Monday, October 14, 2013

Response to Steinberg

From guest blogger, Dyllan.

Steinberg’s thesis, that we either live in the best of all possible worlds or God is not our creator, seems the logical conclusion to his premises regarding the impossibility of God’s creating a surpassable world and the difficulty we have in believing he did not create any world. The difficulty in reconciling his not creating any world lies with his perfect nature and the idea that creation is better than non-creation. It seems to me, then, that we must throw out the second part of this conclusion if we are to give any weight to the traditional conception of a perfect God. Thus, it must follow that God did create our world and that it is the best of all possible worlds.

In defense of our world being the best of all possible worlds by necessity of its creation at God’s hands, I would like to take a look at the Howard-Snyders’ example of Jove and Thor and provide an alternative theory of what would take place if Thor was truly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. The main flaw I find in the Howard-Snyders’ example is that they attribute the quality of infinity to the number of possible worlds but not to the power of selection or knowledge of their would-be Gods (Thor and Jove). Why does it not follow that Thor can take a non-random minimum value, then randomly select a higher value, and continue that method an infinite amount of times to create a world as infinitely positive as he is powerful? This is the problem that I have with deeming a morally insurpassable being a chimera, because it basically rejects the Anselmian view of God on the basis of a thought experiment wherein infinite power was denied to the agent in the first place.

Other possibilities for our world being the best of all possible worlds could include either that it is constantly improving or that our human world is not the best of all possible worlds, but part of the best possible universe. In the first case, we could conceive of a world in which God was constantly improving our world by an exponentially increasing degree (wherein the exponent is infinite). If we wanted to get real freaky with it we could even say that at each point t there corresponds a point l is later than point t. And at every l, we view t as being equally good to l because our world has improved so much that our view of the past is always positive and we have no reference of a worse world to mitigate the improvements made by point l. Thus we have no negative feelings toward the past corresponding to our improved state at l. This is an extreme example, and we can still conceive of a constantly improving world wherein we are unaware of the improvement simply due to our relative positioning inside of the improving world. A final possibility is that our world is not the best possible world, but a piece inside of the best possible universe including a salvation occurring after death. It is possible, consistent with Gods nature, and fairly unoriginal, to suppose that we live in a flawed world full of challenges that ultimately lead to appropriated salvation wherein everyone meets the final end they deserve. 


Anonymous said...

Short of opining from a standpoint of omniscience, I fail to see how humans might go about second-guessing it. Perhaps the wisdom of confering upon humans free-will is known only to God. Hume's idea that knowledge admits three types - public: easy and obvious; hidden: requiring investigation, examination, enquiry and effort to discover; secret: beyond our ability to apprehend. The latter, it would seem, could conceivably be well within the realm and capacity of omniscience.

isaac scott said...

It seems that the objection of creating a world in which it is exponentially getting better is to suggest that God would not create the best possible world according to his nature. It could also be suggesting that our world is getting better because God's nature is getting better, since the universe reflects God's nature. I think both of these possibilities would go against common notions of the Abrahamic God, because perfect beings cannot improve and a world that could be improved would not reflect the perfect nature of its creator. Whatever "perfect being" means.

Anonymous said...

From Part I of Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion":

"But when we look beyond human affairs and the properties of surrounding bodies: when we carry our speculations into the two eternities, before and after the present state of things; into the creation and formation of the universe; the existence and properties of spirits; the powers and operations of one universal spirit; existing without beginning and without end; omnipotent, omniscient, immutable, infinite and incomprehensible: we must be far removed from the smallest tendency to scepticism not to be apprehensive, that we have here got quite beyond the reach of our faculties..."

"Don't you remember, said Philo, the excellent saying of Lord Bacon on this head? That a little philosophy, replied Cleanthes, makes a man an atheist: a great deal converts him to religion. That is a very judicious remark too, said Philo, but what I have in my eye is another passage..."

This goes back and forth for about a hundred pages. The takeaway is the proud, condescending, undermining, insincere offense of Philo vs. the detached, self-contained, tranquil, penetrating volley and defense of Cleanthes. The debate concludes with no one the wiser - the picture and condition of these sorts of squabbles.

Joshua Adams said...

I feel like the best possible worlds argument just relies on whether you believe in God or not. If you believe in God, you will say this is the best possible of all worlds, and when someone asks why there are horrible things in the world, you simply respond with the fact that God would make the best possible of all worlds and this is it. I don't really understand peoples, drives to try and logically explain away why God chose this world. Unless you believe God is constrained by logic, in which case you should be able to come up with a logical explanation for why God has done everything he does. But at the same time, to be able to explain his action you would have to have the same level of knowledge and foresight that he does.

Andrea Manthei said...

I was trying to come up with a comment for this post I started to think....

In my paper I kinda mentioned that if things are going too well for us, we get bored. As much as we may complain about challenges in our lives, or roadblocks, we accept them because they make things interesting. Like when you're playing a game, when it gets too easy and theres no more element of competition or challenge, we get bored for something new.

What if God had this mentality too? What if he did make the perfect world, like the absolutely perfect world, watched it play out, and got bored with it? He could either have this world still going and create a new one thats separate or, scrap it altogether and make a not so perfect world, just for kicks? Oh, but being omniscient, he would know how they both will play out. Well, what if he made himself press the pause button on omniscience because its too boring?

So even if this isnt the best possible world, that's cool. Doesnt mean God can't completely not exist. It feels like a bit of a stretch, but what if god just got bored with knowing everything? That first perfect world could still be running somewhere and ours is just a random number on the infinity scale.

Anonymous said...

Boredom occurs when a desire for fun is impeded. I want to play a video game or watch television but the device won't function, so I'm bored. Sorrow occurs when a desire for joy is impeded. I want my ill family member or friend to get well but they don't, so I feel grief and sorrow. The pantheon of Olympus admited the character and disposition of the former; God, the latter.

Natalie N said...

I think that an important thing to consider is if we believe there is a best possible world. We have talked in class about how it seems that there could always be a better possible world because we could always make one thing just a bit better. In this case, it seems it would be impossible to create the absolute best possible world, so God didn't really contradict those characteristics because there is no such thing as the best possible world. If there is a best possible world, I think it is important to consider that human perceptions are made on the basis or relative judgements. We think something is good or bad because it is better or worse than that which we judge it in relation to. Therefore, it seems that unless everything was the same, we will always judge things on a scale. Those falling at the bottom of the scale will always be viewed as bad because they could be something better. The only other option is if the world only had things of one level of "goodness," but in that world, we would not have the judgements of good or bad. It seems questionable to say that the best possible world is a world in which we don't receive anything to be good.