If there is a God, why is there evil?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.

Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2221  Postby Dark Matter » July 16th, 2017, 3:44 am

Fanman said:,

I think that the concept of something from nothing is counter-intuitive, because our experience is that something is always the cause of something else. But even with the concept of cause and effect, there is the counter-intuitive problem of infinite regression. The concept of “first cause” also seems counter-intuitive (to me), but it would seem from my level of understanding that one of these conditions may be the case. My issue is, where in any of those scenarios does a creator become a necessary contingent? From an empirical perspective, an eternal “being” that is not contingent upon anything, yet everything is contingent upon seems unlikely, what would such a being be-like, ontologically speaking?


This is what I find so fascinating. The options are limited (or so it seems), but none of the options, from a logical and scientific point of view, have the right "flavor," if you know what I mean. The concept of a "first cause" seems the least objectionable (to me), but only if "first" is understood in the sense of being most fundamental and not in the sense of being "first" in a series of events. 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. Anything beyond that is complete mystery, but unlike the mathematics that break down at the BB event, we can infer something of the nature and characteristics of the One from the forms it manifests.

I think that essence is something, a precursor to being perhaps. QM does give us a weird view of how reality operates which is not conjecture, but it doesn't give us an “ought” as far as I'm aware. I don't think QM has a bearing on theism, even though it may give us some interesting ideas about ontology.


I agree on all counts here.

Mind as a fundamental feature of the universe, in what respect? Mind is an emergent feature of the universe, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is fundamental. If it was a fundamental feature, the universe would somehow be affected by it's absence, but I don't see anything which points towards that being the case. Stipulating universal purpose implies universal agency, but what is the purpose of Mind? If you can't define a purpose, couldn't that mean that there isn't one, and Mind is a property of the universe as stars are a property of the universe, without any intrinsic purpose except for the things they perform? What is your view here?

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 might not see anything that points to a universe affected by mind, but that's a judgment call. Extremely complex and highly automatic-appearing cosmic mechanisms always tend to conceal the presence of the originative or creative indwelling mind from any and all intelligences very far below the originative levels. Therefore is it inevitable that the higher universe mechanisms must appear to be mindless to the lower orders of creatures. Nevertheless, there are scientists in every field that believe they have very good reasons to disagree with your judgment. They might be a minority, but the reasons they give are, to me, a lot more satisfying than the reasons the likes of Lawrence Krauss gives for disavowing it.

I do not think the kind of mind I'm talking about needs any purpose other than fulfill its nature, which is to coordinate its actions with the One and its "Word" (mentioned in a prior post). (I can expound a lot more on all of this, but I suspect many reading this post already think I'm just blabbering nonsense.)

I don't think so, the PoE highlights a major problem with the existence and nature of an all-good God. You may not see it's importance, but it isn't irrelevant.

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. Well, maybe I should qualify that: it's relevance depends on the theology.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?



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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2222  Postby Londoner » July 16th, 2017, 4:20 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
Me: But I am told that evil is not like that; I'm told that evil exists.

So does suffering. No doubt evil has been reified by some, but the problem of evil can be restated as the problem of suffering. This is entirely consistent with the history of the problem of evil.


Suffering? Again, there is no such thing as 'suffering', only particular events. If I stub my toe, there will be some nerve pain, however if there was no nerve pain I might seriously damage my toe without being aware of it. Is our complaint that God has not devised a system in which pain is enjoyable, rather than unpleasant? Because I can see some drawbacks to that!

To swap 'evil' for 'suffering' would be a completely different argument. Events, like stubbing toes, are simply themselves. They have no moral content. So, it then becomes a criticism of God is practical, of inadequate design and building. For not having created a world in which no being is ever other than completely happy. God could have easily done that - by not creating a world at all; no beings = no suffering. So is our complaint that God created us? Are we like those adolescents who complain to their parents 'I didn't ask to be born!'?

But then why blame God? If we think there is a problem of suffering, it is practical and easily solvable. Just kill ourselves!

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'). Otherwise the argument doesn't work. In which case we are doing theology; we are not questioning whether God 'exists' since our starting point requires that we accept metaphysical things 'exist'.

Fanman:

I think that what is defined as “evil” can be a matter of perspective. I think that suffering can be described as evil if it is caused by an agent. Or if an agent has abundant ability to stop suffering, but allows it to continue. As CuriousB points out, suffering can be a teacher, but it is a harsh one. I view suffering as part of the human condition, which I don't hold to be inherently evil, unless certain criteria are fulfilled. Having a severe flu isn't evil, cancer isn't evil, but they do cause suffering. Evil need not be some mysterious metaphysical entity, it is something negative that is caused by agents. In short, I would say that there is no evil without agency.


So which is it? Is the evil in the suffering? Or is the evil in the agent that causes the suffering? Because the two do not necessarily go together. An agent with a morally good intention might cause suffering. And (as you say) suffering is not necessarily caused by an agent.

I do not think there is 'evil' at all. I think we just use the word as an intensifier of 'bad'. And it also serves to suggest that we are making more than a subjective judgement; 'I think X is bad' is about me, it tells you how I feel. But to say 'X is evil' seems to be asserting a fact about X. It is designed to block the reply 'That is only your opinion'

We cannot build an argument against God based on our own rhetoric. So (as I write above to Fooloso4), we can only apply it to God if we are prepared to claim evil really is a fact, a sort of substance. So it seems to me that the 'problem of evil' can only be a problem about God, not about whether God exists.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2223  Postby Belindi » July 16th, 2017, 5:06 am

Just as Christ, for Tillich, is ultimate only in so far as he points
away from himself to God, so nothing can be said about God himself
which is 'ultimate' except that God is 'being-itself'. 'Nothing else can be
said about God as God which is not symbolic.' 5 7 In one direction Tillich
is trying to do justice to the godhood of God; to his transcendent
otherness. God is not the kind of being who can be spoken of in the
same terms as one of his creatures.


From "The Theology of Paul Tillich" by Anthony C. Thiselton, printed in The Churchman and available online.

Fooloso4, I cannot see that God=being-itself differs from Spinoza's version of God. If you can possibly explain some more of what you see as the difference between Spinoza's and Tillich's versions of God I would really appreciate it. Later on in his essay Thiselton says that Tillich distances his idea of God from pantheism. I struggle to see how the Tillich version as quoted above is different from pantheism, unless the natura naturans, i.e. the aspect of God that transcends the things or events of nature, is also better in some way than the totality of the things or events of nature.

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.

I understand from Thiselton's essay that Heidegger and Tillich agree that we approach God from our attitudes towards our lives, not from some belief or ideology. True, Spinoza approaches God from ideology yet Spinoza, the little we know of him, was passionate about supporting his friends, and about his own integrity, which was why he refused a professorship at Heidelberg , and chose to write inflammatory material.


In the summer semester of 1936, Heidegger gave a lecture course at the
University of Freiburg on Schelling‘s treatise On Human Freedom.
1
Schelling dealt at
length with working out an understanding of the possibility of evil in the Ground of
beings, and in his commentary, Heidegger praises Schelling for radically re-thinking the
understanding of evil as the ―lack‖ which is ―non-being.‖ In Heidegger‘s view, Schelling
boldly attempted to think the ―being‖ of evil precisely as ―lack‖ or ―non-presence‖ [ST,


like Shakespeare/Hamlet "The times are out of joint". I get a mental picture of tectonic shifts and continents colliding.
96-103, esp. 101].
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2224  Postby Fanman » July 16th, 2017, 7:09 am

DM,

This is what I find so fascinating. The options are limited (or so it seems), but none of the options, from a logical and scientific point of view, have the right "flavor," if you know what I mean. The concept of a "first cause" seems the least objectionable (to me), but only if "first" is understood in the sense of being most fundamental and not in the sense of being "first" in a series of events. 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. Anything beyond that is complete mystery, but unlike the mathematics that break down at the BB event, we can infer something of the nature and characteristics of the One from the forms it manifests.


If I had to stick my neck out and say which option I think is the most likely, I would go with the concept of “First Cause.” As you say, not "first" in the sense of being first in a series of events, but first in the sense of it being most fundamental. Perhaps when reduced to it's most basic or simplistic state, there is an “essence” of existence that cannot be further reduced. An essence which makes everything else that has occurred possible. This is of course highly speculative, but to me it makes more sense than something from nothing or an infinite regression of cause and effect. I don't attribute any type of being to such an essence, rather that it is a natural state of affairs (or nature) uncaused, just the way that things are, like a fundamental fabric of existence.

Then, there may be some primordial mysterious creative force with some type of intelligence (I say that due to the complexity and order we observe in the universe) because complexity and order are synonymous with intelligence, but that is as far as I'm willing to speculate in relation to agency. Observable nature seems a continuous and rigid machine, with parameters of what can occur. Yet weird things happen which cause me to think that there may be more to it than we can observe empirically. If our known/empirical methods for examining reality breakdown at a certain point (as you say), this provides some room for examination by other schools of thought, but claiming some kind of “One” or “Divinity” is responsible for existence I think requires a leap, rather than a series of steps towards a holistically viable answer.

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.


Not sure about that, but you may be right. I think that anyone contemplating the universe being created by an intelligent source understands that such a mind would be vastly different to ours. I think that any such mind could only be called a “mind” in the context of the discussion – any being capable of creating existence would be so different from us as to be comparable to our ideas of “God” rather than a human-being. Not similar to us in any respect, therein lies a problem. We are empirical/physical beings, but conceptions about God are metaphysical. How, by what method, does the metaphysical effect the empirical/physical and what evidence do we have that this is even possible? Mind can obviously effect the empirical/physical, but Mind requires a physical entity to have an effect (a brain). God is not a physical entity, but apparently possesses a mind. How does one reconcile this idea with physical models? A mind without a brain? Perhaps “God” is so different from us that it exists as a metaphysical entity, with no physicality, yet can effect the physical, but it seems quite a ropey idea to me. If such questions cannot be answered sufficiently, what reason is there for the concept of God to be taken seriously by a community other than believers? Faith seems to be the “glue” that holds any such ideas together, rather than reason, logic or evidence.

You might not see anything that points to a universe affected by mind, but that's a judgment call. Extremely complex and highly automatic-appearing cosmic mechanisms always tend to conceal the presence of the originative or creative indwelling mind from any and all intelligences very far below the originative levels. Therefore is it inevitable that the higher universe mechanisms must appear to be mindless to the lower orders of creatures. Nevertheless, there are scientists in every field that believe they have very good reasons to disagree with your judgment. They might be a minority, but the reasons they give are, to me, a lot more satisfying than the reasons the likes of Lawrence Krauss gives for disavowing it.


It is a judgement call you're right, but what reason is there to believe that Mind is fundamental to the universe? I think the universe would go on functioning the same without Mind, especially considering that Mind may not have always existed. If there is some type of "Superior Mind," for it to be fundamental would suggest that the universe would not function without it – yet there is no obvious indication that such a Mind exists. If we are “lower orders of creatures” such that we are unable to comprehend the superior Mind, why has this mind attempted to communicate with us through religious books? I have no doubt that people far more intelligent than me have a different opinion, it would be interesting to hear there reasoning on the issue. I heard about someone in the field of science who claimed that DNA was too complex to be a result of “random chance,” but even if that is the case, jumping to conclusions about God being the cause I think are hasty. Other possible causes must first be ruled out IMHO.

I do not think the kind of mind I'm talking about needs any purpose other than fulfill its nature, which is to coordinate its actions with the One and its "Word" (mentioned in a prior post). (I can expound a lot more on all of this, but I suspect many reading this post already think I'm just blabbering nonsense.)


You have your views on God. Some may take them to be nonsense, while others may see some truth value in what you say. That's what you risk by putting your ideas on a forum like this. TBH I don't really understand what you mean here, but this doesn't automatically mean it is nonsense. As your good friend F4 pointed out, no one's ideas about God can be called categorically wrong. Rather, we evaluate those ideas based upon our own understandings and ideas about reality.

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. Well, maybe I should qualify that: it's relevance depends on the theology.


That's an interesting point, how does the relevance of the PoE depend on the theology? I think that the PoE is relevant because it puts the nature of God's character into question, because theoretically, the existence of an all-good God may be precluded by the existence of evil. Is it not in the least paradoxical that an all-good God would allow evil to exist? If there is an all-good God, why does it allow suffering, surely that is relevant to all theologies?

---

Londoner,

So which is it? Is the evil in the suffering? Or is the evil in the agent that causes the suffering? Because the two do not necessarily go together. An agent with a morally good intention might cause suffering. And (as you say) suffering is not necessarily caused by an agent.


I think the evil is in (or committed by) the agent that causes the suffering. As I said, I don't think that suffering is evil unless there's an agent causing it, or having abundant ability to stop the suffering an agent allows it to continue. Suffering is very unpleasant, but without an agent I don't think it can be called evil. An agent with morally good intentions may cause suffering, but I wouldn't call such an agent evil, unless they became aware of the suffering they were causing and continued to with those intentions without there being any benefit to the sufferer whatsoever.

I do not think there is 'evil' at all. I think we just use the word as an intensifier of 'bad'. And it also serves to suggest that we are making more than a subjective judgement; 'I think X is bad' is about me, it tells you how I feel. But to say 'X is evil' seems to be asserting a fact about X. It is designed to block the reply 'That is only your opinion'


I think that evil is a term used to describe a 'bad' person or situation, it is a term that is used and understood to be appropriate (in my experience) in certain circumstances or situations. For example, I think it can be said that according the book of Genesis, when the snake tricked Eve into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, it's intentions were “evil” the etymology (is that correct?) of the term suggests that evil is an appropriate term to describe the snake's actions. Since there were no morally good intentions involved and it meant to cause harm (in the form of death which is ultimate harm) to both Adam and Eve. I don't think that evil is an actual thing, rather it is used to describe things or agents. Opinion does weigh in heavily when describing what constitutes “evil,” but I also think that there is a general understanding of the term.

We cannot build an argument against God based on our own rhetoric. So (as I write above to Fooloso4), we can only apply it to God if we are prepared to claim evil really is a fact, a sort of substance. So it seems to me that the 'problem of evil' can only be a problem about God, not about whether God exists.


I don't think that the existence evil ultimately precludes God from existing, but the existence of evil does in my opinion mean that God either (or both) allows evil and/or is capable of evil. Logically speaking, I think that an all-good omnipotent being cannot subsist with the existence of evil, unless the existence of evil serves a greater-good.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2225  Postby Wayne92587 » July 16th, 2017, 2:12 pm

With regards to the problem of evil, I think that reality shows that if there's a God it is capable of both good and evil, since both exist.


Not true, God does not posses, have Knowledge of Good and Evil.

If you were to look upon the Face of God you would go Blind. Why?
because you would simply see nothing.

Get it! Nothing, God is not readily apparent, is not measurable as to location and momentum. The existence or non-existence of God is Uncertain.”

God is Infinite, is not measurable as to momentum, location, in Space-Time.

God as a Finite Singularity, Reality, exists as an omnipresent Infinitely Finite Indivisible Singularity.

God as an omniscient Singularity exists as a Field, a quantity, of Infinitely Finite, Indivisible Singularities, exists as a Transcendental (Metaphysical) Fully Random Quantum, number of omnipresent Singularities acting as the Whole of a single Reality.

God is omnipresent while at the same time being omniscient.

Speaking of God, the knowledge of any and all sacred, secret, hidden, Entities results in an abomination, said conjecture being untrue, irreverent.

The knowledge of many Gods is an abomination, there is only, not one but, a Single God. When you speak of One-1 God, you are not speaking a God; God has no relative, numerical value.

Language is just so much Babbel because language is based upon metaphors, symbols, numbers; the definition of various entities make language even more confusion, because, a metaphor, symbol, number, itself takes on a large portion of the nature of the entity it is intended to describe.

The word Woman used as metaphor to give definition to a Sacred, secret, a hidden Entity, becomes an abomination, woman now spoken of is an abomination, irreverent.

Women have the power to turn Man into a Beast, a male chauvinistic “Pig.”

Believing that you are what you eat, the Jew and the Muslim refuse to eat pork; Pork not being Kosher.

The Beast as described in Revelations is a Man that has a perverted, distorted, sense of manliness, Machismo, is sick in the head (sic,sic,sic) is a Male Chauvinistic Pig.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2226  Postby Fooloso4 » July 16th, 2017, 2:40 pm

DM:

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.

Londoner:

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.

Belindi:

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)


Belindi:

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.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2227  Postby Dark Matter » July 16th, 2017, 3:46 pm

Fanman wrote:
If I had to stick my neck out and say which option I think is the most likely, I would go with the concept of “First Cause.” As you say, not "first" in the sense of being first in a series of events, but first in the sense of it being most fundamental. Perhaps when reduced to it's most basic or simplistic state, there is an “essence” of existence that cannot be further reduced. An essence which makes everything else that has occurred possible. This is of course highly speculative, but to me it makes more sense than something from nothing or an infinite regression of cause and effect. I don't attribute any type of being to such an essence, rather that it is a natural state of affairs (or nature) uncaused, just the way that things are, like a fundamental fabric of existence.

That's a perfect description of "divine simplicity" and my own POV.

Then, there may be some primordial mysterious creative force with some type of intelligence (I say that due to the complexity and order we observe in the universe) because complexity and order are synonymous with intelligence, but that is as far as I'm willing to speculate in relation to agency. Observable nature seems a continuous and rigid machine, with parameters of what can occur. Yet weird things happen which cause me to think that there may be more to it than we can observe empirically. If our known/empirical methods for examining reality breakdown at a certain point (as you say), this provides some room for examination by other schools of thought, but claiming some kind of “One” or “Divinity” is responsible for existence I think requires a leap, rather than a series of steps towards a holistically viable answer.

I absolutely agree, but intuitive "leaps" are not always bad. Some of the greatest advances in science were the result of intuitive leaps. And I'm pretty sure it's why Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge.

Not sure about that, but you may be right. I think that anyone contemplating the universe being created by an intelligent source understands that such a mind would be vastly different to ours. I think that any such mind could only be called a “mind” in the context of the discussion – any being capable of creating existence would be so different from us as to be comparable to our ideas of “God” rather than a human-being. Not similar to us in any respect, therein lies a problem.


A good point I' get to later in this post.

We are empirical/physical beings, but conceptions about God are metaphysical. How, by what method, does the metaphysical effect the empirical/physical and what evidence do we have that this is even possible? Mind can obviously effect the empirical/physical, but Mind requires a physical entity to have an effect (a brain). God is not a physical entity, but apparently possesses a mind. How does one reconcile this idea with physical models? A mind without a brain? Perhaps “God” is so different from us that it exists as a metaphysical entity, with no physicality, yet can effect the physical, but it seems quite a ropey idea to me. If such questions cannot be answered sufficiently, what reason is there for the concept of God to be taken seriously by a community other than believers? Faith seems to be the “glue” that holds any such ideas together, rather than reason, logic or evidence.



One of the problems people have in dealing with the metaphysical is that we are so culturally immersed in reductionism that delving into universals is next to impossible. Nevertheless, there is a growing debate as to whether mind is a product of the brain or the brain is a receiver/amplifier/conditioner of mind. I think it's a legitimate, though still largely ignored, debate. And don't forget that when talking about physical entities, we're talking about something that is 99.9999999999996% empty space (in the case of the hydrogen atom), and that's something that's hard to grasp.

Also, when talking about God, we're not talking about an entity in usual sense of the word. We're talking about something more fundamental than that: we're talking about the power to BE. We're talking about (using the classical term) pure act -- pure actuality devoid of any potency or potentiality. By contrast, we are compound beings. That is, we are a compound of actuality and potential. As far as faith goes, it is the glue that hold any body of ideas together, even mathematics. Mathematics cannot be used to prove the validity mathematics. We can only know it it's useful.

It is a judgement call you're right, but what reason is there to believe that Mind is fundamental to the universe? I think the universe would go on functioning the same without Mind, especially considering that Mind may not have always existed. If there is some type of "Superior Mind," for it to be fundamental would suggest that the universe would not function without it – yet there is no obvious indication that such a Mind exists. If we are “lower orders of creatures” such that we are unable to comprehend the superior Mind, why has this mind attempted to communicate with us through religious books? I have no doubt that people far more intelligent than me have a different opinion, it would be interesting to hear there reasoning on the issue. I heard about someone in the field of science who claimed that DNA was too complex to be a result of “random chance,” but even if that is the case, jumping to conclusions about God being the cause I think are hasty. Other possible causes must first be ruled out IMHO.


A judgment call is weighing all the known possibilities and looking to see what comes out on top. The anthropic principle is a powerful, powerful argument against a mindless universe, so much so that many scientists spend a lot of time looking for ways around it. Multiverse theory grew out of such an attempt. When Anthony Flew, an avid atheist-philosopher claimed that DNA was too complex to be a result of “random chance,” he was ostracized and called senile by former supporters. Jean-Paul Sartre's deathbed statement had such an impact on his longtime lover that wrote an magazine article excoriating him. And I already mentioned how Paul Davies was treated by others in his own field for writing The Mind of God. With resistance like that and more subtle forms resistance, who's to say how many way Mind has to communicate?

You have your views on God. Some may take them to be nonsense, while others may see some truth value in what you say. That's what you risk by putting your ideas on a forum like this. TBH I don't really understand what you mean here, but this doesn't automatically mean it is nonsense. As your good friend F4 pointed out, no one's ideas about God can be called categorically wrong. Rather, we evaluate those ideas based upon our own understandings and ideas about reality.


Cool. 8)

That's an interesting point, how does the relevance of the PoE depend on the theology? I think that the PoE is relevant because it puts the nature of God's character into question, because theoretically, the existence of an all-good God may be precluded by the existence of evil. Is it not in the least paradoxical that an all-good God would allow evil to exist? If there is an all-good God, why does it allow suffering, surely that is relevant to all theologies?


The PoE is indeed a tough nut for what some call "theistic personalism," the idea that God watches over us from a cloud somewhere. But not every theology student is a personalist.

Thomas Aquinas was very careful to point out that religious language must be understood analogically rather than univocally. (And this is the point I said I'd ge to later.) Saying "God is love" is radically different than saying "God loves." The former means there is something in God's nature (or, if you prefer, "Essence") that is akin to what humans experience as love; the latter takes on a human quality that is a "respecter of persons." If Peter could understand this 2,000 years ago (Acts 10:34), surely my good friend F4 should be able to.

If the power to be (Essence) proceeds from the bottom-up (QM being the starting point), taking action against evil, or even the possibility of evil, has severe theological, philosophical and even scientific ramifications.

I'll come back to that later. Right now my dog wants to go for a walk.

-- Updated July 16th, 2017, 6:05 pm to add the following --

Okay. Now that I've had a chance to clear my head, I'm not so sure about the scientific ramifications, but there are logical and theological consequences.

Like I said elsewhere, creatorship is the aggregate of God's acting nature, not an attribute. It's not like he woke up one morning and decided to make a universe. Does this mean God's acting nature created the possibility of evil? Yes. Does it mean God can be held accountable for not doing something about it? No. Taking action against evil, or even the possibility of evil, would violate the doctrine of divine simplicity, the doctrine that implies God cannot do otherwise than act with complete equanimity on all levels of existence and according with his own nature-personality.

I know this is not to the liking of those who insist that any God worthy of the title must be a butler on top of being the power-to-be, but one of my all-time favorite songs is “Garden Party” by Ricky Nelson.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2228  Postby Londoner » July 16th, 2017, 6:32 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
By that logic there is no pain either, which, of course, is of little comfort to those in pain or suffering.


You do not seem to understand. Yes, there are people who are in pain, but there is no such thing as 'pain' on its own, wandering around, unattached to any person.

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.


If they do reify such words they are making a mistake. Are we going to do the same with every description? How about 'white'? Do we think there is a thing, 'white', that exists independently from things-that-are-white. Perhaps it is engaged in a cosmic struggle with the rival spirit of 'black'?

Value Judgment: Good and bad are evaluative terms, they exist as judgments.


Absolutely, and judgments are things that people do. Once again, are we saying there are people-who-judge - and also this second entity the 'judgments' that exist independently of the people performing that action? Likewise, does the sentence 'John runs' name two distinct things, 'John' and another entity called 'run'?

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.


Patently that is the case. Otherwise we might ask 'what is the chemical formula for evil, what are its co-ordinates, what does 1cc of it weigh?' Nobody (except perhaps a wizard) thinks evil is like that. So what does the claim it 'exists' mean?

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.


To say it is subjective means just that. It is associated with a subject. My pain is real - for me. It is not real for anyone else. By all means 'evil' can be real in that same sense, as something inside your own head. And God too, if you like. Nobody denies that people can believe in God, or have visions etc. But such things do not amount to evidence or an argument for anyone else.

Me: 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.


If we are not pretending 'evil' is a physical object, then it must be a metaphysical one. If it is not even that, then it is only what you call 'subjective reality' i.e. a psychological state. In that case, it is not a general 'problem of evil' but only a problem of Job's own state of mind.

If you are going to discuss the story of Job then you can only do it from inside the context of OT theology. True, the story does not question the existence of God - because it takes it as a given. Unless we are also willing to assume the existence of a metaphysical entity then the story and all these references to 'evil' as if it was a thing make no sense.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2229  Postby Woodart » July 16th, 2017, 7:16 pm

Fanman wrote:
If we are “lower orders of creatures” such that we are unable to comprehend the superior Mind, why has this mind attempted to communicate with us through religious books?

I do believe we are lower order creatures in this universe. At least, I hope we are not the smartest creatures around. I do not believe God has communicated with us in religious books. These are all man-made fiction.


Fanman wrote:
I don't think that the existence evil ultimately precludes God from existing, but the existence of evil does in my opinion mean that God either (or both) allows evil and/or is capable of evil. Logically speaking, I think that an all-good omnipotent being cannot subsist with the existence of evil, unless the existence of evil serves a greater-good.

I think as you have previously said or suggested – we do not know the nature of God. Whether God is good – evil – neither and/or both is not for us to know. Attributing characteristics or attributes to God is anthropomorphism. We do not know the nature of God any more than we know why the universe exists. We can speculate – but – let’s be clear when we do so. So, whether God has good or evil intentions is also speculation. The human interpretation of this world/life is generally good. However, evil exists and it is man-made and/or defined.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2230  Postby Spectrum » July 16th, 2017, 10:44 pm

This thread is more than 10 years old, I must have contributed something in this thread somewhere here.

My present view is this;

    1. DNA wise, All humans are born with an inherent unavoidable existential crisis which generate explicit and subliminal psychological terrors [trembling] and desperation.

    2. To resolve the above subliminal mental terror, the majority of people invented a God which is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent and omni-whatever to serve the purpose of soothing the internal mental pains. Fortunately and unfortunately the idea of God is a very effective balm that can give immediate relief [pro] but it has its cons.

    3. In the state of desperation with the intellect suppressed the majority ignored the contradiction between omnibenevolence and omni-evil.

    4. In that state of existential desperation, people will not give a damn with rationality and the first response is to deal with the existential threat. Note in "desperation" [subliminal] Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his own son!!

Therefore the only solution to resolve the God and Problem of Evil contradiction is to get back to the root as in the narrative above and remove the idea of God as a tool [or crutch] to resolve the existential crisis/pains.

If we can resolve the inherent and unavoidable existential crisis/pains without resorting the the idea of God, then there will be no Problem-of-Evil contradiction as in OP. In addition there will also be no God-sanctioned deeds which result as evil to humanity.

Note Buddhism [& other non-theistic philosophies] resolve the mental pains/sufferings in 1 above without the idea of God [after realizing its net cons and liabilities]. Thus Buddhism while resolving the existential crisis do not have to face the God and Problem of Evil contradiction.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2231  Postby Dark Matter » July 17th, 2017, 2:10 am

Spectrum wrote:This thread is more than 10 years old, I must have contributed something in this thread somewhere here.

My present view is this;

    1. DNA wise, All humans are born with an inherent unavoidable existential crisis which generate explicit and subliminal psychological terrors [trembling] and desperation.

    2. To resolve the above subliminal mental terror, the majority of people invented a God which is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent and omni-whatever to serve the purpose of soothing the internal mental pains. Fortunately and unfortunately the idea of God is a very effective balm that can give immediate relief [pro] but it has its cons.

    3. In the state of desperation with the intellect suppressed the majority ignored the contradiction between omnibenevolence and omni-evil.

    4. In that state of existential desperation, people will not give a damn with rationality and the first response is to deal with the existential threat. Note in "desperation" [subliminal] Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his own son!!

Therefore the only solution to resolve the God and Problem of Evil contradiction is to get back to the root as in the narrative above and remove the idea of God as a tool [or crutch] to resolve the existential crisis/pains.

If we can resolve the inherent and unavoidable existential crisis/pains without resorting the the idea of God, then there will be no Problem-of-Evil contradiction as in OP. In addition there will also be no God-sanctioned deeds which result as evil to humanity.

Note Buddhism [& other non-theistic philosophies] resolve the mental pains/sufferings in 1 above without the idea of God [after realizing its net cons and liabilities]. Thus Buddhism while resolving the existential crisis do not have to face the God and Problem of Evil contradiction.


Nice theory, but it's not very appealing (some might even call it offensive) and the power of any idea lies, not in its certainty or truth, but rather in the vividness of its human appeal. Second, I recommend watching the videos I posted in post #2201.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2232  Postby Belindi » July 17th, 2017, 5:23 am

Thanks Fooloso4. I appreciate your comments.

Belindi:

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)


Belindi:

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.


Your comparison of Tillich and Spinoza, confirms that I am happier with Spinoza than with Tillich. I have heard that Spinoza is either a pantheist or a panentheist, but I don't see that there is any difference between them for practical ethics or politics; whichever it is Spinoza is God-intoxicated.

It interests me that you imply that Christ is compatible with Spinoza's philosophy. I myself like the idea of Incarnation , as it fits with pure good as lacunae amidst suffering, although I try to resist the idea of the historical Jesus as a person to be idolised.

When I have finished this post I will try to find the ref .to God's having infinite attributes(according to Spinoza) . Probably in Stuart Hampshire's account of Spinoza's philosophy.

I may of course be quite unreasonable but I cannot see why Spinoza's philosophy must be so unrelentingly rational. What I mean is that I cannot see why "adequate ideas" must be either deductively right or wrong, and why an inductive idea is not a means to understand God.

I think that Tillich is simply wrong and if, as is possible, God is infinite attributes then the universe as mind and as extended matter is only two of those infinite attributes. It seems too prideful to imagine that our two mammalian attributes of mind and extended matter are all that be. I have never read Tillich, but according to what you say, Fooloso4, Tillich seems to me to be attached to mystery for mystery's sake. ( naturalism is that it “denies the infinite distance between the whole of finite things and their creative ground,” ). Once that God is admitted to be infinite , the universe is not the be all and end all.

"The human Mind has an adequate knowledge of God’s eternal and infinite essence (Ethics, Part 2, proposition 47)". In reading Spinoza, I always had trouble with that word 'adequate'. Does Spinoza mean 'sufficient' or does he mean 'perfect'? In Euclidean geometry 'adequate' means both sufficient and perfect ; both terms are implied by necessity. Spinoza was attached to necessity. However I gather that Spinoza's usage of a Euclidean style of reasoning and format was for conciseness and clarity.

Regarding adequate ideas you write, Fooloso4,
In the note to this proposition and the propositions that follow, like Descartes, he links this to the elimination of error and volition.

Descartes too was a rationalist. Do all rationalist philosophers imagine that reason floats around unattached to fallible temporal beings? Can Continental rationalism and Anglo-American empiricism be reconciled and mutually compatible?

-- Updated July 17th, 2017, 6:00 am to add the following --

Fooloso4, here is the reference to infinite attributes of God according to Spinoza.

Ethics part 1. Prop. X1

and

Ethics part 1.Prop.X1

I traced these through Stuart Hampshire "Spinoza and Spinozism". Oxford. 2005

ISBN (PBK )0-19-927954-3

-- Updated July 17th, 2017, 6:06 am to add the following --

Error Should be Ethics Pt. 1 . Prop X and

Ethics Pt. 1. Prop X1

Pps 53-51 of the Hamshire book.

-- Updated July 17th, 2017, 6:08 am to add the following --

Hampshire. Spinoza is very difficult without a commentary, and Hampshires is a good one, maybe the most readable.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2233  Postby Woodart » July 17th, 2017, 3:00 pm

Spectrum wrote:
Note Buddhism [& other non-theistic philosophies] resolve the mental pains/sufferings in 1 above without the idea of God [after realizing its net cons and liabilities]. Thus Buddhism while resolving the existential crisis do not have to face the God and Problem of Evil contradiction.


I think all people regardless of belief deal with negativity and evil. The basis of Buddhism is compassion and because of their compassionate point of view (whether theist, atheist or agnostic) they generally lead a balanced existence. Buddhism is a very powerful force for good – most of the time.

Dark Matter wrote:
I recommend watching the videos I posted in post #2201.


A lot of the time we miss an enormous amount of valuable “things” in these old and large threads. I have not read all the 2200 plus posts in this topic. However, I am very glad I watched the 3 videos (almost 1 hour long) you posted. They go right to the heart of this topic. Essentially they all say – that positive thinking can be measured in our brain and it has a physiological benefit in our lives. This is relatively new science and I think it is true.

Whether one thinks about God – love – compassion – does not seem to matter. The point is to think and dwell on positive thoughts. The admonishment is to spend time thinking and/or focusing on uplifting things. One can be a theist, atheist or agnostic – it does not matter – all can benefit. Build your own sanctuary in your mind’s eye – for no reason other than to have a sanctuary.

All evil is generated, perpetrated and/or perceived by humans. We don’t have to look any further than our own house to see it. Each of us is tasked to tend our own garden. What we see is what we get. Compassion is more important than belief. Compassion builds a positive mindset.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2234  Postby Fooloso4 » July 17th, 2017, 4:18 pm

Belindi:

It interests me that you imply that Christ is compatible with Spinoza's philosophy.



When I said that Christ was not merely compatible with but essential to Tillich’s theology, I did not mean to imply that I thought that Christ was compatible with Spinoza’s philosophy. Even if one were to show that they are not incompatible, it cannot be shown that Christ is essential to Spinoza’s philosophy. I suspect that we might both find any alleged compatibility to be forced and unconvincing, however.

I myself like the idea of Incarnation , as it fits with pure good as lacunae amidst suffering, although I try to resist the idea of the historical Jesus as a person to be idolised.


I’m a bit confused by this. Do you mean that the Jewish idea of a human messiah is inadequate to fulfill the promise, that the messiah must be an incarnation in order to fill the lacunae, but that Jesus was not this incarnation? Jesus as a person of the Trinity is not, as I understand it, a human person. Some hold that Jesus was not a human being but only took human form. In that case it is not clear whether you resist the idolisation of the form or appearance rather than God in the human form of Jesus.

I may of course be quite unreasonable but I cannot see why Spinoza's philosophy must be so unrelentingly rational.


Some see that as its primary strength but others as its weakness. I think Nietzsche may have had Spinoza in mind when he talked being irrationally rational.

Code: Select all
I think that Tillich is simply wrong and if, as is possible, God is infinite attributes then the universe as mind and as extended matter is only two of those infinite attributes.


There are theologians around who oppose the idea of divine simplicity, limiting the notion of simplicity to being non-composite, and instead advocate divine multiplicity. This, they think, better reflects God’s unboundedness or infinity.

I have never read Tillich, but according to what you say, Fooloso4, Tillich seems to me to be attached to mystery for mystery's sake.


It strikes me as an attempt to transcend, in his own words, man’s finitude and of wanting to have it both ways. What lies beyond our limits is a perennial question, but any attempt to say what lies beyond those limits from within those limits is shooting in the dark. And as we see from ongoing philosophical and theological disputes those who attempt to do this end up shooting each other. We know nothing of a “creative ground” or a “ground of being”. The claim that there "must" be a ground only points to our limits and the inability to comprehend how it could be otherwise. Saying how things must be from a perspective of ignorance is to be ignorant of our ignorance. Flights of fancy are a very human activity but I question whether this should be the ground of our "ultimate concern".

Does Spinoza mean 'sufficient' or does he mean 'perfect'?



Good question:

DEFINITION IV. By an adequate idea, I mean an idea which, in so far as it is considered in itself, without relation to the object, has all the properties or intrinsic marks of a true idea.
Explanation.—I say intrinsic, in order to exclude that mark which is extrinsic, namely, the agreement between the idea and its object (ideatum).



From Spinoza’s correspondence:

Between a true and an adequate idea, I recognize no difference, except that the epithet true only has regard to the agreement between the idea and its object, whereas the epithet adequate has regard to the nature of the idea in itself; so that in reality there is no difference between a true and an adequate idea beyond this extrinsic relation. However, in order that I may know, from which idea out of many all the properties of its object may be deduced, I pay attention to one point only, namely, that the idea or definition should express the efficient cause of its object. For instance, in inquiring into the properties of a circle, I ask, whether from the idea of a circle, that it consists of infinite right angles, I can deduce all its properties. I ask, I repeat, whether this idea involves the efficient cause of a circle. If it does not, I look for another, namely, that a circle is the space described by a line, of which one point is fixed, and the other movable. As this definition explains the efficient cause, I know that I can deduce from it all the properties of a circle. So, also, when I define God as a supremely perfect Being, then, since that definition does not express the efficient cause (I mean the efficient cause internal as well as external) I shall not be able to infer therefrom all the properties of God; as I can, when I define God as a Being, &c. (see Ethics, I. Def. vi.).
(sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/corr/corr6 ... htm#fn_67)



Definition I vi:

VI. By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite—that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.
Explanation—I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after its kind: for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, infinite attributes may be denied; but that which is absolutely infinite, contains in its essence whatever expresses reality, and involves no negation.


So, an adequate idea is a true idea. We can determine that the idea is a true idea if the idea or definition expresses the efficient cause of its object, that is, if we can deduce the object from the definition. The definition offered by way of example in the letter is inadequate, but from definition I vi of the Ethics we can deduce all the properties of God.

However I gather that Spinoza's usage of a Euclidean style of reasoning and format was for conciseness and clarity.


I think it may have been more a matter of deductive certainty, not just a method of demonstrating what is known but a demonstration of the method of right reason - of thinking, inquiring, and knowing. Descartes “Discourse on Method”, for example, is subtitled “Of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences”.

Descartes too was a rationalist. Do all rationalist philosophers imagine that reason floats around unattached to fallible temporal beings?



Descartes made significant contributions to optics and medicine. Such advances would not have come about under the conditions of his Meditations. It is reason that guides us as fallible temporal beings, at least temporarily in our time on earth.

Can Continental rationalism and Anglo-American empiricism be reconciled and mutually compatible?


That was Kant’s concern.

Ethics Pt. 1 . Prop X and Ethics Pt. 1. Prop X1


I didn’t find anything about aspect we cannot know. There is an ebook of the Ethics made available for free from Project Guggenberg: gutenberg.org/files/3800/3800-h/3800-h. ... htm#chap01

Spinoza is very difficult without a commentary, and Hampshires is a good one, maybe the most readable.


My early training placed an emphasis on primary texts and so I developed what I think is a well founded suspicion of secondary literature. While some of it is very good some of it is very bad. One problem is that we cannot always tell the difference if we do not ourselves have a measure. Another is that there are often very different interpretations, and so what we are reading is not about Plato’s or Spinoza’s philosophy but someone else’s version of their philosophy and this may be quite different from someone else's version, and our version is a version of a version. It gets worse when, as happens more frequently than people suspect, the commentator is relying on other versions and so what we get is iterations of versions of versions. In this way certain misunderstandings have been perpetuated over time. There is also the problem of scholars who may have some insight into one philosopher but not others and so we cannot rely on their good name or other work. I am not familiar enough with Hampshire to say where he fits on the spectrum.

My approach is to struggle with the text and compare commentaries with both the text and other commentaries. One thing I look for is how much the commentator sounds like a product of his own time in terms of language and problems. This is usually a sure sign of an anachronistic reading. Another is how much attention is actually paid to the text itself. While overview and historical background are helpful, the commentaries I prefer are those that allow the author of the primary text to lead and the commentator help us follow that lead. This, however, is just my preference. Not everyone is interested in doing this much work and the truth is there are a lot of philosophers I am not interested in doing the work for either.

One more thought: for some what is important is not what a particular philosopher was saying but ideas that interest them even if they misrepresent the author. This is a major part of the history of hermeneutics. Readers often rewrite the text they are reading or appropriate it in ways the author did not intend or anticipate.
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Re: If there is a God, why is there evil?

Post Number:#2235  Postby Dark Matter » July 18th, 2017, 12:47 am

Woodart wrote:Build your own sanctuary in your mind’s eye – for no reason other than to have a sanctuary.

I like this. We all need a sanctuary. We all need a "big idea" to meditate on.
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