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Omnibenevolence


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#1 DeadCanDance

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 03:27 AM

I remember in Carl Becker's The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers, in reference to a not remembered theodicite, (I think it was Leibniz), the paraphrased words: 'all those pages to demonstrate that it is really right that things are so wrong.'

This brings to mind the concept of "omnibenevolence" and the classic conundrum articulated by Epicurus, which involves the question: then whence cometh evil? Purportedly, God, in light of existence as we see and experience it, cannot both be omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Drop one of the two and no problem, but as the saying goes, you can't have your cake (an omnibenevolent/omnipotent God) and eat it too (a world full of all manner of evil and suffering).

This argument of Epicurus, which has stubbornly remained almost entirely unchanged for many centuries, is claimed to demonstrate a logical contradiction in coupling the attributed characteristics of God with the world.

So I was recently involved in a discussion on the matter and it centered largely around semantics: what does the word "omnibenevolent" mean? To default to the divine Wikepedia: "The word "omnibenevolence" may be interpreted to mean perfectly just, all-loving, fully merciful, or any number of other qualities, depending on precisely how "good" is understood. As such, there is little agreement over how an "omnibenevolent" being would behave."

Several persons, not myself, agreed upon roughly the following definition: the unlimited desire to see the eradication or prevention of suffering.

Look at the world --> suffering --> no God (obviously), in light of said definition.

But why accept the said definition. As I see things, it's entirely uninteresting... it strikes me as not signifying anything of importance. It sets up a definition and shoots down a definition, not, as I see things, a potentially omnibenevolent God.

The real task of the theologian or apologist I suppose, is not to bother with God or omnibenevolence thusly defined, but to discuss why, in lieu of a perfectly loving and powerful God, the world must be as it is relative to the purposes of said God. Why it's "really right that things should be wrong."

Wrong? But if moral reality has its existence only relative to subjectivity, then whatever God actualizes, if affirmed as right by God, is right. The disbeliever who disagrees is merely haggling over opinion?
"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#2 davidm

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 04:37 PM

View PostDeadCanDance, on 29 July 2012 - 03:27 AM, said:

Wrong? But if moral reality has its existence only relative to subjectivity, then whatever God actualizes, if affirmed as right by God, is right. The disbeliever who disagrees is merely haggling over opinion?


I'm sure you will appreciate that this thesis, if I understand what is being advanced here properly, leads to no end of absurdities.

"Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"

"…if affirmed as right by God, is right." OK, if NOT affirmed by God as right then it's wrong, but in that case there is no solution for the problem of evil. We are back to asking, "how can anything bad happen in the presence of a morally perfect God who is also all-powerful and all-knowing?"

The only solution it seems is to say that whatever happens is right. What we call evil is really good; and what we call good is also good. Whatever happens, happens by God's will or by his permission. If we define "the good" as whatever God affirms to be good, and if everything happens by his will or permission, then whatever happens is good by definition.

This means that there is no evil in the world, and the problem of evil has been solved. We can draw a stronger conclusion: there can be no evil in the world. It's logically impossible, since whatever happens, happens by God's will or permission, hence his affirmation. So there is no evil in the world, and can be no evil. The problem of evil is solved.

Jerry Sandusky raping children was good, not evil. The counterfactual state of affairs, that which did not happen -- him not raping those children -- was evil; but this is incoherent, since counterfactual occurrences did not and do not exist, and non-existent events or acts can't be either good or evil or have any properties whatever. However, had Sandusky not raped those children, then that would have been good, since whatever God wills or permits has his affirmation as good. So no matter what Sandusky does, he chooses good. Well done, Sandusky!

I doubt any theist will be comfortable with the conclusions that derives from the premise of the quoted argument. I'm pretty sure this reductio lays bare the problem of the reasoning.

Edited by davidm, 29 July 2012 - 04:39 PM.

"History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness."

-- Benno von Archimboldi :twisted:




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