This site is supported by Nobility Studios.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

A new Problem of Evil?

7 posts in this topic

Posted

Jeffery Jay Lowder says he is "working on a new version of the problem of evil", and he provides a sketch of what he has in mind. Well, he says he summarizes that new version, but it strikes me as more of a sketch. For those who are unfamiliar with Lowder, he is quite interested in probabilities of the Bayesian variety. Lowder's argument depends on what Lowder calls the fragility of value. He says that he passed his notion by Dr. Paul Draper who Lowder reports as having responded "with an interesting observation":

Because of the fragility of value, morally significant choices are usually between preventing great harm and not preventing it. We rarely get to choose between producing great positive value and not producing it. In other words, we spend much more of our time trying to prevent disaster instead of creating things of great value.

I responded to the presented ideas saying:

Dr. Draper's claimed association (as reported) of morally significant choices, preventing (or not) great harm, and creating great value is of dubious quality. For example, if to love your neighbor (including, as some have understood the passage, the stranger) is at the core of morality, then that love can be the creating of value which value would not ordinarily be regarded as great (although it might be better - maybe even best - to regard such love as great despite its apparent insignificance on an historical or world scale).

With regards to the fragility of value, it is most certainly the case that it is easier to destroy than to create, and that is the case with value. However, if to love the neighbor as well as the stranger is at the core of morality (or ethics as Levinas, for one, would have it), then is the destruction of value the most proper perspective when the ceaseless creation is the necessity?

The fragility-of-value-problem-of-evil argument is intended as somehow having to do with the matter of whether God is, and my remarks (and interest) are not intended to address the God issue, but, even so, it is not at all apparent that my points in any way contribute to "mystifying another fact about evil (the fragility of value)." If anything, my response suggests the possibility of a great error being made with regards to apparently conventional ways in which "great [moral] value" and "morally significant choices" are defined, described, considered, or judged. In that case, does this alternative way of characterizing moral value leave the fragility-of-value argument with having any probabilities effect?

Michael

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Here's what I said to Michael about this:

I don’t understand who gets to decide what counts as easier. Who says my efforts are more or less straightforward than anyone else’s, especially if I claim that loving my neighbour is at once the easiest and more difficult thing I can do?

In short: I don't think fragility of value as a concept is, in this case, any more stable than evil.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

The question "what is fragility of value" or more astutely, "why do we need fragile values" is ambiguous. Posing the question is a demonstration that fragile values haven't become a necessity for the question poser, but fragile values should be necessary even for anyone who hasn't seen the point. The ambiguity comes from the fact that fragile value cannot be defended in terms of its utility. Utility is a form of evaluation that is essentially self-centered. When I ask what purpose fragile value serves, I am actually asking what purposes does it have for me.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Here's what I said to Michael about this:

I don’t understand who gets to decide what counts as easier. Who says my efforts are more or less straightforward than anyone else’s, especially if I claim that loving my neighbour is at once the easiest and more difficult thing I can do?

In short: I don't think fragility of value as a concept is, in this case, any more stable than evil.

I like the statement "at once the easiest and the most difficult thing I can do". With regards to the matter of whether some efforts "are more or less straightforward", we could well wonder whether the approach to morality/ethics in terms of value(s) which has been with us in one form or another seemingly forever is itself as straightforward or useful as we in practice take it or assume it to be.

Does the very notion of value itself lend some sense of calculability in order to bias consideration towards the possibility of a presumed objectiveness? If so, then one way to investigate the appropriateness of the value approach is, for the sake of argument, to deny the noun form while permitting the verb form if for no other reason than to see what other manners of expression might be substituted as essentially identical or as possibly even more acutely revealing/informative. For instance, would to value in any way differ from to judge or to prefer, and would any such differences be restricted to certain sorts of contexts?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

The question "what is fragility of value" or more astutely, "why do we need fragile values" is ambiguous. Posing the question is a demonstration that fragile values haven't become a necessity for the question poser, but fragile values should be necessary even for anyone who hasn't seen the point. The ambiguity comes from the fact that fragile value cannot be defended in terms of its utility. Utility is a form of evaluation that is essentially self-centered. When I ask what purpose fragile value serves, I am actually asking what purposes does it have for me.

One of the other commenters asked Lowder "what is the concept of value you're appealing to"; so, in Lowder's sketch, value is either ambiguous or not yet well described and, consequently, such is also the case with the proposed fragility of value.

When Lowder started by speaking (without specific reference to morality/ethics) about the ease with which things of value can be destroyed compared with how relatively difficult it is to create things of value, in my mind I saw works of art which are often referred to as being valued where that valuing does not have to mean to indicate monetary worth. Such valued things are certainly easier to destroy than they are to create (we can even take destroy in a non-physical sense such as in the case of how relatively easy it is to put forth a wholly malicious critique intending to deny value or prevent valuing), and if the term fragility is intended to capture a sense or an appreciation for that asymmetry, then that seems a fine place to start.

Does that fragility or an appreciation for that fragility have any utility? To put it another way, does that fragility indicate anything other than the valuing of creating in general? Turning then to matters of morality and, since morality/ethics is often regarded as closer to aesthetics than to epistemology or science, does this not suggest that the most ignored, the least investigated possible aspect of morality/ethics is precisely its need for ceaseless creation (or its need for being creatively effected or its need for being creatively made manifest)?

The possible creative aspect of morality/ethics imparts a personal feature to morality/ethics, certainly for the person who would be moral/ethical; another personal feature follows from the love of neighbor/stranger if that notion is properly at the core of morality/ethics, but this personal feature clearly would be personal in terms of the other for whom the creative work is done.

At some point, someone will wonder about "objective morality" and whether the need to ceaselessly create the moral/ethical makes it more likely than not that morality/ethics is not possibly a matter of objectiveness. That might be an interesting issue, but more immediately interesting would be the very idea of objectivity itself, specifically whether and how objectivity relates to experience. Likewise, of interest could be the matter of whether objectivity is objectively to be preferred to subjective perspectives always or only under some conditions. But all that might be getting to far afield for now.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Isn't it also possible to view this destruction of value as requiring a strength of will that should (or could) be admired? For example, hypothetically a person who destroys great works of art could agree both that these works really are great and that it is unethical to destroy them, yet still practice a form of self-abnegnation to prioritise a higher good (such as that the great works are, properly interpreted, blasphemous and to be destroyed). From this perspective, which I assume some people take, it would be precisely the fragility that gives such value to the destruction, over and above the agreed value of that which is destroyed. This is what I mean by 'at once the easiest and most difficult thing I can do'.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Isn't it also possible to view this destruction of value as requiring a strength of will that should (or could) be admired? For example, hypothetically a person who destroys great works of art could agree both that these works really are great and that it is unethical to destroy them, yet still practice a form of self-abnegnation to prioritise a higher good (such as that the great works are, properly interpreted, blasphemous and to be destroyed). From this perspective, which I assume some people take, it would be precisely the fragility that gives such value to the destruction, over and above the agreed value of that which is destroyed. This is what I mean by 'at once the easiest and most difficult thing I can do'.

Whether or not such destructive practices which have ever occurred included either acknowledgement of unethicality or appreciation for any good to be associated with that work which is (to be) destroyed or both, it is readily conceivable that some such thinking could occur. However, even considering self-abnegation not only as not necessarily erroneous but actually warrantable at times, I expect I would - speaking generally - always at least initially regard such destruction not as strength but, instead, as a weakness suspected of having stemmed primarily from the aspects of the abnegation which extend significantly beyond the self who is doing the destroying - which is to say that I doubt that the destructive person will have given extensive consideration into how that which is (to be) destroyed might have constructive effects for other persons via beauty, inspiration, what have you, such that the abnegation is not sufficiently isolated to the self doing the destroying with the result being less abnegation than disregard of the other.

Of course, there are such cases as the destruction of Nazi symbols during and after World War II, the toppling of Lenin, Stalin, Saddam Hussein statues after the fall of regimes. Were those works - prior to being destroyed - regarded as inspiring or beautiful? Surely they were. By some. Whether that inspiration was constructive is, of course, another matter. In any event, those instances of destruction were not likely done by abnegating selves even if they were done for some alleged higher good or superseding priority.

Well, upon reconsideration, I guess there could have been some abnegation involved if some person involved with the destruction regarded the destruction of such works as wrong in principle such that he or she would perpetrate a wrong by undertaking destruction or perpetuate a wrong by not destroying.

But, then, it is also worth noting that a universal principle against destruction (as is likely the case with all similarly expressed universals, for that matter) would tend to be at odds with the notion that at the core of morality/ethics might be the love of neighbor/stranger inasmuch as something like the universal principle against destruction is impersonal whereas love necessarily would not be. Whether or not there are any ubiquitous moral principles, there is always reasoning, judgment, choices - acts always to be put under investigation even if those acts are apparently justified.

Now, putting my own stream-of-consciousness musings aside, it does appear that Lowder's fragility sketch fails to cover your case of abnegation in the context of principled objection to both destroying and not destroying. And I really do not see what any of this has to do with any probabilities regarding God or probabilities that are dependent upon God; it seems to me that those probabilities are matters of form which have no need of substance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0