That's why the doctrine of divine simplicity appeals to me: it's abstracted from observations in the same way as the Big Bang: the former being hierarchical and the latter temporal.
The Big Bang is not abstracted from observation in the same way as divine simplicity. The most fundamental difference is that the Big Bang is something for which there is evidence. There is no evidence, nothing that can be observed, of a hierarchy that supports divine simplicity. On the face of it one might think we can observe the complex emerging from or being built on the simple at the physical level, but closer observation reveals that at the most fundamental level we are able to observe things are not at all simple, they are and may remain for us incomprehensible. What we find is not simplicity but another physical level of complexity, a level that challenges common sense notions of physicality.
Put simply, the notion of a first cause in Aristotle’s sense is not what it seems from a cursory reading. Current research by authors such as Christopher Bruell (whom I had the pleasure of studying Aristotle's ethics with) and David Bolton, schooled in the art of how to read carefully - following the lead of the author and not basing their reading of ancient authors on modern assumptions of philosophy and science, have persuasively argued that Aristotle’s first cause or principle, which is taken by Aquinas and others as pointing to God, points rather to the underlying aporia. Aristotle's work is dialectical in the Platonic sense, working through "what is said", showing how the assumptions that underlie our thinking and the thinkers who have influenced our thinking, lead to problematic conclusions. Aristotle is, to put it simply, firmly in the tradition of Socratic skepticism, which is not to be confused with modern or other forms of skepticism. He is not revealing knowledge of first things. On the contrary, he shows that we simply lack knowledge of such things as the origin of the universe. The danger of course is that all kinds of speculation rush in to fill the void. Aristotle’s first or primary motivation is to bring some kind of order to such unruliness, not to add to the speculative claims about things we know nothing of.
Anything beyond that is complete mystery …
Right, except you have already gone too far. Attempting to solve a mystery by positing an underlying mystery, to posit a “ground of being” that itself is prior to being, explains nothing. It amounts to saying that there is something because there is something prior, something that is not a thing, that makes it possible, and that tells us nothing.
I recognize the danger of using "mind" in this context because of the tendency of people to think any mind worthy of the name must function under constraints similar to our own. This is absurd, of course.
You have this backwards. It is reasoning by analogy and a form of anthropomorphism even if Mind is not bound by the constraints of the human mind - the logic is that because the human mind is able to see an intelligible order there must be Intelligence or Mind that structures or brings about an ordered universe.
I do not think the kind of mind I'm talking about needs any purpose other than fulfill its nature …
One might just as well say that what is does not need any purpose other than to fulfill its nature, which is to be.
Don't get me wrong. Evil (suffering) isn't something we should or can ignore (though some religions teach detachment as a way to avoid it), but as an argument against God it's completely irrelevant.
First of all, the fact that you continue to ignore is that it is not an argument against God. It is an problem that theologians grapple with, and not merely to protect God from arguments against him. Second, it does pose a danger that some may feel threatened by, for it leads to the question of what kind of God is it that shows evident lack of concern for suffering. Paul’s promise was that God was so concerned that He sent his only Son to end human suffering, and yet two thousand years later there is still suffering. Now you may or may not think this mythology is nonsense, you may hold to some abstract version of God and temporality that precludes intervention, but in response one who is searching for God may be troubled by the problem of how to reconcile this God with a God who loves and cares for mankind. And again, you may or may not reject the notion of a loving God, but if you reject it those who are searching for God may reject the God you have defined out of existence because it does not address their ultimate concern or if you accept that God is a loving God then you either have to provide an explanation for how God’s doing nothing is consistent with God’s love, or admit that it is a problem without an answer. And, of course, this poses its own threat because some turn to God for answers and are left perplexed.
BTW: Maimonides classic work of theology Guide for the Perplexed
does not resolve but rather highlights irreconcilable differences between reason and revelation or religion.
Again, there is no such thing as 'suffering', only particular events.
By that logic there is no pain either, which, of course, is of little comfort to those in pain or suffering.
To swap 'evil' for 'suffering' would be a completely different argument. Events, like stubbing toes, are simply themselves. They have no moral content.
From an earlier post:
There is a great deal of confusion that arises from the fact that there is no single, universal concept of ‘evil’. The following distinctions should be helpful for seeing that with arguments about evil the parties may be talking about different things. The terminology is rough and may not be inclusive, but I think it is still useful as a starting point.
Manicheism: This is the belief that there are two opposing primary forces good and evil or light and darkness.
Value Monism: This is the belief that there is only God or the good. It is a denial that evil exists as a primary force.
Both of the above reify the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’. The denial of reified evil is not necessarily a denial of evil.
Value Judgment: Good and bad are evaluative terms, they exist as judgments.
In line with this view one might say good and evil do not identify or describe features of the world and therefore do not exist or are not real or not objectively real.
Subjective Reality: The subjective or existential level of description of reality is also fundamental.
What matters to us is real. Pain is real, suffering is real, and our judgment about these is also real. From this perspective evil exists, evil is real.
With regard to the problem of evil, it exists as a matter of subjective reality no matter what one’s concept of God may be. As long as we suffer, the problem exists. The terminology may be infelicitous but we are stuck with it. It is part of our language. The only solution is to clarify what one means by the term evil and what means by the problem of evil, that is, what one thinks the problem is that is being posed and what it entails.
Recent discussion here has been focused on how the term was used is the Hebrew Bible. That is not to say that this is the only legitimate use, but if we are to look at the problem of evil it makes sense to go back to our sources. It we reify the concept of evil, if we think of it exclusively in terms of moral content then much of what the Hebrew Bible says about ra’ makes no sense.
But then why blame God?
We have been over this several times. Although there are some who see the problem of evil in terms of blame that is not what the problem is about, or, more precisely, it is only one aspect or expression of the problem.
But seriously, God is a metaphysical being, so if we are going to claim there is a 'problem' it has to be a problem with some metaphysical quality (like 'evil').
That makes no sense. The story of Job is not about metaphysics, but it is about the problem of evil. It does not question the existence of God. It probes but cannot find a satisfactory answer for the reason and meaning of the evil or adversity or suffering that befalls him, and by extension, the evil that may befall us all.
Fooloso4, I cannot see that God=being-itself differs from Spinoza's version of God.
Well, first I should point out that there is a great deal of disagreement regarding how Spinoza is to be interpreted and many have noted a plurality of theological views in Tillich that do not seem to form a consistent, coherent whole. In other words, I am blaming them and others for any ways in which I may misrepresent them. More seriously, I have not spent much time reading either in depth and anything I say is tentative.
The first and most obvious difference is that Tillich was a Christian and Spinoza was not. Christ is not merely compatible with Tillich’s theology, he is essential to it. In line with this, Tillich supports a notion of a personal God (not to be confused with theist personalism), which I don’t think Spinoza does. God can, for Spinoza, be known via geometrical demonstration, that is, by reason. Tillich holds that God is beyond rational comprehension. Spinoza claims that although God is indivisible, he says that God or substance consisting of infinite attributes must exist, Tillich denies that God has infinite attributes, at least in the literal sense. According to Spinoza, in nature nothing is contingent. For Tillich the world is not possible without God, but he does not go so far as to say that because there is God there must be the world. Where Spinoza makes no distinction between God and Nature, for Tillich nature is not being itself but dependent upon the power of God in order to be. According to Tillich:
The core weakness of naturalism is that it “denies the infinite distance between the whole of finite things and their creative ground,” so that the terms “God” and “universe” become interchangeable. Consequently, it cannot account for the “experience of the holy” afforded by the sense of “distance” between finite humanity and the holy.39 (Systematic Theology volume 2)
Spinoza himself says that the two aspects of God which we are aware of ,i.e. the eternal and the finite ,are not the whole of God who is infinite and includes aspects that we cannot know.
Do you have a reference? I would have to see that in context before commenting. I think he shares and perhaps goes beyond Descartes’ optimism in the infinite perfectibility of man. According to Spinoza:
The human Mind has an adequate knowledge of God’s eternal and infinite essence (Ethics, Part 2, proposition 47)
In the note to this proposition and the propositions that follow, like Descartes, he links this to the elimination of error and volition.
I understand from Thiselton's essay that Heidegger and Tillich agree that we approach God from our attitudes towards our lives
Right. In Being and Time
Heidegger talks about “anxiety”. Tillich about “finitude”. Both associate this with death and not being.
… like Shakespeare/Hamlet "The times are out of joint". I get a mental picture of tectonic shifts and continents colliding.
Well, it may have been out of joint with the times, but the idea of evil as absence is an ancient one. We find it, for example, in Plato and following him Plotinus.