alas, let’s turn to the sub-argument for (3).

    (A) God exists. (Assumption)
    (B) If God exists, 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.

    Obviously, I accept A. I also accept B, but fail to see its relevance to the sub-argument for (3). I also accept C as stated. I also accept D, but again, I fail to see its relevance to the sub-argument for (3). E would be true only in the context of God existing alone, without the complexities of any other beings able to instantiate GMP’s or EMP’s. However, that is in fact not the world we live in. IOW, your argument would only work for a God proffered to be all alone, and instantiating both GMP’s and EMP’s. Again, not the case. Another way to summarize my initial objection would be to say that your argument assumes that God exists in a vacuum, when, such is not the case.

    BTW, Ralph echoed a few of my other concerns, i.e., there is no way to end up with sentient beings that freely and consciously reject evil without allowing all sentient beings to chose between good and evil.

  17. cl says:

    IOW, I tend to accept the premise you call “ridiculous” and Ralph calls “poor.”

  18. TaiChi says:

    Hi cl.Thanks for your comment.

    As a general criticism, I think simpler language would help maximize clarity, but at the same time, I respect any writer’s decision to use the language that they think most closely approximates their intentions.

    Maybe. I tend to think simpler language would make the post over-long, and detract from clarity by spacing out the points which make up the whole. At least, if I wrote it, that’s how it’d turn out. (Observe the length of this comment).

    If “God should deny the existence of every evil” is part of your argument, I deny that premise. When you make that adjustment, you impose upon God a restriction that does not logically follow from an omni-3 God. To me, Plantinga’s formulation is correct. You need to provide a reason why an omni-3 God ought to deny the existence of evil in the across-the-board manner you postulate here.

    I really don’t think this is controversial – in fact I’m quite sure Plantinga would agree with me that God would not tolerate superfluous evils, which any non-greater-good-entailing-evil of finite lifespan would be. So, I guess I need to ask you what sort of counterexample you have in mind – is there some evil which you think God might create or allow, which served no greater purpose, but which he would eventually snuff out (as Plantinga’s (19c) requires)?

    This is just a minor quibble, but I don’t accept (1) as you’ve worded it. I think (1) should simply read, “An omni-3 God exists,” because all kinds of other gods could exist which to me seems to nullify the “if / then” structure of the premise, but that’s only a minor point which won’t impact my overall reaction to your argument.

    I certainly wouldn’t say “An omni-3 God exists”, for that is what I’m trying to disprove. Moreover, the possibility of other gods doesn’t matter a whit, for the argument is not intended to address those who believe in lesser gods.

    If I’m understanding (2) the way you intend, it breaks down to something like, “God won’t allow evil unless for the sake of a greater good.” If that’s what (2) intends, I agree to it.

    Yes. I’m glad you agree to it now, even after telling me that you denied it (above).

    If I’m understanding (3) the way you intend, it breaks down to something like, “No evil can be followed by a greater good.” If that’s what (3) intends, I deny it and would further reply that you’ve simply asserted it and not met the burden of proof. Alas, let’s turn to the sub-argument for (3).

    Really? You’re going to say that I’ve made a bare assertion, and then in the very next sentence recognize that I have provided a sub-argument for the premise? Was there something other than an argument you expected me to provide?

    Obviously, I accept A. I also accept B, but fail to see its relevance to the sub-argument for (3). I also accept C as stated. I also accept D, but again, I fail to see its relevance to the sub-argument for (3).

    Reading things like this make me think that you’ve never come across philosophy before: the relevance of (B) and (D) to establishing (3) is plainly spelt out in the sub-argument, and anyone familiar with philosophy should be able to see that. Moreover, I provide a rundown which shows exactly how they are related to each other. So it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re just trying to be contrary here, given that I know you are familiar with philosophy.

    Moving on: (B) is obviously relevant to the sub-argument if (D) is. Why? Because I use (B), along with (A) and (C), to establish (D). How so? Well, suppose (A) is true: then the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true. But if the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true, then their consequents must also be true. That is, it is true that “it is possible that [God] should exist, without any other thing existing” and true that “[God] instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties”. But if both these things are true, they are true together: the God described as possibly existing in the absence of anything else is one and the same as the God who instantiates all GMPs and no EMPs. And that’s just what (D) says – it takes the two consequents and expressly formulates them as applying to the same being.
    Ok, so how is (D) relevant? Because I need to establish (E), and it entails (E). But how do we know the latter? Well, we can use a proof by contradiction: we can suppose that (D)→(E) does not hold, and see if this leads to a contradiction. If so, (D)→(E) will be false only if a contradiction is true, which is to say, never. Whatever is never false is always true, so (D)→(E) would be always true, hence it would be true. So, let’s follow that method.
    First, we need to know when (D)→(E) is false. According to classical logic, that only occurs when (D) is true, and (E) if false. So we’ll suppose that (E) is actually false, such that there is some GMP which entails an EMP. But if there is a GMP which entails an EMP, then the EMP must exist if the GMP does, for (again) classical logic tells us that the entailment (GMP)→(EMP) is false where the antecedent is true and the consequent is false. So we’re supposing that if the GMP in question existed, some EMP would also exist.
    Now recall that our method required us to assume (D) to be true as well. (D) says that, possibly, God alone exists and instantiates all GMPS, and no EMPs. Yet if (in the possibility described) God instantiates all GMPs, then he must instantiate the GMP we’ve just been discussing. Therefore, given the entailment of that GMP, we can infer that some EMP exists as well. But a property must attach to an existant – it must apply to some existing object – and according to the hypothesis, the only available existant is God. And so we have our contradiction: (in the possibility described) God does not instantiate any EMP (according to (D)), and God instantiates at least one EMP (according to the denial of (E)). A contradiction is never true, and (D)→(E) is only false if that contradiction is true, thus, (D)→(E) is never false. Whatever is never false is always true, so (D)→(E) is always true, hence it is true.
    That, together with the truth of (D), gets us to (E) – which, I take it, you see as relevant.

    E would be true only in the context of God existing alone, without the complexities of any other beings able to instantiate GMP’s or EMP’s.

    I’m not convinced you understand what entailment is. If a GMP entails an EMP, then in all possible worlds where the GMP exists, the EMP exists as well. Conversely, if there is some (at least one) possible world in which a GMP exists in the absence of the EMP, then that GMP does not entail the EMP. So this isn’t the kind of relation that can be true at one world and false at others. It is a modal relation, which is either necessarily true or necessarily false.
    And it’s that modal character which allows me to draw such significant conclusions from a mere possibility: it is only because entailments are necessarily true or necessarily false that my showing (GMP)→(EMP) to be false (for all GMPs, and all EMPs) at one possible world can allow me to infer the falsehood of (GMP)→(EMP) at all possible worlds.

    BTW, Ralph echoed a few of my other concerns, i.e., there is no way to end up with sentient beings that freely and consciously reject evil without allowing all sentient beings to chose between good and evil.

    And I suppose that is a GMP? Ok, fine: all sentient beings choose between good and evil. Now what? How does this fact help you? If it is a GMP, then God also chooses between good and evil. But God obviously never chooses evil, due to his necessary goodness. So this choosing between good and evil need not lead to evil, and, when paired with necessary goodness, never does. Therefore God need not run the risk of evil if he creates beings who are necessarily good. In fact, it’d be a kind of moral negligence to create free beings who weren’t necessarily good, given that so much suffering could be avoided by his instilling rectitude in his subjects. But, as we all know, God could not be guilty of such negligence – therefore, if he exists, he would create necessarily good free beings. But such are not us, and so God doesn’t exist.

    IOW, I tend to accept the premise you call “ridiculous” and Ralph calls “poor.”

    It may be true in your own case, that the experience of evil bolsters your theism – I don’t find that surprising. What I find ridiculous is that this is supposed to be a general psychological fact, when anyone who recognizes the existence of sincere atheists will know that it can have the opposite effect. Worse, in order for Payne and Sims argument to do the job, this general psychological fact must be not only actual, but necessarily true – else God has alternative options. Still worse, allowing evil in the world must be the only way to bring about an ’emotionally motivated belief in God’. But why think that? Why think that it is necessarily true, for example, that giving people amazing religious experiences would fail to achieve the emotional commitment sought? Pretty much every religious tradition which subscribes to the omni-3 God denies that claim, and I think we can at least grant that these denials are possibly true, which would refute the necessary claim.
    So, keep in mind that this is not a humble local claim. It is an extreme modal claim, which characterizes the entirety of modal space. As such, much more needs to be said for it than Payne and Sims’ arbitrary personal judgment that it is “likely”.

  19. Ralph says:

    “BTW, Ralph echoed a few of my other concerns, i.e., there is no way to end up with sentient beings that freely and consciously reject evil without allowing all sentient beings to chose between good and evil.”

    FWIW, that was not my concern. I was concerned about the possible emergence of natural evil that can be brought about by creatures lacking a complete understanding of all moral choices even when they are logically determined to be good. My thinking is that removing the material plane seriously limits any natural evil that can be brought about by incomplete knowledge. Payne and Sims seem to think that avoiding natural evil requires Omniscience. Taichi offered a plausible work-around that does not require Omniscience. I’m satisfied that his work-around actually works.

  20. Mike Young says:

    You said this:

    Plainly, we can appropriately call something like suffering “evil-making”. That is, we can predicate ‘evil-making’ of some state of affairs which includes suffering. But each predicate has a corresponding property in virtue of which the predication is correctly made. And a property corresponding to the predication of ‘evil-making’ would be an evil-making property. So, again on the assumption that the predication of ‘evil-making’ is legitimate, I can legitimately talk of ‘good and evil-making properties’.

    This sentence has a whole bunch of confusion in it.

    Ill go through it in the following way”

    1.Plainly, we can appropriately call something like suffering “evil-making”.

    response: yes, but you cannot call it a property. Suffering is not a property by definition.

    2.”That is, we can predicate ‘evil-making’ of some state of affairs which includes suffering. But each predicate has a corresponding property in virtue of which the predication is correctly made.”

    Response:You might be able to predicate suffering to someone, but that does not mean that there is a corresponding property…if you think there is then you have just re-written 100 years or so of work in symbolic logic. (see “the Logic Book,” by Merrie Bergmann, James Moor, and Jack Nelson for a fuller discussion of this) You can predicate lots of things to objects that are not properties IE actions. Actions are not properties, they might have properties but they are not properties. Whatever is being predicated might have properties, but is is an error to think that because something has a property that it IS a property or that there is a corresponding property.
    Here is an example. Bob is married to Jane. That is a two place predicate expressing a relation between bob and Jane, but Marriage is not a property, nor is there a property of being married. Marriage (whatever it is) is not a property, it is a relation.the relation might have properties (IE it has the property of temporality,) that is, it exists in time and is non-infinite ending either in divorce or when of either bob or jane dies.

    And if all that doesn’t convince you, you will be happy to know that if for every predicate there is a corresponding property then properties would be subject to the Russel paradox rendering them incoherent.

  21. TaiChi says:

    @ Mike Young
    ..if you think there is then you have just re-written 100 years or so of work in symbolic logic. (see “the Logic Book,” by Merrie Bergmann, James Moor, and Jack Nelson for a fuller discussion of this)

    I don’t have access to this, so I can only go off of what you’ve written.

    You can predicate lots of things to objects that are not properties IE actions. Actions are not properties, they might have properties but they are not properties.

    That’s not obvious to me. If John is running at t1, then I take it John has the property of running at t1. Nothing seems deficient about that last sentence.

    Here is an example. Bob is married to Jane. That is a two place predicate expressing a relation between bob and Jane, but Marriage is not a property, nor is there a property of being married.

    The term ‘property’ has narrow and wide uses, and the wide use covers relations like ‘being married’. The SEP article on properties explictly informs the reader that it will be using ‘property’ in the wide sense. More directly, here’s the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy on that:

    property n I in a wide sense, a quality, attribute or characteristic that belongs to something. In language, properties are expressed by predicates. In a narrower sense, properties are distinguished from relations: they are attributes designated by a non-relational predicate. Aristotle reserved the term for those attributes which are non-essential but belong to all members of a species.

    So you can take it that I employ ‘property’ in this wide sense. I suspect your book employs the narrow sense, in order to make distinctions useful to the particular arguments of the authors, but both are current in philosophy.

    And if all that doesn’t convince you, you will be happy to know that if for every predicate there is a corresponding property then properties would be subject to the Russell paradox rendering them incoherent.

    That’s if you accept that Russell’s example employs a genuine predicate – I don’t. You can find a defense of that position here.

    In any case, I don’t think your comments help the theist, since those theists who sign up to the perfect-being theology referenced in the argument are not going to take a relational view of good and evil. I mean, I am myself an error-theorist as regards moral value, but that’s simply not relevant to the above argument which is directed at persons with quite different opinions than my own. I’m not sure our dispute here has any purpose.

  22. Mike Young says:

    You said :
    That’s not obvious to me. If John is running at t1, then I take it John has the property of running at t1. Nothing seems deficient about that last sentence.”

    Call that sentnece one

    Don’t take the grammatical form of a sentence, or the way a sentence hits your ear, as confirmation that something is either true or false.There is nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence “the letter ‘o’ is half an inch tall” and if someone thought that the letter ‘o’ was the things that I find in the cheerios they might be tempted to look at my cereal and think that the sentence “the letter ‘o’ is half an inch tall” is correct. In fact that sentence contains a conceptual confusion. As does your sentence one.

    Properties in the wide sense cannot be used the way they are being used in your argument. your argument requires the narrow sense of the term. Here is why:

    My knowing my father is a certain type of relation between me and my father. Suppose you say I have the property of knowing my father, and I also have the property of not knowing the thief. That seems fine and there is no contradiction there.
    However, you are taking relation to be properties, and if there is a relation between me and my dad then if I have a property of knowing him then he must for the same reason have a property of being known by me. This again seems on the level. There is however, one problem:

    Consider the argument, I know who my father is. I do not know who the thief is. Therefore, my father is not the thief. Where did we go wrong?
    The premises may be true and the conclusion false if my father is the thief and so there must be a logical fallacy lurking in there somewhere.

    Lets look at the argument:
    Remember, on your account of properties, we would have to say that there is a property (watch this) POSSESSED BY MY FATHER of being known by me, because he is my father and I know who he is. At the same time (now really watch this) he would have to have a property possessed by him of NOT BEING KNOWN BY ME because he is the thief and I have no idea who the thief is. So then my father has two objective really existing properties that contradict each other and this is impossible. BTW reverting to sense will not help you. Remember, you take relations to be properties ,and properties are properties OF something.

    Your project falls apart when you misconstrue properties and relations. When you do that you get the absurdity one man having the property of being known by me and also having the property of not being known by me.

    P.S. your rebuttal to the Russel Paradox fails. Don’t go to the internet when dealing with technical philosophy. That guy is doing the kind of thing we do in 200 level Philosophy of Language and he is about 50 years behind the topic. Sorry.

  23. TaiChi says:

    @ Mike Young
    Don’t take the grammatical form of a sentence, or the way a sentence hits your ear, as confirmation that something is either true or false.

    I’m not. I’m showing you that you haven’t made a point by gesturing at actions.

    Properties in the wide sense cannot be used the way they are being used in your argument. your argument requires the narrow sense of the term.

    No, because as I pointed out to you, the argument is in any case addressed to people who will adhere to a non-relational view of value. You ignore this. Worse, you don’t even bother to make the case that value is relational, instead arguing for externalism about mental states. But I guess you want to make your point regardless of its relevance, yes?

    Consider the argument, I know who my father is. I do not know who the thief is. Therefore, my father is not the thief. Where did we go wrong?
    The premises may be true and the conclusion false if my father is the thief and so there must be a logical fallacy lurking in there somewhere.

    Lets look at the argument:
    Remember, on your account of properties, we would have to say that there is a property (watch this) POSSESSED BY MY FATHER of being known by me, because he is my father and I know who he is. At the same time (now really watch this) he would have to have a property possessed by him of NOT BEING KNOWN BY ME because he is the thief and I have no idea who the thief is. So then my father has two objective really existing properties that contradict each other and this is impossible. BTW reverting to sense will not help you. Remember, you take relations to be properties ,and properties are properties OF something.

    I don’t see why you think your view fares any better. If knowledge is a relation and not a property, then knowing who one’s father is implies the existence of a knowledge relation between yourself and your father. Equally, not knowing the thief implies the absence of a knowledge relation between yourself and the thief. But the thief is your father, and so you both have and do not have a knowledge relation with him.

    Actually, the real problem here is not with properties and relations, but with the way in which we represent mental states. That you describe yourself as knowing your father and not knowing the thief, and that this self-description is entirely natural, does not suffice to make it an accurate representation. What is further required is that the contents of the world which are used to characterize your mental states should be appropriate to the task, which one can well be ignorant of, since one can be ignorant of the nature of the world.
    And here is where the argument you give is inadequate. For most purposes, we can simply take people’s stated beliefs as their mental states, for their conception of the contents of the world is similar enough to our own that it makes for an accurate representation. However, when others conflate distinct items, we need to take more care in constructing their mental states. In particular, anyone aware of the fact that your father is the thief should not characterize you as both knowing your father and not knowing the thief, for the obvious reason that to do so leads to contradiction. Instead, other, more nuanced ways of describing your mental state will need to be employed. I’d attempt to do that for you if your example wasn’t so crude as to talk of knowing individuals, rather than knowing facts about them (I’m not entirely sure what the former entails).

    Your project falls apart when you misconstrue properties and relations. When you do that you get the absurdity one man having the property of being known by me and also having the property of not being known by me.

    Ask yourself: ‘if my arguments against taking relations to be among properties are so strong, why is it that the SEP and the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy recognize the wide notion of properties which I find so absurd?’.

    P.S. your rebuttal to the Russel Paradox fails. Don’t go to the internet when dealing with technical philosophy. That guy is doing the kind of thing we do in 200 level Philosophy of Language and he is about 50 years behind the topic. Sorry.

    Golly. It fails because it’s on the internets? And you want me to recognize your authority on matters of logic?

  24. Adito says:

    Sorry if this is based on a misunderstanding or has already been answered (honestly a lot of this is over my head).

    Can an EMP be an emergent property of an improper structure of GMPS? If your argument succeeds and God instantiated perfectly every GMP before starting creation then it seems to follow that these GMPs will exist in a certain pattern (the perfect pattern obviously <.< ). When these properties are used to create other things it doesn't follow that they will create the same structure. A perversion of the perfectly structured GMPs could simply be the definition of an EMP.

    Great article BTW, I'm still trying to completely wrap my brain around it. Keep up the good work!

  25. TaiChi says:

    Hey there, Adito.
    Can an EMP be an emergent property of an improper structure of GMPS?

    Sure, I think so. Certainly nothing in my argument denies it.

    When these properties are used to create other things it doesn’t follow that they will create the same structure. A perversion of the perfectly structured GMPs could simply be the definition of an EMP.

    Ok, so the idea is that a variety of creatures call for different structural arrangements than God has, and that this difference explains the existence of evil. That’s fine. But now the question becomes: why should God create beings with different structural arrangements than himself, given that these would give rise to evil? It cannot be due to any objective value that such beings would have, over and above similar counterparts arranged like himself, for God is apparently not lacking in any GMP being arranged as he is. And so, God would not create beings so structurally different to himself.
    All this seems to place some severe restraints on God’s options, it’s true, and I’m sure the theist would feel uncomfortable with my reply. However, that’s not my fault: I’m merely taking up the suggestion that many structural arrangements would entail evil. I don’t think anyone should be surprised by the fact that few perfectly good alternatives make for few divine options.

    Great article BTW, I’m still trying to completely wrap my brain around it. Keep up the good work!

    Thanks, Adito. I know the argument’s pretty abstract, but that comes with generality – I’m trying to cover all possible escape routes with it.

    • Adito says:

      why should God create beings with different structural arrangements than himself, given that these would give rise to evil? It cannot be due to any objective value that such beings would have, over and above similar counterparts arranged like himself, for God is apparently not lacking in any GMP being arranged as he is.

      Doesn’t this equal an argument about why God wouldn’t act at all? If He isn’t lacking any GMPs and no objective good can come from non GMPs it doesn’t look like God has any reason to act to achieve any end. The end with the greatest good has already been achieved.

      • TaiChi says:

        No, they’re different. For the purposes of the argument above, I’m happy to concede that God may have reasons for creating beings other than himself; I just require that the beings he creates should not instantiate EMPs if these are not required for bringing about greater goods (and then I argue that there are no EMPs which fit the bill, at least on theism). The kind of argument you mention challenges where I concede.

  26. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Alright TaiChi. Though my argument doesn’t directly reference your argument (because it was mostly written before I knew of your particular argument), I think that its substance also rebuts your argument. Here’s a link to my blog, with a link to the essay, because 1) its also a way of hosting a discussion and 2) I could use the hits;

    http://amtheomusings.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/update-of-many-worlds-theodicy/

    • TaiChi says:

      @Bryce
      Here are some issues with your theodicy:

      (1) Necessitarianism. The idea is that the objects which make up possible worlds include amongst their properties essential properties which tie them to their particular possible world. Whatever the motivation, it follows from this doctrine that whatever is logically entails what must be.
      To illustrate: I have a can of coke on my desk, and according to the doctrine, this object has an essential property which says that, if it exists, the coke only exists in this possible world. So the fact that the coke exists entails that just one possible world is the actual world, and thereby entails all the unique facts concerning the future of that world. This leads to another issue..

      (2) Moral incoherence. Suppose I am passing by a lake, and spot a little girl drowning in the waters. I have a choice: either to save the child, or pass on by. Suppose I pass by: then by the Necessitarianism which follows from your theodicy, there are no possible worlds in which I save the child. But if there are no possible worlds in which I save the child, then it is impossible that I should’ve saved the child, for that is just what ‘impossible’ means in the possible-worlds semantics. As ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, it follows that any moral imperatives directing me to save the child are false. Needless to say, that’s the wrong conclusion.

      (3) Free-will. The usual account of libertarian free-will is this: S is free with respect to action A in C just in case it is possible that S does A in C, and that S refrains from A in C – i.e. libertarian free-will is defined in terms of alternate possibilities. On your account, however, there are no alternate possibilities for a subject, since the subject will (say) perform A in C, and there will be no other possible worlds in which the same subject refrains from A in C. Given that, it doesn’t look as though anybody freely accepts or rejects God*.

      (4) A false theory of modality. You tie the success of your theodicy to a dubious metaphysical doctrine, that of modal realism. I think it’s accurate to say that, though philosophers can be remarkably tolerant of ontological extravegance, few think possible worlds exist concretely. A deep criticism is that..

      ..the existence of infinitely many maximally spatiotemporally interconnected aggregates has nothing to do with modality. If we found out that reality contains infinitely many maximally spatiotemporally interconnected aggregates, we would simply have learned that the actual world is richer than we thought—that it contains all of these island universes—rather than learning something about the space of possibilities.
      Here is a variant on the objection. Suppose that there exist infinitely many maximally spatiotemporally interconnected aggregates, and some of them contain golden mountains but none contains unicorns. It would follow that golden mountains are possible, simply because what is actual is also
      possible, but surely it would not follow from this fact that unicorns are impossible. And if there were only one spatiotemporally interconnected aggregate, namely ours, it would not follow that modal fatalism is true — that every actual truth is necessary. Yet on Lewis’s view, if no unicorns were found in any island universe, it would follow that unicorns are impossible, and if there were only one island universe, it would follow that every actual truth is necessary, since things couldn’t be otherwise than they are then.

      .. and I find it persuasive. Whatever the merits of extreme modal realism, I think it is at best an account we should adopt as a convenient fiction, and at worst, an account we should reject altogether. It’s certainly not a stable ground for defending the faith.

      (5) False dilemma. Finally, you say that it is morally permissible for God to create worlds which include the damned, if to create the world, God must create the damned along with the saved. This is true in the sense that, were God’s only options to create or refrain from creating a particular world W1, then it would be morally permissible for him to do so. But, of course, these are not God’s only options: he has the power to create an infinity of possible worlds, and, given this smorgasboard of alternatives, it seems likely that only those worlds “void of evil” would be permissible to create.
      Well, perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you think that, whilst creating a world without evil would be superogatory, God is not morally required to create the a world without evil. In that case, I’d point out that moral requirements aside, God is still a supremely good being, and this entails that the actions he performs are those that are maximally good. Hence, God would not create a world without evil even if it is morally permissible for him to do so.

      So, as far as I can determine, your theodicy not only leads to uncomfortable consequences, but fails as a solution to the problem of evil.

      * (Actually, the same goes for compatibilist views too, since these are also cashed out modally. It’s just easier to illustrate the point on one account.
      ** Or, if you think that God would not be required to create such a world, as this would be supererogatory, then I’d put it this way: given that God is supremely good, he would not create a world which was less than wholly good.)

  27. Shado says:

    Hey OP, mind telling me an example of an EMP? Because I’ve been thinking about it, and I think your definition of evil is flawed. It isn’t one particular action, but a combination of different motivations and actions.

  28. TaiChi says:

    @ Bryce Laliberte
    I’ll have a look at that tonight, and try to get back to you tomorrow.

    Shado
    I’m a little surprised to be told my definition of evil is flawed, given that I haven’t defined evil. And there’s good reason why I haven’t defined evil: the argument works for whatever definition of evil you choose, and I wouldn’t want to needlessly weaken it by tying its success to a particular view on the matter.
    But there’s one thing I should mention to you: ‘evil’, within the context of the argument from evil, is generally understood to refer to undesirable states of affairs, some of which occur naturally (‘natural evils’), and some of which are the result of evil actions (‘moral evils’). Sometimes philosophers will instead call it ‘the problem of suffering’, which is probably more accurate in today’s language, since most of the evils cited in its discussion are forms of human and animal suffering.

  29. Shado says:

    That makes no sense though.

    1) If you’re saying suffering is evil, that means fat guys exercising to lose weight are doing themselves evil.

    2) Suffering from cancer can be broken down into constituent properties – having cancer, and suffering. Someone can suffer without having cancer.

    Do you have any better examples of this? Because I was thinking that an evil-making property was something objectively evil that can’t be decomposed into constituent properties. What exactly is a “property” according to you anyway?

    • TaiChi says:

      Regarding 1: no. Suffering is one thing, losing weight is another. You can’t equate the one to the other just because you’ve noticed they correlate.

      Regarding 2: to suffer from terminal cancer is to suffer in a particular way, so no, this doesn’t break down into suffering and having terminal cancer. But if you find it easier, you can assume I said ‘suffering’.

      Regarding the rest: I’m really not interested in getting into discussion over what do and do not count as EMPs, since my opinions don’t matter to the argument. Nor am I interested in providing definitions of common philosophical terms like ‘properties’. If you are, then you’re welcome to use the ‘Resources’ links on the sidebar above. If you find something in contradiction to what I say here, I’m interested. If not, not so much.

  30. Mike Young says:

    I never said anything about a relational view of value. I have no idea why you brought that up. Non-relation views of value are irrelevant to the ontology of properties. Remember that my argument is that your notion of properties is invalid, not your notion of value, I never talked about your notion of value. So that is an irrelevant consideration.
    My view fares better then yours because your view (as shown by the example) requires that my father have two logically contradictory properties…which is impossible.
    Secondly, I am not talking about mental representation at all, that is another matter. I am stipulating in the example that I do know my father, that is, I know who he is.
    I have stipulated that to be the case for the example. Further, you claim :
    “Instead, other, more nuanced ways of describing your mental state will need to be employed. I’d attempt to do that for you if your example wasn’t so crude as to talk of knowing individuals, rather than knowing facts about them (I’m not entirely sure what the former entails).”
    Let me repeat: I know who my father is. I don’t know who the thief is, this is a set of facts stipulated in the example. This is not a description of my mental states. This is a description of the case about the world, and no amount of re-description is going to get you out of that fact. Given your view, my father must have two contradictory properties.Trying to drag in mental representation is a red herring here.

    Second I never said that the Argument you gave against Russles paradox was invalid BECAUSE it was on the internet, I said it was invalid because the view he is using was overtaken 50 years ago (see Searle and Austin for more on this as well as any modern logic textbook on the subject of predication). Further, I never said no one can construe relations as properties, I said the way your argument works requires that you take the narrow view for the reason given in my example.

    Digging your heels in wont help, neither will red herrings. Your stuck on this point.

    • TaiChi says:

      If you have no idea why I brought up the relationality of value properties, then you can’t have read the OP. I say there “I’ll call these GMPs and EMPs in what follows, and ‘properties’ will refer to these kinds of properties“. So the only properties relevant to my argument are value properties. Strike one: irrelevancy.

      your notion of properties is invalid

      Only arguments can be valid or invalid. Strike two: misuse of philosophical terminology, whilst claiming philosophical expertise.

      My view fares better then yours because your view (as shown by the example) requires that my father have two logically contradictory properties

      You still haven’t shown that your own view avoids contradiction, and so you haven’t shown that your view is superior. Strike three: basic misunderstanding concerning the nature of comparison.

      Digging your heels in wont help, neither will red herrings. Your stuck on this point.

      Sorry, you’re out. I’m not interested in discussing what you want to discuss, as it has nothing to do with the cogency of my argument. I would’ve been prepared to carry on, were your replies not peppered with comments like the above, suggesting that you’re not going to bother understanding the views of someone who disagrees with you.

  31. Obvious says:

    Evil can be used to support the Christian God existence. Evil is by no means illogical to the worldview of a Christian, much less to the existence of the Christian God.

  32. cl says:

    FWIW, I’m not reading other comments in the thread, so I apologize if I make a redundant point or miss a pertinent one.

    …is there some evil which you think God might create or allow, which served no greater purpose…

    No.

    …I’m glad you agree to it now, even after telling me that you denied it (above).

    I didn’t “deny it” above. You apparently misread what I said. To be clear, I denied the premise, “God should deny the existence of every evil.” That is different than the premise, “God should deny the existence of every evil that is not necessary to bring about a greater good.”

    You’re going to say that I’ve made a bare assertion, and then in the very next sentence recognize that I have provided a sub-argument for the premise? Was there something other than an argument you expected me to provide?

    No, you’re misreading again: the sub-argument doesn’t support it, hence, assertion.

    Reading things like this make me think that you’ve never come across philosophy before:

    Well, since it appears you want to trade shots, reading your argument makes me think you have a penchant for strawmen, but hey. Did that help you? No? Similarly, your shot didn’t help me, so let’s get back to the issues.

    Moving on: (B) is obviously relevant to the sub-argument if (D) is. Why? Because I use (B), along with (A) and (C), to establish (D). How so? Well, suppose (A) is true: then the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true. But if the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true, then their consequents must also be true. That is, it is true that “it is possible that [God] should exist, without any other thing existing” and true that “[God] instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties”. But if both these things are true, they are true together: the God described as possibly existing in the absence of anything else is one and the same as the God who instantiates all GMPs and no EMPs. And that’s just what (D) says – it takes the two consequents and expressly formulates them as applying to the same being.

    I wasn’t denying any of that. I understand the logical flow of an argument.

    Ok, so how is (D) relevant? Because I need to establish (E), and it entails (E). But how do we know the latter? Well, we can use a proof by contradiction: we can suppose that (D)→(E) does not hold, and see if this leads to a contradiction. If so, (D)→(E) will be false only if a contradiction is true, which is to say, never. Whatever is never false is always true, so (D)→(E) would be always true, hence it would be true. So, let’s follow that method.

    That’s all irrelevant because (D) – in fact your entire sub-argument – judges a God that exists in a vacuum. To paraphrase the first five premises:

    A God exists. (Assumption)
    B God could exist all alone.
    C If God existed all alone, God would do only good and no bad.
    D God could exist all alone, doing only good and no bad.
    E If God existed all alone, bad would never have to be tolerated for a greater good.

    Do you see where I’m coming from? God doesn’t exist all alone. Therefore, your argument has zero relevance to the relationship between God, humanity and evil as described in the Bible and this world we actually live in. All this talk of “possible worlds” simply obfuscates the matter, IMHO.

    Ok, fine: all sentient beings choose between good and evil. Now what? How does this fact help you?

    Could we select good over evil if good were the only option?

    Therefore God need not run the risk of evil if he creates beings who are necessarily good.

    God cannot create beings that are simultaneously “necessarily good” and “choosing between good and evil.” Those properties mutually exclude.

    What I find ridiculous is that this is supposed to be a general psychological fact,

    I never said anything about that, so, perhaps you’re reading into my words something that was not there. I don’t know what else to say. I’m down to continue but it seems like you’re getting frustrated with me, so maybe it’s better if I just split. If not, then I apologize for misreading you, and let me know where we go from here.

    • TaiChi says:

      FWIW, I’m not reading other comments in the thread, so I apologize if I make a redundant point or miss a pertinent one.

      No probs, carry on.

      To be clear, I denied the premise, “God should deny the existence of every evil.” That is different than the premise, “God should deny the existence of every evil that is not necessary to bring about a greater good.”

      I considered that interpretation of you, but then I couldn’t see why you’d bother denying the strong claim, since I never made it. Well, whatever, I know what you mean now.

      No, you’re misreading again: the sub-argument doesn’t support it, hence, assertion.

      Ok. I don’t think it’s fair to describe a view for which argument has been provided as ‘simply asserted’, but I understand.

      Well, since it appears you want to trade shots, reading your argument makes me think you have a penchant for strawmen, but hey. Did that help you? No? Similarly, your shot didn’t help me, so let’s get back to the issues.

      I wasn’t ‘firing a shot’: I was being frank. And I was only being frank because I think you can try harder. It’s rather frustrating, on my end, for you to say you don’t understand and to leave me with the task of trying to figure out why you don’t understand, when I’ve taken such care in laying out the argument in the first place.

      Do you see where I’m coming from? God doesn’t exist all alone.

      No, I don’t see where you’re coming from. I use the possibility of God existing alone to generate conclusions about GMPs, and whether any of them entail EMPs. I do not, anywhere, assert that God actually does exist on his lonesome. Therefore your insistence that God does not exist alone does not deny any of my premises, and so it is irrelevant. It just doesn’t engage with the argument I’ve given.

      Therefore, your argument has zero relevance to the relationship between God, humanity and evil as described in the Bible and this world we actually live in.

      Granted, all of this is going to sound weird if you try to fit what I’m saying together with the biblical God. But as Hermes always points out, that’s because the philosophical conception of God really isn’t anything like the philosopher’s God. Since my argument is against the philosopher’s God, I leave it up to you to decide whether these conceptions are unary, and so both fall the to the argument, or whether the biblical God survives it.

      All this talk of “possible worlds” simply obfuscates the matter, IMHO.

      There’s really no better way to talk about it, which is why the possible worlds analysis is so popular, despite ongoing controversy on what makes modal statements true.

      Could we select good over evil if good were the only option?

      I’m happy to concede for the sake of argument that we can’t.

      God cannot create beings that are simultaneously “necessarily good” and “choosing between good and evil.” Those properties mutually exclude.

      Then God is not free to choose, being necessarily good, in which case being able to choose between good and evil is not itself a GMP. So, a world in which beings freely choose good ever evil is not objectively better than a world containing necessarily good free beings (and may be objectively worse if necessary goodness is itself a GMP). And given that beings who choose between good and evil sometimes choose evil, to create a world with beings who choose freely over a world containing beings who are necessarily good is to run the risk of evil for no objectively justifiable reason. God would not run that risk (he is rational and omnibenevolent), and so he would not create that world. But our world is such a world, so God did not create it, and does not exist.

      I never said anything about that, so, perhaps you’re reading into my words something that was not there.

      The premise you endorsed was part of a theodicy, which Ralph had linked to and I was discussing with him. I therefore thought you were endorsing the theodicy as well. If not, I don’t know why you mentioned it.

      I don’t know what else to say. I’m down to continue but it seems like you’re getting frustrated with me, so maybe it’s better if I just split. If not, then I apologize for misreading you, and let me know where we go from here.

      Up to you. So long as you’re trying to understand it, rather than just expecting it to fail, I’ll try to answer your questions.

  33. Jared says:

    I like how you deleted my previous message. because you didn’t like its implications.

    • TaiChi says:

      @Obvious Jared
      Evil can be used to support the Christian God existence. Evil is by no means illogical to the worldview of a Christian, much less to the existence of the Christian God.

      I’m not terribly impressed by your say-so.

      I like how you deleted my previous message. because you didn’t like its implications.
      I like that you think your message was worthwhile deleting. Actually, I have to approve new poster’s comments in order for them to show. If it took awhile, sorry.

  34. Adito says:

    I think you’re right that my objection doesn’t get us very far. I’m still wondering if theists could manage to squeeze in something about evil emerging from only GMPs but I’ll leave that mind bending project to the wanna-be Plantingas among us.

    One last question. Do you know of any arguments concluding that Gods intentions are impossible to know or at least that our current conclusions about Him are unreliable? I was debating this recently and it would be interesting to know if it’s actually a decent topic among philosophers of religion.

    • TaiChi says:

      Well, there’s Steven Maitzen’s paper, Anselmian Atheism which is very interesting. Apart from that, I think what you’re looking for will be scattered about, but a good place to look would be in the literature on skeptical theism: skeptical theists argue that the apparent lack of justification for evil in the world isn’t good enough reason to assume the actual lack of justification for evils in the world, and a common atheistic response to this view is to argue that such skepticism invades other domains, including theology.

  35. Reidish says:

    TaiChi,

    Thanks for putting all this together. I’d say it’s a darn strong argument, and theists need to take it seriously. I reserve my comments on earlier threads as possible objections, but am still thinking this argument over.

    I think in response to my initial feedback, you developed an argument concluding that God instantiates all good-making properties. But I think it’s invalid:

    (I) God is a perfect-being.
    (II) A perfect-being instantiates every perfection.
    (III) A perfection is an optimal fulfillment of some evaluative dimension.
    (IV) So, God optimally fulfills every evaluative dimension.

    I don’t think (IV) follows from (I) – (III). What could also follow from (I)-(III) is:

    (IV)’ So, God instantiates every optimal fulfillment of some evaluative dimension.

    Furthermore, I’m dubious about (II). Suppose there is an evaluative dimension of being round. Well, a sphere and a circle optimally fulfill that evaluative dimension (they have to, of course). But no perfect-being theologian need commit themselves to the idea that God optimally fulfills this particular evaluative dimension. So I think (II) does not represent perfect-being theology, and can be rejected.

    • TaiChi says:

      Thanks for putting all this together. I’d say it’s a darn strong argument, and theists need to take it seriously. I reserve my comments on earlier threads as possible objections, but am still thinking this argument over.

      Thanks, Reid. I really appreciate that.

      I don’t think (IV) follows from (I) – (III). What could also follow from (I)-(III) is:

      (IV)’ So, God instantiates every optimal fulfillment of some evaluative dimension.

      Unless (IV)’ contradicts (IV), pointing out that (IV)’ follows from (I)-(III) isn’t sufficient to show that (IV) doesn’t. In fact, since (IV)’ is entailed by (IV), we would expect (IV)’ to follow from (I)-(III), wouldn’t we?

      Furthermore, I’m dubious about (II).

      If you prefer (IV)’ to (IV), then I think you’re right to look at denying this premise – without (II), we’d end up with (IV)’ instead of (IV).

      Suppose there is an evaluative dimension of being round. Well, a sphere and a circle optimally fulfill that evaluative dimension (they have to, of course). But no perfect-being theologian need commit themselves to the idea that God optimally fulfills this particular evaluative dimension. So I think (II) does not represent perfect-being theology, and can be rejected.

      Hmm. From what I’ve read on the concept of God for the argument, premise (II) is a fair statement of perfect-being theology (alas, I didn’t find anything succinct enough to support this by quote). If so, then the point you raise is yet another problem for perfect-being theology, in addition to my argument (my arguments do not fail just because the position I criticize has other flaws!).

      But let’s not stop there. I think you’re right that perfect-being theologians do not accept that God is spherical, and the reason why they do not is that they distinguish subjective ways of evaluating from objective ways. Whereas we can construct rules of comparison more or less at will, and find it useful to do so within certain contexts, the perfect-being theologian will insist that some rules of comparison are objectively true, e.g. it is objectively true that murder is worse than philanthropy (though a subjective comparison might turn up the opposite result, say, if we are comparing the actions most fitting an ideal villain).
      Hence, I imagine that the reply you would get from a perfect-being theologian is that your sphere/circle example does not employ a ‘natural’ or objective evaluative dimension – that is why they are not committed to the spherical or circular nature of God. With that in mind, I think my argument needs amendment as follows:

      (I) God is an objectively perfect-being.
      (II) A objectively perfect-being instantiates every objective perfection.
      (III) An objective perfection is an optimal fulfillment of some objective evaluative dimension.
      (IV) So, God optimally fulfills every objective evaluative dimension.
      (V) To instantiate a good-making property is to optimally fulfill an objective evaluative dimension – namely, the binary dimension which concerns the having or not of the good-making property.
      (VI) So, God instantiates every good-making property.

      A bit less elegant, but I think it works. Since I’ve already defined GMPs as being objectively good there’s no need to qualify ‘good-making property’ with ‘objective’.

      EDIT: Actually, I’m not sure that’s the best way to mark the distinction. Something closer to what a theologian would say would be this: There is absolute perfection, and then there is relative perfection. Various properties contribute to both kinds of perfections, and we call those properties which so contribute either ‘absolute perfections’ or ‘relative perfections’ according to type.
      All sorts of items may count as relatively perfect – a perfect circle is perfect relative to the criteria for circles, a perfect holiday is perfect relative to the criteria for holidays, and so on – and, for any meaningful expression “a perfect ___”, there will typically be some criteria of ___’s by which we can judge their relative perfection. Why? Because for most ___, there will be some semantic criteria according to which we apply the term “___”, and the more fitting an exemplar is to those criteria, the closer to being a perfect ___ the exemplar will be.
      But absolute perfection is different. What is absolutely perfect is perfect in a way which transcends local interests in the satisfiability of semantic criteria. Absolute perfection has nothing to do with fittingness, and everything to do with objective values. Though it looks as though the phrase ‘a perfect being’ is another instance of the schema ‘a perfect ___’, it really isn’t – the term ‘being’ is not here some concept to which perfection is being relativized, but is instead a term with minimal content which is used in reference to absolute perfection because it satisfies a grammatical requirement that ascriptions of perfection should have a subject. (Notice that if we take it as relativized, anything which exists would satisfy the description of ‘a perfect being’).
      So, the corresponding amended argument:

      (I) God is an absolutely perfect-being.
      (II) A absolutely perfect-being instantiates every absolute perfection.
      (III) An absolute perfection is an optimal fulfillment of some objective evaluative dimension.
      (IV) So, God optimally fulfills every objective evaluative dimension.
      (V) To instantiate a good-making property is to optimally fulfill an objective evaluative dimension – namely, the binary dimension which concerns the having or not of the good-making property.
      (VI) So, God instantiates every good-making property.

      Well, in any case, I think you can see the distinction I’m trying to make. But however it’s made, I still think you’ll find that I can run an argument off that distinction to support my conclusion.

      • Reidish says:

        Unless (IV)’ contradicts (IV), pointing out that (IV)’ follows from (I)-(III) isn’t sufficient to show that (IV) doesn’t.

        Quite right. I suppose I should have said that the inference to (IV) is not secure. In fact, re-reading it, I think (IV) simply doesn’t follow from (I) – (III). If instead we conclude (IV)’, then the argument doesn’t go where you need it, as far as I can see.

        I appreciate the care you’ve taken to amend the subargument. I do think I see better now where you are trying to go. Of course, I still don’t think your revised (IV) follows from your revised (I) – (III). Rather, (IV)” follows:

        (IV)” So, God instantiates every optimal fulfillment of some objective evaluative dimension.

        (IV)” is not equal to your revised (IV).

        Well, in any case, I think you can see the distinction I’m trying to make. But however it’s made, I still think you’ll find that I can run an argument off that distinction to support my conclusion.

        But after that better explanation, now I think you are bordering on not objecting to any theodicies are proving your conclusion. Why? Because the theist can take your definition of “good-making properties” and I think properly assess them as properties that only God has. The implication for your argument is that although the theist can now affirm (3), he can also maintain that a greater good can obtain if God creates a world with certain evils, which is to say that he can deny (2). This is because certain goods need not satisfy your particular definition of “good-making” and still be good – like providing for one’s children, for instance. But if the existence of these other goods entail the existence of certain evils, then (2) is false. What am I missing here?

      • TaiChi says:

        @Reidish

        Of course, I still don’t think your revised (IV) follows from your revised (I) – (III). Rather, (IV)” follows:

        (IV)” So, God instantiates every optimal fulfillment of some objective evaluative dimension.

        Well, that’s pretty much what you said earlier, so it doesn’t really get us anywhere. Perhaps the easiest way to go about persuading you is to mess with the argument again. So:

        (I) God is an objectively perfect-being.
        (II) An objectively perfect-being instantiates every objective perfection.
        (III) To each and every objective evaluative dimension, there corresponds an objective perfection, which is identical to the optimal fulfillment of that objective evaluative dimension.
        (IV) So, God optimally fulfills every objective evaluative dimension.
        (V) To instantiate a good-making property is to optimally fulfill an objective evaluative dimension – namely, the binary dimension which concerns the having or not of the good-making property.
        (VI) So, God instantiates every good-making property.

        Fine, now let’s test it. Suppose that (IV) is false, but that (I)-(III) are true. If (IV) is false, then there is some objective evaluative dimension that God does not optimally fulfill. According to (III), there corresponds to this objective evaluative dimension an objective perfection, which is identical to the optimal fulfillment of that dimension. But if the objective perfection here is identical to the optimal fulfillment of said dimension, then it follows from God’s not optimally fulfilling that dimension that he fails to instantiate the objective perfection. Yet (I) and (II) together entail that there is no objective perfection which God does not instantiate. And now we have our contradiction and proof of the validity of the inference.

        But after that better explanation, now I think you are bordering on not objecting to any theodicies are proving your conclusion. Why? Because the theist can take your definition of “good-making properties” and I think properly assess them as properties that only God has.

        They could, but it seems irrelevant to giving a reply: supposing that only God has GMPs doesn’t amount to an argument that it is necessary only he should have GMPs. All this move does is take the problem of evil to a new extreme.

        The implication for your argument is that although the theist can now affirm (3), he can also maintain that a greater good can obtain if God creates a world with certain evils, which is to say that he can deny (2). This is because certain goods need not satisfy your particular definition of “good-making” and still be good – like providing for one’s children, for instance. But if the existence of these other goods entail the existence of certain evils, then (2) is false. What am I missing here?

        Actually, I do recognize goods which are not themselves good-making properties, and I’m quite happy to allow that such goods can and do entail evils and therefore EMPs. But it is not enough, for the purposes of theodicy, that there should be such goods. It must further be the case that the goodness of these goods is inextricably linked to the evil which they entail, such that the goodness in them cannot possibly be had without the that evil. Nothing less will do. Hence, I’m not really concerned if a theist comes up with some good which entails evil.
        But let’s suppose that are goods of the kind you imagine. If so, by the definition of a GMP, it must either be the case that (i) your goods are not objectively good, or (ii) your goods can, unlike GMPs, be decomposed into constituent properties in virtue of which they are good. If neither (i) or (ii) applies, these just are GMPs.
        Going with (i) isn’t really an option for you. If you’re an objectivist about value, you’ll think that your goods are objectively good, and so will all the other perfect-being theists the argument targets. So (ii) it must be. But now we can ask: what are these properties which your goods can be decomposed into? If your goods are objectively good, and are so in virtue of constituent properties, then these properties would have to be objectively good themselves. Further, unless properties are infinitely divisible, then there will be some such objectively good properties which cannot be decomposed further into properties responsible for their goodness. And so it looks like any of your goods are going to imply GMPs in virtue of which they are good.
        So what you’re missing is that the goods you speak of are not separable from GMPs. Your goods are good in virtue of GMPs; they are not some other kind of good apart from GMPs. This being the case, their success in refuting a logical argument from evil depends upon the GMPs they include, and so if I can show that no GMP can do the job required for theodicy, I will have shown also that no good can do it either.

  36. Obvious says:

    I am not terribly impressed by YOUR say so, Taichi.

  37. Mike Young says:

    Actually, I did not misuse the term validity. Validity can be used in philosophy to refer to a few things. take for example this sentence from the “Pure theory of Law” page on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “The answer is that the legal validity of the Constitution of California derives from an authorization granted by the US Constitution.”

    Or take this sentence from the SEP from the page on Jurgan Habermas:

    “The complexity of social interaction then allows him to find three basic validity claims potentially at stake in any speech act used for cooperative purposes (i.e., in strong communicative action). ”

    See that? Validity can refer to things other then arguments. Don’t try to dismiss me by being pedantic. You know exactly what I meant.

    Secondly, what I said was not irrelevant, it was too the point, which you seem to be missing. The theory of value is not what I am attacking, nor am I attacking a theory of how things relate to each other,

    You also said:
    You still haven’t shown that your own view avoids contradiction, and so you haven’t shown that your view is superior. Strike three: basic misunderstanding concerning the nature of comparison.
    My view is not up for grabs here. But if it were then yes it does avoid the contradiction.let me demonstrate:

    You claimed:

    “If knowledge is a relation and not a property, then knowing who one’s father is implies the existence of a knowledge relation between yourself and your father. Equally, not knowing the thief implies the absence of a knowledge relation between yourself and the thief. But the thief is your father, and so you both have and do not have a knowledge relation with him.”

    This is confused, You have got to do philosophy slowly and carefully and understand how the philosophy of language works.

    Let us say that my father is X. By that I mean my father and X are the very same person.
    Let us also say that the thief is X, by that I mean that the thief and X are the very same person.

    On your view, my knowing who my father is means that there must be some new property that exists, namely, that X now has the property of being known by me.This also works for me not knowing who the thief is. If I do not know who the thief is then there is another new property namely that X now has the property of not being known by me. That is your stated view. You agreed to it when you said that any predicate has a corresponding property in virtue of which the predication is true.

    On my view the terms “my father” and “the thief” are different descriptions of X. Being my father and being the thief are not properties of X they are descriptions of X. (and don’t even begin to think descriptions are properties. Description is a linguistic matter) Being the thief means the following thing: X is the person who committed the robbery. Being my father means something like the following thing: X is the man who raised me and whose name is on my birth certificate and was picked out by the paternity test my mom took.

    Because the terms “my father” and “the thief” are descriptions (and not properties) When I want to know who the thief is, the question is this “which person is described by the term “the thief”? When I want to know who my father is I ask “which person is described by the term “my father”? So when I learn X is my father I am learning the referent of the term “my father.” When I learn that X is the thief I am learning the referent of the term “the thief.”
    There is no contradiction between me knowing the referent of the term “my father” and not knowing the referent of the term “the thief” because I can know what one term refers too without knowing what the other term refers to.

    The reason this is a problem for you is because you require that X both have and not have the property of being known by me. You have a set up which would require X to gain a new property by virtue of being known by me.

    But think about that for a moment. Suppose I don’t know X is my father, and then via a paternity test I come to learn that X is my father. I have learned something new but X has not changed in anyway. Nothing new is true of X (X was my father before I knew he was). All of X’s material constituents are the same. All of his actions are the same. There is nothing about X that has changed in any way, but on your view by virtue of being known by me there is some new property that is true of X even though x is exactly the same as he was before I knew he was my father. So now you have properties that are true of X which do not affect him in anyway at all. So then, in what sense are they properties of X at all? Well not in the same way that his age is a property of him, and certainly not in the same way that his height, mass, and width are properties of him. So in what sense is being known by me a property of X at all?

    Read that last part over a couple of times. If you have understood it you will begin to see the hole in your argument.

    • TaiChi says:

      I’ll give you the point about ‘validity’, though I think your use is almost wholly absent in philosophical writing and generally indicates a lack of logical awareness. As for the rest, it’s as irrelevant as ever. Perhaps you know you’re not being relevant, but want to argue anyway; or perhaps you sincerely believe you are being relevant, but are unable to see the irrelevancy of your reply. Either way, it’s not worth my time.

  38. […] at Omnis Affirmatio est Negatio, TaiChi provides an excellent and updated version of the Logical Problem of Evil. Ultimately showing that the standard philosophical accounts of theism are untenable as a result of […]

  39. Jared Tomson says:

    Mike Young has it right. Taichi has become illogical in trying to refute Christianity, and by extension doesn’t seem to get that people have come up with great answers to the good, old “problem” he seems to think is intractable for theism.

  40. Bryce Laliberte says:

    TaiChi, I think you’re misunderstanding my use of the word “world.” I don’t see how my “essential intrangentism” leads to your “necessatarianism.” The other issues play off this.

    • TaiChi says:

      Perhaps ‘Necessitarianism’ isn’t quite the right word, since you do allow that there are multiple possible worlds. But what your view does not allow is that any counterfactual claims concerning items in the actual world are true, since were the actual world changed in any way, the items which fill it would fail to share identity with those in the actual world. So perhaps ‘world-relative necessitarianism’ would be more correct.
      In any case, you still have the problem of a false theory of modality, and, most importantly, false dilemma.

  41. Bryce Laliberte says:

    I don’t see a problem with denying the truth of counterfactuals.

    I don’t see how modal realism is implied. I stated that each and every possible world exists at least as a potentiality in God’s mind, not that each has an existence as our own actual world does.

    You are misunderstanding the main thrust of my argument if you think I’m operating off a false dilemma. I am agreeing that God could instantiate a world free of evil yet with free will agents. But I am building up the discussion of possible worlds and essential intrangentism to demonstrate that, if God wanted someone to be saved, but that person belongs to a world in which there is evil, God would be justified to create that world in order to save that person.

    • TaiChi says:

      I don’t see a problem with denying the truth of counterfactuals.

      You can if you want, but it comes at a cost: prima facie, there are true counterfactuals concerning the contents of this world. But worse than that, it leads to morally repugnant conclusions and the denial of libertarian free-will. It’s also extremely ad-hoc.

      I don’t see how modal realism is implied. I stated that each and every possible world exists at least as a potentiality in God’s mind, not that each has an existence as our own actual world does.

      Yes, you said that. You also stressed:

      Before continuing, I must set forth an explanation of my terminology as regards possible worlds. A world, as I am using the term, means “a sum total of objects and events, called parts, of a respective non-overlapping instantiation.” By this I mean to show how I believe we could consider there to be multiple worlds, because when I say world I am not referring to the total sum of objects and events that compose all existing things, but a “pocket” of existing things that interact only with themselves but not other “pockets.” So, for example, there could be World A and World B, both of which exist as part of the meta-world, but do not, by reason of their metaphysically encapsulated instantiation, interact with each other, and so can be considered to have no import to the other except in theory.

      I’m not sure what this talk of a ‘meta-world’ means if you’re not endorsing modal realism, nor why “world” would refer to only a pocket of existing things, rather than their entirety. But okay, I’m happy to take your word for it and ignore this passage.

      You are misunderstanding the main thrust of my argument if you think I’m operating off a false dilemma. I am agreeing that God could instantiate a world free of evil yet with free will agents. But I am building up the discussion of possible worlds and essential intrangentism to demonstrate that, if God wanted someone to be saved, but that person belongs to a world in which there is evil, God would be justified to create that world in order to save that person.

      So, you want to tell the following story: each and every possible world exists as a potentiality (don’t you just mean ‘idea’?) in God’s mind, and if there is at least one such world in God’s mind which contains both saved and damned souls, then God is justified in creating that world. But justification is at least partly a matter of what options one has. It is a mistake to think that God would be justified in creating an imperfect world even if, on balance, that imperfect world is objectively good. Moreover, it would impugn God’s rationality if he did so, for a perfectly rational being chooses the better of those options he has, and a perfect world is clearly a better option than an imperfect world. So, even granting your weird intrangentism, you have no grounds from which to conclude that God would be justified in creating a world with evil over a world without.
      There’s something else too. The way you put it – that God wants some particular person to be saved – suggests that you forget the person you are speaking of is hypothetical, a potential person only. It makes some sense to say, if person A existed, God would want to save A, and would be justified in letting the future of that person’s world unfold if it led to A’s being saved. But I can make little sense of God’s having intentional attitudes towards hypothetical people, and what is worse, that he must’ve so favored one group of hypothetical people (i.e. the denizens of the actual world) over the infinite multitudes who inhabit other possible worlds such that he rationally preferred the actualization of this world (and these saved) to all others. It is partly because your theodicy only began to sound reasonable when you treated hypothetical persons as real that I was led to believe modal realism was part of your view.

      • Bryce Laliberte says:

        Then allow to make some additional clarifications, because this is only a matter of giving you a better interpretation of what I said.

        I would say there are no counterfactuals in the sense that when we consider a counterfactual we are considering the reality of a different possible world. If we ask “What if Hitler had gotten into art school?” we are not asking a question that could possibly be about this particular world, but about a different possible world that in reality is composed of only unique parts apart from the parts of our world. In this way do I mean there are no counterfactuals, though if we consider counterfactuals in the sense of their being logical alternative actions to what has happened or what will happen, to this I could agree.

        Further, I do not see that the question of free will has bearing here. I could quite simply point out that free will is the possession of a will which is individually responsible for what occurs, and point out that the parts of this actual world that occur because of me do not happen apart from my willing them to be, and any counterfactual possible worlds are via the choices of another person. I see no absurdity in this, if only a little paradox that is smoothed out by subtle reasoning.

        Also, if it is so grievous for you to follow along with what I mean by world in order to simplify a variable of a complex equation, then I point out you can simply substitute a different terminology so that it will not step on your inflexible toes and still arrive at the same place. If you do not want to allow me to use the word “world” to mean a “sum of parts that is a non-overlapping instantiation” then simply say “shworld,” because I’m sure that is easier on your all-too-incisive acumen. But I might end this part by pointing out criticizing my terminology doesn’t amount to criticizing the idea my terminology expresses.

        To your final criticism, I ask; should God refuse someone Heaven because another bounds himself for Hell? If you answer no, then you’re committed to the crucial premise of my theodicy, which is that, if God only able to instantiate a saved person iff He must also instantiate a damned person, He is justified to create the damned person.

        Proposing that God should only create the best world, under my consideration of worlds, would be the same as saying you know God should only create one world, rather than multiple worlds (remembering how I am defining “world”). I think that this knowledge is far beyond us, and that in fact it would seem better for God to instantiate more than one world.

        Again, if having to use a slightly altered definition of world hurts you too much or if you will simply choose to avoid the logical points because I used the word “world” for matters of practicality, say “shworld” and consider the ensemble of “shworlds” together the world.

        Lastly, I’m not forgetting that a person who is un-instantiated does not exist. Whether or not a person exists is not the question; whether God should refuse to create their particular world (or shworld) because some damned person exists in it also is the question I am posing.

      • TaiChi says:

        I would say there are no counterfactuals in the sense that when we consider a counterfactual we are considering the reality of a different possible world. If we ask “What if Hitler had gotten into art school?” we are not asking a question that could possibly be about this particular world, but about a different possible world that in reality is composed of only unique parts apart from the parts of our world. In this way do I mean there are no counterfactuals, though if we consider counterfactuals in the sense of their being logical alternative actions to what has happened or what will happen, to this I could agree.

        Sorry, but this is a fudge. There are no logical alternative actions to S’s doing A in world W1, if there are no other possible worlds in which S refrains from A and does something else. The sense in which you would agree to there being counterfactuals concerning the actions of free agents is a sense in which your intrangentism is false.

        Further, I do not see that the question of free will has bearing here. I could quite simply point out that free will is the possession of a will which is individually responsible for what occurs, and point out that the parts of this actual world that occur because of me do not happen apart from my willing them to be, and any counterfactual possible worlds are via the choices of another person. I see no absurdity in this, if only a little paradox that is smoothed out by subtle reasoning.

        To say that certain actual events do not happen without your willing them to be is to say that, were you not to will them to be, they would not happen. But the same is true of any other actual event: no such event occurs without your willing, because there are no alternate possible worlds in which your willing is absent and that same event occurs. Your intrangentism makes this trivially true.
        What is needed, if we are to have a coherent account of free-will, is some principled way of distinguishing between those events we freely will and those we do not. A Libertarian counterfactual analysis of free-will at least stands a chance of doing this, since it tells us that an agent is free if there are two possible worlds which are identical up to the moment of an agent’s choice, but which diverge from one another thereafter, due to the agent performing the action in one world and refraining from it in another. But you must eschew this account, and I cannot see what you are left with beyond brute facts concerning the nature of free-will and the events which such a will is responsible for.

        Also, if it is so grievous for you..

        No need to get defensive: I was telling you why I mistook you for a modal realist.

        To your final criticism, I ask; should God refuse someone Heaven because another bounds himself for Hell?

        God shouldn’t refuse someone heaven because another someone will be damned, no.

        If you answer no, then you’re committed to the crucial premise of my theodicy, which is that, if God only able to instantiate a saved person iff He must also instantiate a damned person, He is justified to create the damned person.

        I’m interpreting this: “if God must create a damned person in order to create a saved person, then God is justified in creating that damned person”. But the antecedent of that conditional is flatly false. There are multitudes, perhaps an infinity, of saved persons who could be created without the creation of damned persons. You admit this when you countenance possible worlds in which everybody freely accepts God – God can create the persons of these worlds without thereby creating evil. But if the antecedent is false, then the conditional is irrelevant: what God would or would not do when operating under certain counterfactual constraints cannot have any bearing on the kind of world we would expect to see precisely because we know that those constraints are not actual.

        Proposing that God should only create the best world, under my consideration of worlds, would be the same as saying you know God should only create one world, rather than multiple worlds (remembering how I am defining “world”). I think that this knowledge is far beyond us, and that in fact it would seem better for God to instantiate more than one world.

        Ok, so.. you think that there are multiple worlds which are actual, and God creates all of these worlds. All of these worlds which are actual would be justifiable for God to create (your insight from Leibniz’s modus tollens argument). Your explanation for why each is justifiable to create is that each includes saved persons, and you think that even those worlds which include damned persons are justifiable to create so long as they include the saved. Further, these multiple worlds are not themselves individual possible worlds (you reject modal realism).
        Is that fair? If so, then I’d like to point out that the whole can be described as a possible world. It is but one alternative of many, many others. Included among those other possible worlds are possible worlds where each and every ‘pocket world’ is perfect – some because they contain only one ‘pocket world’, and others because they contain multiple ‘pocket worlds’, all perfect. So, bluntly, God has better options. A perfectly good God would create, if not the best world, at least a perfect world. So God would not create the actual world, and so God is not actual, i.e. he does not exist.

        Lastly, I’m not forgetting that a person who is un-instantiated does not exist. Whether or not a person exists is not the question; whether God should refuse to create their particular world (or shworld) because some damned person exists in it also is the question I am posing.

        As above: this question is irrelevant, because whether or not creating such a damned person would be justified, God has better options that he would avail himself of, presuming he’s perfectly good and rational.

    • Mike Young says:

      God could instantiate a world free of evil yet with free will agents. False.

  42. Jared Tomson says:

    Maybe the posts of yourself are not worth our time, Taichi. You say that others lack logical awareness, but you yourself cannot be logical if that statement is true. Tell me, why do you hold that the problem of evil refutes theism so matter of factily? Is it because you read some atheist writings and was all like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, this guy is logical, I think he may be onto something?”

    • TaiChi says:

      Maybe the posts of yourself are not worth our time, Taichi

      Perhaps they’re not worth your time. None of your replies suggest that you’ve even read the OP, so I’m inclined to agree with you that you needn’t have bothered.

      Tell me, why do you hold that the problem of evil refutes theism so matter of factily? Is it because you read some atheist writings and was all like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, this guy is logical, I think he may be onto something?”

      Case in point.

  43. Matthew Hammerton says:

    Great paper! I have two suggestions to offer and one objection to push.

    My first suggestion is that in your definition of GMP’s and EMP’s you replace the rather loose term “objective” with something more precise. Two important distinctions that people are sometimes getting at when they talk of objective/subjective goods are the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction and the final/instrumental distinction. I suspect it is the latter you have in mind in which case your clause (i) should read: is finally (or non-instrumentally) good/evil.

    My second suggestion is that you replace talk of the existence of properties with talk of the instantiation of properties. The reason for this is that there is a disagreement among some metaphysicians about whether a property must be instantiated in a world to exist in that world. Those who argue “no” claim that we ought to allow the possibility of properties as existing in our world (perhaps in platonic heaven) even if they are never instantiated. Now if these guys are right then it is possible for God to create a world where EMP’s exist but are never instantiated. Furthermore, God preferring this kind of world to world where EMP’s don’t exist seems consistent with his omni-benevolence, which would make your (3) false. So, talking in terms of the instantiation of properties is preferable because it is neutral between the two rival accounts of the existence of properties.

    Now my objection is also related to the distinction between the existence of properties and the instantiation of properties. If we are evaluating a world for its total goodness, then surely what matters is not that every GMP is instantiated at least once and every EMP is never instantiated. Rather, what matters is that the total amount (and perhaps quality) of GMP instantiation outweighs any EMP instantiation. So, for example, suppose there are five GMP’s and five EMP’s. A world where each of the GMP’s is instantiated exactly once and the EMP’s are never instantiated is surely not as good as a world where the GMP’s are each instantiated billions of times and one EMP is instantiated once.

    Now you argued that there is a possible world containing God and nothing else, where every GMP is instantiated at least once and no EMP is ever instantiated. Granted. However, there are other possible worlds where God creates many complex things and thus allows GMP’s to be instantiated many times and (some of) these worlds seem to have greater total goodness than the lone God world you describe. But this means your argument fails. To get a logical problem of evil you would have to show that for any complex world containing both greater total goodness than the lone God world and the instantiation of some EMP’s, there is another possible world where no EMP’s are instantiated that contains equal or greater goodness.

    • TaiChi says:

      My first suggestion is that in your definition of GMP’s and EMP’s you replace the rather loose term “objective” with something more precise. Two important distinctions that people are sometimes getting at when they talk of objective/subjective goods are the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction and the final/instrumental distinction. I suspect it is the latter you have in mind in which case your clause (i) should read: is finally (or non-instrumentally) good/evil.

      That’s fair. Actually, I’d probably go so far as to say a GMP is objectively, intrinsically, and non-instrumentally good. All three qualifications ought be agreeable to the perfect-being theist.

      My second suggestion is that you replace talk of the existence of properties with talk of the instantiation of properties.

      Yes.. the reason I used existence talk in the argument was because otherwise I end up saying that God instantiates properties in two senses – that he instantiates them by embodying them, but also that he instantiates them by creating objects which embody them – which is confusing. I’ve not found the best way to express this, but yes, I take your point.

      Now my objection is also related to the distinction between the existence of properties and the instantiation of properties. If we are evaluating a world for its total goodness, then surely what matters is not that every GMP is instantiated at least once and every EMP is never instantiated. Rather, what matters is that the total amount (and perhaps quality) of GMP instantiation outweighs any EMP instantiation. So, for example, suppose there are five GMP’s and five EMP’s. A world where each of the GMP’s is instantiated exactly once and the EMP’s are never instantiated is surely not as good as a world where the GMP’s are each instantiated billions of times and one EMP is instantiated once.

      Now you argued that there is a possible world containing God and nothing else, where every GMP is instantiated at least once and no EMP is ever instantiated. Granted. However, there are other possible worlds where God creates many complex things and thus allows GMP’s to be instantiated many times and (some of) these worlds seem to have greater total goodness than the lone God world you describe.

      Yes.

      But this means your argument fails. To get a logical problem of evil you would have to show that for any complex world containing both greater total goodness than the lone God world and the instantiation of some EMP’s, there is another possible world where no EMP’s are instantiated that contains equal or greater goodness.

      No. The point of invoking the lone God world is not that such a world would be equal to or better than any other, but that its being possible allows me to assert that no necessary connection holds between the instantiation of any GMP and the instantiation of any EMP. The lone God world functions as a mechanism for falsifying theodicean hypotheses which postulate a necessary connection between goods and evils.
      An example might help. Suppose a theist responds to the logical problem of evil by speculating that the evil in the world is justified because it is necessary for knowledge of good and evil, and that this knowledge is a greater GMP. Then, an atheist can respond in turn by describing a possible world in which an individual has knowledge of good and evil, but where EMPs are themselves absent, for this will show that, to the contrary, evil is not necessary for such knowledge. The lack of necessary connection here has the wider modal consequence that we can treat knowledge of good and evil as independent from EMPs, and so we will be free to vary these independently of each other across possible worlds.
      Now, there may be many possible worlds to which the atheist could appeal to, if he wants to refute this particular theodicy. And one such world is surely the lone God world, since God apparently has knowledge of good and evil, and would have this in the absence of evil. But this counterexample world works for every theodicy, not just for knowledge of good and evil, because God essentially instantiates every GMP, and ex hypothesi does so in the absence of any EMP. And so what we have in the lone God world is a general counterexample to theodicy – not a counterexample in the sense that we have identified a better world which God would instantiate rather than this one, but a counterexample in the sense that it shows the atheist’s free recombination of GMPs and EMPs in constructing the space of possible worlds to be legitimate. Of course, if it is legitimate to construct the space of possible worlds in this way, then so is it legitimate to construct for every world containing GMPs and EMPs another possible world which contains the same GMPs, but which lacks the EMPs.

      • Matthew Hammerton says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Your argument is much more interesting than I first thought. Still I do have a worry related to the distinction between instantiation of a property in general and instantiation in particular cases. My worry is easier to explain if I use a specific example. Suppose that hedonism was the correct theory of the good which would mean that Pleasure is the only non-instrumental good and pain is the only non-instrumental evil. Further, suppose that there is no necessary connection between pleasure and pain – it is possible to have pleasure without pain and vice versa. Would it follow that for any world containing pleasure distributed in a particular way and also some pain, there is another possible world containing the exact same distribution of pleasure but no pain? You must answer ‘yes’ here. Indeed your argument assumes that if two properties are not necessary connected then there is no possible instance where one being instantiated in a certain way requires the other to be instantiated. But this assumption can plausibly be challenged. So, in the hedonism case, it could be that certain ways of distributing or realizing pleasure require the instantiation of pain. For example, perhaps there are some entities that in certain circumstance can only instantiate pleasure if some specific thing is instantiating pain (Side note: actually I don’t think talk of “instantiating pleasure” makes sense, for I think one needs to quantify over events to properly represent the relationship between an agent and an experience of pleasure. But my talk of “instantiating pleasure” can be treated as useful shorthand). The existence of such entities is compatible with there being no necessary connection between pleasure and pain and, a fortiori, with a lone God world being possible where God instantiates every GMP and no EMP.

      • TaiChi says:

        So, in the hedonism case, it could be that certain ways of distributing or realizing pleasure require the instantiation of pain. For example, perhaps there are some entities that in certain circumstance can only instantiate pleasure if some specific thing is instantiating pain.. The existence of such entities is compatible with there being no necessary connection between pleasure and pain and, a fortiori, with a lone God world being possible where God instantiates every GMP and no EMP.

        It is easy to conceive entities for whom the instantiation of pain in others causes pleasure in themselves (i.e to conceive of sadists). It is much harder to conceive of entities for whom their own pleasure would logically require the instantiation of pain in others rather than the appearance of their pain. The closest I can think of to this is a self-harmer, whose pleasure might logically require their own pain, since one might think that the appearance of pain in one’s own consciousness is equivalent to the experience of pain.

        In any case, let’s suppose such entities as you describe are possible. The relevant question is whether or not there is an alternate possible world which has just as much good as this one, but without evil; it is not whether there is some possible world with exactly the same distribution of GMPs as this one, but without evil. And, by the lone God world, we know that there is at least one kind of entity for whom the necessary connection between pleasure and pain does not hold – if pleasure is a GMP, then God essentially instantiates it, would do so in the lone God world, and would then do so in the absence of any EMP. Hence, we know that God can create a world with just as much good as your world of logical sadists, which lacks evil.

        I guess my loose talking of the “the atheist’s free recombination of GMPs and EMPs” is at fault here. What I mean is that the lone God world underwrites the postulation of any GMP in the absence of any EMP, not that the atheist can swap objects and properties in and out of a possible world with impunity. And just to make this clearer for you, I should say that not every theodicy is going to yield to the same treatment, despite the lone God world being a general counterexample: some theodices will fail because the connection between GMPs and EMPs is not necessary, others will fail because they do not identify a GMP which would justify evil, still others will fail because, though they identify justifying GMPs and a necessary connection to EMPs, they do so only by assuming some non-necessary and non-justifed constraint. As I say in the OP, if the argument is sound, all theodicies fail. Identifying just how each one fails, since they can fail in several ways, will be somewhat of an art.

  44. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Taichi, this is what I see you committing yourself to;

    “God shouldn’t instantiate a world (which terminology you use here doesn’t matter) in which any damned person exists.”

    The corollary to this is

    “God should refuse the instantiation of a saved person because a damned person must also be instantiated.”

    Let me flesh this. Suppose I will be saved and you shall be damned. According to you, God should have refused to instantiate me because you will be damned. Do you believe this is true?

  45. TaiChi says:

    “Taichi, this is what I see you committing yourself to;

    “God shouldn’t instantiate a world (which terminology you use here doesn’t matter) in which any damned person exists.””

    Yes, near enough.

    “Suppose I will be saved and you shall be damned. According to you, God should have refused to instantiate me because you will be damned. Do you believe this is true?”

    Almost. God should have refused to instantiate you because I would be damned, and because there are possible worlds open to God to create containing equivalent quantities of saved to our world, but no damned. If that last conjunct were false, then I’d go along with your argument. But it’s not false.

    • Bryce Laliberte says:

      So God should refuse to allow me the great joy of the beatific vision because you would choose to reject it? I simply don’t see why He should grant a right of veto to people who refuse Him. That’s giving in to extortion, and nothing I see that God in His omnibenevolence must do.

      • TaiChi says:

        God’s going to ‘refuse’ an infinity of possible persons the “great joy of the beatific vision” regardless, since by selecting the possible world he wants to create, he forgoes every other possible world, and all their saved with it. If you equate such ‘refusal’ with giving merely possible people ‘a right of veto’ over other merely possible people, then that is what he does. If God would then be ‘giving in to extortion’, then God does so.

        But that’s silly. Merely possible people are not refused, since only someone who is actual can be refused. Merely possible people do not have ‘a right of veto’ over others in their possible world, because it makes no sense to ascribe to possible persons a power that they can only exercise whilst they do not exist. Merely possible people cannot extort God, because to extort someone, a person first needs to exist.

  46. Jared Tomson says:

    No, Taichi. You haven’t even read any Christian responses to the “problem” of evil you are so dead on proving logically. LOL.

    • TaiChi says:

      You mean like Alvin Plantinga, probably the most famous contemporary Christian philosopher, whose discussion of the problem of evil I took as a template for my own argument?

  47. Bryce Laliberte says:

    Taichi, you’re going back on the terminology I’m using about worlds. Fine, so you don’t like it, I get it, but you certainly see that trading between my use of the word “world” and that which is its more common usage still doesn’t amount to demonstrating that my argument is wrong. On my terminology, God can instantiate multiple worlds, because of how I’m defining “world” for the purposes of my argument. Once again, I point out that you are free to refer to my definition of world as a shworld, but for someone who supposedly knows his stuff so well, making such a mistake is certainly beyond you.

    The extortion comes in that you are saying God should refuse to instantiate a person who shall enjoy the beatific vision because another shall refuse Him. I’m not mistaking a possibility for an actuality, and that isn’t what matters to the extortion account. I see that, if quite simply God wishes for person X to enjoy His beatific vision, but this would necessitate person Y’s damnation because that is what person Y freely chooses, there is nothing wrong with God choosing to instantiate that particular possible world (in my terminology, where God can instantiate multiple possible worlds).

    • TaiChi says:

      I don’t know why you think I still have a problem with your use of ‘worlds’. In fact, I’m baffled as to why you raise the issue. I’m quite happy to use “‘possible worlds” to denote (for example) maximally exhaustive and consistent sets of propositions, and to use “pocket worlds” to denote actual but causally isolated sections of reality. Really, there’s nothing I’m objecting to here: though I initially found your terminology misleading, I’m familiar enough to argue using it, so that’s what I’m doing.

      The extortion comes in that you are saying God should refuse to instantiate a person who shall enjoy the beatific vision because another shall refuse Him. I’m not mistaking a possibility for an actuality, and that isn’t what matters to the extortion account.

      This still doesn’t make sense. The possible person of Professor Moriarty cannot extort God, because Professor Moriarty does not exist. The same goes for every action: Moriarty does not sing to God, nor shoot him, nor confide in him… because to do these things, to enter into the relations that they imply with existing objects and persons, Moriarty would need to exist.

      • Bryce Laliberte says:

        So are you saying that God is free to instantiate damned persons so that He may instantiate those persons who enjoy salvation?

      • TaiChi says:

        Huh? How do you get that from what I wrote?

        I’ll give you an answer, though I think you keep asking the wrong questions: if there is a God, and God is free, and this means that God is free to perform morally unjustified actions even though he is necessarily good and cannot actually perform morally unjustified actions, then yes. If, on the other hand, God’s being unable to perform morally unjustified actions entails that he is not free to perform those actions, then no.

  48. Matthew Hammerton says:

    Let me just clarify what I was pointing out in my last post and how it relates to your argument. In your essay you say that all the premises in your argument from evil are uncontroversial except premise 3. You then go on to defend premise 3 at length but don’t discuss the other premises in any more detail. I have pointed out that it is important to distinguish between a property being instantiated at least once (which allows us to infer that it exists), and a property being instantiated multiple times. So, the goodness of a world is determined not just by the maximal (single) instantiation of each GMP and minimal instantiation of each EMP but also by the quantity and quality of their instantiation. But once we are clear about this, I think that your premise 2 no longer looks uncontroversial. For premise 2 to be plausible the follow principle must be assumed:

    P1. If two properties are not necessary connected then there is no possible instance where one being instantiated in a certain way requires the other to be instantiated

    But this principle seems controversial. There seems to be potential counterexamples (the kind of case I described) that could disprove this principle. By endorsing one of these counterexamples a theist could reject your premise 2 and hence escape your logical problem of evil.

    With this clarified, I can now respond to some of your points:

    “It is easy to conceive entities for whom the instantiation of pain in others causes pleasure in themselves (i.e to conceive of sadists). It is much harder to conceive of entities for whom their own pleasure would logically require the instantiation of pain in others rather than the appearance of their pain. The closest I can think of to this is a self-harmer, whose pleasure might logically require their own pain, since one might think that the appearance of pain in one’s own consciousness is equivalent to the experience of pain.”

    Your example is a good start. I also think that more could be said here to motivate other examples (including ones that employ free will and might be appealing to certain kinds of theodicy).

    Also, just to be clear, I’m not actually committed the claim that any of these examples work (i.e. are logically possible), I’m just pointing out that it is not obvious that they don’t work and this means that your second premise is not uncontroversial.

    “In any case, let’s suppose such entities as you describe are possible. The relevant question is whether or not there is an alternate possible world which has just as much good as this one, but without evil; it is not whether there is some possible world with exactly the same distribution of GMPs as this one, but without evil.”

    The relevant question for the success of your argument is whether P1 is true. In terms of the problem of evil in general, you are correct that the relevant question is whether or not there is an alternative possible world which has just as much good as this one, but with less evil. I think there are such possible worlds (and hence I think that the evil that exists in this world counts against the existence of God). However, I’m not sure if there is a sound deductive argument to the conclusion that such worlds are possible (although I haven’t thought about it that much). So, my basis for believing that such worlds are possible is that I think there is a strong inductive argument supporting such a conclusion.

    “And, by the lone God world, we know that there is at least one kind of entity for whom the necessary connection between pleasure and pain does not hold – if pleasure is a GMP, then God essentially instantiates it, would do so in the lone God world, and would then do so in the absence of any EMP. Hence, we know that God can create a world with just as much good as your world of logical sadists, which lacks evil.”

    But if P1 is false then the theist can argue that there are worlds containing evil that are better than the lone God world because in those worlds the quality and quantity of GMP instantiation is far superior to the lone God world, and worlds containing this greater good and some evil are better than the lone God world that contains a lesser good but no evil.

    One final point. You could resolve some of the problems with your argument that I highlight above by changing your premises 2, and 3 to the following:

    (2) An omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being will never allow an evil-making property to be instantiated in some circumstance C if its instantiation in C is not entailed by the instantiation of some greater good-making property.
    (3) Every circumstance where an evil-making property is instantiated is such that its instantiation is not entailed by the instantiation of some greater good-making property.

    With this modification premise 2 now looks uncontroversial and unobjectionable. But premise 3 is still controversial, and the sub-argument you gave to support your original version of premise 3 is useless against this version (i.e. the lone God example doesn’t work against this version for just the reason given above). Hence this modification would just be pushing the bump along in the carpet.

    • TaiChi says:

      P1. If two properties are not necessary connected then there is no possible instance where one being instantiated in a certain way requires the other to be instantiated

      But I’m obviously not defending this. In my last response to you, I conceded the coherence of counterexamples to such a principle.

      Your example is a good start. I also think that more could be said here to motivate other examples (including ones that employ free will and might be appealing to certain kinds of theodicy).

      I address potential free-will counterexamples in the OP, and my response to them was structurally the same as my response to your kind of counterexample: I say that although instantiating GMPs in a certain way may entail EMPs, instantiating GMPs in this way is not itself a GMP, nor is it necessary for God to instantiate GMPs in this way, and so a perfectly good God would not instantiate GMPs in this way. God has better options.

      The relevant question for the success of your argument is whether P1 is true.

      No, it’s not. That would be far too shaky a foundation to rest my argument on. What I argue instead is that, even supposing there are (say, to have a name) logical sadists, we further need a reason to think that God would create such entities over entitites whose existence does not ground that kind of unfortunate entailment. But there is no such reason, for by the lone God world, we know that instantitating GMPs in such a way as to entail EMPs is not itself a GMP, whereas it would need to be in order to morally justify God’s creation of logical sadists.

      But if P1 is false then the theist can argue that there are worlds containing evil that are better than the lone God world because in those worlds the quality and quantity of GMP instantiation is far superior to the lone God world, and worlds containing this greater good and some evil are better than the lone God world that contains a lesser good but no evil.

      Sure, there are worlds containing evil which are better than the lone God world. This is another point which I’ve already conceded to you. But the question is whether there are alternative worlds to these flawed worlds, which God would create instead of them. If God is morally perfect, then his actions too are morally perfect. But creating a flawed world when a perfect world of equal goodness is on offer is itself a less than morally perfect action, and so God would not create such a world.

      • Matthew Hammerton says:

        “But I’m obviously not defending [P1]. In my last response to you, I conceded the coherence of counterexamples to such a principle.”

        If you are not defending P1 then your logical argument from evil fails because your second premise is controversial and you have given no argument to support that premise.

        “I address potential free-will counterexamples in the OP, and my response to them was structurally the same as my response to your kind of counterexample: I say that although instantiating GMPs in a certain way may entail EMPs, instantiating GMPs in this way is not itself a GMP…”

        Where do you discuss this? Any second order property that has a GMP as one of it relata – e.g. the property of S instantiating the first order property P in circumstances C – is not a GMP simply by the definition of a GMP that you gave. I don’t see how pointing this out is helping you prove anything.

        “…nor is it necessary for God to instantiate GMPs in this way, and so a perfectly good God would not instantiate GMPs in this way. God has better options.”

        This is exactly what you have failed to provide an argument for. Your lone God example cannot help you demonstrate that this is true unless you assume P1. Of course, you may say that it is unlikely that God has no better options (and if you said this I would agree with you). But if you want to give us a logical problem of evil that you must produce a set of propositions such that: (i) the set is incompatible with the commitments of theism, (ii) a theist could not reasonably reject any of the propositions contained in the set. You have failed to do this.

      • TaiChi says:

        If you are not defending P1 then your logical argument from evil fails because your second premise is controversial and you have given no argument to support that premise.

        Why? I think I’ve handled your sort of counterexample well enough without appealing to P1, indeed, I’ve conceded it in order to show you how I think it should be handled. So why, having dropped the counterexample, are you persisting in saying that I need P1? What purpose would my endorsement of P1 serve?

        Where do you discuss this?

        Objections (II) and (III), more or less.

        Any second order property that has a GMP as one of it relata – e.g. the property of S instantiating the first order property P in circumstances C – is not a GMP simply by the definition of a GMP that you gave. I don’t see how pointing this out is helping you prove anything.

        It’s to forestall the objection that some special value attaches to the instantiating GMPs by (e.g.) logical sadists.

        This is exactly what you have failed to provide an argument for. Your lone God example cannot help you demonstrate that this is true unless you assume P1.

        Then suppose you are right. Suppose it is necessary for God to create entities who logically tie GMPs to EMPs. This is as much to say that God has no other options – that creating such beings is the only way for God to accomplish his goal of creating a good or best world. And the explanation for that lack of options can only be, observing God’s omnipotence, that these are the only kind of entities possible – were other kinds of entity possible, God’s omnipotence would ensure his ability to create them. Right? Let’s label that thought:

        (!) There are no possible entities whose existence fails to ground at least one entailment relation between a GMP and an EMP.

        Now look at (D):

        (D) Thus, it is possible that God alone should exist, instantiating all good-making properties and no evil-making properties.

        If (!) is true, then it must be true of God in the lone God world that that he grounds an entailment relation between a GMP and an EMP. But if he grounds such a relation, then at least one of his GMPs entails an EMP, and so an EMP exists. Yet as God is the only candidate for instantiating an EMP, this must mean that it is he who instantiates an EMP, which contradicts (D). And so we have a proof that (!) is false – there are possible entities whose existence fails to ground an entailment between a GMP and an EMP. But, remember, (!) was crucial to the proposed theodicy: unless it is true, there is no reason to think that God is limited to creating entities who ground an entailment between a GMP and an EMP. And so the theodicy fails.

        I feel I’m repeating myself here, but you haven’t given me much to go on. You’ve asserted that I’m committed to P1, when it doesn’t appear in my reply to you at all, and you’ve asserted that I’ve provided no argument for God’s having better options, which I have. The best I can do, if you’re still unconvinced, is to suggest you take a look at Quentin Smith’s paper linked in the Bibliography – perhaps you’ll find his way of explaining how the concept of God provides resources for arguing against a theodicy to be superior to my own.

  49. Bryce Laliberte says:

    But why should it be unjustified for God to instantiate those whom He wishes? On one hand, it doesn’t make sense to treat God by the same moral standards as we are under, and on the other, I don’t see why the principle of double effect doesn’t work here; if God doesn’t instantiate the world with person X who is saved, and God wants person X to be instantiated, then what should He, or we, care about those persons who damn themselves?

    You aren’t demonstrating why God should be precluded from instantiating those worlds with damned persons if He wants to instantiate those who enjoy salvation in that world. Yes, He could instantiate only worlds without damned persons if He wanted, but why must He only instantiate those worlds? Because the damned people will whine?

    • TaiChi says:

      But why should it be unjustified for God to instantiate those whom He wishes?

      I’ve explained why I think it is unjustified for God to instantiate a possible world containing both saved and damned, when he can create a possible world with an equivalent number of persons who are saved. As for whether it would be unjustified for God to do so anyway, if he so wished, I don’t think the question makes sense – God’s being perfectly good and perfectly rational logically precludes him from wishing such a thing.

      On one hand, it doesn’t make sense to treat God by the same moral standards as we are under..

      So God is not perfectly good, but only ‘perfectly good’, the latter being some (possibly empty) description which allows that God fail to meet the moral standards which apply to lowly human beings. Well, if that’s your view, I don’t know why you bother with the problem of evil at all: there is no problem for a God who is not perfectly good.

      ..and on the other, I don’t see why the principle of double effect doesn’t work here; if God doesn’t instantiate the world with person X who is saved, and God wants person X to be instantiated, then what should He, or we, care about those persons who damn themselves?

      In order for the principle of double effect to apply, one’s goal must first be justified. But I have been arguing that God’s creating a world containing both saved and damned over one containing only saved is not justified. So you beg the question with this response.

      • Bryce Laliberte says:

        I’m not denying that God could also instantiate those worlds without evil. That God could, however, isn’t the relevant issue, because you’re still arguing God shouldn’t instantiate some person A because some person B would be damned. I don’t see why God should let person’s B potential damnation preclude His creating person A so that he could enjoy salvation. You seem to believe its just obvious God should never instantiate a world with evil, but I don’t see what’s obvious about that fact, since I see that refusing to go forward to obtain some unique good on the basis of someone else’s evils is giving in to extortion (in a sense).

      • TaiChi says:

        Yes, I do think it’s obvious. Again, I’m not saying it’s obvious that God would refrain from creating any possible world containing both saved and damned as considered on its own, but that it is obvious that God would refrain from creating such a world if he could create an alternate world of equal goodness, but without evil. I feel I have to keep stressing this framing of the problem: as you describe it, God makes a very narrow decision about whether or not to instantiate a particular individual which he wants to instantiate, and the only question which comes after that is whether or not he would be justified to do so. As I tell it, God makes an incredibly broad judgment about what kinds of worlds are objectively preferable to others (a judgment which possible individuals will play a large role in), and God’s wishes about which individuals to instantiate are derivative of this wider judgment. I can’t help but think your conception of God’s decision-making process fails to do justice to the supreme rationality, omniscience, and justice of God: I think that God’s desires would flow from such qualities, whereas you seem to think of God as having a set of arbitrary desires which are only latterly constrained by the requirements of rationality, omniscience and justice.
        Is that correct? Do you think that there’s just no matter of fact about why God wants (or wanted) to instantiate some saved, who inhabit a possible containing the damned, as opposed to others containing only saved?

        You seem to believe its just obvious God should never instantiate a world with evil, but I don’t see what’s obvious about that fact, since I see that refusing to go forward to obtain some unique good on the basis of someone else’s evils is giving in to extortion (in a sense).

        My earlier complaints aside, I think this is a red herring. It is true that God shouldn’t give in to extortion, but what this means is that God should not act on the basis of the extortionist’s demands. It does not mean that God should refrain from doing something that he already had good reasons to do, simply because to act in such a way would be to act in accord with the extortionist’s demands (it would be absurd to suppose God should refrain from good acts if someone were to attempt to force him into such acts).
        In other words: extortion can be a bad reason to do a good thing, but one should do the good thing anyway. The question, as before, is whether to create a world containing only saved over a world containing both saved and damned is a good thing. As I’m arguing that it is a good thing, I’m arguing that God should create a world with only saved regardless of what the inhabitants of various possible worlds might do or think.

  50. Ralph says:

    Taichi,

    To get around the ontological defense(creation is necessarily not perfect, hence evil is necessarily attendant to it), is your LPOE committed (or possibly silent) to the proposition that God shouldn’t have created the material universe?

    • TaiChi says:

      I think that the defense (if sound) would sink my argument. I’ve been arguing that nothing necessitates God’s creation of evil, and the defense would flatly contradict that. Any paper in mind here? I’ve never seen this sort of defense worked out before, so I’d be interested to see how it goes.

      • Ralph says:

        Actually, I forget where I’ve seen an argument detailing an ontological defense though I’ve seen it baldly asserted (that privations necessarily exist in an imperfect creation and that it is a source of evil) a number of times because of its rhetorical impact. I could see how somebody compelled by this could look at your “sub-argument for 3″ and conclude that you’re committed to non-creation. Bear in mind that an “only-God-world” is distinct from all other worlds in that it doesn’t have any privation. I, however, am not convinced with this. I haven’t seen an argument showing that any privation is necessarily evil-making.

      • TaiChi says:

        I think the problem there is not going to be with privation being evil per se, but with it’s being necessary in creation – to show that it is necessary, the theist would need to have a plausible account of how creation works, but I know of no such account (one hears it is a mystery). So that’s the first place I’d be looking for a flaw in the defense.

      • Ralph says:

        But I think that ship has sailed. Creation, by the very fact that it’s not perfect, necessarily have privations. Your argument’s firewall is the connection between privations and evil. The theist should show that privations necessarily result in evil for this to be of any import to your argument.

  51. Mike Young says:

    Again, you think a good making property is:

    A property which (i) is objectively good, and (ii) cannot be decomposed into constituent properties in virtue of which it is good.

    Name one. And it had better be a property and not merely a state of affairs. Which is to say, we ought to be able to abstract the property for the situation in the same way I can abstract the idea wetness from water.

    • TaiChi says:

      No. I still have no reason to think you have anything of relevance to say, so I’m not going to bother with you. You’re not going to get your way by aggressively pursuing an argument which has nothing to do with the OP.

      • Mike Young says:

        Actually, If you can’t have GMP’s or EMP’s then your argument fails, you can’t give me an example of a GMP that is not merely some state of affairs described as being evil and so you cannot have your argument. That’s relevant.

      • TaiChi says:

        It’s about as relevant as my using the assumption of theism in (A). After all, if God doesn’t exist, then the Sub-Argument is unsound, right? But of course that’s not a felicitous criticism of what I’m doing here: my target audience believes that God exists, and it is for them that I construct the argument, and so I am perfectly entitled to use their assumptions to plead my case. Similarly, I take perfect-being theists to be implicitly committed to GMPs and EMPs, and therefore I happily use this assumption in my argument.

      • Mike Young says:

        No, you cannot take perfect being theists to be implicitly committed to EMP’s and GMP’s because your concept of GMP’s and EMP’s is incoherent.

      • TaiChi says:

        I have doubts that the concept of a perfect-being is coherent. Should I therefore take perfect-being theists not to be committed to the concept of a perfect-being too?

  52. Ralph says:

    Taichi,

    How would you respond to the objection that your proof that GMPs do not entail EMPs can be properly delimited to a “God-only world” and that any introduction of creation could possibly create evil within privations that God could not possibly eliminate? I’ve thought about it some more and I don’t see how your argument covers this. Your defense of Quentin’s formulation of the LPOE covers against any moral evil but doesn’t cover the evil that arise from privations within the natural world. Quentin covers this by positing the possiblity of creating a non-material universe – are you committed to this as well?

    • Ralph says:

      Come to think of it, even with impossible-to-eliminate privations, your firewall remains.

      • TaiChi says:

        But I think that ship has sailed. Creation, by the very fact that it’s not perfect, necessarily have privations.

        Why is creation necessarily not perfect? An explanation is needed here – I’m not going to let the theist just assert it just because it sounds reasonable to him.

        How would you respond to the objection that your proof that GMPs do not entail EMPs can be properly delimited to a “God-only world” and that any introduction of creation could possibly create evil within privations that God could not possibly eliminate? I’ve thought about it some more and I don’t see how your argument covers this.

        As I’ve done with Objection III in the OP: I examine the explanation and see if it is any good. If no explanation is forthcoming, then it’s just an implausible ad hoc postulation of a necessary truth about the mystery of creation, and I treat it with the respect it deserves (i.e. none).

        Your defense of Quentin’s formulation of the LPOE covers against any moral evil but doesn’t cover the evil that arise from privations within the natural world. Quentin covers this by positing the possiblity of creating a non-material universe – are you committed to this as well?

        I don’t really know what you mean by ‘privations’ here – you’d have to be more specific. But yes, I’d go along with Quentin’s idea – I’d magnanimously admit that if God existed, he would have this option (the existence of God seems to imply dualism, which would then make a non-material world possible).

  53. cl says:

    TaiChi,

    You’re not going to get your way by aggressively pursuing an argument which has nothing to do with the OP. [to Mike Young]

    Are you kidding? GMP’s and EMP’s are quite relevant here. It honestly looks as if you know you’re up against a wall. Why won’t you just give Mike an example of what he asks for – which you yourself introduced in the OP? If you can’t or won’t give an example of the terms your argument relies upon, how in the world do you expect anyone to understand you?

    Anyways, back to our discussion:

    …I couldn’t see why you’d bother denying the strong claim, since I never made it.

    Because you use clunky language in this post, so it was unclear to me whether or not you were making the strong claim – so I asked instead of assumed. I prefer simplicity: yes’s and no’s, which don’t lend well to equivocation. So, I wanted to make damn sure what your position was before I wasted any more time. Make sense?

    I wasn’t ‘firing a shot’: I was being frank.

    Whatever. Be pedantic and play with words all you want. If that’s the case, then I was “being frank,” too. Did it help?

    And I was only being frank because I think you can try harder. It’s rather frustrating, on my end, for you to say you don’t understand and to leave me with the task of trying to figure out why you don’t understand, when I’ve taken such care in laying out the argument in the first place.

    So, you took a shot at me — oops — you were being frank, because you’re frustrated, because I – along with others – are having trouble following your argument? Because, you’ve taken such care? Get over yourself!

    I happen to think you can try harder. It’s really frustrating to hear somebody say, “Hey, I have this argument that disproves an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being,” then show up only to read a bunch of philosophical claptrap that does anything but – which is still my current opinion after reading this argument afresh four times now. It’s almost as if you’re unwilling to consider the “possibility” that your argument fails, even when other commenters are raising some of the same objections I am.

    I use the possibility of God existing alone to generate conclusions about GMPs, and whether any of them entail EMPs.

    Right, I understand that. Here are the problems:

    1) What is a GMP? You refuse to name even one;

    2) Even if we accept your GMP’s and EMP’s — you’re saying that if the God of the Bible existed alone, then GMP’s would never be followed by EMP’s. Right? Isn’t that what you’re essentially arguing in sub-premise-E?

    I do not, anywhere, assert that God actually does exist on his lonesome.

    Oh really? You mean, you’re not an atheist? Come on. Of course I know you’re not asserting that! My complaint is that your argument depends on a premise which is only true if God *actually does* exist alone.

    Therefore your insistence that God does not exist alone does not deny any of my premises, and so it is irrelevant. It just doesn’t engage with the argument I’ve given.

    False. It directly engages with denies E, hence, it directly engages with and denies (III):

    (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.

    D is a possibility, a mere hypothetical. E is only true if D is true – if God exists all alone. Yet, if God exists, God obviously cannot exist all alone. D is untrue, hence so E, and so is (III) that they were meant to support. That means your whole argument unravels right about there.

    Since my argument is against the philosopher’s God, I leave it up to you to decide whether these conceptions are unary, and so both fall the to the argument, or whether the biblical God survives it.

    This is playing with words again. Your argument is against – in your own words – a God that is “omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.” That is consistent with the God of the Bible. Your argument does not refute a “omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.” Hence, it does not refute the God of the Bible.

    “Could we select good over evil if good were the only option?” [cl]

    I’m happy to concede for the sake of argument that we can’t.

    Finally. Now that’s what I’m talking about: a clear, straight answer. I tend to get frustrated with philosophers who shy away from clear, straight answers.

    So, a world in which beings freely choose good ever evil is not objectively better than a world containing necessarily good free beings

    Why? Because you say so? Or, is that another bare assertion? Besides, who can possibly decide what constitutes “objectively better?” Are not all estimations of worth intrinsically tied to an agent? Can value exist without a valuer? You’re playing so irresponsibly with language that, unless or until you fix absurdities like “objectively better,” I can’t formulate a meaningful response.

    Although, this deserves comment:

    And given that beings who choose between good and evil sometimes choose evil, to create a world with beings who choose freely over a world containing beings who are necessarily good is to run the risk of evil for no objectively justifiable reason. [bold mine]

    See? You’re doing it again: you simply assert that no morally sufficient reason exists, which is exactly what I’ve been saying for months now. Worse is that you call that “argument” and then get “frustrated” when people won’t swallow it. We’re not under any obligation to assent to arguments containing untrue or spurious premises, or bare assertions.

    However, if God wanted some number of beings who would willingly eschew evil for eternity, that might be a greater good – a reason to allow evil.

    In conclusion, if you have something else besides the bare assertion that the risk is not worth the results, I’m all ears, and I’ll be checking back.

  54. Ralph says:

    cl: However, if God wanted some number of beings who would willingly eschew evil for eternity, that might be a greater good – a reason to allow evil.

    Then explain how he does this through the material universe and why it would be impossible otherwise. You can’t just claim that it’s possible that beings who would willing eschew evil for eternity can only be had with the existence of some evil. Show us how it’s necessary.

    God, presumably willingly eschews evil for eternity. But, pace Smith, there is no reason why God couldn’t create beings who will willingly choose good and still have free will. Under a theistic framework, the kind of free will that God has should be the most valuable kind of free will. Given that God is posited to be internally and externally free but logically determined, it then follows that a being could be logically determined and still have the kind of free will that’s worth having in a theistic universe.

  55. TaiChi says:

    cl
    Are you kidding? GMP’s and EMP’s are quite relevant here. It honestly looks as if you know you’re up against a wall. Why won’t you just give Mike an example of what he asks for – which you yourself introduced in the OP?

    Because, as I’ve told you, it doesn’t matter to my argument what GMPs and EMPs turn out to be. If you want some examples, then fine: I’ll say that bliss is a GMP and agony is an EMP. But suppose you disagree, and think I’m wrong, either because bliss and agony can be decomposed into other properties in virtue of which they are good and evil respectively, or because you think bliss and agony are not intrinsically good or intrinsically evil respectively. Then what? Well, I’m happy to accomodate your preferred examples.

    If you can’t or won’t give an example of the terms your argument relies upon, how in the world do you expect anyone to understand you?

    I expect that you can understand what intrinsic goodness and intrinsic evil are, if you are a perfect-being theist. I expect that you can understand that certain goods and evils can be decomposed into various constituents, and that only some of the (bearers of) properties they are decomposed into will be responsible for their objective value, other properties being mere accidental correlates of that value. But if you do grasp these two ideas, you should also be able to grasp what I mean by GMPs and EMPs, since these are the only ideas I’m appealing to in my stiplative definitions.

    Whatever. Be pedantic and play with words all you want. If that’s the case, then I was “being frank,” too. Did it help?

    The difference between being frank and firing a shot is what one intends in giving the criticism. But if it’s all the same to you, I’m not going to bother defending myself.

    I happen to think you can try harder

    FYI, I’m still revising it.

    1) What is a GMP? You refuse to name even one;

    And now I have. Here’s another: knowledge. Here’s another: dignity. Another: lovingness. Not that it matters: feel free to deny all of these and use your own examples. As for what a GMP is in a general sense, well, you’ve been given definitions. I don’t know what else you could want.

    ..you’re saying that if the God of the Bible..

    No. Or yes. It depends: I argue against a certain conception of God, orthodox amongst theistic philosophers. I leave it up to you whether you think that perfect being theism and belief in the God of the Bible are the same thing.

    2) Even if we accept your GMP’s and EMP’s — you’re saying that if the God of the Bible existed alone, then GMP’s would never be followed by EMP’s. Right? Isn’t that what you’re essentially arguing in sub-premise-E?

    With the above caveat, I’m saying that it is possible.

    My complaint is that your argument depends on a premise which is only true if God *actually does* exist alone.

    It doesn’t. It depends only on the possibility that he exists alone. What is possible and what is actual are two very different things.

    Perhaps you’re being misled by (A), since (A) states that God actually exists. But as I pointed out earlier, the work (A) does in the argument is simply to satisfy the antecedents of (B) and (C)..

    (B) is obviously relevant to the sub-argument if (D) is. Why? Because I use (B), along with (A) and (C), to establish (D). How so? Well, suppose (A) is true: then the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true. But if the antecedents of (B) and (C) are true, then their consequents must also be true. That is, it is true that “it is possible that [God] should exist, without any other thing existing” and true that “[God] instantiates all good-making properties, and no evil-making properties”. But if both these things are true, they are true together: the God described as possibly existing in the absence of anything else is one and the same as the God who instantiates all GMPs and no EMPs. And that’s just what (D) says – it takes the two consequents and expressly formulates them as applying to the same being.” ~ TaiChi

    ..and so lends no content to the possiblility which the consequents of (B) and (C) sketch, that is, to the lone God world. In fact, I could do without (A) and just use..

    (B’) It is possible that God should exist, without any other thing existing.

    .. instead of (B), since theists who believe (B) will believe (B’), and for the same reasons as I have given for (B).
    So why do I include (A), if it is strictly superfluous to a rendering of the argument? I guess I originally did this because I myself find (B) plausible and doubt (B’) – I doubt the coherence of the God-concept, which (B’) assumes but (B) does not. But in the end, it is not to my sensibility this argument is addressed, so I think I’ll excise (A) and use (B’) in preference to (B) in any future iteration of the argument.

    Yet, if God exists, God obviously cannot exist all alone.

    I gather this is the claim that if God actually exists, he cannot actually exist all alone, because other actual things exist. Sure, I grant that. If it is instead the claim that if God actually exists, then he cannot in any possible world exist all alone, then I deny it, and I’d like to know your reasons for thinking that.

    D is untrue, hence so E, and so is (III) that they were meant to support. That means your whole argument unravels right about there.

    Actually, if (D) is untrue, then (E) might be either true or false. But yes, this argument would fail if (D) were false, since we would have to find another way to show the truth of (E).

    This is playing with words again. Your argument is against – in your own words – a God that is “omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.” That is consistent with the God of the Bible. Your argument does not refute a “omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being.” Hence, it does not refute the God of the Bible.

    It refutes one kind of omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being – that is, it refutes a perfect being. If your God of the Bible is not a perfect being, then no, it does not refute your God. I’ve said so on numerous occasions.

    Why? Because you say so? Or, is that another bare assertion?

    I’ve explained why. Look at the sentence preceding your quote of me. Your freedom to choose between good and evil is not a GMP, since God is a perfect being, has all GMPs, and does not have your freedom to choose between good and evil. You force me to belabor the obvious.

    Besides, who can possibly decide what constitutes “objectively better?”

    Nobody need to. The argument works whatever GMPs and EMPs turn out be, and whatever their comparitive worth.

    Are not all estimations of worth intrinsically tied to an agent? Can value exist without a valuer?

    You appear to be denying the possiblity of intrinsic good or evil. If so, you also deny perfect being theism – ‘perfect’ would be a relative term, and ‘perfect being theism’ would not denote any stable position.

    See? You’re doing it again: you simply assert that no morally sufficient reason exists, which is exactly what I’ve been saying for months now.. However, if God wanted some number of beings who would willingly eschew evil for eternity, that might be a greater good – a reason to allow evil.

    I’ve given you an argument: the sub-argument. Also, see objection (II) for clarification of why the sub-argument suffices to rule out morally sufficient reasons for allowing the existence of evil in the world. I’m bored of repeating myself on this, especially since you again quote me, asking for a reason to support that quote, when the reason has already been given in the comment from which you quote.
    Mercifully, Ralph appears willing to go over this again with you, so I’ll happily leave it to him to explain.

    Well, on the one hand, there’s no sense pounding sand, but on the other, I really hate it when people start a conversation then don’t want to finish it. I’m more than willing to put heavy thought-time into each comment, for as long as is necessary to either resolve the problems or at least come to an understanding. Honestly, I’d rather you not engage me unless it’s with similar intent..

    You wrote this on your blog. Yes, in an ideal world we would come to an understanding. But I doubt that this is going to happen, and so I don’t feel obligated to continue ad infinitum. That’s it for now.

  56. Mike Gantt says:

    “(21) If God is omniscient and omnipotent, then he can properly eliminate every evil state of affairs.”

    What if this creation of which we are a part is precisely the means by which God is properly eliminating the the evil state of affairs which preexisted it?

    • TaiChi says:

      I suppose, too, that God might decide to prepare Boeuf Bourguignon by braising beef with red wine for several hours in an oven. The question is: why do it that way, rather than using his omnipotence to poof the dish into existence? More seriously, why properly eliminate the evil in this fallen world by increment when the job can be done instantaneously, saving his creatures eons of suffering? He is omnipotent, isn’t he?

      • Mike Gantt says:

        1) I’m not sure you’re dealing with the issue I added to the mix: that evil preexisted this creation and that this creation is His prescribed solution to that problem (as opposed to merely being infected with that problem). By something of an analogy, vaccination introduces a pathogen for the specific purpose of making it innocuous (This is not precisely analogous, but it does introduce the idea or possibility of a counter-intuitive solution.)

        2) You seem to be much more willing to attribute omnipotence to God than you are omniscience. That is, you presume that we can know what can be done instantaneously versus what must be done progressively.

  57. TaiChi says:

    Mike,

    1) I’m not sure quite what your scenario is. In particular, I’m unsure of the timeline: do you mean to say that God existed alone, that he thereafter created some evil state of affairs, and then lastly created ourselves and the world we see in an attempt to cleanse the prior botched creation? Or did God and this evil state of affairs co-exist from eternity, and God is now acting (by creating ourselves and the world we see), to purify the cosmos? You’ll have to explain this a bit more – it’s not the standard theology you’re sketching here.

    2) I understand the vaccination analogy well enough. The trouble is, you choose an example of something which we humans have to endure because of human limitations. God has no such limitations – he is omnipotent – and so the analogy fails.

    3) Your comment 2 doesn’t make much sense – it is not a denial of God’s omniscience to think that someone other than God knows something. Leaving that aside, it would only be the case that X must be done progressively if the description of X were to include its being done progressively. For example, a slow massage could not be done instantaneously, as the very idea of an instantaneous slow massage is a contradiction in terms. Everything else God can do, since an omnipotent being can do anything logically possible.
    Applied to your scenario, it would only be the case that God’s cleansing of the cosmos must be progressive if you build the notion of progressivity into your description of his cleansing the cosmos. But, not only would this move be decidedly ad hoc, you would further have to justify your construction your description in that way. A justification here would amount to saying how progressive cleansing is better than instantaneous cleansing, such that God would choose to do the former over the latter. But in point of fact, this can’t be done – God does not change progressively, therefore changing progressively cannot be a GMP, and so it cannot be used as a moral justification for God’s alleged actions (read the post in full if you don’t understand what I’m talking about).

    • Mike Gantt says:

      1) Your former scenario.

      2) Once God creates something, especially if He creates that something as eternal, then our limitations have bearing on what He is able to do and how He does it.

      3) “it is not a denial of God’s omniscience to think that someone other than God knows something.” Of course not. But it is a denial of God’s omniscience to think that someone other than God knows everything. That is, I was not objecting to the idea that we might know and understanding some things that God does. Rather, i was objecting to the idea that we could know and understand it all. Or, to be more specific about it, that because we think it should be instantaneous that progressiveness as a requirement must be ruled out.

      As to your broader point, progressiveness as one of the characteristic methods of God is obvious both in the Bible and in creation (if you believe those sorts of things).

  58. TaiChi says:

    Mike,
    I still don’t understand what story you’re trying to give of the existence of evil in the world. It’d really help if you explained that, since as it stands, your first comment is cryptic, and your second lacks context.

    Of course not. But it is a denial of God’s omniscience to think that someone other than God knows everything.

    At least I can respond to this: it’s false. Omniscience does not imply uniqueness. Feel free to prove me wrong by showing how “There are two omniscient beings” is self-contradictory.

    Rather, i was objecting to the idea that we could know and understand it all. Or, to be more specific about it, that because we think it should be instantaneous that progressiveness as a requirement must be ruled out..

    Progressiveness will only be a constraint which God has to observe if what he is trying to bring about incorporates the fact that it is brought about progressively, As I said, the only way that happens is if you build progressiveness into your definitions of what you have God making.. But there can be no justification for this move.

    As to your broader point, progressiveness as one of the characteristic methods of God is obvious both in the Bible and in creation (if you believe those sorts of things).

    Obvious if you cherry-pick, perhaps: I suspect a NT bias here. But in any case, this really isn’t a problem for me. If the God of the Bible cannot but perform his miracles in a gradual fashion, then he isn’t omnipotent, and he isn’t the God of the philosophers. Since it’s the God of standard philosophical theism I want to disprove here, I’m unmoved by your tacitly pointing out that the two Gods are not alike.

  59. Mike Gantt says:

    TaiChi,

    On 1) I was only asking if the evil preexisted this creation, and this creation was created to deal (progressively) with that evil, would it alter your argument in any way. To be more specific about the idea, it has evil arising in heaven among angels, and subsequently this earth and humanity being created, and then resurrected humanity displacing angels in heaven. In other words, my concept is that the whole man-free will-evil issue is not the problem, but rather the constructed solution to the problem…of evil which entirely preceded it.

    As far as your point about omniscience not implying uniqueness, all I can say is that it does for me. I cannot imagine more than one omniscient being. I’m not a philosopher so I can’t use that language to demonstrate the point. I’ve thought about why they idea is oxymoronic to me and I think it has to do with order (as is there could not be order if more than one being was omniscient).

    As for progressiveness, my scenario above implies it.

    As for your last point, I see God as able to perform miracles instantaneously or progressively as various situations warrant – though we might not always know which was appropriate. As for your interest in focusing on “the God of standard philosophical theism” I’m not your guy (for the reason I gave).

  60. TaiChi says:

    OK, I’m glad you made that more specific. As I indicate in the OP, a free-will defense is only going to work if it is not possible for God to create necessarily good free beings, such as himself. But the very fact that God is a necessarily good free free being means that such beings are possible, and since God can create any logically possible state of affairs, he can create a world populated by such free beings. Given this, why would he create angels who sometimes go wrong, as opposed to angels who are morally perfect? The answer is that he wouldn’t, not if he himself is morally perfect and desires the good most of all.

    As far as your point about omniscience not implying uniqueness, all I can say is that it does for me. ).

    You mean: you have no justification for the supposition that omniscience implies uniqueness, but you’re inclined to believe it does all the same. Put that way, I hope you can see that this response doesn’t amount to any sort of defense of your position.

    I cannot imagine more than one omniscient being. I’m not a philosopher so I can’t use that language to demonstrate the point. I’ve thought about why they idea is oxymoronic to me and I think it has to do with order (as is there could not be order if more than one being was omniscient

    That’s candid. Well, I can’t see how to demonstrate that multiple omniscient beings would lead to a breakdown in order either, but I would like to point out that you’d need to supplement this demonstration with another to show that order was necessary, such that the breakdown implied by the existence of multiple omniscient beings would be impossible.

    As for progressiveness, my scenario above implies it.

    Even if it did, your scenario is based on a false assumption (that a perfectly good God would play moral roulette by creating flawed creatures, rather than creating necessarily good free beings from the beginning). They’re wonderful like that, false assumptions – they can lead you anywhere.

    As for your interest in focusing on “the God of standard philosophical theism” I’m not your guy (for the reason I gave).

    Fair enough. In like spirit, I’m not really the guy to argue with over your biblical God – plenty of other atheists will cite you chapter and verse, and take you up on questions of interpretation. I’m happy to leave those arguments to them and focus on the more abstract stuff.

  61. L says:

    Any objection to me including this argument in a paper on the logical problem of evil? Full credit goes to you of course. And it’s just for an undergraduate philosophy conference.

    On that note…when are you going to get this thing published?

  62. TaiChi says:

    If you’d like, you’re welcome to. But I’d rather you use my most recent version: it includes another objection, and I’ve changed the sub-argument to cut loose an unnecessary premise*. There are also other minor changes I’ve doubtless made and can’t remember. Here you go:

    A Logical Problem of Evil

    As for publishing, I hadn’t really thought about it. But perhaps I should – thanks for the compliment.

    * If cl is reading, I owe him thanks on this point.

  63. L says:

    You’re welcome, it must have taken quite a bit of work and thought. Anyway, do you want me to just cite the author as “TaiChi” or do you want your real name on it? If it’s the latter you can send it to me at tycho.kepler5@gmail.com.

  64. Bryce Laliberte says:

    TaiChi,

    I have decided to revamp my theodicy in a more conversational setting, á la blog posts (separated into parts). I would love to have your comments and opinions in order to refine my presentation and argumentation. I hope you don’t mind I’m already two parts into my argument!

    http://amtheomusings.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/the-many-worlds-theodicy-part-1/

  65. Ralph says:

    Taichi,

    The link for the file no longer works. Do you have it in another place?

  66. TaiChi says:

    Should be working now, thanks.

  67. Ralph says:

    Do you mind further unpacking your defense of Smith from Pruss’ response? Looking at it further, I can’t shake the feeling that your defense of Smith is lacking. From Pruss I understand that the creation of creaturely logical determination entails external determination given libertarian free will. I fail to see how this means that the creation of beings with creaturely freedom entails the determination of that creature’s life. I understand that libertarian free will is such a problematic concept but given that, the creation of beings with creaturely freedom will not entail the determination of those beings’ lives. It will entail that those beings will choose some right and some wrong moral choices but will not determine what those moral choices are. Clearly, that is not the same as being logically determined to choose only those particular moral choices that are morally right if one is created as logically determined. Am I wrong?

  68. TaiChi says:

    From Pruss I understand that the creation of creaturely logical determination entails external determination given libertarian free will. I fail to see how this means that the creation of beings with creaturely freedom entails the determination of that creature’s life.

    Well, it only does if one accepts the kind of argument Pruss is making. That is, I think that if one agrees with Pruss that God’s creating creatures logically determined to live a wholly good life entails their lack of internal freedom, then one should also accept that God’s creation of any creature would likewise entail that creature’s lack of internal freedom. So this is a kind of ad hominem here, and my actual view is the one expressed by “your typical free-will defender” – I think that the distinction between strong and weak actualization is a real distinction and does the work that it’s supposed to do, though I also think that it doesn’t ultimately save standard theism from refutation.

    Okay, so let’s now look at what Smith says about logical freedom:

    A person is logically free with respect to an action A if and only if there is some possible world in which he performs A and there is another possible world in which he does not perform A. A person is logically free with respect to a wholly good life (a life in which every morally relevant action performed by the person is a good action) if and only if there is some possible world in which he lives this life and another possible world in which he does not.

    In other words, logical freedom or lack thereof is a matter of counterfactuals. If Patricia is logically free with respect to leading a wholly good life, this means (and only means) that there is some possible world in which Patricia exists and does not lead a wholly good life; if Patricia is logically unfree with respect to leading a wholly good life, then this means (and only means) that there is no possible world in which Patricia exists and does not lead a wholly good life.

    Why is this important? Because it shows that if Pruss is going to argue that a lack of logical freedom in creatures entails a lack of internal freedom, then he’s essentially going to be arguing that a creature’s having certain morally impeccable counterfactuals of freedom entails a lack of internal freedom – that’s what Smith’s definition tells, and that’s the definition Pruss is working with. So that’s what I mean by his argument “proceeding by way of counterfactuals”, and why I represent Pruss’s argument the way I do..

    So we can gloss Pruss’s argument in a way which makes this salient: God creates Patricia in circumstances C, she has certain counterfactuals of freedom specifying a good action A in C, and so God determines her doing of A in C.

    I also take it, though I don’t say so explicitly, that being logically determined to lead a wholly good life is a generalization covering all actions of an agent in their circumstances across possible worlds, so that Patricia would be logically determined to live a wholly good life if and only if, for each of Patricia’s possible actions in their possible circumstances, those possible actions would be good. Hence I continue..

    But since the same is true of every action Patricia performs, and since every action Patricia performs is good, it is (surely!) the case that God determines that she lead a wholly good life. Hence, she is not externally free with respect to leading a wholly good life.

    ..which I think is a plausible reading of Pruss. So far, so good? Okay, now think of this as an argument which runs..

    1. God creates Patricia. (Assumption)
    2. Patricia is a creature who essentially has certain counterfactuals of freedom, which determine that she lead a wholly good life.
    2. So, God creates Patricia in as having certain counterfactuals of freedom which determine she lead a wholly good life.
    4. So, that God creates Patricia in entails that she lead a wholly good life.
    5. If God’s creating Patricia entails that Patricia does not lead a wholly good life, then Patricia lacks internal freedom.

    Now consider 2. Isn’t something like 2 true of any agent? That is, doesn’t any creature of the relevant kind have counterfactuals of freedom which describe what actions it does in each possible world? Plantinga thinks so – he uses the example of Curley Smith, mayor of Boston, who possibly accepts a bribe – and I presume that anyone who thinks that Patrica or God would have counterfactuals of freedom would also extend this to all creatures. And doesn’t any creature have its counterfactuals of freedom essentially? Again, yes: counterfactuals of freedom are modal truths, truths about what an agent does in each and every possible world, and modal truths are necessary truths. Of course, something like 2 would not be true of just any agent in that one could not say that their counterfactuals of freedom determine that they lead a wholly good life, but it would be necessarily true of any agent that their counterfactuals of freedom determine that they lead a certain kind of life (i.e. act in certain ways in certain circumstances) given they are created in this or that possible world, for that is what their counterfactuals of freedom say.
    So, suppose God creates Manuel, an ordinary human being. Since creation is always creation in a certain possible world, God creates Manuel in a certain possible world. But Manuel, like every other agent, has counterfactuals of freedom, and these tell us, for a given possible world, what Manuel does in that world. Morevoer, these counterfactuals are essential to Manuel, and describe necessary truths. So God creates Manuel in a certain possible world, having counterfactuals of freedom essential to him, which are necessary truths concerning, inter alia, what actions Manuel will perform in that possible world. But by Pruss’s reasoning, this amounts to saying that God determines what Manuel does, because God is creating Manuel ‘pre-programmed’, as it were, to perform certain actions once created in his world. And so Pruss is committed to saying that Manuel, like Patricia, lacks internal freedom.

    I’ll stop there, for now, as it’s getting late and I’m running out of steam. Let me know what you agree with so far, or what still needs to be made clear, and hopefully I can improve on it in my next response.

  69. Ralph says:

    Thanks for the unpacking. I understand it better now. I didn’t do a careful reading of Pruss’ and Smith’s argument but now I understand it better. Thanks again.

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