left biblioblography: The Idiocy Of Theodicy – How Free Will Is The Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Idiocy Of Theodicy – How Free Will Is The Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

moandjesustheodicy

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Theodicy is defined as follows:

Argument for the justification of God, concerned with reconciling God's goodness and justice with the observable facts of evil and suffering in the world. Most such arguments are a necessary component of theism. Under polytheism, the problem is solved by attributing evil to a conflict of wills between deities. The solution is less simple in monotheism, and it can take several forms. In some approaches, the perfect world created by God was spoiled by human disobedience or sin. In others, God withdrew after creating the world, which then fell into decay.

I overheard this ridiculous conversation a few weeks back. There’s this store called East Meets West in Mountain View. It’s what anyone would call a New Age nook. I wander around in there sometimes – it has a lot of pretty knick-knacks, the place smells wonderful, and it has the occasional good Tai Chi book (plus I occasionally buy incense, my sense of smell has come back gangbusters since I quit smoking).

So I pass this fellow, who’s dressed all in black, white hair, white mustache, chin pubes, my guess is he fancies himself some kind of wizard (the clothes are modern, it’s just the image projected). A few minutes later, I overhear this woman talking about how she’s from Columbia. Then she tells Mr. Wizard that somehow, the universe wanted her to move to the US. I bite my tongue and move on, thinking, “Geez, yeah, YOU’RE not a little self-involved.”

So my old HS buddy, the Young Earth creationist/bible literalist, is in town. I shoot over to Pleasanton to go visit. As I’m leaving to go home, I repeat the eavesdrop. Sure as shitting, he starts in about how he’s convinced that there’s someone out THERE (point-to-sky is inferred) who’s interested in every single human being that lives on this planet.

So I bring up the eye-worm topic. He starts waffling about how ‘Man hasn’t fixed that yet.’ I rolled my eyes at him. So I told him: look, I can understand a little suffering, I can understand some pain, but this? I mean, why the fuck does this deity let tiny children starve to death, but runs interference in the lives of the folks who aren’t in any kind of hazard?

He whips out the Free Will card. It’s one of those ridiculous pieces of apologetics. It’s not been resolved in all the centuries of belief. Responses vary anywhere from ‘Gee, gob don’t want zombies to buddy with him up there,” to “hey, it’s all our fault”, as well as “hey, why ask why?”

My favorite response from the other side is this (from John Howard Yoder):

  • Where do you get the criteria by which you evaluate God? Why are the criteria you use the right ones?
  • Why [do] you think you are qualified for the business of accrediting Gods?
  • If you think you are qualified for that business, how does the adjudication proceed? [W]hat are the lexical rules?

Which just smacks of presuppositionalism. It basically boils down to the old Job/Gob response: “Where were you when I created the world?” (The book of Job, incidentally, used to be my favorite bit of whimsy when I was a gob-hugger, but rational evaluation has since relegated it to a position of utter horror.) Difficult indeed it is, to evaluate something that is so manifestly absent, is it not?

I think I’m with Hume on this topic:

Hume, along with Thomas Hobbes, is cited as a classical compatibilist about the notions of freedom and determinism. The thesis of compatibilism seeks to reconcile human freedom with the fact that human beings are part of a deterministic universe, whose happenings are governed by the laws of physics.

Hume argued that the dispute about the compatibility of freedom and determinism has been kept afloat by ambiguous terminology:

From this circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot... we may presume, that there is some ambiguity in the expression.

Hume defines the concepts of "necessity" and "liberty" as follows:

Necessity: "the uniformity, observable in the operations of nature; where similar objects are constantly conjoined together..."

Liberty: "a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will..."

Hume then argues that, according to these definitions, not only are the two compatible, but Liberty requires Necessity. For if our actions were not necessitated in the above sense, they would "have so little in connexion [sic] with motives, inclinations and circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of uniformity from the other". But if our actions are not thus hooked up to the will, then our actions can never be free: they would be matters of "chance; which is universally allowed not to exist."

Moreover, Hume goes on to argue that in order to be held morally responsible, it is required that our behaviour be caused, i.e. necessitated, for

Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil."

This argument has inspired modern day commentators. However, it has been argued that the issue of whether or not we hold one another morally responsible does not ultimately depend on the truth or falsity of a metaphysical thesis such as determinism, for our so holding one another is a non-rational human sentiment that is not predicated on such theses. For this influential argument, which is still made in a Humean vein, see P. F. Strawson's essay, Freedom and Resentment.

But my response to theodicy is this: you will need to bring some actual meat to the table, prove that there IS indeed a benevolent omniscient creator. THEN we can discuss why this critter has been absent lo these many years.

Till the next post, then.

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2 comments:

Collin said...

This is so lame. You stuck an argument about free will -- a genuine matter of debate -- into an article ostensibly about theodicy -- a non-starter. So everyone who doesn't care about theodicy, which is almost everyone, is supposed to be led by innuendo to disbelieve free will?

At face value, Bell Inequality tests falsify determinism. If you want to argue that they're misinterpreted, fine. If you want to argue that indeterminism is not the same as free will, fine. But you just block-quoted an arbitrary bad argument as a political exhibit.

And in case you didn't get the memo, we don't believe in Something Benevolent and Omniscient either.

But then, what can I expect from someone who links to a Phobia site (xenu.com)?

Krystalline Apostate said...

This is so lame. You stuck an argument about free will -- a genuine matter of debate -- into an article ostensibly about theodicy -- a non-starter.
You ever hear of Plantinga? The post (which you reacted to, but didn't read) states that the argument of theodicy is usually countered w/the 'free will' dreck.
So everyone who doesn't care about theodicy, which is almost everyone, is supposed to be led by innuendo to disbelieve free will?
Again, not paying attention. With 75% of the US being xtian, obviously this theodicy-countered-by-free-will argument is used. A lot. A fucking lot.
And in case you didn't get the memo, we don't believe in Something Benevolent and Omniscient either.
More proof you skimmed the material for a straw man argument. Maybe work on the reading comprehension.