Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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.
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Astro Cat
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

Post by Astro Cat »

Leontiskos wrote: June 27th, 2022, 12:46 pm "Omnibenevolence" is a neologism that doesn't track classical theology, for it incorrectly implies a univocity of meaning between the goodness that is God and the goodness that we know day to day. In a long historical sense the Thomists defeated the Scotists and analogy won out over univocity in the God-human relation. In layman's terms the idea is that when we say "God is good" we mean something analogous but not identical to what we mean when we say, "Brian is good." A simple example of this would be 1 John 3:2, where the foretaste hints at what is to come but does not reveal it, and what is to come will substantially if not infinitely transcend what we now know.
As a quick (I promise) aside, this analogy of goodness thing is something I have had issues with for a long time.

What do we mean when we say "God is good" in an analogous but not identical way to when we say "Astro Cat is good" or "Leontiskos is good?"

I love my cat, I think he's a good boy. I don't think he understands moral nuances in quite the same way you or I do, so I might say that "he is good in an analogous but not identical way." He comforts me when I'm sad, he tries to bring me chewed up toys as "gifts," etc. So analogously we might say something like, "well God is good in the reverse analogous way, where we're the more limited creatures." But surely we don't mean this, because that implies that God's difference in goodness is quantitative, when it really seems like what we're wanting to say is that the difference in God's goodness is qualitative.

But therein lies a huge problem. If we can't define what that difference is because it's beyond our understanding (hence why we have to form an "analogy" in the first place -- scare quotes because I don't think it's analogous at all), if by "God is good" we mean something different than we mean when we say a human is good, then we might as well not use the word "good" at all -- it just lends us to dangeorus equivocation. We might as well say God is slithey.

Or as George H. Smith put it, saying God's goodness isn't human goodness without exactly defining what God's goodness means is just to say God is doing an unknowable thing in an unknowable way. That's not saying anything communicative at all.
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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I think George H. Smith's example was over the word "loving," and he uses a dog as an example. We say by analogy that a dog loves us, and we love the dog. But that some theists say is that God loves us, but not in the way we love each other, or that we love the dog, or that the dog loves us. That these latter examples are more quantitative than qualitative, and that God's love is qualitatively different.

But he correctly points out that this isn't "love" at all then, it's something else. Might as well make a new word for it, because otherwise we're just apt to equivocate it to the love that we do know and understand. That if we don't define what we mean by God loving, we're just saying God does something unknowable in an unknowable way, and might as well have just not said anything because nothing useful came out of us as communication.
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 1:25 pm
Leontiskos wrote: June 27th, 2022, 12:46 pm "Omnibenevolence" is a neologism that doesn't track classical theology, for it incorrectly implies a univocity of meaning between the goodness that is God and the goodness that we know day to day. In a long historical sense the Thomists defeated the Scotists and analogy won out over univocity in the God-human relation. In layman's terms the idea is that when we say "God is good" we mean something analogous but not identical to what we mean when we say, "Brian is good." A simple example of this would be 1 John 3:2, where the foretaste hints at what is to come but does not reveal it, and what is to come will substantially if not infinitely transcend what we now know.
As a quick (I promise) aside, this analogy of goodness thing is something I have had issues with for a long time.
Okay.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 1:25 pmI love my cat, I think he's a good boy. I don't think he understands moral nuances in quite the same way you or I do, so I might say that "he is good in an analogous but not identical way." He comforts me when I'm sad, he tries to bring me chewed up toys as "gifts," etc. So analogously we might say something like, "well God is good in the reverse analogous way, where we're the more limited creatures." [...]
I agree with this much.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 1:25 pm...But surely we don't mean this, because that implies that God's difference in goodness is quantitative, when it really seems like what we're wanting to say is that the difference in God's goodness is qualitative.

But therein lies a huge problem. If we can't define what that difference is because it's beyond our understanding (hence why we have to form an "analogy" in the first place -- scare quotes because I don't think it's analogous at all), if by "God is good" we mean something different than we mean when we say a human is good, then we might as well not use the word "good" at all -- it just lends us to dangeorus equivocation. We might as well say God is slithey.

Or as George H. Smith put it, saying God's goodness isn't human goodness without exactly defining what God's goodness means is just to say God is doing an unknowable thing in an unknowable way. That's not saying anything communicative at all.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 1:32 pm I think George H. Smith's example was over the word "loving," and he uses a dog as an example. We say by analogy that a dog loves us, and we love the dog. But that some theists say is that God loves us, but not in the way we love each other, or that we love the dog, or that the dog loves us. That these latter examples are more quantitative than qualitative, and that God's love is qualitatively different.

But he correctly points out that this isn't "love" at all then, it's something else. Might as well make a new word for it, because otherwise we're just apt to equivocate it to the love that we do know and understand. That if we don't define what we mean by God loving, we're just saying God does something unknowable in an unknowable way, and might as well have just not said anything because nothing useful came out of us as communication.
I am not familiar with George H. Smith, but I do not follow your argument about quantity and quality. Why think that that describing both Cat and her cat as good is a qualitative comparison, but describing both Cat and God as good is a quantitative comparison? Why think that the nature of the two relations between the two pairs are different from one another at all?

My theory of signification comes from Aristotle, which Aquinas developed, which Cajetan developed, which modern Thomists like McInerny developed. The widely-accepted foundation of that theory divides differences of signification into three categories: univocal, equivocal, and analogical. If we take the word 'bank', then an example of univocal predication would be, "Wells Fargo is a bank and PNC is a bank." An example of equivocal predication would be, "Cat has a bank and the river has a bank." An example of analogical predication would be, "The river has a bank and Tim Duncan loves the bank shot." Perhaps a better example of analogy is the one you already gave, "Cat is good and her cat is good."

Now it seems to me that analogical and equivocal signification always involves a qualitative difference of meaning, and whenever what is signified by two terms differs in a merely quantitative way we are dealing with univocal signification.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 1:25 pmWhat do we mean when we say "God is good" in an analogous but not identical way to when we say "Astro Cat is good" or "Leontiskos is good?"
The basic objection to analogical predication is as follows: "If it isn't univocal and it isn't equivocal, then what is it? What does it mean to be analogical?" Of course the person who holds to analogy will see this as a confused question, for analogy is a tertium quid that is not explicable in terms of univocity and equivocity, nor is it as clearly perceived and understood as these other two.

But the undying counterargument is as follows: "Well, isn't it true that Cat and her cat are both good, and that they are good in a way that is neither univocal nor equivocal, but somewhere 'in between'?" Or should we not use the word 'good' at all to describe her cat, and instead call it 'slithey'? "Cat is good and her cat is slithey." The problem with Smith's theory is that it destroys not only theology but natural language too, which is full of analogical signification. From a theological perspective he is effectively excluding the possibility of revelation, and of knowing something which transcends us. Supposing there is a God and he does wish to reveal himself to us, the act of grasping that revelation will inevitably stretch us along with our language, and it will do so in a manner that is already known to us via natural language: analogical predication.


(You write python and I have a degree in Computer Science. I tend to think the immersion in computational realities has made it difficult for our society to think in a non-computational manner. One example would be the fact that the MAT (Miller Analogies Test) is not used for grad school admissions nearly as often as it once was, and today's undergraduates would probably score significantly lower than the group that was not immersed in the logic of a Turing world. There is no analogical predication (or equivalence) in programming languages; only in natural languages.)
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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@Leontiskos

Just so you know, I told my cat that he’s a slithey boy. I think he’s ok with it ^_^
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 6:27 pm @Leontiskos

Just so you know, I told my cat that he’s a slithey boy. I think he’s ok with it ^_^
Ha! Well cats really are slithey, and so much so that they are willing to own up to it! Such is why I have always preferred dogs. :wink:
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

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Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pm Are you affirming the friend for doing some banal or non-banal? Are you interested in banal or non-banal museum artifacts? I think it will be hard to get away from the idea.

I think this then reverts to #3, where the idea is that limiting the human ability to cause suffering and to suffer will also limit human agency.
I think there would still be non-banal things to affirm a friend over ("You're going to do great at your speech!"),...
Is it a speech about human rights violations in China, or a speech about how to improve your investment portfolio? :D

Anyway, I think we are on the same page here. There would be fewer non-banal things in a world without physical suffering, but they would not be altogether eliminated. I have just been trying to stress the idea that it is easy to miss how deeply embedded deep agency is in our treasured achievements.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am...and as I will argue below I think Toy Worlds can still have non-banal themes in art. A world doesn't have to allow murder and death for someone to dream up murder and death from which to enjoy drama from; I see no reason why a Toy World couldn't have Star Wars.
This may be worth talking about because I really disagree with you here. A world without death will not produce death in art; a world without suffering will not produce suffering in art; etc. Such fundamental counterfactuals would not only be outside the scope of imagination, but they would also be uninteresting and unformed (because of their sheer impossibility). Our environment forms our imagination (and our freedom), and a deathless environment would result in a massive shift in imagination and agency.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmYes, I think that does miss the point because I don't think it is really about quantity (although quantity does form some part of the issue). The limitation is qualitative, and that is why I used banality as the criterion. It is about being able to do things which are substantial, impactful, memorable, life-changing, world-changing, etc. Perhaps I should suggest the principle that <if it is impossible to do bad things, then it will be impossible to do good things>, or more softly, <if it is impossible to do bad things, then the number of good things that can be done are severely limited>.
I think it's obviously false that if it's impossible to do bad things that it would be impossible to do good things. I am willing to grant that "the number of good things that can be done are severely limited," though I might contest the "severely" qualifier. Again, I think this still all goes back to whether violent crime is worth it to have armed police officers, and I still frankly just don't think it is. I know you've argued otherwise (and perhaps I need to go find it again), but over and over again, it just feels like inventing smallpox just to say "yay, now we can invent the cure and we'll have heroes, this is so worth it!" I don't think there's inherent value in a smallpox cure if there's no smallpox to worry about. I don't think there's inherent value in an All-American Firefighter Hero™ if there are no fires to fight. Goodness that seems to only be defined by its response to badness isn't inherently good in my estimation, it's only good in a reactionary sense.
That's fine and it has been a staple of Christianity since Augustine fought off Manichaenism, but you're mixing two different things. Whether you think it is worth paying fire to receive firefighters (I agreed above that it isn't) has nothing to do with whether my first principle is true (I am willing to defend that first, strong principle, which should make for a more interesting conversation). The key concept in that principle is the concept of possibility. I do not say that good presupposes bad, but rather that the possibility of good presupposes the possibility of bad.

Now that principle would be false if there is some case where it is impossible to do bad things, and yet it remains possible to do good things. What would that case be? Praising your friend for the speech they gave? But if you are able to praise then you are also able to abuse or else abstain from praising. If praise is thought to be good, then abuse would be bad as its opposite, and abstaining would be relatively bad insofar as it is an absence or privation of good. And refraining really can function as a negative judgment; in the case where you are in the habit of praising your friend's speeches, silence will be especially significant.

So what would be an example of a reality where there is a possible good but not a corresponding possible bad?
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmOh, it seems to me that this is a decisive objection. If there is no death then orcs cannot be slain, etc.
I think this argument got confused somewhere. I was arguing that people wouldn't suffer banality because they could still be entertained by fiction. Murder would be entirely fictional, but it would still be fascinating.

For instance, like many children, as a little girl I'd pick up a stick or whatever and you'd better believe that in that moment of time, I was holding a sword. I imagined adventures fighting goblins (I read The Hobbit when very young) and all sorts of things. I didn't know what death was, but I could imagine this other world where I was on a dangerous adventure with imagined stakes and so on and so forth.

Now do you think for even a moment I wanted to really be in danger, to really fear Gollum was going to pop out of the darkness and strangle me with slimy hands? Of course not. So I think people in a Toy World could draw emotions and experiences from watching and reading fictional stories and still never want the worlds they see and imagine to be the real world.
I realize that you have been talking about fiction. We have this strange idea in America that fiction and reality are entirely separate departments. I think that even in Tolkien's time authors unanimously rejected that idea even in their fiction. So for example Tolkien tells us that the Hobbit was written primarily by Bilbo, most of the Silmarillion was written by elves, the events occurred in the same world in which we live, albeit long ago, and (unless I am mistaken) Englishmen are descendants of hobbits.

Digression aside, the more general point is that fiction informs reality and reality informs fiction. You would not have known about swords but for The Hobbit and Tolkien would not have known about adventures and wars and evil but for reality. The human imagination can invent and freewheel to some extent (e.g. goblins) but I don't think it could dream up something as substantial as death wholecloth. If we had no experience of wounds or death then Tolkien would never have been able to write about beings who die or are slain, goblins or otherwise. At least it seems so to me.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmHmm, but this is a good middle case that helps illustrate why your distinction between physical and emotional suffering is questionable. When someone loses a limb we can say at least three things, all of which are true: 1) He suffered physical pain when he lost his limb, 2) He suffered the loss of his limb, and 3) He is experiencing emotional suffering from the loss of his limb. Looking at (2), I would say that to be deprived of a limb is to suffer physically. It is not to suffer physical pain, but it is to suffer a physical handicap.

Note again that if all forms of suffering were removed then most of the exceptions you brought forth would also disappear, and I take it that this is an indication that suffering is itself correlated to agency (and this includes physical suffering).
Here I was still talking about how Toy World people could still imagine and enjoy fiction. There would still be no amputations in the real world. But they could watch literally the same fiction we enjoy now, draw the same lessons from them (where there is one to be found), etc. I was combatting the notion that life would be banal. I reject the notion that life has to be dangerous to be non-banal. Meaningful things can be drawn from stories and imagination.
You seem to be saying that life would not be banal because we could use our imaginations to think about non-banal things even if we wouldn't be able to act them out. Basically that we would have video games, no? :P
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmOkay, did you mean to make that argument? You threw me off when you said, "I could make an argument..." I took that to mean that you could make an argument, but for whatever reason chose not to make it, and were only interested in the bit about God being good enough. ^_^
I don't know, like I said I fire from the hip sometimes. I was thinking the argument because I do reject that firefighters are "worth it" to have fires, and I do think that some reasoning supporting that fires are worth it to have firefighters leads to absurdities like "well then super-bad thing is worth it to have super-good thing". I probably care more about that argument than asking "Is God good enough for not making Superman?" I think it was a tongue in cheek way of making the other argument, honestly.
Okay, well my most recent answer was given in <this post> when I talked about "The conclusion you did not draw." That was the idea that the momentum moves freely in both directions, such that we are apparently either forced to have an infinite evil and an infinite good, or else zero evil and zero good.

My earlier answer was in my first post to you, and it related to the soul-making theodicy, such that fire produces much more than just firemen. There I agreed that firemen are not sufficient. I said, "If the malady is introduced for the sake of the cure then presumably nothing has been accomplished, for the cure is nothing more than the negation of the malady."
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pm Would you at least agree that we would have less agency in the toy world?
Yes, but I both don't think that's a problem (we could have "more" agency if God let us walk on the ceiling, yet we don't seem to mind too much) and think that if it is a problem then my playful proposition about adding a neutral or good agency for every bad agency taken away would become a serious proposition.
I think our discussion about whether the possibility to do good entails the possibility to do bad will cover this question about the possibility of purely good or neutral agencies (potentialities).
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmI would agree that bringing death, violence, and weapons to a peaceful culture is not a good thing to do. But it is crucial to Christian thinking to maintain the truth that the Fall was our doing, not God's.
Humans didn't create the physics of the world, God did (on theism anyway). So that death, violence, and weapons are physically possible is something God is culpable for.
I thought you read the story of Adam and Eve! :P

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Do not invite death by the error of your life,
nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things that they might exist,
and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them;
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

(Wisdom 1:12-14)
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmIs a fair example the situation in Avatar when the humans arrive with their guns and ships and greed? If we want to think about this clearly, then I believe we must admit that the arrival of the humans changed the Na'vi's world, making it more dangerous and complex, and increasing their agency. There are pros and cons to such a situation, and while the cons outweigh the pros, no one--except those dastardly Reformed!--believe that death arrived by election.
(Quote corrected based on a later correction by Leontiskos, emphasis added where corrected)

In Avatar, the Na'vi were capable of hurting each other before the humans arrived. Humans aren't culpable for the nature of physical reality on the planet. Good on the Na'vi if they all mutually decided not to hurt each other before the arrival of the humans, but humans could only be blamed so much for a Na'vi deciding to hurt another Na'vi (say resources plummet, and a Na'vi attacks another Na'vi for resources. Sure, it's the humans' fault that resources plummeted, but not that a Na'vi decided to attack another Na'vi). So this analogy is incomplete.
I agree but I still think the arrival of the humans makes the world more dangerous, complex, and agency-filled.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amIt would only cover the sort of thing I'm arguing about if the humans were somehow in charge of the Na'vi's physics. Say the Na'vi are instead an AI civilization living in a simulation where weapons can't hurt other Na'vi. Humans show up and look at the computer and go, "huh, let's turn off the safety protocols. Congrats! Now you can get diseases, become prey for predators, get born with birth defects, so on and so on. But don't worry, you're going to love this part: now you can have doctors! Now you can have police!" Did the humans really do the Na'vi a solid? I really don't think so.

In the situation you gave, people that don't control the physics of the environment simply interact. In the second example I gave, we have a more apt analogy because suffering by physics is literally not possible until someone shows up and says "oh here you go, here's physical suffering. But do enjoy your heroes you can have now." How is that better?
I didn't say it was better, I said it was worse ("the cons outweigh the pros"). The point of the Avatar example was to demonstrate that the introduction of weapons--whether in your example or in Avatar--is still going to increase complexity and agency, even if the outcome is worse. The point was that a variety of things happen and "thinking about it clearly" requires us to consider each of them, some of which are good.

As to your other points, 1) God did not create death, and 2) The possibility of your "world of happy people just doing nice things" where you "couldn't harm people" hangs on our discussion above about whether that is even possible.

This gets into a very paradoxical part of Christianity: what is called the felix culpa (happy fault). The idea is that although the Fall occurred because of Adam's fault, nevertheless God in his infinite wisdom is able to bring good even out of evil, and so now we look back on Adam's fault with fondness, for it is the occasion that God made use of in order to bring forth a much greater good. Tolkien gives a masterful and beautiful depiction of this idea in the Ainulindalë (the "Great Song").
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmThe other thing to note, which is tangential, is that however much one dislikes mythical-etiological stories like Genesis 3, they reflect an important and undeniable fact about human existence. We are in an existential lurch. We are afflicted with various evils, including selfishness and death. I would hope that the atheist will not lose themselves in apologetics to the extent that they forget about these deeper realities, for we must face them whether we are religious or not. Of course, you don't strike me as the sort of person who is apt to forget about them, but I think it is important to maintain perspective.
I am cursed with constant empathy. I will not readily forget the selfishness and death surrounding us all.
That's good. Or bad. Or both. :P
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmNo, I don't see why there is anything special about physical suffering. Your arguments would apply just as well to non-physical suffering. Why think God is more culpable for one than the other?
Because given that God wants us to have agency, God can't stop something like unrequited love or a broken friendship (for instance) without simply preventing agency itself. Yet if God stops one of us from stabbing someone else (by way of creating physics a certain way), then agency is still preserved. God is culpable for stubbed toes and stab wounds but not for hurt feelings since God is in charge of physics. That's why there's a difference.
Why couldn't God create each of us in different universes that are hermetically sealed from one another? Something like this would be the analogue to your solution to physical suffering. You say that God could exclude physical suffering by making our physicality indestructible. I say God could exclude relational suffering by removing relationships and cutting us off from one another. You say physical indestructibility would remove some agency but not all. I say isolation tanks would remove some agency but not all. Tomehto-Tomahto!

Hell, we should probably just go read Lois Lowry's The Giver and call it a day. Jonas and Fiona are my retort to your Snort! ^_^

(Okay, okay, so it has nothing to do with Snort... The rhyme was irresistible. =))
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pm Mmm, I think your metaphysics took a dive there. If words can hurt then suffering has not been excluded. Further, if words have an inherent or prima facie ability to hurt, then there will surely be innocent victims, for (as you say) the ability to steel oneself against words must be learned. Thus those who are hurt by words before they've had a chance to learn how to steel themselves will be innocent victims. Further, you are overlooking the parity between hurtful words and helpful words. Something like my principle above applies here as well (<if it is impossible to do bad things, then it will be impossible to do good things>). If we steel ourselves against hurtful words then we will inevitably also steel ourselves against (at least some) helpful words, and if we steel ourselves against hurtful people then we will inevitably also steel ourselves against (at least some) helpful people. If we pine for too many callouses then eventually we will become callous. The quest for invincibility is a fool's errand (Brené Brown is a good popular voice on this topic).
Well, I spoke sloppily somewhat. I never meant to say God would prevent all suffering. This is why I've tried to use the qualifier "physical" this whole time. God is in charge of the physics, any suffering that doesn't come directly from physics, God may not be culpable for. All I'm concerned with doing in my original argument is demonstrating that God is culpable for the physical suffering if there is a premise that we want free agency.
I think even many non-theists would say that physical suffering adds something important to life, just you seem to believe that relationship-related suffering adds something important to life.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amSo let me clarify that when I say "innocent victims" I guess I mean victims that can do nothing at all about their situation. Maybe I need another term. Someone that is hearing mean language can leave the area, for instance. Someone dying of cancer or in a hungry tiger's spotlight may have no feasible recourse at all.
Okay, this is a new argument. The millennials who are afraid of commitment will definitely resonate with this one. ;P

...haha. I am a bit tired so I will leave this for next time, or for you to flesh out.
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmWell the first thing to point to would be human flourishing. In the arts, in the sciences, in the moral sphere, etc. Actualizing the full range and depth of human potential. Avoiding suffering is small potatoes. I don't know that you would like Feser in general, but I would recommend checking out <this post>.

Beyond that: transcending oneself, learning to love, learning to care, learning to appreciate existence and creation, and ultimately theosis and union with God. ...Those are some other things. :D
But this was asked in the context of why fires are so good to have so that we can have firefighters. How do firefighters cause human flourishing when there could just be no fires in the first place? You mention arts, sciences, etc., but I have already argued that I think Toy World inhabitants could still fictionally draw non-banal things from stories about fires and firefighters.
It wasn't really limited to firefighters. Here is the transcript as I read it:
Leontiskos wrote: June 24th, 2022, 12:48 amThey are not ill-founded, for you have stripped the universe of all the most meaningful human interactions, good and bad. In your toy universe there is no murder, no martyrdom, no sacrificial love, no heroic virtue. The universe is effectively emptied of all meaningful interactions and all we are left with is banality. This does not strike me as an improvement on God's creation.

So sure, we could have a 'thin' and inconsequential instantiation of agency in the toy universe, but it seems obvious that a thicker instantiation of agency would be better qua agency, for in that case we would have control over not only unimportant things, but important things as well.
Leontiskos wrote: June 24th, 2022, 12:48 amI don't think it is difficult to articulate. If the malady is introduced for the sake of the cure then presumably nothing has been accomplished, for the cure is nothing more than the negation of the malady.

But it would seem that you do not understand the good-making ("soul-making") theodicy. On such a theodicy smallpox is not good as a means to a cure; it is good as a means to good human beings. For example, it provides occasion for courage in the face of adversity, the courageous person is better than the non-courageous person, and the virtue of courage is not attainable in the absence of fear and adversity.
Astro Cat wrote: June 24th, 2022, 5:29 pm...2) I could make an argument that if it is good to have firemen that stop fires, which are bad; then wouldn't it be really good to have some kind of exotic evil-fighter, someone that alleviates some kind of really bad suffering, worse than any of the ones we know now? If a sacrifice hurts that much more, for longer, with a deeper sensation of pain, in order to alleviate some exotic source of suffering (that itself hurts worse, for longer, with a deeper sensation of pain), isn't that a better martyrdom and sacrifice? Must we ask, is God good enough, having not made this exotic torture and then overcoming good, if this line of thinking works?...
Astro Cat wrote: June 24th, 2022, 5:29 pmWhy is it good to take the risky action to, say, save someone if the someone could have never been in danger in the first place? You say that the point isn't to have a disease just to have a cure, but I have a hard time seeing how that isn't exactly what this is! The disease is suffering, the cure is things like courage and strength through adversity, and the outcome is simply the alleviation or prevention of suffering that needn't have occurred in the first place: what a travesty if the suffering was instantiated just to attain those cures; particularly if things like suffering and strength through adversity can exist without physical suffering.
Astro Cat wrote: June 24th, 2022, 5:37 pm One addition before I continue the rest tonight @Leontiskos (lest I forget to say this then): if heroism is good, what makes it good? I intuit that it's good because it prevents or alleviates suffering. Do you have a different notion of what it's good? You say a person with heroism is better than a person without, that it's a virtue: but why?

If its goodness is entirely defined by preventing or alleviating suffering, then isn't this indeed saying it's worth it to have the disease so we can have the cure? Isn't that exactly what that would be saying?
Leontiskos wrote: June 24th, 2022, 9:21 pmOh, but things like courage and strength are not cures for suffering, nor do they produce its alleviation or prevention. What is accomplished through things like courage, temperance, justice, prudence, compassion, and all the rest, is much more than the mere reduction, cessation, or negation of suffering. You talk like a Buddhist. :P
Leontiskos wrote: June 24th, 2022, 9:21 pm Well I spoke of heroic virtue, not heroism, and it would be hard to deny that I am an Aristotelian. But yes, I agree that it must be about more than merely preventing or alleviating suffering, and I think I spoke to this above. Feel free to inquire more about human virtue or human goodness in your next post.
Astro Cat wrote: June 24th, 2022, 11:53 pmOk, but I feel myself asking "go on?" If there is more to them than alleviating or preventing suffering, what is it?
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmWell the first thing to point to would be human flourishing. In the arts, in the sciences, in the moral sphere, etc. Actualizing the full range and depth of human potential. Avoiding suffering is small potatoes. I don't know that you would like Feser in general, but I would recommend checking out <this post>.

Beyond that: transcending oneself, learning to love, learning to care, learning to appreciate existence and creation, and ultimately theosis and union with God. ...Those are some other things. :D
It seems to me that the question here is something like, "What is the purpose of life, if not to avoid suffering? What is the thing that makes suffering worthwhile?"
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amWhy good thing about firefighters is there that couldn't possibly exist without fires whatsoever? What makes fires worth it?
I don't know that it is fair or interesting to isolate it to a single thing, because you could isolate every single thing and then end up with nothing, having no absolute justification for any single thing. It's like I said above: the momentum moves freely in both directions if we don't have any way to ground it. I am trying to actually demonstrate this to you by showing you that the danger of a spoiled relationship isn't actually any different from the danger of fires, and if we throw out fires then there doesn't seem to be any good reason to retain relationships.

The other problem with fire is that you present it as if it is 100% bad. ..As if Prometheus didn't have to bust his butt to get us them coals. :mrgreen:
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

Post by Astro Cat »

Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am This may be worth talking about because I really disagree with you here. A world without death will not produce death in art; a world without suffering will not produce suffering in art; etc. Such fundamental counterfactuals would not only be outside the scope of imagination, but they would also be uninteresting and unformed (because of their sheer impossibility). Our environment forms our imagination (and our freedom), and a deathless environment would result in a massive shift in imagination and agency.
I think you don't credit peoples' imaginations enough. People imagine all sorts of things that don't exist, or couldn't exist because physics don't allow them (just look at an Escher painting).

I think if it were impossible for me to lose an arm that I could still wonder "I wonder what it would be like if this thing were just gone somehow." I don't know how to rigorously demonstrate that a person in a Toy World could imagine these things, but I will say that it seems reasonable to me that they could.
Leontiskos wrote:That's fine and it has been a staple of Christianity since Augustine fought off Manichaenism, but you're mixing two different things. Whether you think it is worth paying fire to receive firefighters (I agreed above that it isn't) has nothing to do with whether my first principle is true (I am willing to defend that first, strong principle, which should make for a more interesting conversation). The key concept in that principle is the concept of possibility. I do not say that good presupposes bad, but rather that the possibility of good presupposes the possibility of bad.

Now that principle would be false if there is some case where it is impossible to do bad things, and yet it remains possible to do good things. What would that case be? Praising your friend for the speech they gave? But if you are able to praise then you are also able to abuse or else abstain from praising. If praise is thought to be good, then abuse would be bad as its opposite, and abstaining would be relatively bad insofar as it is an absence or privation of good. And refraining really can function as a negative judgment; in the case where you are in the habit of praising your friend's speeches, silence will be especially significant.

So what would be an example of a reality where there is a possible good but not a corresponding possible bad?
I think there's a difference between "good vs bad" and "good vs privation." I don't really find good vs. privation is a problem in a Toy World. I am also not here to defend a hurtful silence because I have already said that such a thing could exist in a Toy World. So there are two things here:

1) If we are just answering the question "can good exist without bad," then in the most general sense, it depends on whether you consider "good vs bad" to be a different scenario than "good vs privation." If good vs privation is a different scenario, then yes; you can have good without bad.

2) If we bring up the example of silence as hurtful (the deliberate withholding of praise if we normally give it for instance), this isn't the general case anymore, but something specific. I feel like (1) answers the general case fine. (2) I can only answer on a model-based basis. In my Toy World model, I've already said that some hurtful things would exist, such as withholding praise even when normally given.
Leontiskos wrote:I realize that you have been talking about fiction. We have this strange idea in America that fiction and reality are entirely separate departments. I think that even in Tolkien's time authors unanimously rejected that idea even in their fiction. So for example Tolkien tells us that the Hobbit was written primarily by Bilbo, most of the Silmarillion was written by elves, the events occurred in the same world in which we live, albeit long ago, and (unless I am mistaken) Englishmen are descendants of hobbits.
I am an intense Tolkienite so I will try not to take offense at your blatant blasphemy :P

Tolkien used Bilbo as a device not just for The Hobbit but for the trilogy, but the Silmarillion is elvish legends collected by Bilbo and written into the fictional Red Book of Westmarch (which Tolkien "found" and translated). The "found manuscript" framing device was indeed somewhat common in fantasy (and weirdly continued in horror and weird fiction; e.g. Machen's Green Book in "The White People," The King in Yellow in Chambers' book of the same name, the famous Necronomicon in H.P. Lovecraft, etc.)

Englishmen wouldn't be descendants of hobbits but rather a mixture of Númenóreans and "Middle-Men."
Leontiskos wrote:Digression aside, the more general point is that fiction informs reality and reality informs fiction. You would not have known about swords but for The Hobbit and Tolkien would not have known about adventures and wars and evil but for reality. The human imagination can invent and freewheel to some extent (e.g. goblins) but I don't think it could dream up something as substantial as death wholecloth. If we had no experience of wounds or death then Tolkien would never have been able to write about beings who die or are slain, goblins or otherwise. At least it seems so to me.
I disagree, but I don't know how to dispel your skepticism. For instance I don't think it's really possible to just lose one's body, but I can imagine floating around outside of my body like an astral projection sort of thing.

You know, this could be because I'm not religious: of course I think people are really good at imagining things (and I do not mean this in a disrespectful way, but could it be that my worldview includes people being really good at imagining things that don't exist, so I find this easier to think is true?)

Again, I think if it were physically impossible for me to lose my arm, I could still look at it and wonder "huh, what if something were able to happen where I just didn't have this anymore? What would that be like?"

Actually, hold that thought. Consider Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series. In this series, there are weapons called Shardblades that do not cut through physical flesh, but do cut through the equivalent of a spirit: if your arm is cut through with one of these weapons, the flesh and bone and everything would still be there, but the arm would become useless, without feeling, and for all intents and purposes be dead. Now I don't think there is much in the way of things like that which actually exist in this world, but Sanderson was easily able to imagine it, and readers are able to digest it without thinking "huh?" All Sanderson had to do was imagine some property or aspect of the arm and think, "but what if something could happen to that, even though it doesn't happen that way in reality?"
Leontiskos wrote: You seem to be saying that life would not be banal because we could use our imaginations to think about non-banal things even if we wouldn't be able to act them out. Basically that we would have video games, no? :P
Why not?

By the way, I wonder what you imagine heaven as being like? Is it banal there, or do you suppose there's physical suffering there?

I get that a response may look like, "well, that's why we suffer during life, it gives everything we need for eternity to be non-banal." But when you've existed in a realm without physical suffering for 573,392,648,274,694,077,263,749 years, does it really matter whether the first 80 were "real" experiences or imagined experiences in terms of making things non-banal for you? I find that hard to believe!
Leontiskos wrote: Okay, well my most recent answer was given in <this post> when I talked about "The conclusion you did not draw." That was the idea that the momentum moves freely in both directions, such that we are apparently either forced to have an infinite evil and an infinite good, or else zero evil and zero good.

My earlier answer was in my first post to you, and it related to the soul-making theodicy, such that fire produces much more than just firemen. There I agreed that firemen are not sufficient. I said, "If the malady is introduced for the sake of the cure then presumably nothing has been accomplished, for the cure is nothing more than the negation of the malady."
Then I disagreed that there was more that was good to the firefighters than simply alleviating or preventing the suffering caused by fires, though. I don't think we hashed that one out very thoroughly.
Leontiskos wrote:
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmI would agree that bringing death, violence, and weapons to a peaceful culture is not a good thing to do. But it is crucial to Christian thinking to maintain the truth that the Fall was our doing, not God's.
Humans didn't create the physics of the world, God did (on theism anyway). So that death, violence, and weapons are physically possible is something God is culpable for.
I thought you read the story of Adam and Eve! :P

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Do not invite death by the error of your life,
nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things that they might exist,
and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them;
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

(Wisdom 1:12-14)
But the alternative to God making death is somehow that humans made death, and how does that work? What am I supposed to cognize out of that?

Death is very clearly an aspect of the physics of the world, and humans very obviously don't have magical power over the physics of the world. God does. How do we resolve this sensibly?
Leontiskos wrote:I didn't say it was better, I said it was worse ("the cons outweigh the pros"). The point of the Avatar example was to demonstrate that the introduction of weapons--whether in your example or in Avatar--is still going to increase complexity and agency, even if the outcome is worse. The point was that a variety of things happen and "thinking about it clearly" requires us to consider each of them, some of which are good.

As to your other points, 1) God did not create death, and 2) The possibility of your "world of happy people just doing nice things" where you "couldn't harm people" hangs on our discussion above about whether that is even possible.

This gets into a very paradoxical part of Christianity: what is called the felix culpa (happy fault). The idea is that although the Fall occurred because of Adam's fault, nevertheless God in his infinite wisdom is able to bring good even out of evil, and so now we look back on Adam's fault with fondness, for it is the occasion that God made use of in order to bring forth a much greater good. Tolkien gives a masterful and beautiful depiction of this idea in the Ainulindalë (the "Great Song").
Yes, every time Melkor tries to disrupt the harmony, Ilúvatar reveals that his disharmonies were woven into a more beautiful pattern and greater enriched it. Good reference, you get some points!

However, I strongly dispute this "God did not create death" thing (made my argument above here so I won't repeat again).
Leontiskos wrote:Why couldn't God create each of us in different universes that are hermetically sealed from one another? Something like this would be the analogue to your solution to physical suffering. You say that God could exclude physical suffering by making our physicality indestructible. I say God could exclude relational suffering by removing relationships and cutting us off from one another. You say physical indestructibility would remove some agency but not all. I say isolation tanks would remove some agency but not all. Tomehto-Tomahto!
I think the answer here is because it's obvious that's undesirable to free agents that are social creatures, whereas it's not so obvious whether excising physical suffering would lead to undesirable aspects if done the right way (hence needing a loooong discussion about it). I don't think anybody would say "yes, that sounds like a good idea" to social deprivation tank universes. We might as well simply add the premise to the original argument that God wants social free agents and see how the argument goes from there.
Leontiskos wrote:Hell, we should probably just go read Lois Lowry's The Giver and call it a day. Jonas and Fiona are my retort to your Snort! ^_^

(Okay, okay, so it has nothing to do with Snort... The rhyme was irresistible. =))
All I can say is pew pew *finger guns*, haha!
Leontiskos wrote:I think even many non-theists would say that physical suffering adds something important to life, just you seem to believe that relationship-related suffering adds something important to life.
Well, it's more that I don't think relationship-related suffering can be removed on the premises so we might as well find the silver lining to them. Remember, the goal of the OP is simply to ask whether God is culpable for physical suffering to bring about a reductio ad absurdum on the omni-property premises.
Leontiskos wrote:
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amSo let me clarify that when I say "innocent victims" I guess I mean victims that can do nothing at all about their situation. Maybe I need another term. Someone that is hearing mean language can leave the area, for instance. Someone dying of cancer or in a hungry tiger's spotlight may have no feasible recourse at all.
Okay, this is a new argument. The millennials who are afraid of commitment will definitely resonate with this one. ;P

...haha. I am a bit tired so I will leave this for next time, or for you to flesh out.
I am a millennial and I'm probably afraid of commitment, so, yep! LOL.

All I mean to say on this one is that barriers to our being able to help ourselves in a lot of situations are physical: we can't escape cancer, we can't move to a different room to get away from a birth defect, etc. With hurtful speech, we can remove ourselves from the situation. Now, the more I think about it, I think you can probably really weaken this line of argument, so I don't know if I should go on about it.

For instance I was going to say you can't die from speech, but you could point out suicidal ideation brought about by speech, and that wanting to die is really close in badness as actually dying. I was going to say that you could remove yourself from a hurtful speech situation, but in the same vein, you can't remove the thoughts from your head sometimes if you dwell on it; or for instance if the non-physical suffering you're experiencing is something like unrequited love you will feel that pain even when away from the situation too. So this "innocent victims" line of reasoning probably isn't a great tack to take.

*cartwheels into the ocean*
Leontiskos wrote: It seems to me that the question here is something like, "What is the purpose of life, if not to avoid suffering? What is the thing that makes suffering worthwhile?"
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amWhy good thing about firefighters is there that couldn't possibly exist without fires whatsoever? What makes fires worth it?
I don't know that it is fair or interesting to isolate it to a single thing, because you could isolate every single thing and then end up with nothing, having no absolute justification for any single thing. It's like I said above: the momentum moves freely in both directions if we don't have any way to ground it. I am trying to actually demonstrate this to you by showing you that the danger of a spoiled relationship isn't actually any different from the danger of fires, and if we throw out fires then there doesn't seem to be any good reason to retain relationships.

The other problem with fire is that you present it as if it is 100% bad. ..As if Prometheus didn't have to bust his butt to get us them coals. :mrgreen:
I think we make purposes all the time that aren't suffering-centric, and I think that would be the case in a Toy World. As for the Prometheus thing, recall that fire could still be used for good things in a Toy World; it just wouldn't burn you or burn your house down. It'd be well-behaved fire.
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

Post by Leontiskos »

Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am This may be worth talking about because I really disagree with you here. A world without death will not produce death in art; a world without suffering will not produce suffering in art; etc. Such fundamental counterfactuals would not only be outside the scope of imagination, but they would also be uninteresting and unformed (because of their sheer impossibility). Our environment forms our imagination (and our freedom), and a deathless environment would result in a massive shift in imagination and agency.
I think you don't credit peoples' imaginations enough. People imagine all sorts of things that don't exist, or couldn't exist because physics don't allow them (just look at an Escher painting).

I think if it were impossible for me to lose an arm that I could still wonder "I wonder what it would be like if this thing were just gone somehow." I don't know how to rigorously demonstrate that a person in a Toy World could imagine these things, but I will say that it seems reasonable to me that they could.
This is probably too large a topic for our allotted time, and I would say that doing this topic justice requires both a theory of human psychology and value as well as a theory of human imagination. Yet it seems to me that imagination is both free and limited. For example, the aliens in alien movies are both different from humans and yet deeply (and I would say comically) bound by anthropomorphism. Imagination involves a spectrum that is anchored in true reality, and it is only logically possible to stray so far from that anchor. Further, human value and interest will also be naturally drawn to things that are closer to that anchor, such that the author of fiction must resist writing pure, unfettered 'fantasy' if they wish to retain readers.

Someone might write a story about how the Earth transmutes into a giant tomato and all living things drown in tomato juice. It wouldn't draw much interest, and this is because it is so far from the anchor and has so little relevance or value for our lives. Similarly, in a universe where it is physically impossible to lose an arm humans would not find a story about the loss of an arm interesting or frightening or plausible. "I know we can't lose arms, but what if we did! Wouldn't that be difficult?" "I know the Earth can't turn into a giant tomato, but what if it did! Wouldn't that be scary?" Fiction must be relatable, and fiction that is exceptionally far from the anchor is not even within human power to write or imagine.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amThat's fine and it has been a staple of Christianity since Augustine fought off Manichaenism, but you're mixing two different things. Whether you think it is worth paying fire to receive firefighters (I agreed above that it isn't) has nothing to do with whether my first principle is true (I am willing to defend that first, strong principle, which should make for a more interesting conversation). The key concept in that principle is the concept of possibility. I do not say that good presupposes bad, but rather that the possibility of good presupposes the possibility of bad.

Now that principle would be false if there is some case where it is impossible to do bad things, and yet it remains possible to do good things. What would that case be? Praising your friend for the speech they gave? But if you are able to praise then you are also able to abuse or else abstain from praising. If praise is thought to be good, then abuse would be bad as its opposite, and abstaining would be relatively bad insofar as it is an absence or privation of good. And refraining really can function as a negative judgment; in the case where you are in the habit of praising your friend's speeches, silence will be especially significant.

So what would be an example of a reality where there is a possible good but not a corresponding possible bad?
I think there's a difference between "good vs bad" and "good vs privation." I don't really find good vs. privation is a problem in a Toy World. I am also not here to defend a hurtful silence because I have already said that such a thing could exist in a Toy World. So there are two things here:

1) If we are just answering the question "can good exist without bad," then in the most general sense, it depends on whether you consider "good vs bad" to be a different scenario than "good vs privation." If good vs privation is a different scenario, then yes; you can have good without bad.

2) If we bring up the example of silence as hurtful (the deliberate withholding of praise if we normally give it for instance), this isn't the general case anymore, but something specific. I feel like (1) answers the general case fine. (2) I can only answer on a model-based basis. In my Toy World model, I've already said that some hurtful things would exist, such as withholding praise even when normally given.
Ah, but you've skipped over the more direct argument. Why think (1) is true? Why think abuse would be impossible? What is the counterexample I asked for where the possibility of good exists without the possibility of evil?

As for privation, that is another large topic. Augustine thought about this deeply, for he was originally part of a group which denied that evil is a privation and instead saw it as a positive reality (the Manichaeans). His understanding of evil as a privatio boni has been extremely well-developed in Western Christianity and Western culture.

Regarding your objection that the normalizing of praise is a specific case, this is true but it does not defeat the privation theory, for absence of praise where it is due will still be a privation and an evil, whether or not praise has been normalized. It is evil to omit praise where praise is due. Omission as evil is only specific qua privation.

...we could also lower the register and simply say that even though the omission of normalized praise applies to a specific case, it is still a possible evil that attaches to the universe that you have claimed excludes evil.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amI realize that you have been talking about fiction. We have this strange idea in America that fiction and reality are entirely separate departments. I think that even in Tolkien's time authors unanimously rejected that idea even in their fiction. So for example Tolkien tells us that the Hobbit was written primarily by Bilbo, most of the Silmarillion was written by elves, the events occurred in the same world in which we live, albeit long ago, and (unless I am mistaken) Englishmen are descendants of hobbits.
I am an intense Tolkienite so I will try not to take offense at your blatant blasphemy :P

Tolkien used Bilbo as a device not just for The Hobbit but for the trilogy, but the Silmarillion is elvish legends collected by Bilbo and written into the fictional Red Book of Westmarch (which Tolkien "found" and translated). The "found manuscript" framing device was indeed somewhat common in fantasy (and weirdly continued in horror and weird fiction; e.g. Machen's Green Book in "The White People," The King in Yellow in Chambers' book of the same name, the famous Necronomicon in H.P. Lovecraft, etc.)
Oh dear, I've woken the dragon. :lol:

But yes, you are proving my point here by providing the evidence that I had not been able to recall in detail. Sheer fantasy without a fictional meta-narrative is a recent invention.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 amEnglishmen wouldn't be descendants of hobbits but rather a mixture of Númenóreans and "Middle-Men."
Do you have textual evidence for this other than the intuitive idea that humans must be men? I was thinking of the sort of things described in the Wikipedia section, "England in Middle-Earth: An English Shire."

Just a few thoughts on this rabbit hole, which I don't want to descend too deeply:
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amDigression aside, the more general point is that fiction informs reality and reality informs fiction. You would not have known about swords but for The Hobbit and Tolkien would not have known about adventures and wars and evil but for reality. The human imagination can invent and freewheel to some extent (e.g. goblins) but I don't think it could dream up something as substantial as death wholecloth. If we had no experience of wounds or death then Tolkien would never have been able to write about beings who die or are slain, goblins or otherwise. At least it seems so to me.
I disagree, but I don't know how to dispel your skepticism. For instance I don't think it's really possible to just lose one's body, but I can imagine floating around outside of my body like an astral projection sort of thing.

You know, this could be because I'm not religious: of course I think people are really good at imagining things (and I do not mean this in a disrespectful way, but could it be that my worldview includes people being really good at imagining things that don't exist, so I find this easier to think is true?)

Again, I think if it were physically impossible for me to lose my arm, I could still look at it and wonder "huh, what if something were able to happen where I just didn't have this anymore? What would that be like?"
I don't think humans are prone to this sort of thing. Even in our current reality most do not think about what it would be like to lose an arm until they break or injure their arm, or see an amputee, etc. The Buddha did not know what death or sickness was until he saw it.

The reason I think my position is particularly strong here is because we are talking about death, and death is thought by philosophers and psychologists to be one of the most deeply embedded ideas for human beings. To say that a world that had never experienced death could imagine or conceive of it is really the epitome of imagination-as-pure-fantasy. There is no more difficult or unlikely case to prove than that.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 amActually, hold that thought. Consider Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series. In this series, there are weapons called Shardblades that do not cut through physical flesh, but do cut through the equivalent of a spirit: if your arm is cut through with one of these weapons, the flesh and bone and everything would still be there, but the arm would become useless, without feeling, and for all intents and purposes be dead. Now I don't think there is much in the way of things like that which actually exist in this world, but Sanderson was easily able to imagine it, and readers are able to digest it without thinking "huh?" All Sanderson had to do was imagine some property or aspect of the arm and think, "but what if something could happen to that, even though it doesn't happen that way in reality?"
The idea of a spirit body is pervasive in a great many cultures. Sanderson didn't invent that. The Hindus, for example, even believe that various layers of spirit body are localized and supervening on the physical body, and that damage to the spiritual layers will also have negative effects on adjacent layers as well as on the physical body.

I have read The Wheel of Time but not Stormlight Archive.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am You seem to be saying that life would not be banal because we could use our imaginations to think about non-banal things even if we wouldn't be able to act them out. Basically that we would have video games, no? :P
Why not?

By the way, I wonder what you imagine heaven as being like? Is it banal there, or do you suppose there's physical suffering there?

I get that a response may look like, "well, that's why we suffer during life, it gives everything we need for eternity to be non-banal." But when you've existed in a realm without physical suffering for 573,392,648,274,694,077,263,749 years, does it really matter whether the first 80 were "real" experiences or imagined experiences in terms of making things non-banal for you? I find that hard to believe!
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 26th, 2022, 9:39 pmI would agree that bringing death, violence, and weapons to a peaceful culture is not a good thing to do. But it is crucial to Christian thinking to maintain the truth that the Fall was our doing, not God's.
Humans didn't create the physics of the world, God did (on theism anyway). So that death, violence, and weapons are physically possible is something God is culpable for.
I thought you read the story of Adam and Eve! :P

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Do not invite death by the error of your life,
nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things that they might exist,
and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them;
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

(Wisdom 1:12-14)
But the alternative to God making death is somehow that humans made death, and how does that work? What am I supposed to cognize out of that?

Death is very clearly an aspect of the physics of the world, and humans very obviously don't have magical power over the physics of the world. God does. How do we resolve this sensibly?
It seems to me that Heaven and the prelapsarian (pre-Fall) state must go hand in hand as being similarly inscrutable, since they represent such a fundamental deviation from our current existence.

The Christian view is that reality itself was altered at the Fall of men (or else the Fall of the angels). (This goes back to my contention that the secular imposes an undue univocity between God and man, not to mention their exclusion of intermediary volitional realities such as angels).

Let's look at Tolkien:
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amI didn't say it was better, I said it was worse ("the cons outweigh the pros"). The point of the Avatar example was to demonstrate that the introduction of weapons--whether in your example or in Avatar--is still going to increase complexity and agency, even if the outcome is worse. The point was that a variety of things happen and "thinking about it clearly" requires us to consider each of them, some of which are good.

As to your other points, 1) God did not create death, and 2) The possibility of your "world of happy people just doing nice things" where you "couldn't harm people" hangs on our discussion above about whether that is even possible.

This gets into a very paradoxical part of Christianity: what is called the felix culpa (happy fault). The idea is that although the Fall occurred because of Adam's fault, nevertheless God in his infinite wisdom is able to bring good even out of evil, and so now we look back on Adam's fault with fondness, for it is the occasion that God made use of in order to bring forth a much greater good. Tolkien gives a masterful and beautiful depiction of this idea in the Ainulindalë (the "Great Song").
Yes, every time Melkor tries to disrupt the harmony, Ilúvatar reveals that his disharmonies were woven into a more beautiful pattern and greater enriched it. Good reference, you get some points!

However, I strongly dispute this "God did not create death" thing (made my argument above here so I won't repeat again).
Did God create Melkor's dissonance? Did not the Battle of the Powers effect substantial and far-reaching geographical alteration and destruction on Middle Earth? I simply don't grant that a Valar could not effect such fundamental change. Your argument is basically, "Humans don't have sufficient agency to bring about death, therefore it must have been God." Death obviously represents a mysterious riddle, but another place where Tolkien is helpful is in his depiction of the career of Fëanor. Although Fëanor was a mere elf and had limited agency, he nevertheless crafted the silmarils and set Arda on a tumultuous path of destruction.

In any case, I don't really accept the view that humans, and especially A-dam (Man) - the father of the race and steward of creation, had the sort of limited agency that you attribute to humans. Granted, the introduction of death was by no means intentionally chosen. Like all sin, it is a sort of falling into nothingness, or the abyss, or privation; it is what happens when one seeks the Secret Fire apart from Eru, in the Void.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amWhy couldn't God create each of us in different universes that are hermetically sealed from one another? Something like this would be the analogue to your solution to physical suffering. You say that God could exclude physical suffering by making our physicality indestructible. I say God could exclude relational suffering by removing relationships and cutting us off from one another. You say physical indestructibility would remove some agency but not all. I say isolation tanks would remove some agency but not all. Tomehto-Tomahto!
I think the answer here is because it's obvious that's undesirable to free agents that are social creatures, whereas it's not so obvious whether excising physical suffering would lead to undesirable aspects if done the right way (hence needing a loooong discussion about it). I don't think anybody would say "yes, that sounds like a good idea" to social deprivation tank universes. We might as well simply add the premise to the original argument that God wants social free agents and see how the argument goes from there.
Then have God make them non-social creatures. That would save us from the suffering of relationships. Have you read The Giver?

It seems like you want to just draw the line at social. The costs of losing the ability to suffer physically are worth paying, but the costs of losing the ability to suffer socially are not worth paying. I am wondering if you have any basis for drawing the line in one place and not another?

But in general my short answer is that that's what God did on Christianity. He created us without the ability to die.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 amI think even many non-theists would say that physical suffering adds something important to life, just you seem to believe that relationship-related suffering adds something important to life.
Well, it's more that I don't think relationship-related suffering can be removed on the premises so we might as well find the silver lining to them.
But that's the exact same argument I've been giving about suffering. :P

Or, if you want to take your stand "on the premises," then you would have to show why the premises are not arbitrary. Maybe you prefer socializing to fire 'cause you're a girl, and a guy would go with the fire. ^_^
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amSo let me clarify that when I say "innocent victims" I guess I mean victims that can do nothing at all about their situation. Maybe I need another term. Someone that is hearing mean language can leave the area, for instance. Someone dying of cancer or in a hungry tiger's spotlight may have no feasible recourse at all.
Okay, this is a new argument. The millennials who are afraid of commitment will definitely resonate with this one. ;P

...haha. I am a bit tired so I will leave this for next time, or for you to flesh out.
I am a millennial and I'm probably afraid of commitment, so, yep! LOL.
Haha! As am I.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 amAll I mean to say on this one is that barriers to our being able to help ourselves in a lot of situations are physical: we can't escape cancer, we can't move to a different room to get away from a birth defect, etc. With hurtful speech, we can remove ourselves from the situation. Now, the more I think about it, I think you can probably really weaken this line of argument, so I don't know if I should go on about it.

For instance I was going to say you can't die from speech, but you could point out suicidal ideation brought about by speech, and that wanting to die is really close in badness as actually dying. I was going to say that you could remove yourself from a hurtful speech situation, but in the same vein, you can't remove the thoughts from your head sometimes if you dwell on it; or for instance if the non-physical suffering you're experiencing is something like unrequited love you will feel that pain even when away from the situation too. So this "innocent victims" line of reasoning probably isn't a great tack to take.

*cartwheels into the ocean*
Yes, haha, I think that's right. I don't mean to be overly political, but suffering is deeply intertwined in our existence. Progressives tend to have a utopian mindset where they think they have a plan which, if executed, will solve all of the problems that biology and the status quo ante of reality imposed upon us. Progressives really are interested in "making a better world," even to the extent of overcoming biological facts that have been deeply rooted in our evolutionary history for millions of years. What literature like Lowry's The Giver and Huxley's Brave New World seem to be saying is that utopias very often if not always turn out to be dystopias.

So from a different angle, if one is to build an argument against God on the premise that the theoretical utopia one has constructed in their head is better than the creation that God gave us, then they must assess the possibility that they have overestimated their utopia, a possibility that is perhaps inevitable. This isn't to say that the project of the argument or a utopia is altogether untenable, but rather that utopianism and projects predicated upon it require extreme care and rational self-control.
Astro Cat wrote: June 28th, 2022, 10:16 am
Leontiskos wrote: June 28th, 2022, 12:41 am It seems to me that the question here is something like, "What is the purpose of life, if not to avoid suffering? What is the thing that makes suffering worthwhile?"
Astro Cat wrote: June 27th, 2022, 11:38 amWhy good thing about firefighters is there that couldn't possibly exist without fires whatsoever? What makes fires worth it?
I don't know that it is fair or interesting to isolate it to a single thing, because you could isolate every single thing and then end up with nothing, having no absolute justification for any single thing. It's like I said above: the momentum moves freely in both directions if we don't have any way to ground it. I am trying to actually demonstrate this to you by showing you that the danger of a spoiled relationship isn't actually any different from the danger of fires, and if we throw out fires then there doesn't seem to be any good reason to retain relationships.

The other problem with fire is that you present it as if it is 100% bad. ..As if Prometheus didn't have to bust his butt to get us them coals. :mrgreen:
I think we make purposes all the time that aren't suffering-centric, and I think that would be the case in a Toy World.
But all of the arguments you've made in this thread are suffering-centric. I am the one saying that suffering takes a back seat since there are more important things in life, things that minimize suffering and make it worth enduring (as well as good things that supervene on suffering itself).
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Re: Toy Worlds and the Problem of Suffering

Post by Greatest I am »

Angelo Cannata wrote: June 21st, 2022, 12:56 pm God doesn't need to obey to logic. He is the creator of logic, he establishes if and how logic works, he is the master of everything. If he is God, he can make a world without suffering, no matter if it is logical or not.
So many claims.

Are you saying that God can create something less than perfect?

Let me remind you that scriptures say that perfection flows from perfection and that imperfection flows from imperfection.

That belies your last sentence.

Gnostic Christians believe that heaven is here and now, as indicated by Jesus in the bible.

Do you not believe, as Jesus did, that the kingdom of God is at hand?

A world without suffering and or evil, would be a stagnant waste of life.

Evolution is the best system for us to live by, and it includes a small amount of evil within a greater good.

If you have a better system, please share.

Regards
DL
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