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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:31 pm 
Sumerul
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mèþru wrote:
Edit: neither is the preceding one, come to think of it.

Yes it is.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:58 pm 
Sumerul
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And so is the penultimate letter. Well, sort of. :P


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:24 pm 
Sanno
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None of them are Greek letters. They're letters in the Latin script (it reads 'Beyonce', which I believe is the first name of a singer of some sort). You may be getting thrown off by the font: they've chosen a font that cleverly adopts recognisable letterforms that superficially suggest the Greek script, for artistic effect, but that actually retain the sound values of the ordinary Latin letters.

I'm not sure what this has to do with 'linguistic knowledge', though, since font selection is clearly a graphic design issue.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:47 pm 
Sumerul
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Really, Sal? I don't know how much our senses of humour diverge, but I can't understand how anyone would find that remotely witty or clever.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:57 pm 
Sumerul
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I wouldn't say I think they're clever per se, but they can make me laugh.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:31 pm 
Sumerul
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I forgot abut Nu. But the second can't be sigma because it is in all caps and there is another sigma in a different form

It's actually about Saint BSUTHNCS, the leader of a Christian revolt against an Egyptian pharaoh. The rebels rode on giant war cats, but they were defeated by the Royal Bee Battalion that drove the cats into panic with their stingers. It is the 2018th anniversary of the battle.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 5:44 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:37 am 
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Frislander wrote:
Or perhaps Metatron (the archangel who acts as the Voice of God in Judaism) also serves as a kind of faith-tester à la Satan; seeing how strong people's faith can be in even in a God that behaves in that way.

Well, Metatron is a post-diaspora addition to Judaism, and it stems from the same confusion as Marcion's heresy (though with an earlier cutoff date between "old God" and "new God"). Yahweh as described in the Torah has a very hands-on approach: he walks in front of the Hebrew's army (Numbers 10:34 "And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp"), he burns protesters at a moment's notice, and he's generally vengeful and jealous. Later texts such as Ezra / Nehemiah or Ecclesiastes show a more abstract, more distant God. Why this discrepancy?

The "Metatron" theory is that the God who appeared to Moses and friends was actually an archangel. The Marcion theory is that there are two different deities. The underlying idea is the same, even if the particulars differ.

Salmoneus wrote:
Regarding Dante: Dante was never considered dogma. He fought against the Pope, put acknowledged saints in Hell, and saw his works burned on Papal orders. He is, AIUI, now considered a loyal servant of the church itself - despite being an enemy of the corruption of the church of his times - and a worthy populariser of generally sound catholic theology, but he's by no means an authoritative source, and indeed was considered a less authoritative source in his own day than he is now.

Yes, I know that. I was only taking him as an example of how people thought at the time, especially since he talked about Judas specifically: I'm sure that, even if the Church had no official position on the subject, many people assumed that Judas went straight to Hell. Besides, in addition to his betrayal, he committed suicide - at least in Matthew - which is a serious crime in itself.

During the Middle Ages, there was so much art and writings about Hell that I doubt the Church was so cautious about declaring "so-and-so is definitely burning in Hell right now". You claim that "in general Catholicism frowns on any claim to know that anyone is damned", and this is true for present-day Catholicism, but it's a fairly recent development.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:33 am 
Šriftom
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Salmoneus wrote:
KathTheDragon wrote:
Salmoneus wrote:
The problem with the idea is that it has God directly enacting a work of evil, which is generally a heretical thought.

See, I'd disagree. Sin, as I understand it, boils down to rejecting God, so God can't sin. The notion of "evil" beyond just sin is... well, why don't you try defining it in such a way that it can apply to God? Moreover, God already directly planned something we'd generally consider wrong: he sent his own son to his death. As in, "you're gonna go down to Earth to get murdered, you cool with that?" (And yes, I've seen this used as an argument that God isn't as benevolent as we claim him to be.) So clearly there's something about this sort of situation that our own morality fails to consider.


Ah, the Horns of Euthyphro! Answers don't precisely conform to denominations, but generally the more fundamentalist the protestant the more they side with Divine Command (good is good because God had a whim one day to make people do it, and if they don't do it they'll burn in hell and that's what Morality means), while the more Jesuit the Catholic the more they side with rationalism (because god is a good person, she doesn't do bad things).

Specifically, to enlarge on Zompists' comment, it's not just that God happens to decide to do what is good. Rather, that's a tautology:

- "good" is what everyone wants, and "evil" is what anybody doesn't want
- because everyone wants good, nobody ever wants evil intentionally
- when anyone wants to do something that's evil, it's because they don't realise it's evil
(specifically, Aquinas thinks that people do evil because they pursue a temporary, personal or limited good, which blinds them to the permanent, universal or unlimited good with which their 'locally' good action actually conflicts)
- to do evil is therefore to be ignorant [this can be ignorance of facts or ignorance of reason itself; to do evil due to ignorance of reason is to sin, but people are not culpable for evil that results from a genuine and invincible ignorance of facts]
- god is omniscient
- therefore god is not ignorant, and cannot do evil. To say that God does something evil is to say that she's ignorant of what's good, but since he's omniscient that's impossible.
- [and god cannot WANT to do evil, since if he, OR ANYONE, wanted it it wouldn't be evil, since evil is what's not wanted]

In the case of Judas, it therefore follows that either:
a) Judas betraying Christ was not evil, and hence not a sin
or b) God didn't make Judas betray Christ. If Judas sinned, he must have been ignorant, and if God made him sin, she must have intentionally made Judas ignorant. Since ignorance is the essence of evil, God could never intentionally make someone ignorant of anything.

[this also neatly addresses the origin of evil problem. Since then God didn't intentionally encourage ignorance in anyone, she just chose to make beings that weren't her, i.e. were imperfect, i.e. were incapable of perfect knowledge, i.e. were ignorant, i.e. were capable of evil. ]

But what about natural evil then, i.e. evil with no identifiable non-divine perpetrator? And yes, while one can state that in some ways apparent natural evils are contributed to by man (e.g. Rousseau's criticism of Voltaire's view that the Lisbon earthquake was natural evil on the basis of that the way humans built Lisbon significantly contributed to the resulting horrors), there are still evils that are hard to ascribe to man, e.g. many cases of various sorts of diseases (e.g. how can people reasonably anticipate autosomal recessive genetic diseases?). And the Bible itself identifies God as the ultimate perpetrator of such evils, to quote Wikipedia:

Wikipedia wrote:
  • Floods: God brought “a flood of waters on the earth” (Genesis 6:17).
  • Thunder, hail, lightning: God “sent thunder and hail, and fire came down” (Exodus 9:23).
  • Destructive Wind: God sent a “great wind” that destroyed Job’s house and killed his family (Job 1:19).
  • Earthquake: By the Lord “the earth will be shaken” (Isaiah 13:13).
  • Drought and Famine: God will shut off rains, so neither land nor trees yield produce (Leviticus 26:19-20).
  • Forest fires: God says, “Say to the southern forest, 'I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree'” (Ezekiel 20:47).


Things such as these are difficult to argue away on the basis that God permits free will, unlike moral evil. So how do Christians reconcile these with an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god?

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:09 pm 
Šriftom
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I have been looking up how Christians justify natural evil, and the general theme I am getting is that they tend a bit towards Deism when they attempt to justify it, by saying that God created the world according to a plan that is greater than ourselves, and sometimes bad things happen as a result of the workings of the world that God has set in motion, which operate as real, physical things that operate according to the principles God has set in place as opposed to being arbitrarily commanded by God at any given moment. One example I read was with regard to earthquakes - yes, they are a natural evil, but at the same time they are a necessary result of plate tectonics, and without plate tectonics life would not flourish on Earth, so hence they are a result of God's plan, but at the same time do not contradict God's being omnibenevolent.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:32 pm 
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More thoughts, from a stew of perhaps half-remembered theology...

1. The natural world is not so much evil as dangerous.

2. Humans make natural dangers worse by either sin or foolishness. We don't have to live next to a volcano, or multiply so much that we live in drought-prone regions.

3. Humans do far worse to each other than nature does to us.

In modern terms, we might say that God is not a helicopter parent, but a tiger parent. That is, his benevolence does not consist in keeping his charges from all evil and danger. Rather, he gives them a good deal of freedom in a dangerous world, because this creates a higher order of goodness.

Of course, this may mean that God is just not to modern tastes. It was much more compatible with cultures where kings, fathers, and husbands were expected to be strict and not infrequently violent.

(And of course you can modernize the idea of God, but then much of the Bible won't fit the new theology.)


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:53 pm 
Šriftom
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zompist wrote:
More thoughts, from a stew of perhaps half-remembered theology...

1. The natural world is not so much evil as dangerous.

2. Humans make natural dangers worse by either sin or foolishness. We don't have to live next to a volcano, or multiply so much that we live in drought-prone regions.

3. Humans do far worse to each other than nature does to us.

In modern terms, we might say that God is not a helicopter parent, but a tiger parent. That is, his benevolence does not consist in keeping his charges from all evil and danger. Rather, he gives them a good deal of freedom in a dangerous world, because this creates a higher order of goodness.

Of course, this may mean that God is just not to modern tastes. It was much more compatible with cultures where kings, fathers, and husbands were expected to be strict and not infrequently violent.

(And of course you can modernize the idea of God, but then much of the Bible won't fit the new theology.)

The kind of thing that seems hard to justify this kind of way is some diseases - not the kinds of diseases that can be dealt with with better sanitation, vaccination, or healthier ways of living - but the kinds of disease which are mostly unpredictable and unavoidable, such as autosomal recessive genetic disorders, things which cannot be explained away as being in a way a result of our sin or foolishness. In this the only way it seems that it could be justified is by saying that they are an unavoidable result of how life was created by God which could not be "designed away", and that God chooses to not interfere with how life operates, letting it operate on its own after having created it.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:07 am 
Visanom
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That’s more or less Maimonides’ view, which is that God didn’t create evil at all; rather what we call ‘evil’ is merely a symptom both of free will and of living in a physical world. The evils done by humans (injustices, crimes, etc.) can only be solved by humans, because if God solved them for us, instead of letting us deal with the consequences of having free will, we wouldn’t have free will in the first place. The ‘evils’ of living in a physical world arise from Creation following its own laws, which God of course laid out, but in which he doesn’t intervene when those laws allow for something ‘evil’ (earthquakes, autosomal recessive genetic disorders, etc.) to come about accidentally. And of course the reason why God would let the laws of nature allow for such things to come about accidentally in the first place is because he can’t create laws that would obstruct our free will: if we couldn’t choose to live righteously in spite of suffering from the imperfections of the physical world, we wouldn’t really be free, and if we lived in a perfect world where everything was always lovely, there’d be no point in having free will.


The more traditional explanations in Judaism, though, seem to be:

a) that the suffering of the righteous is either punishment for adopting their ancestors’ sinful ways, or that, since no one is wholly righteous, God ‘pays off’ the punishments for a righteous person’s minor sins by not protecting them from suffering in this world, so that in the World-to-Come their reward will be greater, and conversely ‘pays off’ the rewards for a sinner’s minor good deeds by letting them succeed now, so that in the next world their punishment will be greater (Brachot 7a), or;

b) that it’s simply “not in our power [to understand] the tranquility of the wicked and the trials of the righteous” (Pirkei Avot 4:15); God had his reasons for making the world the way it is and we can’t comprehend them intellectually, so we should just move on from asking why, and continue being righteous and protesting evil in spite of our personal trials, without becoming complacent and sliding into wickedness if things start going well for us;

both of which come down to: “The house is on fire now; stop asking why and help put it out already.”


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 9:16 am 
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I always liked my hiloni mother's interpretation: God's morality is Blue and Orange and incomprehensible; neither evil nor good as we cannot understand God. From what I understood from her, she believes God encompasses the entirety of both existence and non-existence. I always wonder what is the point of calling this entity God then, as it is indistinguishable in definition from just saying "everything".

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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:03 am 
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Presumably to make his agency explicit.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:28 am 
Sumerul
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zompist wrote:
2. Humans make natural dangers worse by either sin or foolishness. We don't have to live next to a volcano, or multiply so much that we live in drought-prone regions.
Or *create* drought-prone regions: http://www.unhcr.org/climate-change-and-disasters.html


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:59 pm 
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masako wrote:
...


Thank you. I'm glad someone here appreciates comedy!

[although my post was also factually correct]



Travis: I think there's something rather odd about wanting to call a lightning bolt "evil" in the first place? How could a lightning bolt be capable of sin, lacking either a will or an intellect? A lightning bolt is inconvenient, but it's hardly evil, in the ordinary sense! [though theologically it can indeed be called a 'natural' or 'metaphysical' evil - yet this evil is not real, but only subjective].


I think the Catholic view on natural evils can probably be addressed in two directions. First, all evil is considered to be punishment for wickedness; but it doesn't necessarily punish the wicked in all cases. So natural disasters are spoken of as both punishment for the wicked AND trials for the righteous.

Second, more generally, the purpose of creation is not man's earthly pleasures, but God's own glory, which is made manifest in the wonders of nature - including, but not limited to, mankind. The laws of physics and their consequences are displays of God's power, and as his powers are limitless and are displayed within a finite world, that world must be ever-changing. What humans see as natural evils are only inevitable changes in the natural world, which can never remain in stasis. Summer yields to winter; things grow old and die, but give birth to new life, which grows in turn. Beautiful tigers can only live, and can only display their awesome majesty, by ripping apart and eating beautiful deer, or occasionally people. Dead things rot, allowing fungi to grow. A terrible plague from the perspective of a human is a golden age, a wondrous age of flourishing and growth and multiplication and variety and mutation from the perspective of bacteria. Religion teaches us that the human perspective and the human experience is more important to God than that of a bacterium; but it doesn't guarantee that the human perspective is ALL-important to God, or that the deadly plague bacilllus isn't entitled to its own small modicum of Divine favour! [those who lived and died during the Black Death might have felt that this kind of sucked; but in the longer, largely yet-to-come arc of human history, the brief halcyon age for Yersinia pestis is only a brief moment of divine favour in the middle of a long history of God caring more about humans - a brief moment after which that organism fades away and doubtless is eventually exterminated by nature or by human hand. Being eaten by a tiger sucks. But from the point of view of tigers as a whole, getting to eat a couple of hundred humans throughout the whole of history may seem like an equally shoddy deal when counterbalanced against their looming extinction at the hands of mankind! Every natural evil seems like an evil to humans, but only because they tend to assume that only humans matter! But to God, everything matters - humans maybe most of all, but not to the exclusion of everything else, including tigers, pestilence and lightning.]

These two approaches can then by reconciled by remembering that human goodness consists in conformity to the will of God: goodness is wanting what God wants. Evil is turning away from God. But for this reason, the same natural disaster can be a trial for the good - who are challenged to accept God's will even when it seems to screw them over - and a punishment for the wicked. The wicked suffer when their will conflicts with natural events precisely because what they desire is not what God desires, and events prevent them from getting what they desire, so they are unhappy. But if they wanted what God wanted, then they would be happy when events delivered that to them - even if what God wanted was for them to nobly sacrifice themselves in order to allow certain plague bacteria to briefly thrive. [if they want to further God's will, they accept their fate as a sacrifice they make for God; but if they don't want to further God's will, then by definition they are themselves (at least partly) evil, and their fate is (at least partly) a punishment for that]

Of course, believers may then hope that those who seem to receive less of God's attention in life may be rewarded in some way in an afterlife. But I don't think that's ever actually promised (the good are rewarded, but I don't think it's promised that the unfortunate good are rewarded more than the fortunate good?).




I'd also just throw in a couple of ideas that come from the intersection of religion with other philosophical approaches.

First, if we think about evil as what obstructs our desires, we have to then think about the Fichtean Anstoss. Fichte says that for the 'I' to posit itself - that is, to hypothesise its own existence and hence to become aware of itself, and hence to become conscious, an act of self-recognition that underpins all its subjective existence - it must encounter its own limitations. It finds its reaching out, its desires, unpredictably and incomprehensibly obstructed by an exterior force over which it has no control - its will is checked by a contrary Anstoss - and as a result it is forced to conceive of a not-I, and by contrast an I. Without the concept of something that is not me, I can have no concept of me - and without self-concept, I cannot have any of the higher intellectual processes that I enjoy, and that we almost universally consider to be good. Limitation creates identity.
But from the religious point of view, limitation - the obstruction of our desires - is what we call evil. It is evil, therefore, that is the precondition of existence as an intellectual being. Suffering - the experience of our encounter with evil - is not only in some abstract way as is often said essential to a meaningful life, to happiness - it is directly and fundamentally the basis of all intellectual existence.

[Fichte believes that our identity develops as we are 'summoned' by the not-I, and we in turn summon the not-I: we are summoned to enter, to create, a community of selves that mutually undertake to limit their own powers out of respect for the other. First I recognise that, for example, I cannot use your hand to close the window, and that therefore your hand is not me (and by contrast, my hand is me!), but is something not-me. Then I specifically recognise that the not-me in question is a like-me, and you and I agree not to act in certain ways toward one another - in other words, to respect each other's own desires, and each other's own interests and goods. So it is relatively easy for empathetic people to understand the evils ariving for conflicts between the wills of individuals. We understand that if there are x loaves of bread, and x+1 people, not everybody can have an entire loaf, and therefore some or all of us will go hungry. Why do natural evils seem harder to understand? Because we fail to issue our 'summons' widely enough! We see each others as independent beings (specifically as rational beings, Fichte thinks), but we fail to understand and respect the independent beinghood of monkeys, dogs, flies, bacteria, rocks, magma, electric currents and so forth (Fichte is OK with this). If we thought of the natural world as possessing its own interests, we would find it easier to accept that those interests could be at odds with the interests of humans. As I say above, the Christian perspective does assert that human interests are in general more important than those of 'lesser' parts of existence - but not necessarily without any importance, and hence their interests will at least sometimes conflict with ours, and their place in 'God's plan' will sometimes seem to, briefly, outshine our own.

We may also see this mindset in pagan religions, in which the natural world as a whole, or parts of the natural world, are given personal identities, or seen as being moved by unseen persons: if the volcano is a person, it's easy to see why the volcano may sometimes have to put its own interests (relieving its indigestion!) ahead of our interests without it being an evil volcano per se - we all have to do that sometimes. Or if the volcano is a favoured toy of a volcano-enthusiast person who isn't that into humans (but may want to remain on good terms with his human-loving little sister, say), again we can understand that, while they may try to take our feelings into account, they're sometimes going to put their own first and press the 'fun volcano stuff!' button in their godly magma-lair. Similarly in monotheism, all these interests can still be present, only the volcano-god and the human-god are the same person, and their negotiations are internal and unseen. So to the monotheist, natural evils needn't be a great mystery!]

[[the atheist worried about the problem of evil, meanwhile, is effectively a guy yelling at a volcano "why the fuck do you get a say? who cares what you want, you damn volcano!" - and aside from the problem that the volcano cannot reply, and the atheist knows it, this kind of seems like a rather entitled position. Without a benevolent deity, there's nobody whose job it is to make sure that human interests always outweigh volcano-interests. But with a deity, the position of the complainer worsens - it may be reasonable to think himself more important than a volcano, even if he has no way to enforce that importance, but it's clearly not reasonable to think himself more important than a god. When the believer complains about the problem of evil, they're saying "hey, God, how come I'm not the most important thing in the universe, eh? Stop playing with that volcano and give me more attention! I'm the one that matters, remember! What's up with you going and talking to all these other guys - I thought you said I was your favourite! Spend more time with me, damnit! And how dare you give money to that homeless hyaena when you know my 60-inch flatscreen could do with upgrading?"... and God is quite within her rights to exasperatedly respond: "hey, dude, you know I love you, but I've got a busy life here and you're not the total centre of the universe, OK? I'm allowed to have friends, right?"]]

(((and going back: the Fichtean approach also proposes an answer to the question of WHY God would make intelligent beings in the first place. Or rather, religion answers the question of why, in a Fichtean world, consciousness would ever arise. Because only the limited being - the conscious being - is able to appreciate the other. You can't appreciate the other as other if you cannot distinguish it from yourself. Only the conscious being, therefore, is able to respect the other, and to praise the other. For the theist, then, only the conscious, limited mind can bear witness to the glory of God; only the conscious mind can sing the praise of God. But the conscious mind is a limited mind, and a limited mind by definition is a suffering mind. Only suffering can create the preconditions for the adoration of God. But the theist can offer the Fichtean a heaven, because the Fichtean mind only requires the Anstoss in its creation; once consciousness exists, the mere memory of limitation should suffice to maintain the concept of self-hood, even once limitation has been removed. But why wouldn't God pluck everyone out of life and into heaven as soon as they had 'enough' suffering to attain consciousness? Well, for limitation to be limiting, the removal of limitation must not be taken for granted. the self cannot will the end of the Anstoss, because then it would see the Anstoss as under its power, and part of itself; and if the end of limitation could reliably be predicted at a certain point, it would not be seen as a limit, but only as a delay. (and as a practical matter, while only a little suffering is enough to create a person, further suffering creates more interesting and varied people, which could be seen as a good in its own right).)))

(((of course, that's the religion-friendly version. It could also be said: God has to create people with free will, because only the existence of beings capable of defying God allows God herself to become conscious of her own self. That's probably LESS in line with most orthodox christianity...)))

(((and here of course we could say something about Hegel, but...)))


The other point I'd make is with relation to Pragmatism. Pragmatism is basically the belief that truth is what we'd all eventually believe given unlimited time and unlimited access to the facts. Conversely, well-functioning societies advance toward truth. So, for instance, all else being equal, a society will eventually come to believe that objects of different mass nonetheless fall at the same rate if their size and shape are the same - because, as experiments continue to show this, it becomes harder and harder not to believe it, and believing it enable us to do stuff we like (like launch GPS satellites). This theory creates a direct link between truth and evil: beliefs that enable us to overcome and eliminate evils (obstacles to our desires) are accepted as true for precisely that reason, and hence maximally evil-defeating beliefs are maximally true. Mankind, by approaching truth, approaches the overcoming of evil. Nietzsche defines mankind as that animal that is not yet perfectly adapted to its environment - and in the same way, the Pragmatists can see the progress of history as a proces of adaptation to our environment - which includes adapting to be able to modify the local conditions of our environment, even if we cannot change the fundamental laws. Knowledge is power.

And the thing to bear in mind here is that as we adapt and progress toward truth, 'natural evils' are eliminated. Drought is an evil? Well, not only can we adapt not to live in the desert, but we can adapt the desert. Knowledge allows us to irrigate. Knowledge allows to to develop vaccines. Knowledge allows us to build earthquake-resistent buildings. Knowledge overcomes evil. Now, in certain naive forms of atheism, it is imagined that knowledge is, as it were, a victory against God for this reason. God - the God that fails to exist - has created a world in which we suffer from evil, in which we have to fight to overcome our natural status through knowledge - and the fact that we have to fight against nature in this way is called the problem of evil and used as a proof that no such cruel God could exist. But from the Catholic point of view (and that of other religious traditions I'm sure), obtaining knowledge isn't fighting against God's plan, but fulfilling it. The world is laid out to be interpretable by divinely-gifted reason. The lover of God is a lover of reason, and the people of God are a scientific people who constantly strive to know God's creation more fully.
Or to put it the other way around: if knowledge overcomes evil, evil is the absence of knowledge, which is to say, going back to the beginning, that evil is, or is born from, ignorance.

Now it might be objected that a lot of natural evil is punishing an invincible and hence inculpable ignorance. It's easy to see measles today as a punishment for the heresy of anti-vax (all sin is a sin against reason, after all!); but people who died of measles hundreds of years ago had no way, personally, to avoid that ignorance. But on the societal level, the case is rather better. If only everybody in AD1200 had given up their petty and ungodly obsessions - their wars, their avarice, their pride, their xenophobias, etc - and dedicated themselves fully and unambiguously to the sincere and unambiguous pursuit of understanding of God's creation, and specifically those parts relating to disease and the creation of lab equipment, perhaps they could have created a yersinia vaccine by 1347! After all, the fact that people eventually discovered a smallpox vaccine was not due to any change in the natural resources available to us - it was due to the human thirst for knowledge, and the development of the social environment that allowed that thirst to succeed, and to have a society-wide effect. That's on us, not on the natural world. Complaining about the people who died of smallpox is kind of like complaining about the people who died because Mongols burned their homes and why is it that God lets this dangerous 'fire' stuff go on? Well, God created the possibility of fire, but he didn't make people misuse it. He created the possibility of fire, but he also created the possibility of fire-extinguishers - he made fire-extinguishers something that human societies could make quite cheaply. He invented smallpox, but he also invented a surprisingly easy smallpox vaccine. God must be kind of pissed off that humans spent hundreds of years happily massacreing each other and completely ignoring the possibility of a smallpox vaccine, all the time complaining about how God allowed people to die of smallpox. Humans were standing around in a room with a fire, all the time ignoring the fire extinguisher and instead throwing glasses of alcohol at each other and pushing each other toward the flames. "Dudes, the fire's OK if you just take care with it! That's why I gave you the damn fire extinguisher! You set fire to each other, that's not my fault!" - likewise "No, I allowed you to study the smallpox virus and witness its beauty! Nobody would have died over it if you'd just used the damn vaccine I gave you! What do you mean "but we didn't see it?" It's right there! If you hadn't spent the last ten thousand years killing your neighbour because you wanted his goats, you'd have noticed it!" - I mean let's be honest here, humans were sitting around for 100,000 years before they invented some really quite obvious things. And if they hadn't spent 99,500 of those years brutally massacring each other, they'd probably have gotten around to the vaccine and the transistor a lot earlier in that process!

OK, so the victims still aren't necessarily the most guilty. But in a divine plan, they don't have to be. [again, believers generally hope that the people seemingly shafted by this part of the plan may get compensated in other ways, although some would argue that the privilege of helping their fellow man through their critical role in the plan is reward enough for the truly selfless]. In this view, the people who died of cholera in the 19th century died of cholera so that the people who lived in the 20th through 497th centuries would be spurred toward the holy and sacred path of hand-washing. [that is, toward the truth-seeking spirit that brings both knowledge of sanitation and knowledge of God].


[Going back to Nietzsche: he defined man as the animal that was not yet perfectly adapted to its environment, but also as the animal that was not yet determined. The theist would probably note with some smugness that while the first is the source of suffering, the second is what enables us to overcome suffering through change. The same faculty that gives mankind greater awareness of suffering than any other creature is the same faculty that makes mankind more able than any other species to overcome suffering.]



...well OK then. Obviously I don't think this covers the topic of evil fully, and certainly it doesn't fully and faithfully reflect Catholic dogma on the subject. But I hope I've given some interesting ideas about the way that different aspects of the European intellectual tradition can tackle the issue, and how they might interact, and might be driven by similar thoughts, and might have historically existed in a dialogue with one another, which is something that I think a lot of naive 'rebuttals' of religion fail to take into consideration.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 3:43 am 
Lebom
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Travis B. wrote:
The kind of thing that seems hard to justify this kind of way is some diseases - not the kinds of diseases that can be dealt with with better sanitation, vaccination, or healthier ways of living - but the kinds of disease which are mostly unpredictable and unavoidable, such as autosomal recessive genetic disorders, things which cannot be explained away as being in a way a result of our sin or foolishness.
Assuming "evil" is what anybody doesn't want, it can be explained in this eugenic way simply and clearly:
Autosomal recessive genetic disorders is not wanted.
Genes causing autosomal recessive genetic disorders is not wanted.
Preventing those genes from spreading is wanted.
Lack of prevention is the sin.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:27 am 
Avisaru
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That seems like an awfully narrow view of evil. I don't want a hamburger for lunch, but that doesn't mean hamburgers are evil.

(or did you mean, "evil" is something that nobody ever wants? Because in that case, lots of people want to do things that are widely recognized as evil. Murderers largely want to kill their victims, for example. Someone wanting something to occur--a murder--does not mean that this thing is not evil.)

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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:21 am 
Sanno
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alynnidalar wrote:
That seems like an awfully narrow view of evil. I don't want a hamburger for lunch, but that doesn't mean hamburgers are evil.

(or did you mean, "evil" is something that nobody ever wants? Because in that case, lots of people want to do things that are widely recognized as evil. Murderers largely want to kill their victims, for example. Someone wanting something to occur--a murder--does not mean that this thing is not evil.)


But if you want to murder me, I don't want to be murdered. So the murder is evil.
(Catholic teaching is that evil is relative, though good isn't)

Are hamburgers evil? I think you're using some fuzzy deduction there. You don't want to eat the hamburger. So no, in no way could we call the hamburger itself evil. That's not what you're objecting to - you're objecting to act of you eating it.

And if I forced you to eat a hamburger even if you didn't want to? That would indeed seem prima facie to be evil!

[although it might be good in some cases. For instance, if you were in danger of entering a medical crisis from lack of eating, force-feeding you something might be non-evil. Why? Because although it conflicts with your superficial and temporary desire to not eat, that desire is itself evil for obstructing all the other things that you want (in a more ongoing and substantial way) to do, like living. This becomes particularly pressing if you are clearly not thinking rationally at the moment. But of course this sort of issue is a minefield of controversies.]

Interestingly, this assumption - that good is what we want and evil is what we don't want - is the basis of most significant Western systems of morality. Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Aristotelianism and Catholicism all spring to mind.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:38 pm 
Avisaru
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Salmoneus wrote:
alynnidalar wrote:
That seems like an awfully narrow view of evil. I don't want a hamburger for lunch, but that doesn't mean hamburgers are evil.

(or did you mean, "evil" is something that nobody ever wants? Because in that case, lots of people want to do things that are widely recognized as evil. Murderers largely want to kill their victims, for example. Someone wanting something to occur--a murder--does not mean that this thing is not evil.)


But if you want to murder me, I don't want to be murdered. So the murder is evil.
(Catholic teaching is that evil is relative, though good isn't)


I think my post was unclear. I'm trying to understand svid's definition of evil: "Assuming "evil" is what anybody doesn't want..." And my conclusion is that this is a very unsatisfactory definition of evil.

I understood this as being able to be interpreted in one of two ways. Either it means "evil is anything that any specific individual person doesn't want", or it means "evil is anything that EVERYBODY doesn't want". That is, either something is evil because because at least 1 person doesn't want it (the hamburger example), or it's evil because 100% of people don't want it (the murder example).

In the first example (it's evil because at least 1 person doesn't want it), there are many things where at least one person doesn't want it, but it usually isn't considered evil.

In the second example (it's evil because 100% of people don't want it), there are many things where at least one person DOES want it, but it usually is considered evil anyway.

While I'm at it, I'll throw in a third possible interpretation: that something is evil because most people don't want it. But this is still not very satisfactory because it's so incredibly nebulous and essentially says that nothing can ever really be evil; if you can convince enough people that murder isn't really evil, then suddenly it would become not-evil.

So I don't find this idea of evil being tied to human preferences that svid suggests particularly reasonable.

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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:43 pm 
Sumerul
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Salmoneus wrote:
But if you want to murder me, I don't want to be murdered. So the murder is evil.

Pro-choice advocates want to be able to abort children, while pro-lifers don't want anyone to be able to. So being able to abort is evil. [/facetious]


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:52 pm 
Sumerul
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Sal wrote:
the atheist worried about the problem of evil, meanwhile, is effectively a guy yelling at a volcano "why the fuck do you get a say? who cares what you want, you damn volcano!" - and aside from the problem that the volcano cannot reply, and the atheist knows it, this kind of seems like a rather entitled position. Without a benevolent deity, there's nobody whose job it is to make sure that human interests always outweigh volcano-interests.

Well, that's one way of looking at the atheist's position. The other is that the atheist simply has decided that, instead of making up elaborate explanations why a good and benevolent and omnipotent god lets evil happen, the simpler theory is to assume that there's no god, that "good" and "evil" perhaps make sense as categories for judging of human actions (or more widely of actions by entities able to make conscious choices), but that it doesn't make much sense to apply it to stuff like volcanos and autosomal diseases, because they do not involve conscious decisions by volcanoes or genes.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:09 pm 
Sumerul
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KathTheDragon wrote:
pro-lifers don't want anyone to be able to (abort) [/facetious]

Do they? I'm sure they don't want anyone to abort*1), and they want to prevent abortion, so they want to restrict the ability. But, technically, any able-bodied woman can abort, with simple instruments (although with a lot of risk), and while I assume pro-lifers probably would take coat-hangers away from pregnant women who want to abort, they wouldn't take them away from women who don't want to abort. So, technically, they're not against the ability to abort, only against the wish to abort, the privisioning of means for abortions to those who want to abort, and the abortion itself. And I think that, at least for pro-lifers, indeed abortions, enabling abortions, and the wish to abort are evil, but not the ability to abort in itself.
*1) I assume that among pro-lifers, there are different positions on under what circumstances abortions might be justified, but I don't think we need to go into details on this.


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 Post subject: Re: Random Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:16 pm 
Sumerul
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Then add "to wish" after "be able", it really doesn't change anything. Sal's argument doesn't work because when you have two groups of people, each of whom don't want what the other group does want, you're forced to conclude that they're both evil.


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