1. London
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    23 Jun '05 17:343 edits
    Since this argument has come up in some recent posts, I thought it might be worthwhile to take another look at it.

    For anyone with the stomach for the whole discussion, you can find it here:

    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/showthread.php?threadid=21886

    Some key corollaries of the argument can be seen in bbarr's posts on these pages:

    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/showthread.php?threadid=21886&page=12
    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/showthread.php?threadid=21886&page=15
    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/showthread.php?threadid=21886&page=21

    Now, to return to the argument:


    God (def.): An entity that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.

    Omnipotent (def.): An entity G is omnipotent if and only if G can do anything that is logically possible.

    Omniscient (def.): An entity G is omniscient if and only if G knows every true proposition.

    Morally Perfect (def): An entity G is morally perfect if and only if for two states of affairs A and B, where A and B are specified as fully as G’s cognitive faculties allow, if A is morally preferable to B then G prefers that A obtain rather than B, and G acts accordingly.



    What if it is logically impossible that A obtain, even though God prefers A to B? Then, there is nothing God can do so that A obtains. With respect to A and B, therefore, the only action available to God is inaction. I'll call this Type-1 Inaction (TI1).

    Note N1: This does not violate the omnipotence of God because omnipotence only requires that God be able to do that which is logically possible. So, if (for whatever reason) God preferred that a state of affairs come to pass such that squares are circles, it will be impossible for him to act in any way that makes such a state of affairs obtain. Hence, this would be an instance of TI1.

    Another case - what if, in order that A obtain, God must refrain from acting? i.e. if God acts in the situation in any manner, a state of affair B would result that is less morally preferable to A. I'll call this Type-2 Inaction (TI2).

    Any instance of inaction on God's part must fall under one of these two types. If God does not act to bring about a particular state of affairs, it is either because he cannot or will not.


    1) God exists.

    2'😉 There has obtained at least one fully specified state of affairs S such that S included as a constituent suffering logically unnecessary for the bringing about of greater good.



    What is logical necessity?

    The concept of logical necessity is this:

    X is logically necessary for Y if and only if it is logically impossible for Y to obtain without X also obtaining. In other words, the supposition that ~X conjoined with the supposition that Y leads to a contradiction of the form (P & ~P).


    I actually agree with bbarr on this statement;i.e. there has obtained at least one state of affairs S such that the greater good could have been brought about had some constituent U of S (such that U is an instance of "unnecessary suffering" ) not occurred. Or, in other words, there exists a state of affairs R such that R was morally preferable to S and R does not have U as a constituent. (This is how I choose to define "greater good" in this scenario.)

    (The remaining steps in the argument have been suitably modified to reflect the revised definition of Morally Perfect.)


    3) Since God is omnipotent, God could have prevented S from obtaining.


    But it is not necessary that any action of God's could cause R to obtain (refer TI1 above). We will return to this when we examine step (5) below.


    4) Since God is omniscient, God would have known that S was going to obtain.

    5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.



    There is actually a hidden assumption in this step - that any other state of affairs without U (the instance of unnecessary suffering in question) as a constituent is morally preferable to S. Hence, this step should be broken down as:

    5.1) All states of affairs S' such that S' does not have U as a constituent are morally preferable to S.
    5.2) From (5.1) and the definition of Morally Perfect, God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.


    We already know that R is an instance of S'. However, is every instance of S' morally preferable to S?

    I argue that this is not necessary; i.e. there could exist a state of affairs T such that U is not a constituent of T but S is morally preferable to T (perhaps T has some other instance V of unnecessary suffering - but that is not essential to my argument).

    We can also express (5.1) thus:

    5.1'😉 There exists no state of affairs T such that U is not a constituent of T and S is morally preferable to T.

    So, in terms of moral preferability, we have R > S > T.

    Note N2: In rejecting (5.1) I have neither assented to the Callousness of God (COG), nor disputed the Badness of Unnecessary Suffering (BUS).

    Note N3: If T exists, then this is an instance of TI2.

    Note N4: If T does not exist and God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1, then God could not have prevented S from obtaining. Hence we have a contradiction with (3). Hence, bbarr is committed (at this moment) to the non-existence of TI1 choice between R and S.

    Note N5: If T exists, then the theist is free to say that God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1.

    Note N6: If the theist says that God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1, then he is committed to the existence of T from (N4).



    6) If (3), (4), and (5.2), then S could not have obtained.

    7) Hence, S did not obtain.

    8) But, by (2), S did obtain.

    9) Hence, either one or more premises (1) through (5) are false.

    10) Premises (2) through (5) are true.

    11) Hence, premise (1) is false; God does not exist.



    To sum up:

    A theist can commit to the truth of (2) by rejecting either of (3) or (5.1/5.1'😉.
  2. Subscriberno1marauder
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    23 Jun '05 18:32
    Gee, LH if you're going to resurrect (I know you guys like to do that) a thread you could at least get the name right. It was a "General Argument FROM Evil". A General Argument AGAINST Evil seems a slightly easier rhetorical task, don't it??
  3. London
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    23 Jun '05 18:33
    Originally posted by no1marauder
    Gee, LH if you're going to resurrect (I know you guys like to do that) a thread you could at least get the name right. It was a "General Argument FROM Evil". A General Argument AGAINST Evil seems a slightly easier rhetorical task, don't it??
    Oh, well - can't change it now. My apologies will have to do.
  4. Joined
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    23 Jun '05 19:111 edit
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Since this argument has come up in some recent posts, I thought it might be worthwhile to take another look at it.

    For anyone with the stomach for the whole discussion, you can find it here:

    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/show ...[text shortened]... mit to the truth of (2) by rejecting either of (3) or (5.1/5.1'😉.
    first off, i would say that the hidden assumption in Premise (5-7) is not nearly as strong as you imply -- i think it only assumes that at least one such R exists such that the choice between R and S is not convoluted with TI1.

    one such R will surely exist -- that's the whole point behind the logical unnecessity of U.
  5. London
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    24 Jun '05 14:03
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    first off, i would say that the hidden assumption in Premise (5-7) is not nearly as strong as you imply -- i think it only assumes that at least one such R exists such that the choice between R and S is not convoluted with TI1.

    one such R will surely exist -- that's the whole point behind the logical unnecessity of U.
    You're right - the argument itself does not need the strong version of (5.1) I posited - a non-TI1 constrained R (let's call it R'😉 will do. I would be surprised, however, if bbarr were to admit the existence of T.

    The logical unnecessity of U does not, however, necessarily imply the existence of such an R' - it still has to be separately asserted. All the existence of S (and U) implies is that some R (whether TI1 constrained or not) exists.
  6. Joined
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    24 Jun '05 16:251 edit
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    You're right - the argument itself does not need the strong version of (5.1) I posited - a non-TI1 constrained R (let's call it R'😉 will do. I would be surprised, however, if bbarr were to admit the existence of T.

    The logical ...[text shortened]... U) implies is that some R (whether TI1 constrained or not) exists.
    the existence of T is an interesting question (in its own right), but as you imply it is not the crux of the problem, which is the existence of R'. it seems sort of obvious to me that R' should exist, and i base this on the following hand waving:

    we are stating (from Premise 2', which the theist is committing to in this thought experiment) that S has obtained during the course of human history, and thus at the time it obtains, S obtaining is clearly logically possible. if we consider a state of affairs r = (S minus U), then it's clear r should satisfy R (ie., r > S) because of the logical unnecessity of U. then we just need to establish that r also satisfies R'. it seems intuitively appealing to say that since S obtaining is logically possible, r obtaining is also logically possible at the same point in the course of history, being that the events of r comprise a subset of the events of S. this logical possibility of r would make TI1 irrelevant and r would satisfy R'. this is all just blabber and is not meant to establish anything.

    i think you're right that the existence of R' should be formally established. you raise some very good points in your post (rec'd!). but i have little doubt that bbarr and his magic pouch of mad skills should be able to suitably address these concerns.
  7. London
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    24 Jun '05 23:10
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    the existence of T is an interesting question (in its own right), but as you imply it is not the crux of the problem, which is the existence of R'. it seems sort of obvious to me that R' should exist, and i base this on the following hand waving:

    we are stating (from Premise 2', which the theist is committing to in this thought experiment) that S h ...[text shortened]... that bbarr and his magic pouch of mad skills should be able to suitably address these concerns.
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    if we consider a state of affairs r = (S minus U),

    Ah, but how do we perform such an operation?

    It is sensible to think that S has atleast three constituents:
    (a) The set of events/choices leading up to U
    (b) U itself
    (c) The set of consequences of U

    Now, if the operation (S minus U) simply consists of positing that r = (a) + (b), then we've ended up with a very nonsensical state of affairs (one that comprises just the precedents and consequences of U).

    For r to make sense as a fully-specified state of affairs, it has to differ from S not only in the substitution of some other event for U (that the consequences will also differ is obvious); but also in the substitution of some other event/choice in (a).

    This is because, as a properly-specified/ fully-specified/ sensible state of affairs, r differs from S not only in that U (and its consequences) failed to happen but also in how U failed to happen. How U happened is a part of S; how U failed to happen will be a part of r.

    Originally posted by LemonJello
    then it's clear r should satisfy R (ie., r > S) because of the logical unnecessity of U.

    No! It is precisely to counter this assumption that I initiated the discussion on T above.

    Because r differs from S not only in the non-fulfillment of U, but also [some of] its antecedents and consequents, r is not a unique solution; rather, it is a whole set of solutions. One of these solutions is R, but other solutions could also exist (like T).

    Let's take a concrete example. In his defence of Premise 2, bbarr raises the example of a Nazi killing an infant. There are atleast two [classes of] alternate states of affairs that could have attained instead:

    A1. The Nazi freely chooses not to kill the infant.
    A2. God causes some supernatural event to be so that the Nazi does not kill the infant.

    We would both agree that (A1) is an instance of R; i.e. A1 > S. But is it logically possible that God can act so that A1 comes to be? If God tampers with the Nazi's free will (so that he chooses not to kill the infant), then this scenario (A1'😉 is not identical with A1 - because the choice of the Nazi is no longer free - what we have is an instance of (A2) instead.

    It is logically impossible for God, by any act of His alone, to keep A1 identical to S right up to the point of choice by the Nazi such that the Nazi necessarily freely chooses otherwise. In other words, the only person who could logically cause A1 to attain was the Nazi himself! God is TI1 constrained with respect to this scenario!

    Originally posted by LemonJello
    then we just need to establish that r also satisfies R'.

    This is where theists and atheists will disagree - a theist would say that (A2) is an instance of T, while the atheist would say that (A2) is an instance of R'.

    Originally posted by LemonJello
    it seems intuitively appealing to say that since S obtaining is logically possible, r obtaining is also logically possible at the same point in the course of history, being that the events of r comprise a subset of the events of S.

    As seen above, thinking of (S minus U) as merely a subset or subtraction leads us to a non-sensible notion of r.

    Originally posted by LemonJello
    this logical possibility of r would make TI1 irrelevant and r would satisfy R'.

    In taking a concrete example, I have attempted to demonstrate not only that the possibility of a TI1 constrained R, but also the plausibility (when it comes to moral evil) of such an R.
  8. Joined
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    24 Jun '05 23:51
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    [b]if we consider a state of affairs r = (S minus U),


    Ah, but how do we perform such an operation?

    It is sensible to think that S has atleast three constituents:
    (a) The set of events/choices leading up to U
    (b) U itself
    (c) The set of consequences of U

    Now, if the operation (S minus U) simply c ...[text shortened]... ty of a TI1 constrained R, but also the plausibility (when it comes to moral evil) of such an R.[/b]
    you definitely have some good points. i think my whole pistol-whipped r definition just muddies the waters unnecessarily. in particular, i think any discussion whatsoever as to the existence of T can be avoided here. the problem as i see it breaks down as follows:

    hopefully you'll agree that the logical unnecessity of U implies the existence of some R. in other words, without question some R does exist. i think you'll agree with this without my formalizing it because rejection of the existence of R would necessitate some callousness on the part of god.

    so some R exists. the critical question is then can it be shown that this R also satisfies R' (ie., R obtaining is logically possible). it seems obvious to me that it should but i'll need to take some more time to figure out how i would formalize it. i'll think about it and get back to you.

    btw, i like your nazi example.
  9. Donationbbarr
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    25 Jun '05 01:082 edits
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Since this argument has come up in some recent posts, I thought it might be worthwhile to take another look at it.

    For anyone with the stomach for the whole discussion, you can find it here:

    http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/show ...[text shortened]... mit to the truth of (2) by rejecting either of (3) or (5.1/5.1'😉.
    Luciferhammer:

    5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.

    There is actually a hidden assumption in this step - that any other state of affairs without U (the instance of unnecessary suffering in question) as a constituent is morally preferable to S. Hence, this step should be broken down as:

    5.1) All states of affairs S' such that S' does not have U as a constituent are morally preferable to S.
    5.2) From (5.1) and the definition of Morally Perfect, God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.

    Bbarr:

    You are correct that there is an assumption that lies behind 5, and I’ve already defended that assumption in the original thread. However, you have made a fairly serious error in your identification of the assumption. Your (5.1) is false. (5.1) should read as follows:

    (5.1) Revised: There is at least one state of affairs S’ such that S’ does not have U as a constituent and is morally preferable to S.

    Your (5.1) is false because it entails that a state of affairs S’ that contained as a constituent U’ that involved more unnecessary suffering than U would be morally preferable to U. But, of course, this is absurd. Since your claim that the theist can reject (3) relies upon this claim, your claim that the theist can reject (3) is unjustified. If S is not logically necessary, then God certainly could have prevented S from obtaining.
  10. London
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    25 Jun '05 14:56
    Originally posted by bbarr
    Luciferhammer:

    5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.

    There is actually a hidden assumption in this step - that any other state of affairs without U (the instance of unnecessary suffering in question) as a constituent is morally preferable to S. Hence, this step should be broken down as: ...[text shortened]... d. If S is not logically necessary, then God certainly could have prevented S from obtaining.
    Originally posted by bbarr
    You are correct that there is an assumption that lies behind 5, and I’ve already defended that assumption in the original thread. However, you have made a fairly serious error in your identification of the assumption. Your (5.1) is false. (5.1) should read as follows:

    [b](5.1) Revised: There is at least one state of affairs S’ such that S’ does not have U as a constituent and is morally preferable to S.
    [/b]

    I agree that my (5.1) is not the assumption required in your argument. However, your (5.1 Revised) will not do either.

    Note: If you read my comments under (2'😉, you'll see that (5.1 Revised) is simply a restatement of the existence of R - a corollary to (2'😉.

    The correct version of (5.1) required is the following (thanks to LemonJello for pointing it out):

    (6.1) There is at least one state of affairs R' such that R' does not have U as a constituent, is morally preferable to S and God is not Type-1 Inaction constrained with respect to R'.

    Note: I'm numbering this (6.1) because it is actually an assumption in (6) and not (5) as I wrongly thought.

    As you correctly point out, the theist cannot justifiably reject (3), but he can reject (6.1).
  11. Donationbbarr
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    25 Jun '05 19:241 edit
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    Originally posted by bbarr
    You are correct that there is an assumption that lies behind 5, and I’ve already defended that assumption in the original thread. However, you have made a fairly serious error in your identificatio ...[text shortened]... the theist cannot justifiably reject (3), but he can reject (6.1).
    I think you're a bit confused here. The theist can object to the argument in only one of two ways (barring quibbling over definitions, which will get him nowhere). He can reject the premise of the argument that claims that there has occurred a state of affairs partly constituted by logically unnecessary suffering, or he can reject the assumption that God would find states of affairs that do not contain logically unnecessary suffering morally preferable to those that do. The first option commits the theist to the view that this is the "best of all possible worlds", the second option I've argued against in the original thread (In the defense of premise (5), I believe).
  12. London
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    25 Jun '05 22:41
    Originally posted by bbarr
    I think you're a bit confused here. The theist can object to the argument in only one of two ways (barring quibbling over definitions, which will get him nowhere). He can reject the premise of the argument that claims that there has occurred a state of affairs partly constituted by logically unnecessary suffering, or he can reject the assumption that God wo ...[text shortened]... option I've argued against in the original thread (In the defense of premise (5), I believe).
    No! And that is the point of this thread - that the theist has to reject neither the existence of unnecessary suffering nor that God would find states of affairs that do not contain unnecessary suffering morally preferable to those that do.

    That God finds certain states of affairs morally preferable does not imply that it is logically possible for him to cause them to attain - this is the point I was making in distinguishing Type-1 Inaction from Type-2 Inaction and in my example about the Nazi soldier.

  13. London
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    25 Jun '05 23:114 edits
    Originally posted by bbarr
    I think you're a bit confused here. The theist can object to the argument in only one of two ways (barring quibbling over definitions, which will get him nowhere). He can reject the premise of the argument that claims that there has occurr ...[text shortened]... the original thread (In the defense of premise (5), I believe).
    To reiterate, your argument (in its current avatar!) is:

    1) God exists.

    2'😉 There has obtained at least one fully specified state of affairs S such that S included as a constituent suffering logically unnecessary for the bringing about of greater good.

    3) Since God is omnipotent, God could have prevented S from obtaining.

    4) Since God is omniscient, God would have known that S was going to obtain.

    5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.

    6.1) Of all the alternative states of affairs that God could have caused to obtain, at least one was morally preferable to S.

    6.2) If (3), (4), (5) and (6.1) then S could not have obtained.

    7) Hence, S did not obtain.

    8) But, by (2), S did obtain.

    9) Hence, either one or more premises (1) through (5) are false.

    10) Premises (2) through (5) are true.

    11) Hence, premise (1) is false; God does not exist.


    Without assuming (6.1), step (6.2) (previously step (6)) would simply not follow logically.

    All (2'😉 implies is that there was a possible state of affairs (R) morally preferable to S - but does not necessarily imply that it was logically possible for this "greater good" to attain by some action of God's alone.

    EDIT: That it is impossible for God to cause a particular state of affairs to attain does not mean that it is impossible for us to do so!

    All (3) implies is that there is an alternative state of affairs (say, P - because I'm running out of letters!) to S that could be attained through some action of God's - but not necessarily that this alternative is morally preferable to S.

    You assumed that R and P were one and the same (or, to be exact - that the sets of alternatives R and P had a non-empty intersection). Without this assumption, (6.2) would simply not follow. (6.1) simply states this assumption explicitly. And that is exactly the assumption/premise that the theist rejects if he wants to assent to (2) (not all will!).

    EDIT: Come to think of it, this might require a redefinition of "omnipotence"...
  14. Donationbbarr
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    26 Jun '05 00:11
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    No! And that is the point of this thread - that the theist has to reject neither the existence of unnecessary suffering nor that God would find states of affairs that do not contain unnecessary suffering morally preferable to those that do.

    That God finds certain states of affairs morally preferable does not imply that it is logically possible for ...[text shortened]... istinguishing Type-1 Inaction from Type-2 Inaction and in my example about the Nazi soldier.

    Let's go through this step by step, so that we may identify clearly where you are mistaken.

    Here is the argument in full, without any of your additions or revisions:

    1) God exists.

    2) There has obtained at least one fully specified state of affairs S such that S included as a constituent suffering logically unnecessary for the bringing about of greater good.

    3) Since God is omnipotent, God could have prevented S from obtaining.

    4) Since God is omniscient, God would have known that S was going to obtain.

    5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.

    6) If (3), (4), and (5), then S could not have obtained.

    7) Hence, S did not obtain.

    8) But, by (2), S did obtain.

    9) Hence, either one or more premises (1) through (5) are false.

    10) Premises (2) through (5) are true.

    11) Hence, premise (1) is false; God does not exist.


    Now, it is clear that the theist can reject (2), and maintain that this is the best of all possible worlds.

    If the theist does not reject (2) then the theist is committed to the claim that there is at least one fully specified alternative state of affairs S' that does not contain as a constituent the logically unnecessary suffering that partly constitutes S. This is a strict entailment of the acceptance of (2).

    It is also clear that the theist can reject (5), and maintain that although S' does not contain as a constituent the logically unnecessary suffering found in S, this does not suffice to make S' morally preferable to S.

    If the theist does reject (5), there are two possible reasons for doing so.

    First, the theist may claim that God finds the logically unnecessary suffering found in S morally irrelevant. If so, then the theist runs into the problems I mentioned in my original defense of premise (5).

    Second, the theist may claim that although God finds the logically unnecessary suffering found in S to be morally relevant, this suffering is outweighed by the benefits of such suffering. If the theist takes this line, however, then 1) the theist will have to provide a theodicy; the theist will have to provide an explanation for this suffering that makes clear just what good results from it (and this explanation cannot tacitly reject God's omnipotence, which is the common failing of theodicies), and 2) given God's moral perfection, providing such a theodicy will amount to the claim that the suffering found in S was, in fact, logically necessary (not merely causally expedient. This is also a common failing of theodicies, and obviously related to the tacit rejection of God's omnipotence) for bringing about the identified good. Hence, the theist who takes this line will end up committed to the truth of premise (2).

    Now, you think there is another option available to the theist. I can't tell exactly what you think that option is, however.
  15. Donationbbarr
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    26 Jun '05 00:201 edit
    Originally posted by lucifershammer
    No! And that is the point of this thread - that the theist has to reject neither the existence of unnecessary suffering nor that God would find states of affairs that do not contain unnecessary suffering morally preferable to those t ...[text shortened]... from Type-2 Inaction and in my example about the Nazi soldier.

    Logically impossible states of affairs are irrelevant to this whole argument. If there are no logically possible fully specified states of affairs that do not contain as constituents the suffering found in S, then it follows trivially that S is logically necessary (contrary to 2). If there is at least one logically possible fully specified state of affairs S' that does not have as a constituent the suffering found in S (that is, if such suffering really is logically unnecessary), then, according to premise (5), God will prefer S' to S, because such suffering is according to (2) not necessary for bringing about the greater good. So, the theist can only maintain that 1) the suffering found in S is actually necessary for bringing about some greater good (and hence reject (2), or maintain that 2) although logically unnecessary for bringing about the greater good, God nevertheless prefers S to S' (and thereby reject (5)).

    These are the only available options, your obfuscations to the contrary notwithstanding.
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